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If you’re a man and Bible journaling intrigues you, maybe you’ve wondered if it feels too much like scrapbooking, embroidery or any other art and crafts traditionally associated with women.
Can men do Bible journaling? Is it something only women do? Sometimes it might seem that way.
Read on if this sounds like you.
What is Bible Journaling?
If you’re asking this particular question, maybe you’re not too familiar with this relatively new creative trend.
Isn’t it simply doing a Bible study and then writing down the insights you’ve gained from time spent with God? What’s wrong with doing that?
Bible journaling actually refers to the practice of writing, drawing, painting or doodling in your Bible. It’s a creative form of note taking and expressing your faith. You’re not simply writing down things you’ve learned through your meditation on the word or through a sermon. Instead you’re illustrating these verses, concepts or promises that God has spoken to you in the form of artwork or calligraphy.
People usually do the journaling in Bibles specifically created for this purpose. These have extra wide margins with plenty of space for you to create and express your imagination. However, you can also use a notebook or sketch pad.
Do a search for journaling Bibles in stores like Amazon, Christian bookstores, Michaels or Hobby Lobby. You’ll notice that the majority of these Bibles have bright colours and rather flowery, feminine designs. At first glance, these seem to be marketed exclusively to women.
Likewise, if you’ve ever looked on Pinterest or Instagram, you may have come across examples people have posted. Typically, you’ll find beautifully illustrated artwork in the form of coloured pencil drawings, watercolour paintings, fancy calligraphy, stickers and even coloured tape (known as washi tape) and other craft-based creations.
Consequently, it’s easy to get the impression that Bible journaling is almost a uniquely female activity rather than one geared towards men.
This can be off-putting to guys. And if you’re not secure in your masculinity, you’ll probably steer clear of this creative outlet.
However, the idea that Bible journaling is only for women is a lie.
Here are 6 reasons why Bible journaling isn’t just for women.
1. Keeping a journal itself isn’t something only women do.
Now if you’re a guy, maybe you don’t fall into this category, but I thought I’d address this first.
Some men think the mere act of keeping a journal, even in written, let alone illustrated form, is too touchy-feely and feminine. Or it’s too much like something a teenager might do. Maybe it’s the idea that you’re keeping an angst-ridden diary full of rants or unrequited feelings.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
You’ll find grown men in all walks of life throughout history who’ve kept journals – and not just in Christian circles.
Here are a few examples of famous men who did so: Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, Winston Churchill, Bruce Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, Ernest Hemmingway, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, George Lucas, Isaac Newton, Captain Cook and many others.
In Acts of the Apostles, Luke records parts of Paul’s journey as if he is writing a journal. Take a look at Acts chapters 27 and 28, for example.
Without it, these men would never have recorded their thoughts or adventures and tracked their development. We would never have known about their lives and exploits or found out other personal details about them.
So far I’ve been talking about keeping a written journal. As a male, you might be in complete agreement with me here.
But what about drawing in your Bible or colouring in where you’re creating artwork and making all these pretty pictures? Do men do that?
2. It isn’t just women who draw in their Bibles while men take notes.
When it comes to creating artwork in your Bible, sometimes guys see this as exclusive to women. They might think that it isn’t masculine to embrace your creative side and express yourself by literally drawing on the word. The whole creative process can become a stumbling block.
It’s easy to make a broad generalisation that real men prefer to write everything down in words and to take a more scholarly, analytical approach while women go for drawing or colouring in their Bible.
However, this is untrue and rather sexist. It’s also a narrow view of what constitutes a real man.
I’m not going to go into the subject of real men now, as that’s a topic for another post. But I will say here three things here in relation to this.
First of all, both the academic and working world often place greater importance and status on the more mathematical-logical or verbal-linguistic subjects or jobs, which are typically a function of the left brain. This is evident in school or in certain careers where these are taken more seriously. People usually associate creativity, including the more visual aspects, with the right brain. We often see these as less important and less of an indicator of intelligence. However, this isn’t true at all. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner revealed in his seminal book Frames of Mind that we all have multiple forms of intelligence, all of which are equally valid.
Second, drawing pictures isn’t an exclusively female activity.
Take The Sketch Effect, shown in the video above. It is an Atlanta-based visual communications agency that combines art with communication to produce visual summaries and recordings. The company was founded by William Warren, who previously worked for Chick-fil-A’s digital marketing team at their corporate headquarters. He came from a Christian background and was a trained cartoonist.
In Jordan Raynor’s book Called to Create, Warren explains how he came across the concept of graphic recording. This is where an illustrator listens to a speaker at an event. Instead of simply producing a written transcription, the illustrator will create a visual record of the speaker’s message in real time. Warren developed these skills himself and began making visual recordings of Chick-fil-A meetings as well as recording sermons for his pastor. He eventually launched The Sketch Effect, where he used those skills for various clients such as Nike, Google and the NBA.
Now it’s not clear whether he was doing any actual Bible journaling. However, when he was visually recording his pastor’s sermons, Warren was effectively doing the equivalent of this. He was absorbing the message and drawing the words that inspired him as a form of visual note taking.
If men have any doubt whatsoever that drawing pictures or being artistic is too feminine when it comes to Bible journaling, you only need to look at William Warren.
Also, looking throughout history, how many male artists have there been? In fact – and this isn’t a knock on any female talent whatsoever – most of the famous paintings we know today were painted by men such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Rembrandt.
Third, just as many female writers exist as men. Writing words isn’t an exclusively male activity.
If you did have this belief, that would cancel out the first point above that only women keep journals while men don’t at all. It can’t be that on the one hand, men don’t write journals and only women do, but then on the other hand, only men actually write in their journals but women just draw.
This is nonsense, and simply moving the goal posts.
Drawing in your Bible as a man is a perfectly fine and masculine activity. It is simply exercising your God-given creativity.
3. Not all the journaling Bibles are feminine.
While it is true that many journaling Bibles have flowery or ornate designs or are in colours like pink, teal or purple, they are not all like that.
Some have plain designs in leather or cloth, or neutral, classic colours such as black or brown without any flowers adorning them.
Above are three examples of journaling Bibles that have a more masculine cover which should appeal to men. I’m going to discuss these in more detail below:
The exterior is bound in soft black leather. It comes with a blue sleeve which is removable.
The interior is laid out with two columns and the margins are unruled, meaning you won’t find any lines but plenty of white space to draw. The font is about 7 pts, which is on the smaller side. It has to squeeze more text into two columns on a single page. Personally, this is too small for me, but others might find it acceptable. You can buy this one on Amazon here.
This comes with a stiff, tan-coloured hardback cover, again with a blue removable sleeve.
The inside of this Bible is also unruled with plenty of clean, plain white space to enter your notes freely or draw pictures.
The font of the single column is about 8 pts. This is also a little on the small side. It’s better than the NIV double column journaling Bible though, because it only has to squeeze one column onto a page so the text can be a little larger. This might be fine for you. You can buy this one on Amazon here.
This one comes again with a removable sleeve. Once you remove it, it is just a plain black leather-bound cover.
Inside, you’ll find that the Bible is in a single column layout. The margins are also very faintly ruled. This allows you to write notes on the lines provided. However, you can still draw or paint over the page without the lines showing through too visibly.
The font is listed as large print, which is about 10 pts, making it fairly easy to read. Ultimately, I opted for this one for that very reason. It’s by no means ideal for me. I would prefer a journaling Bible with that size font but with unruled margins. You can pick it up from Amazon here.
All of the exteriors and interiors are not flowery or ornate but relatively simplistic and minimalistic. You’ll find others in NIV translation too, but I’ve only showcased these three.
There are also plain-coloured Bibles in the English Standard Version (ESV) translation. These include the hardcover ESV New Journaling Bible in black, the ESV Journaling Bible Interleaved Edition (which has a full blank page for drawing alongside each page of text) or the hardcover ESV Single Column Journaling Bible.
Most of the ESV translations are red letter Bibles, meaning all the words of Jesus are in red font. I personally prefer the wording of the NIV translation and without a sea of red text, which is why I’ve gone for the ones above.
You can also customise your Bible covers too, so that even if you did buy one with a flowery design because you felt the interior layout was the one that was best for you, you can create an entirely different cover. But that’s another post.
As with anything, you’ll have to do your research and find the one that is best for you.
4. You don’t have to draw flowers in your Bible and decorate it with stickers or washi tape.
Above are some of the supplies you’ll typically find journaling Bibles decorated in. There’s absolutely no need to do this at all if you don’t want. I don’t do this myself.
There isn’t only one way to approach Bible journaling or the whole creative process. That’s having too narrow a view of it.
Here is an example of a page I created. As you can see, it doesn’t look feminine at all.
You can express yourself in any way you choose. It doesn’t have to be an activity like scrapbooking or embroidery, although there’s nothing wrong with those either.
Don’t be caught up or distracted by all the trappings that you commonly see.
Not all females are into this anyway, and that would be a very broad generalisation to suggest that they all must automatically be into the more crafty side of things. If you’re a woman, there is no need to do all of this if it’s not you.
On the other hand, if you’re a guy, don’t write off that side of things completely either. Could you honestly say that no man has ever drawn a flower before in their life? What about all these still life artists?
5. Don’t be put off by the marketing and community.
It’s true that most of the blogs or websites dedicated to Bible journaling are usually run by and cater to women. Currently it might feel like an exclusively female community, but that’s partly a gap in the market.
While it’s often said that opposites attract, social psychology research also shows that like attracts like. People tend to seek out or group together with those that are like-minded or share similar interests, beliefs or other common traits. It’s the same with any demographic in any context.
If you lived in an area where there is a church full of older married couples with children and very few younger singles, it’s less likely that this church is going to attract younger singles. They will go instead where they find people similar to them. You couldn’t logically conclude however that younger single people don’t go to church at all.
The same holds true vice versa. If your church is full of young, single people, it will naturally attract other young, single people rather than older married couples. That doesn’t mean that church is only for one type of person.
On these websites or blogs, or even in Bible journaling classes, you’re going to find mostly women there. Because of the pre-existing audience, that’s what it’s now catering for and whom they target with their marketing. And because that’s what it caters for, it furthers that preconception, which then perpetuates the same target audience. It’s all somewhat circular. Like attracts like, as in the church example above.
This doesn’t mean that a man couldn’t do an activity like Bible journaling on their own as part of their own personal quiet time. The fact that you might find a Bible journaling community or group that is made up primarily of women doesn’t make the activity exclusively female in itself.
When it comes to stores like Hobby Lobby or Michaels, a quick look at the Bible journaling section reveals that there’s a mixture of women’s journaling Bibles and a few geared towards men. They don’t exactly have the widest range though. If you merely had a cursory perusal, these stores could give the appearance of being only for women. However, they actually cover all kinds of art and craft-based hobbies including fine art supplies, modelling kits and other activities which men might often do. You just need to browse a bit more closely.
Another related misconception that some people have is that Pinterest is only for women. If you think that though, you’re simply not familiar enough with the platform. It’s not all about beauty tips, women’s clothing, wedding ideas or crochet patterns.
You’ll discover Pinterest boards on all kinds of typical male interests like cars, motorbikes, weight lifting, exercise or business. You name it, you’ll find it.
I don’t want to get too deep into the specifics of Pinterest and using it for marketing here, but it’s an excellent tool for driving traffic to your website. It functions more like an image-based search engine than a social media platform. However, you would be missing out on the way it could work for you if you own a business and were unable to look past your prejudices.
6. God often speaks to us in pictures whether we’re male or female.
While God will sometimes give us a word, he often communicates to us in images too.
In Acts 2:17, after the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, the apostle Peter stood up and quoted the prophet Joel:
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (NIV)
These prophetic words, images, visions and dreams are for everyone.
If God has given you a picture, it’s sometimes easier and even necessary to draw something than to describe it in words which may not fully encompass the idea.
What God has given you may be more akin to a feeling. The only way to express that sometimes is to render it in art form. It’s more immediate and vivid if you can see the thing for yourself.
If you’re looking over your notes one day and trying to visualise the image exactly as God showed it to you, it will be far more helpful having a drawing in front of you.
After all, it has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
The picture you may have received is something you can illustrate in your Bible next to relevant verses. However, if you’re too caught up with whether Bible journaling is a female activity, you won’t receive what God has given you. You will miss this opportunity and the chance to have a continual reminder of God speaking into your life.
Bible Journaling is for everyone.
Bible journaling is about expressing yourself creatively and visually and keeping a record of the way God has spoken to you, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Don’t allow your preconceptions about this creative activity hold you back from going deeper with God.
Why not give it a go?
If you’re a man, what would be some of your biggest hindrances preventing you from Bible journaling? How would you overcome them? Or if you do journal, how did you overcome any hang-ups or fears about it?
And if you’re a woman, what do you think could be done to make it more accessible and appealing to men?
Or would you prefer that Bible journaling were purely something just for women to do? If so, why?
Comment below, as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Finally, would you like a Bible journaling template with ready made images I’ve drawn? You can print them off and resize them for your own Bible journal and trace them onto your Bible pages. You can use it with the verses I’ve illustrated, or you can apply it to a different verse in the Bible of your own choosing.
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.