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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Your Voice was Heard!

First of all, I'd like to thank all of you for your tremendous response to this survey. I submitted my proposal and manuscript to two prospective publishers today, and I was able to include feedback from 86 of you!

I'm excited to announce Shelli as the winner of Lysa's fabulous book, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith. Thank you Shelli!

The survey revealed some staggering trends in women's Bible study. While I realize some of you are huge fans of weekly Bible study, I had a hunch there were many of you out there that felt they needed something different. We are all in varying seasons of life, and some of us cannot commit to attending a Bible study every week on top of our many responsibilities.

I'm an avid fan of weekly Bible study and am currently teaching one, but most times I walk away from weekly studies excited yet overwhelmed. I often wish I’d had more time to linger a little longer in order to really apply the principles learned. I’m only usually able to apply about 50% of the material presented in a weekly Bible study because new concepts are introduced before the former ones have taken root in my soul.

Many of your responses echoed this reality.

Out of 86 women from across the U.S. surveyed on Survey Monkey:

86% feel that a once per month Bible study is needed.

90% would attend a once per month study.

57% believe the time required to attend a weekly Bible study is overwhelming.

66% believe the time required to complete daily homework assignments in a weekly Bible study is overwhelming.

70% have been tempted to stay home from weekly Bible study because they did not complete their homework.

69% would prefer a Bible study with homework that could be completed in one day.

• When asked what percent of the daily homework in a weekly Bible study they complete:

  •  10% complete 25% of their homework
  •  20% complete 50% of their homework
  •  45% complete 75% of their homework
  •  25% complete 100% of their homework
Therefore, 75% of women do not complete their daily homework in a weekly Bible study.

75% of women feel most Bible studies lack creative practical application methods such as crafts, letter writing, questionnaires, and role-play.

• When asked what percent of the information in a weekly Bible study they were able to apply to their lives before the study ends:
  • 25% said they apply 25% of the information
  • 58% said they apply 50% of the information
  • 15% said they apply 75% of the information
  • 2% said they apply 100% of the information
Therefore, the majority of women surveyed are only able to apply half of the information in a weekly Bible before the study ends.

My vision is to offer women an alternative to weekly Bible study that meets their unique needs and correlates with their season of life. Grafted into Godliness, the first of five Bible studies in the GEMS curriculum, accomplishes this goal in an innovative three-fold fashion.

Because women are busy, they need a Bible study that deeply refreshes their souls but doesn't require them to be away from their families for extended periods of time. Grafted into Godliness only requires a three-hour monthly time commitment outside the home.

Women are also burnt out and often begin a weekly Bible study looking for life change but quit before the final session. This is frequently due to their inability to complete daily homework assignments. Rather than risk embarrassment, they stop attending altogether. Grafted into Godliness provides manageable weekly homework lessons that can easily be completed in one day. This allows women freedom to finish their homework in a timely fashion and then read their Bibles the rest of the week. Suggested scripture readings that correspond with the teaching are provided to give women direction in their individual study time.

Also, some women are tired of the ho-hum flow of traditional Bible studies. They are searching for a revolutionary Bible study that applies directly to their season of life. If they invest time attending Bible study, they want to be able to practically use the biblical principles they learn day in and day out. Grafted into Godliness meets this need by providing an entire hour of hands-on application in each session. This hands-on component occurs after the lesson is presented and provides women with the opportunity to apply what they learn to their lives using creative methods such as questionnaires, crafts, letter writing, role-play, and discussion.Women leave empowered with a plan of action to pursue in the upcoming month. 

It is my prayer that Grafted into Godliness reaches millions of women willing to be polished into beautiful GEMS who glorify the Lord with their lives, encourage one another through accountability, mentor and be mentored, and serve their husbands, children, and churches sacrificially.

Thanks again for your honesty and transparency! Much love to you all!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Opinions Please!

Calling all women with an opinion! I'm taking a brief survey to identify current trends in women's Bible study. This survey is anonymous. Please provide honest feeback.

Click here to take survey

As a thank you for your time, I am giving away an autographed copy of Lysa TerKeurst's book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. If you'd like to be eligible to win this amazing book, please comment on this post and leave your name so I can enter it in the drawing. Make sure to check back next Wednesday to see if you won!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carving a New Niche

For the past several weeks, I’ve been recounting the incredible ways God moved in my life at the She Speaks conference this year. If you’re a new reader, can I just say how thrilled I am that you’ve chosen to follow the GEMS Ministry blog? And if you’re a behind the scenes beauty who secretly stops by, can I ask you to hit the grey follow button on the right hand side of the screen and let me see your pretty face?

Here’s why. If you’re reading this blog, you matter to me. I’d love to hear your heart, to interact with you, to get to know you. And you just may be a part of history in the making.

History in the making? Yes, you read that right. Because a part of what was so incredibly amazing at the conference this year was that both publishers I met with requested my proposal for Grafted into Godliness, the first of five Bible studies in the GEMS curriculum. In fact, when I went to leave my last publisher interview, the editor said, “You sit down!” She then ran to her briefcase, whipped out her company’s submission guidelines, and scratched her email at the bottom of one of the pages. She looked at me with intensity and said, “Don’t follow any of the directions on this sheet. If you do, your manuscript will end up in a pile on a desk somewhere and I’ll never see it. I want you to send everything you have to my personal email address. I need to look at this immediately. There’s nothing like this out there!” And then she leaned forward, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “And just so you know, this never happens.”

To say I floated out of that interview would be a grave understatement. Although the Lord had given me such clarity during my interview, I couldn’t form a coherent sentence while speaking with my husband a few minutes later. My hand quivered as I held my phone to my mouth, and my words tumbled out in a jumbled mess as I screamed into the phone.

You see, the editor I met with was right on the money. There’s no other Bible study currently on the market that even remotely resembles GEMS. So I’m basically carving a new niche. And I’ll admit sometimes it’s a little scary. I’m like the Little Engine That Could going straight uphill saying, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” I’m an unknown girl in this industry but known in my innermost being by my Heavenly Father. My name is inscribed upon the palm of His hand. I’ve got a God-sized vision for women that only He can bring to fruition.

So I’m asking- will you pick up your chisel and carve this niche with me? Will you come along on this journey that will likely expose every one of my fears and perhaps a few failures along the way? I hope you’ll come. Cause I’d never want to do it without a single one of you!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Big Mouth Mama

“Big mouth Mama!” The thought seared my subconscious as horror set in. “This must be some kinda joke.” With lightening speed I shot an email to Lexie, the girl in charge. She needed to be informed- PRONTO! After all, my head wasn’t supposed to be cut off, right?

My first piece of published writing was featured Saturday on Mary DeMuth’s website in her Thin Place feature. Much to my chagrin, it wasn’t quite like I imagined it would be. When I excitedly clicked on the link to my post early Saturday morning, the picture above illuminated my computer screen.

And truly, I was horrified. But the horror quickly turned humorous as I chuckled to myself. I knew there must be some spiritual lesson the Lord wanted to teach me and you.

With beams of sunlight dancing off the lake and wind whipping through my hair, I opened my Bible a few hours later. My husband and I weren’t spotting any boaters with our high speed binoculars, so I decided to sneak in a couple of chapters in Isaiah. (Mark and I get paid to spy on people and record whether they’re wearing life jackets!)

As I soaked in the words of Isaiah 58, verse 13 leapt off the page as if it were shouting at me. The latter half of it read, “…honor the Lord in everything you do, and don’t follow your desires or talk idly.”

Talk idly? Idly means nonchalantly, carelessly, or absentmindedly. It denotes speaking casually without thinking first. An idle word isn’t profitable to others; it’s barren and useless.

I don’t know about you, but I’m often guilty of idle chatter. I love to talk and will bend the ear of anyone who’ll listen. I’m not always the woman with the quiet and gentle spirit (1 Peter 3:3-4).

But in that moment, the Lord reminded me of an important truth found in Matthew 12:36-37. One day, I’ll give an account of every idle word I speak. And so, sweet sister, will you.

Now I know why my mouth was emblazoned across my computer screen Saturday morning. God saw fit to send me a friendly reminder about the kind of mouthpiece He desires me to be. So in the magnificent words of Colossians 3:17, may everything I do and everything I say be an accurate representation of my precious Jesus. I pray this will be your heart’s cry as well.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

On Holy Ground

It was 11:00 p.m. Friday night. As I rode the elevator back up to my hotel room at the She Speaks conference, my eyes threatened to close. But sleep wouldn't come anytime soon. Images of book proposals and publisher interviews danced in my head as I slid the slender hotel key card into the door. The green light flickered, and I tumbled into the living room of my suite, exhausted.

Before me sat my two beautiful roommates, Hester Christensen and Shelby Howard.

They looked up at me with smiling eyes. Instantly my heart skipped a beat. These women were prayer warriors.

I dropped my red leather bag on the floor and plopped down on the couch next to them. I asked them to lay their hands on me and pray for strength. There was so much to do before tomorrow. And tomorrow was only 8 hours away.

Together we passionately petitioned our Savior, and as we exited the throne room of God, peace enveloped my soul like a river. I swung my red leather bag back over my shoulder and headed down to the lobby to write. I needed to make finishing touches on my book proposal for my publisher interviews the following day.

As I turned the corner in the lobby, I heard the still, small voice of God. "Go the prayer room, Stephanie." For a brief second my flesh argued, "Lord, I don't have time. It's almost midnight. There's still so much to do before morning!" Again the Holy Spirit beckoned me with His quiet voice. Without hesitation I obeyed.

On the way, I passed Luann Prater, my speaker evaluation leader for the weekend and the She Speaks team member overseeing the prayer room.
She smiled warmly and asked where I was headed. "To the prayer room," I answered. She nodded knowingly. She and her team had prayed believing that when each of the 608 conference attendees entered that room they'd be standing on holy ground.

And holy ground it was. Soothing music echoed off the walls intermingled with the soft sniffles of women's cries. Beautifully decorated tables displayed the names of God. Upon each name of God rested the names of several conference women, with every name prayed over before being carefully placed.

I excitedly searched the table for my name. I scarcely believed my eyes when I found it. My name lay on El, the name of God meaning "the Strong One." Underneath I found this simple definition. "He is more powerful than any false god. God will overcome all obstacles. I can depend on God."

Hot tears stung the back of my eyes as I marveled at God's sovereignty. Jesus wooed me to the prayer room to confirm He had heard the cries of His girls in Room 609 just moments earlier. To remind me that He could overcome any obstacle. To encourage my dependence on Him and Him alone.

I left the prayer room energized. No longer was I weary. As I opened my laptop to polish my proposal, I imagined Jesus sitting right beside me. He was smiling. Steadied. Strong.

It only took an hour to finish my work. God's power truly was made perfect in my weakness. His grace was sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Maybe today you  feel weary. Beaten down. Broken.

Run to God's throne room and find rest for your soul. Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Won't you trade in your burden for His?