Making an Impact on Secular Readers
By Donna Jansen
Have you ever wanted how to write a Christian book that reaches a secular audience? I worked in education at the post secondary level for many years. Many of these years were as a faculty member and then in management. Even though this was a secular environment, I always maintained there were countless opportunities to show the love of Christ in a secular workplace where you can’t speak openly about your faith.
I don’t subscribe to the “public education is the number one enemy because we can’t read the Lord’s Prayer anymore” position. It is regrettable. But, I think there is a risk for Christian educators to become so stuck in that negative posture that they can miss opportunities to let their light shine. This is particularly important in terms of demonstrating justice, kindness, mercy, comfort, forgiveness, soft answers and so on.
The Bury Road Girls
I wrote this children’s book with the above position in mind. I wanted to reach a broader audience of children and not only “church kids”. The book—basically autobiographical—is about seven sisters growing up on a small mixed farm on the Bruce Peninsula, specifically, on the Bury Road. This is a somewhat remote part of Ontario, especially in the 1950s when the story takes place. The reader is asked to set aside electronic devices and read a story about a simpler time.
Debbie, the narrator of the story and the fifth daughter, describes how she wants to be a good person and tries but doesn’t always get it right. She argues with her sisters about petty, inconsequential things but ultimately recognizes the depth of the relationships within the family. She is acutely aware, even at age eight, of how her Dad vehemently defends his daughters when other farmers try to ridicule him for not having sons. From her child-like position she describes a value structure that does not permit tattling or using derogatory words to each other. She witnesses an older sister taking a stand against bullying. She doesn’t question the need for hard work and the necessity for the whole family to contribute.
The reader experiences an earthly father who absolutely loves his children. This earthly father expects obedience but shows kindness and mercy when his children fail. Not all readers will have had that experience with their own fathers. The hope—prayer—is that they will experience it vicariously through the story. Debbie’s father is not perfect, of course, but the scriptures use “father” to describe God. We know that no earthly father comes close to the love we receive from our Heavenly Father.
There is no preachy voice that shouts out biblical principles but rather a simple story that is intended to allow the young reader to experience them.
Opportunities for Impact
Much to my delight, The Bury Road Girls is reaching a broader secular audience as well as Christian readers. The response from readers confirms that there is an appetite to read stories that embed Christian principles. Children report that the stories make them feel happy. Adult readers report that they long for a simpler time when life was less chaotic. This is a far cry from helping someone to come to Christ, but it is not insignificant either. Recently, a child welfare agency requested copies of my book to give to children in care, as gifts for passing their grade level. These vulnerable children often don’t have a personal experience of a loving, intact home. The Bury Road Girls¬ provides the example in a non threatening story format.
About this Contributor:
Donna is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She was motivated to write this book because of the fascination her grandchildren had with the stories told here. She and her husband, Murray, have a small mixed farm near beautiful Meaford, Ontario.