writing a mass-market Bible study

so... I've been processing through the idea of writing a mass-market Bible study.  By that I mean a study that would be accessible to people across the U.S., whether via retail or via digital download and whether through a publisher or independently. Before I can allow settle into the actual process, there's a lot that I'm working through in my head about the venture in general.  I don't know that I need to find answers to these questions, just that I have to give them due diligence.  And, as I go through this process, I'm sure that I'll find more questions arise.
  •  Can my spirit handle it?
Twice a month Ashley and/or I prepare a lesson/session/space of time for our small group.  In the back of my mind I'm always working through what to say, how to say it, etc.  When I'm focused in on getting the time ready, it's usually a pretty strong spiritual battle for me.  I try to refine things, making sure that we're teaching what's in the Word and not simply regurgitating stuff we've been told by other people in the past. Preparing for the time with our small group is always spiritually exhausting.  Teaching others and sharing some of my spirit with them is a complex, supernatural thing.  And that's just for our small group, people who I know love us and would heap grace upon us if we ever did mess up somehow.  How spiritually stressful would it be to prepare a lesson/space of time for people I'll never meet who could use the plan however they'd like?
  • Why would I want to do it?
There are plenty of mass-market small group studies out there... let alone opportunities for groups to actually study the Bible, sans additional resources.  Would I be bringing any wisdom to the table, or just adding to the noise? Working for a Bible materials publisher full time, this is a topic I'm continually digesting.  I think we will always need to produce new materials because time keeps moving forward.  While the Bible doesn't change, the concepts and cultural issues it intersects with do.  Paul, the great theologian, never had to deal with cyber-sex or the potential for humanity living on the moon/Mars.  New materials allow us to shine the light in new places.  If I am to write any kind of study, it needs to be in conjunction with my life's story and the things that I am an "expert" in.
  • Does it meet a need?
Here's the need that I see: For the past four years or so, I've been doing dinner with a group of guys.  The members of this group have been fairly fluid throughout the years, but it's always been a time set aside for building relationships, discovering life, and eating good food. A couple of times we've tried to focus the time a little bit more toward some kind of spiritual study... but it's never really worked.  Amidst all the resources out there, we couldn't find anything that fit our flow of conversation and styles of learning.  Member books are a bit too clunky.  Men's studies are about being outdoorsy or sporty (which we aren't).  Many studies now rely on multimedia elements.  Preparation can be confusing. Those things I just listed are not bad things.  Member books and multimedia elements are perfect for many, many small groups.  But they just don't work with my guys.
  • Who would lead a study written by me?
I don't mean this as a belittlement to myself, but an actual concern: who would be the person leading it?  I know what I mean when I use certain phrases and I know I have a very stylized voice.  In many ways, I think that if I wrote a study I would want/need to give the leader the bulk of my efforts.  But how do you properly prepare a leader that you'll never meet?  And is there a way to prepare quickly, but also offer the opportunity to prepare deeply?
  • Who am I to write a study?  Or is it pride?
And this is probably the biggest one for me.  I don't know at what point it's "ok" to say "Hey!  I've got a bit of wisdom to share."  This is one of the issues that prompted me to write the "Career Christian" post. I've been told time and time again as a Christian that we should be humble and meek.  How do I reconcile that with saying "Hey, I wrote something good enough that you should pay for it."  If I do think I have something to say (and, to be honest, I do),  is it ok to be bold about it? Is it ok to think that God and Sister Wisdom have blessed me in a way that maybe, just maybe, I have something worth listening to?  Is it ok to say that it's worth it's weight in paper, ink, design, legal, shipping and editorial costs? So that's where I am, on this journey to writing a mass-market Bible study.  Feel free to pray for me as I continue to process through the opportunities, the spiritual angst, and internal monologues of these questions.
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LifeWay Downloads: A Heart Like His

As hinted at last week, Beth Moore's A Heart Like His Study is now downloadable from the LifeWay catalog.  These are individual use videos, running at the resolution of 360x240. A Heart Like His is a Beth Moore study from 1996.  It's amazing to see how visually she's changed with the times, but how sound and compelling her teaching has always been.  This study follows along the path of exploring the life and times of David, but Beth brings so much more to the table. I really admire Beth for the depth and inclusiveness of her studies.  She is able to flow from Bible passages to personal stories to studying Greek and Hebrew words.  The fact that the depth of her studies have led to so much life change and freedom from sin and self-doubt in so many women (and men!) is a testiment not simply to her teaching prowress, but the life-changing capabilities of the Word when examined closely. You can purchase the individual use versions of this study here.
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LifeWay Downloads: Max Lucado's 3:16

Today we released Max Lucado's 3:16 study for download in the LifeWay catalog. The videos are for Individual Use, which means they weigh in at a resolution of 418x240 (they are 16x9). The videos are based off of his new study about having hope in today's world, using the simple analogy of 3:16 hope in a 9/11 world. One of the best things about the study is the bonus materials of people's testimonies on how Christ has effected their lives. We're still working on how to best deliver those materials via digital downloads, because they really would be best served for presentation in a large group setting. Hopefully we'll be able to work something out soon. Also, the audio files from Beth Moore's A Heart Like His study were able to get out this wee. These are from a study she released in 1996 about David. Old materials, but still great Bible teaching. If the audios are released, I would imagine the videos might be following soon...
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LifeWay Downloads: Influencing Like Jesus

The video teaching series for Mike Zigarelli's Influencing Like Jesus is now available for download on LifeWay.com.  This is pretty exciting for me because it's the first video project that I've seen all the way through.  This has been the pilot project for my job and everything that's to come for me, video wise.  With this project I was able to gather the information needed to make my workflow, get authorization for the correct software needs, and fully understand the process of getting the files up to our file server and connected with our online catalog. The more exciting part about this series is it's a first for LifeWay in two ways: (1) This is our first DRM-free video download product.  This is an experiment for us to see how our customers will react to the files not being DRM'd.  There's quite a bit of risk for us here, as there isn't a DVD companion piece to this.  In the long run, I think this will serve as a great customer convience.  From my customer service background I know the troubles that a lot of our customers have had with the current DRM set-up.  Plus, this will allow our Mac users to download the files.  I truly think this is a win-win situation, and I hope to get approval on more DRM-free content in the future. (2) This is our first multi-tiered quality product.  What I mean by that is the videos are available in three flavors:  This is the first time we're offering a standard definition downloadable product.  All of our past downloads, such as the Beth Moore Daniel files, were low-res, 360x240 files.  We still have that size available for Influencing Like Jesus, but now we also have the full res, 720x480 files available.  For 'Influencing' the files were encoded at an average bit rate of 3000kbps.  Amazon Unbox - a leader in digital downloads - offers their files at an average bit rate of 2500kbps.  I'm proud to say we're able to beat them at that. Of course, with that bump in resolution and bit rate we see a much high file size... so these files are definately only for customers that have a broadband connection. A few links if you're interested in the product:
  • I previously talked with Chris Johnson (the editor of the entire product line) here.
  • You can view the free introductory session here.
  • You can read about the entire study here.
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