Journaling Bibles offer customers a creative way to worship. Here’s how retailers can explore this profitable trend.

In 2015, the marketplace saw coloring books for grown-ups go from a novelty item to a top retail trend. Because more sophisticated coloring book options now are available on nearly any theme, “coloring has resurfaced as a calming and enjoyable hobby for adults,” says Kim Johnson, brand manager of Inspire Bible for Tyndale House Publishers. “People can relax their minds and de-stress as they color. Scripture-based or devotional coloring books provide a deeper purpose to coloring as they aid readers in meditating on God’s Word and key biblical truths.”

It was a natural fit for coloring book enthusiasts to continue their art in decorating their Bibles. Wide-margined Bibles, typically used for taking notes or recording prayers, became the place to combine worship and creativity.

Today journaling Bibles are top sellers in Christian retail. Johnson’s data show that women and girls ages 7 and up “are by far the most enthusiastic about coloring and Bible journaling. They love to connect with others, and are typically quite social, which is what makes workshops so much fun for them,” she says. “They love to peruse others’ artwork online. They are learners and enjoy attending workshops or viewing videos or tutorials so they can learn new skills or techniques.”

HERE TO STAY?

Coloring books are one thing, but adding stickers and coloring pages in the Bible have made some people uncomfortable. Charisma House Director of CBA/International Sales Ken Peckett says, “I believe that we as publishers are recognizing the many ways that people interact with the Word and that we need to provide the resources that help people’s walk with God.”

Because online forum users post and share photos, talk about tips and techniques, and encourage each other to be in the Word, the trend has exploded.

“Sharing across all social media platforms has allowed more people to discover Bible journaling for themselves. There is a wealth of material online to help people get started, including videos, tutorials, guides, and printables,” says Johnson. “The more people talk about creative journaling and share their art in their posts, the more people are discovering it.”

“The journaling Bible market broadly conceived continues to flourish, reflecting an overall trajectory of growth with our first journaling Bible about a decade ago. In more recent years we have sought to serve the church with a variety of journaling editions such as the Interleaved edition and several others,” says Dane Ortlund, executive VP of Bible publishing at Crossway.

The benefits of Bible journaling to a person’s spiritual development can’t be underestimated. In a December 2016 blog post at IllustratedFaith.com, Shanna Noel wrote, “Bible journaling isn’t ‘just’ a trend. For the first time in my life I understand the Word, I crave the Word, and I am constantly looking for ways to better grasp it, to apply it to my life, and to share it with others.”

Johnson cautions retailers not to worry about the longevity of the movement. “New products entering the scene continue to inspire creativity and connect hearts to their Savior.”

B&H Publishing is taking Bible journaling into the Spanish-language market with Biblia de Apuntes. According to Cristopher Garrido, Spanish publisher for B&H Español, the trend was a long time coming into the Spanish market, “but now we’re seeing exponential growth as bloggers and social media platforms raise awareness on the possibilities it has.”

He explains that with English notetaking Bibles, many publishers first focused on the discipline of journaling and/or making annotations. Bible lettering and more artistic renditions followed much later. “Spanish publishers (including B&H) have marketed these latter uses from the beginning to introduce the notetaking Bible concept. I believe this has resulted in our missing a significant portion of potential users for these types of Bibles.”

A recent survey of Spanish speakers conducted by LifeWay Global revealed that most people felt that they’re most likely to use their notetaking Bible for taking notes during a sermon or as part of their personal study. “To my knowledge, there have been no marketing pushes by any publisher promoting this activity in relation to their Bibles,” says Garrido. “Given that Spanish-speaking Christians often have only one Bible, which they generally don’t write in or mark up at all, they are less likely to like the idea of making their Bible into a scrapbook.”

HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE

Retailers have found sales success by cross merchandising journaling Bibles with markers, stickers, and other accessories.

“Outside of compelling displays, allowing customers the opportunity to try their hand at Bible journaling could be the next best way to help your customers discover the joy of being creative in their Bible,” says Johnson. “Many people need some encouragement to get started because their instinct is to doubt their God-given creativity, and the quickest way to dispel those false beliefs is to invite them to a workshop where they can try it for themselves.”

Peckett suggests retailers host creative workshops, promoting them through social media and targeting customers who have recently bought a journaling Bible. “Having events would give retailers a great opportunity to not only host customers and make sales, but also to help provide discipleship to their community as they introduce new study methods.”

Johnson agrees. “Don’t be tentative about holding your first one—just dive in! People will discover the great products you’re selling that impact their relationship with God is huge ways, but chances are you’ll also get to see God’s beautiful handiwork through the relationships formed at the tables and the finished pages that are designed while studying God’s Word together.”

She recommends retailers keep up with the Bible journaling trends and have those supplies on hand for use at workshops and for sale. “Once someone has tried an item at a workshop, they will want to buy it immediately. Retailers could lose sales by not having items in stock.”

If a store doesn’t have the space to hold a workshop, she suggests retailers prominently display a journaling Bible with some colored pencils and invite customers to work on it. Another option would be for retailers to coordinate a workshop to be held at a local church and provide a coupon for participants to use on their next store visit.

A LEGACY PRODUCT

Johnson notes many people are buying multiple Bibles—for each of their children and other loved ones—so that they can write prayers, draw, and tape pictures or mementos in them for the recipient.

“[They] are keepsake items and a repeat purchase, similar to journals. Once one is filled, your customer will return for another and another. They’re legacy pieces that will be treasured for a lifetime,” she says.

Retailers can play an important role in reassuring new Bible journal users, says Johnson. “Many people are hesitant to get started because they are intimidated or are afraid of making mistakes. Encourage them in their journey to give it a try and not to aim for perfection but for connection. God has given each of His children creativity, and our art doesn’t need to be perfect or even beautiful for it to be an acceptable act of worship.”

Helping people develop an abiding relationship with God, after all, is why Christian storeowners got into business in the first place.

“While it has been a great trend financially within our industry, let’s remember that our goal is to support the Christians within our communities and grow the Kingdom,” advises Beckett. “These products are just an additional opportunity to grow the Kingdom with resources.”

Confident that journaling Bibles “will continue to multiply as more and more people discover it,” Johnson is optimistic about this category’s future. “It’s opening up a whole new world of connection with the Bible, with God, and with each other.”

— Lora Schrock

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