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A Bible With a Teen Twist

Revolve, for girls between the ages of 12 and 17, offers the complete New Testament in a fashion magazine format.

August 30, 2003|From Religion News Service

Where are teenage girls turning for advice about fashion, dating and getting along with their parents? Would you believe the New Testament?

After years of trying to sell Bibles to one of the nation's savviest, most cynical consumer groups, Bible publishers at Thomas Nelson have developed a new way to snare adolescents' interest: turning the sacred book into a magazine.

Revolve, the new Bible for girls between the ages of 12 and 17, offers the complete New Testament in a fashion magazine format, replete with images of stylish, smiling young women, quizzes and celebrity birthdays (sorry, no horoscopes).

Gushing effusively over Revolve, Brooke Nichols, 15, of Nashville, Tenn., could think of only one flaw: the omission of the Old Testament.

"When I have to use the Old Testament in Bible study I have to pull out my other Bible," she said.

Nonetheless, Nichols said Revolve has been a big hit with her friends at public school.

"My friends, they don't like to read the Bible, but once they saw it they were like, 'I'm going to have to get me one of those,' " she said.

Laurie Whaley at Thomas Nelson Publishers in Nashville said the idea for Revolve developed after market researchers discovered a shocking truth about teenagers: They don't spend a lot of time reading the Bible.

"We've made a great industry out of selling Bibles to teenagers, and they're not reading them," Whaley said. "The intent is to both make the Bible more interesting and to attract girls who would never pick up a leather-bound Bible but who would certainly pick up Revolve."

The magazine format was intended to appeal to media-saturated teenagers, said Kate Etue, the managing editor of Revolve.

"A lot of times, we've put the word 'teen' on something and thought that would be enough," she said. "Even kids who come from a Christian subculture are very media-savvy."

To meet discriminating adolescents' standards, Thomas Nelson brought in Thor 5 One, an Irish firm that designs the album covers for the rock band U2. The result: a glossy cover photo of three smiling teenage girls with glistening teeth and glowing skin, under florescent pink and blue headlines promising beauty secrets, quizzes and Q&As.

"They're great because they don't make things look churchy or Christiany," Etue said of the designers. "They have a real fresh perspective on Christian products."

When the product suits them, adolescents have proven to be avid Bible buyers. The Extreme Teen Bible, which Thomas Nelson published in 1999, sold more than 800,000 copies in four years. The average Bible sells 40,000 copies a year, said Etue.

Study Bibles and other Bibles directed at teens account for 25% of all sales at Family Christian Stores, a chain with more than 315 outlets nationwide that recently started selling Revolve.

Mark Beyer, Bible buyer for Family Christian Stores, said he has seen mixed reactions to Revolve.

"There are some people who look at it and go, 'What's that?' and other people look at it and get it," said Beyer, adding that he had been sure the product would be a hit after it was deemed "cool" by his 15-year-old daughter. Since its release last month, Revolve has already exceeded sales expectations, said Whalie, who would not provide exact sales numbers.

Mike Hollifield, a youth pastor at the Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tenn., said he had reservations about Revolve at first.

"My first reaction was, 'Wow, I'm not really sure about this, what are we doing to the gospel?' " he said.

But once he flipped through a copy, he decided the publishers had "taken God's word and tried to make it relevant to a young lady."

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