Who has time to read a Bible study book?
That’s the question you have to ask yourself if you're writing a Bible study book. You have to ask it repeatedly and in more than one different way too.
As any kind of author or author-to-be, you’re going to be constantly competing with potential readers’ schedules, actual or imagined. People have responsibilities to see to: children to take care of, spouses to spend time with, jobs to do, pets to tend to, homework to complete, meals to make, chores to perform, etc.
In addition, there’s the siren’s call of technology: of TV and Netflix and YouTube and the internet in general.
That’s your competition – on top of all the other books out there for your potential readers to choose from. And, not to be the bearer of bad news or anything, but it gets worse from there if you’re writing a Bible study book.
At that point, you’re kind-of at the bottom of the readers’ choice hierarchy.
It’s simply a fact that, overall, fiction sells better than nonfiction. That’s quite possibly because it’s easier for all of us to motivate ourselves toward passive entertainment vs. active learning.
I’m not sure if that’s human nature in general or a sign of the times. But it’s something to keep in mind regardless when writing a Bible study book.
The same applies to this next statement… Even when people opt to learn by reading a nonfiction book, they have a choice:
Learning from someone else’s instructions
Learning from someone else’s guidance.
The first is a matter of reading alone. The second is a matter of studying – of following prompts and answering questions and taking consistent pauses to process words on a page.
Guess which one’s easier?
Then guess which one Bible study books are almost always going to fall into.
Finally, read this week’s Writing Challenge, which can help you make this dilemma a bit more manageable.
Believe it or not, none of this is to say that writing a Bible study book is a lost cause. It isn’t. You just have to know what you’re up against so you can know how to deal with it.
Give your Bible study book readers a clear image of why your chosen Bible study topic matters.
Moreover, give them a clear image of why it matters to them. This particularly applies to more obscure, dense or difficult focuses that you might choose.
We humans, even if we say we serve a mighty God, have a bad tendency to be lazy: to stay in our comfort zones for whatever reason and only explore our potential – and God’s potential for us – within a set, specific, safe little box. So if you’re writing a Bible study book, you’ll want to make the bottom-line benefits as obvious as possible.
In other words, give them incentives. Make it personal for them. Show them what’s in it for them.
If you’re writing a Bible study book that focuses on God’s love for us, show how utterly transformative it is. Let your readers-to-be know from start to finish how their lives will change as they start seeing themselves through their Father’s eyes instead of through the world’s or their own.
Or, if you’re analyzing Exodus, you might want to show how God’s hand wasn’t just in the big, flashy, history-altering moments like the battles and daring rescues. It was also in the tiny, boring details that seem so tedious to read at first glance… just like his hand is in all of our great and small moments today.
Writing a Bible study book that’s going to sell isn’t impossible. You just need to handle it the right way.