Christian Retailing

Tuning into teens Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Wednesday, 27 July 2011 11:46 AM America/New_York

A growing subcategory adds edgy content to trendy design

B&H_Apologetics-Study-Bible-for-StudentsTeen Bibles may not top best-seller lists or command huge endcap displays like adult editions, but the subcategory is a strong area for publishers and retailers. The segment has come far since The Way, the first teen/young adult Bible, published by Tyndale House Publishers in 1972, which used the Living Bible paraphrase and black-and-white photos of 16- to 30-year-olds throughout the text.

The grouping now offers a variety of trendy features and formats—including graphics, colors, compact-size and magazine-like versions as well as metal, manga-style and Italian Duo-Tone designs—all aiming to be visually appealing and teen-friendly to encourage young adults to read the Scriptures.


“Today’s teens are dealing with some issues that most generations didn’t have to deal with until they were much older,” Zondervan Senior Vice President and Publisher for Bibles Chip Brown told Christian Retailing. “We try to provide Bibles that will help teens spiritually navigate and thrive in this incredible period of their lives.”

Brown noted that teen Bibles “have been and continue to be a strong category” of Zondervan’s complete Bible line. “It’s a growing category for us with more new full-featured Bibles coming,” he said. “We anticipate the sales to grow as we continue expanding our teen Bible product line to the digital space.”

Last month, Zondervan released the new NIV Student Bible with “refreshed” content and design, new Italian Duo-Tone SKUs and the updated NIV (New InternationalThomas-Nelson_TakeActionTeenBible Version) text. With more than 5 million copies sold since its release in 1986, the NIV Student Bible—for readers ages 16-19—is Zondervan’s best-selling teen Bible. In addition, the NIV Teen Study Bible for ages 13-15 also has sold more than 5 million copies since its publication in 1984.

In November, Zondervan will release the NIV Youth Quest Study Bible for tweens and teens, ages 11-14, and the NIV Quest Bible for Teens (ages 15-19). Both of the Bibles are based on the successful NIV Quest Study Bible, Brown said.

Zondervan has published more than 16 Bibles targeting teens since 1984, including last year’s NIV Textbook Bible for Students and Our Heritage and Faith Holy Bible for African-American Teens.

“The teen market is so big that we divide it up into two groups (ages 13-15) and (ages 16 and up),” Brown said. “The NIV Teen Study Bible sells extremely well and consistently appears on the best-seller list.”

Other popular teen Bibles with strong sales from the Grand Rapids, Mich., publisher include the Teen Devotional Bible and the NIV Bible for Teens, now available in the thinline and Italian Duo-Tone designs.

Both originally released in 2003 for older teens, the NIV True Images: The Bible for Teen Girls and the NIV Revolution: The Bible for Teen Guys have consistently ranked among the top-selling Bibles this year, according to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

“With teen Bibles, there is a unique aspect in that even though the consumer is truly the teenager, the purchaser is the parent or youth group leader/pastor,” Brown said. “This scenario means that we develop the content and design for the teenager, but make sure that the messaging and promotion are clear for the purchaser.”


Tyndale-House_StudentsLifeAppSBAt Thomas Nelson, the goal is to publish Bibles “that speak to the hearts of teens today,” said Vice President and Bible Group Publisher Gary Davidson. “We use authors who work with and understand teens, and the issues they deal with. We are able to create content that is relevant and is a resource that teens can turn to in the midst of fear or sadness or joy.” 

Nelson has published three teen Bibles through the years—
Transformer in the New King James Version (NKJV), 1985, with more than 150,000 copies sold; Extreme Teen Bible, NKJV, 1999, with 600,000-plus sold; and Revolve Devotional and Revolve Teen Bible editions, New Century Version, 2003, with more than 2 million copies sold. The successful “BibleZine” format attracted widespread media attention for its creative packaging of the Scriptures.  

Teen Bibles “are a growing part of Thomas Nelson,” Vice President and Bibles Associate Publisher Bob Sanford said. With The Take Action Teen Bible coming out in the fall and an update of the Extreme Teen Bible next year, “we are making a greater commitment to the teen market,” he added.

The trend for teen Bibles is “away from soft (content) toward hard,” Sanford added. “It’s getting away from fluffy into real serious stuff into authenticity,” he said. “They (teens) need and want real answers.”

To be released in September, The Take Action Teen Bible features real-life stories and color photos of teens “who are putting their faith into action” through social-justice issues and other causes. 

Laura Bartlett, Bible marketing manager for Tyndale House Publishers, told Christian Retailing that the publication of The Way teen Bible had been “revolutionary” because it communicated that the Bible was for young adults, not just adults, and spoke into their lives. 

Although The Way, the Teen Life Application Bible and The Jesus Bible are out of print, Tyndale House has published several teen Bibles, including the Metal BibleiShine, the Manga BibleThe One Year Bible: ConnectStudent’s Life Application Study Bible and Live: The Teen Bible.

Based on the Life Application Study Bible, the Student’s Life Application Study Bible is Tyndale’s top-selling teen Bible. Published in June 2008, Live: The Teen Bible—touted as the only youth-oriented Bible with content created by teenagers—has sold more than 151,000 copies. 

B&H Publishing Group’s lone entry into the segment is the Apologetics Study Bible for Students. Released in February 2010, the Bible features the work of General EditorZondervan_NIVStudentBible Sean McDowell and articles from popular youth leaders as well as “bite-sized” nuggets for teens, according to Tim Jordan, marketing manager of Holman Bibles.  

Mardel Christian & Education carries more than 100 teen/youth Bible SKUs, spotlighting them prominently during gift-giving seasons, said Senior Buyer Dylan Hillhouse. 

“Teen Bibles in general do very well as a category for us,” he said. “The top (teen) SKUs do about as good as any SKUs we carry in the Bible department.” 

There are “loads more SKUs in this category than there were five to 10 years ago,” Hillhouse said. “Overall, the content and visual appeal of these Bibles have improved substantially—lots of color and much more visually oriented. Most are very engaging with solid and relevant content.”


Teen Bibles are “very good sellers” at Christian Supply in Spartanburg, S.C., said book and Bible buyer Norman Burleson. “It’s a very strong (subcategory). ... The main trend in teen Bibles is they’ve made them more user-friendly.”

Lighthouse Christian Bookstore in Bedford, Ind., stocks 15-20 teen Bibles, which are “strong sellers” especially during graduation and holidays, according to Cathy Speer, the store’s manager. Tyndale’s Student’s Life Application Study Bible is one of Lighthouse’s most popular editions.

“Stores need both compact and even large Bibles in the teen section,” Speer said. “What really makes teen Bibles different from what is available in your regular Bible section is not only the cover, but also the extra insights/study notes in the Bible that are geared to the issues teens are facing.”