Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes here at Lifeway Women? From Bible study tapings, simulcasts, traveling for live events, leadership training, podcasts, webinars, social media, and so much more, a lot happens that goes unseen.
We’re “pulling back the curtain” on all things Lifeway Women and giving you a look at what we do to make it all happen.
This month, we’re giving you a behind-the-scenes look at Kristi McLelland’s new Bible study, The Gospel on the Ground:
My first day as a production editor with Lifeway Women was on set filming the video sessions for Kristi McLelland’s first Bible study, Jesus and Women, in 2019. Since Kristi and I both started with Lifeway at the same time, she affectionately dubbed us the “Lifeway Rookies.”
Flash forward a few years to May 10, 2022. We were filming the video teaching sessions for Kelly Minter’s rerelease of the Ruth Bible study, and I saw Kristi at the taping. We realized that in 2022—almost three years later—we’re not the rookies on the team anymore! Kristi just released her second Bible study with Lifeway, The Gospel on the Ground: The Grit and Glory of the Early Church in Acts. During my first day at work filming the Jesus and Women videos, I remember being in awe of Jesus’s abundant love for women as I heard Kristi teach on how He empowered women to share His message of redemption and follow Him. Again, as I worked as an editor on The Gospel on the Ground, I was struck with the love Jesus has for the church and the importance of following His command to bring light to the darkness.
Kristi describes herself as a biblical culturalist, so years of prayer, study, and traveling to Israel to learn more about the culture went into her development of The Gospel on the Ground. In addition, the Bible study production process lasts more than a year, from the first big brainstorming meeting with the Lifeway team to a study’s publication date.
From mapping out our pipeline to determine when we will publish a study, to strategizing marketing or editing the teaching videos, so many people work on a project like this to help it get ready to go out into the world. The following is a behind-the-scenes look from my perspective as the production editor on Kristi’s latest project.
The Writer’s Conference
When developing a Bible study with Lifeway Women, we begin with a writer’s conference. The author brings her ideas and a rough outline of the content to what is basically a big brainstorming meeting. The Lifeway Women Bible Studies team is there, along with representatives from our marketing and video teams. When we met with Kristi in February 2021, her energy and passion for the subject filled the room. She shared history about the early church in Acts and the “gospel-gorgeous story” of Jesus telling us that we will be His witnesses.
Another big part of the writer’s conference is talking through title ideas. I looked back at the notes I took during our writer’s conference for The Gospel on the Ground, and we have a long list of potential titles ranging from Kingdom of Light to Holy Invasion. Looking back now, it’s hard to imagine The Gospel on the Ground titled anything else, but no idea is a bad idea during our brainstorming process!
During that meeting we also came up with marketing ideas, discussed the timeline and vision for the video teaching sessions, and looked at cover options.
The Cover Shoot
The oil lamp on the cover of The Gospel on the Ground is a replica of a three-thousand-year-old oil lamp from Israel. Kristi said it dates back to the time of the monarchy—Saul, David, and Solomon. Kristi and Lauren, the designer on our team, met last summer to light the lamp and photograph it for the cover. The cover for Jesus and Women also featured one of Kristi’s ancient artifacts, a tear jar.
Kristi’s birthday happened to be the same day as the cover shoot, so when the team lit the lamp’s candle, they sang happy birthday to her. A fitting way to celebrate a biblical culturalist like Kristi!
The Video Shoots
In August, we recorded Kristi’s teaching videos. We had an audience of about two hundred women each night who came to hear Kristi teach the Word. (One exciting element of The Gospel on the Ground is that the videos come with the purchase of a Bible study book! You simply redeem the code in the back of your book to gain access to all the teaching videos.)
A few months later, Kristi, along with representatives of the Lifeway Women editorial team, video team, and student team, traveled to Las Vegas to shoot the intros for the teaching videos. While there, they also shot separate video content unique for the teen girls’ study, which will be available in August 2022!
The Print Process
When we’re not filming the videos, we’re working on the print portion of the study. Kristi and the content editor, Sarah, worked on refining the manuscript before passing it on to the production editor (me!) and the designer, Lauren. Kristi wanted The Gospel on the Ground to be a highly visual study because she wanted readers to truly see themselves in the scenes she described. Lauren added gorgeous images throughout the pages that allow glimpses of the early church, mostly living in a Greco-Roman world, to help you visualize and immerse yourself in the text.
After the study is written, edited, and designed, it’s off to the printer! Shortly thereafter, the study is released to the world for readers like you to grow in your faith and study the Bible through a Middle Eastern lens.
We’re so grateful to God for His faithful guidance and provision as this study came together, and we’re excited for you to dive into the story of Acts and the early church, taking part in the “biblical feast,” as Kristi would call it—because, in Kristi’s own words, “We do not just want to know the Word of God. We want to eat it. We want to take it in like a feast and let it do its work in us. We want it to become part of us so we can carry the Word with us wherever we go.”