Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Third Advisor

Mary Schertz

Abstract

Problem. The problem this study sought to address was the tendency of “ordinary readers” of Scripture to misuse the Bible on the one hand, or to give up reading it entirely, on the other hand. The purpose of this study was to develop a grounded theory that describes how seminary-educated pastors are successfully leading ordinary readers to informed, enthusiastic engagement with the Bible. The conceptual lenses through which research data were compared to literature in the field included teaching methodologies proposed by Wink, Blair, and Borsch.

Method. The study used a qualitative research design. It was field focused, utilized the “self” as the research instrument, used interpretation, employed expressive and first- person language and voice, and paid attention to particulars. The study offers a grounded theory that describes how seminary-educated pastors are successfully leading ordinary readers to informed, enthusiastic engagement with the Bible. The grounded theory grew out of interviews with six pastors who were chosen purposively. Pastors were chosen who (a) regularly lead adult Bible studies in their congregations; (b) are consciously utilizing tools of biblical interpretation gleaned in seminary as they prepare for and teach adult Bible studies; (c) perceive that congregational members who participate in these Bible studies are enthusiastically engaged with Scripture; and (d) perceive that congregational members who participate in these Bible studies are making use of tools of biblical interpretation. In addition, the grounded theory reflects interviews with participants in the studies these pastors are leading.

Results. Five major themes emerged from interviews with pastors: (a) their formative experiences with the Bible; (b) their passion for biblical formation; (c) their understanding of pastoral identity as it relates to Bible teaching; (d) their pedagogical approach; and (e) personal characteristics that support their Bible teaching. Although pastors came from diverse backgrounds and ministry settings, their experiences, perspectives and behaviors share a great deal in common. While pastors do not share a teaching technique in common, they do share an overall pedagogical approach in common, and they share much more in common than a pedagogical approach. This is particularly striking because the data were drawn through a “grounded theory” approach. Interview questions were open-ended and assumed no hypothesis regarding what kinds of experiences, perspectives and behaviors pastors might share. Nevertheless, remarkable consistency is present in the findings.

Conclusion. The study concludes that pastors’ passion for the Bible, understanding of pastoral identity, personal characteristics, pedagogical approach, and formative experiences combine to empower pastors to successfully create communities of engagement around the Bible. It further claims that forming pastors who successfully lead ordinary readers to informed, enthusiastic engagement with the Bible is the responsibility of many parts of the “ecology of ministry,” including congregations, regional and national church bodies, colleges and universities, seminaries, agencies, retreat and conference centers, publishers, and other supporting organizations. As pastors are being formed as children, growing into young adults, being equipped for ministry, being called to particular ministry assignments, and carrying out their ministries in various congregations and communities, all parts of “the system” have major roles to play in lighting the fire of passion for Scripture and in nurturing habits of mind and heart that support the development of effective pastor-teachers.

Subject Area

Clergy--Research, Pastoral theology.

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