The Secret to Bible Journaling

By Jessica Wolstenholm

You may have seen Bible journaling, or Illustrated Faith, filling up your Instagram feed over the last year or so. Popularized by Illustrated Faith and its founder Shanna Noel, Bible journaling is a popular spiritual practice for many Christian women. At Minno, we see a lot of potential for Bible journaling to be an amazing family experience and a great way to get your kids into the Word of God! Arden Ratcliff-Mann, a popular Instagram artist and children’s pastor in Kansas City, writes below the supplies needed to start Bible journaling. Over the course of our blog series on Bible journaling, Arden will cover how to start Bible journaling and how to Bible journal with kids. Check out the first post in the series here and the second here

The day I got my journaling Bible, and I was so excited to sit down and create my first entry. I looked at some examples online, chose the Scripture I’d just heard preached on Sunday, and grabbed a pencil to start drawing. I emerged several hours later a ball of frustration. I’d worked for hours trying to write out a verse in fancy handwriting and was so disappointed by my final product. So many of the examples of Bible journaling I’d fallen in love with online featured pretty calligraphy or funky lettering, and try as I might, I just could not get my handwriting to look that good.

I continued on like that for a week or two, desperate for Bible journaling to fill the gaping hole in my spiritual life, but consistently frustrated with my hand’s inability to draw the beautiful letters my mind pictured. I finally decided that enough was enough—it just wasn’t in the cards for me to create the same kinds of pretty hand-lettered Bible pages I saw online. During this initial period of frustration, I came across a Bible journaling blog entry where the artist had used alphabet stamps to write out her verses and I wondered if that might be the solution to my dilemma. I ordered a set of stamps and have never looked back.

As soon as I removed the pressure of trying to recreate someone else’s work and just concentrated on doing what made me happy, I was better able to creatively respond to what God was placing on my heart. I ultimately dubbed the lessons learned from this experience “the secret to Bible journaling.” As I see it, the secret is that Bible journaling isn’t about others or what your friends are doing or what you see on the internet. Bible journaling is only about you and God. Bible journaling should help bring you closer to God, it should be a reflection of your spiritual journey.

 As I see it, the secret is that Bible journaling isn’t about others or what your friends are doing or what you see on the internet. Bible journaling is only about you and God. 

So if you’re curious about Bible journaling and want to see if it can be a meaningful spiritual practice for you, try not to get too caught up in trying to make your pages look like the ones you’ve seen on Pinterest. Don’t let yourself get too invested in the final product. Bible journaling is all about the process. At its heart, it’s about worshiping God through art and creative expression. So do what brings you closer to God. If you’re going to stress out too much about making your letters perfect, grab some stamps. If you can’t bring yourself to write in your Bible, use a separate journal. Do whatever is going to make this process work for you.

The founder of Documented Faith Stephanie Ackerman put it better than I ever could: “When you are documenting and illustrating your faith, the right way to do it is the way you want to do it, not how everyone else is doing it. Remember, the important thing is WHY not HOW.” What’s most important is the why. Why are you doing this? To grow closer to God and His Word. How are you doing it? However you want! In a Bible, in a journal, on notecards, on the wall of your bedroom, with paint, with pencil, with antique calligraphy pens, with Crayola markers—anything goes, as long as you are authentically responding to God.

It can be so easy to get caught up in what we see on social media and want what we create to look just like the pretty pictures we’ve seen. But that image was about what God was speaking to that artist, not you. God has a different message for all of us. Bible journaling can be a way to intentionally listen for God to speak and then respond to that word. I think the secret to making this a meaningful practice is reminding ourselves (sometimes over and over again) that what I do in my Bible is always, first and foremost, about us and our personal relationship with God.

Arden Ratcliff-Mann has an MDiv from Candler School of Theology and currently serves as the Associate Director of Children’s Ministries at Liberty United Methodist Church. Originally from Franklin, TN, she now lives in Kansas City, MO, with her husband Biff and adorable cat Loki.