Thursday, January 1, 2009


by Heather Goodman

Inspired by Oprah and a love for books, book clubs are peppering neighborhoods, churches, and libraries. Book clubs can be a way to delve deeply into books chapter by chapter, or they can be an excuse to get together over a common interest. Beginning a book club with a distinctive Christian flavor, whether you use books by Christian authors or secular authors, gives women the opportunity to see Christian themes in a new light and to evangelize to a neighbor who shies away from attending a Sunday morning service.

Starting anything new can be intimidating, especially when you have laundry to be done, kids to be bathed, and dinner to be fixed. These seven tips help women who have a love for books, and a love for other women put their desire into practice.

1. Set the guidelines. Reading and discussing one book a month allows women to come when they’re interested in a specific book without feeling pressured to commit. Doing a couple chapters a week requires a group more dedicated both to the book and to each other. Determine if you want to read fiction, nonfiction, or a mixture, if you will do it on your own in your home or through an organization, such as your church, library, or PTA, and if it’ll be a mixed gender group or women only, intergenerational or age-specific. Each option has its own pros and cons. I approached my church about starting a monthly fiction book club under the Women’s Ministry. We agreed that it would be a great way to get women of different ages intermingling.

2. Start with a core group. Find a couple of friends for a "test" month before you get the word out. I asked three women in my church for my test month. Word spread, and we had eight women at the first month, one of whom I'd never met before. Starting with a core group gives you room to learn together and get comfortable with one another and your interactions.

3. Choose books for the next four months with the test group. Have suggestions ready, but remember a book club isn't about making everyone read the books you like, but to share your favorites together. Letting go of this aspect, gave me the pleasant surprise of discovering new authors I would have otherwise skipped over.

4. Find local authors to speak to your group or authors willing to do a conference call. Connecting writers and readers invigorates both. This is easier than you think because authors enjoy this aspect. At my first author appearance, I worried that the group would be scared silent. Not so! They couldn't wait to ask questions, give kudos, and even tell the author what didn't work for them. The author had a great time getting to hear feedback—as writers, too often, the only feedback we get is a computer glare and professional reviews.

5. Advertise in local venues. I decided to start my group through the women's ministry at church, so we announced it through church forums (the website, the Sunday morning bulletin). If your church or women’s ministry has an e-newsletter, check into adding your book club to it. Post flyers at your library. Announce it at your PTA. A friend of mine created a “movie trailer” advertising their book club, and the church showed it during announcements. Be ready! Our first month after announcing it, we had 20 people show up. Women are hungry for books and for connection, and God uses what we offer Him to reach others for Him. We outgrew my house and some months even split into two groups.

6. Have discussion questions ready. These can often be found online through the author’s website or in the back of the book. If not, take the time to put together your own questions. Questions should generally be open-ended rather than yes or no. Hint: If fiction, focus on character motivation and what can be learned through the story. If nonfiction, focus on main points, challenging areas, and even questionable statements made by the author. Often, a group of women together won’t need encouragement talking, but you want to be prepared. You may choose to email the questions to the members ahead of time.

7. Enjoy! Whether your group takes a more serious look or uses the book club as an excuse to laugh together as a group of people who love books, have fun! I’ve met new friends and mentors through my book club. They’ve stretched my perspective and my imagination.


Patricia said...

Could you please suggest some good books that would be appropriate for starting a Christian Book Club ministry? Thank you, Patricia