Spiritual journals and journaling—the practice of recording prayers, dreams, feelings, opinions, lists, and more—is a fast-growing field for religion publishers and gift companies. More than blank diaries under pretty covers, many of these journals are sprinkled with inspirational quotes and Scripture verses and can expand the reach of bestselling authors’ books.
From journaling Bibles such as NavPress’s The Message of Psalms: Premier Journaling Edition (May) to prayer journals such as Ave Maria Press’s Awaken My Heart Prayer Journal (Nov. 2021), the variety is almost unending. The Awaken My Heart journal, by popular YouTuber Emily Wilson Hussem, is a guided prayer journal that points users, via writing prompts, to know God as refuge. It’s an extension of her 2020 book, Awaken My Heart: 52 Weeks of Giving Thanks and Loving Abundantly.
NavPress’s new edition of The Message author Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Psalms offers journaling prompts and writing space to reflect on the text. NavPress offers three covers for The Message of Psalms to “reflect a diversity of temperament and emotion that people bring with them to the Scriptures,” according to publisher Dave Zimmerman. He says there are several ideas in the works that incorporate features of the journaling Bibles and that “the notion of Scripture engagement keeps the practice of journaling pretty close to mind as we think about product development.”
Zimmerman says, “Our hope for readers of this and other journaling editions [of The Message Bible] is that the tactile, immersive practice of journaling, coupled with the reading of sacred texts, will lower their guard and soften their spirits so that they’re more alert to the gracious presence of a good God who seeks them out."
Tyndale, which distributes NavPress materials, also has the Inspire Bible line of journaling Bibles. Inspire was the bestselling journaling Bible in 2020, according to Jim Jewell, Bible brand director for Tyndale, who says that sales have soared over the previous year. “We presume that the sale of our Bibles increased dramatically because of the search for answers in a time of personal crisis, as well as (because) people have more time to read and journal,” he said, pointing to the newly launched giant-print Inspire Prayer journaling Bible and other upcoming journaling Bibles in the line.
Harvest House associate publisher Heather Green says, “Our bestselling journals have a connection to a parent title,” pointing to Beholding and Becoming: A Guided Companion (2019), which goes with Ruth Chou Simons’ bestselling Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship (2019).
Green also highlights that “we’ve recently renewed our interest in publishing journals in the lifestyle space. We see an increase in demand for creative expression, lifestyle books lend themselves to companion products [such as journals], and, overall, we are seeing consumers wanting to be more thoughtful, slow down, and take a break from technology. Journals provide a positive, tangible way to achieve that goal.”
Harvest House has tapped into the desire for targeted journals such as the upcoming My Reading Life: A Book Journal (Sept.) by Anne Bogel, who encourages readers to keep a book journal on her podcast “What Should I Read Next?” She is the author of several faith-based books including Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life (Baker Books, 2020).
Other publishers are dipping into the journal category including Ellie Claire, a division of Hachette Book Group, with numerous journals and the Inspired by Life Journaling Club. Another is Dayspring, whose journals include 100 Days of Joy and Strength: A Devotional Journal (2020) by Hallmark channel star Candace Cameron Bure, who speaks openly about her faith, and Sealed with Love: A Mother & Daughter Faith Journal (2020) by Shanna Noel, an expert in helping create journaling and coloring Bibles and founder of Illustrated Faith, a blog and website dedicated to the creative arts.
Christian Art Gifts, which offers a wide variety of faith-based gifts, has almost 100 Lux Leather faith-based journals priced from $12.99 to $19.99, and a range of other covers and bindings. According to Sara Skerl, sales manager, journals make up about 10% of total sales for the company, with just under 200 journals currently in the line. There were about 50 new journals released in the first quarter of 2021.
“In 2020, our journals performed very well as folks were looking for inspirational materials and items they could use from home,” said Skerl, who said the company’s line of prompted (or guided) journals sell especially well. Examples include Secure in the Arms of God: A Daily Journal With Thoughts by Beth Moore, the esteemed Bible teacher, and Amazing Grace, which includes Scripture verses on each page.
CBC Group, which includes 11 different brands and sells a wide variety of journals through its Faithworks and Heartfelt brands, produces 50 to 60 new journals yearly, with journals making up 2% to 3% of overall sales. The company saw a double-digit percentage uptick in journal sales in 2020.
“We attribute this to the lifestyle people are living during the pandemic. Because they’re in their homes more, they have more time and journaling helps their mental health,” said Beth Williams, director of new product development for CBC Group. She also says targeted journals, such as the Church Notes journal, do well because they “fit the person’s loves.” Others include The Lord Your God Will Bless You in All Things, Deuteronomy 15:10 and Be Who God Created You to Be!, which each include inspirational phrases on every page.