Years of research has shown at-risk and incarcerated women respond well to gender-specific programs, but until earlier this month, there wasn’t even an audio Bible voiced by women available on the market.
Author and speaker Ann White decided to change that. In early June, her ministry, Courage for Life, released the first-ever audio version of the New Testament voiced entirely by women. And it’s already being implemented in prison systems in the country.
During a recent interview with Faithwire, White described the project as “a massive undertaking,” but quickly added, “God has God-sized dreams for us, and when he puts the God-sized dream in your heart, he also makes it happen.”
The idea was born out of years of working with at-risk women—both domestically and abroad—who have struggled to relate to the content currently available to them, either because it was information that wasn’t catered to their life situations or, on a practical level, it just wasn’t accessible to them.
It’s a tool for incarcerated women
Courage for Life works with a great deal of incarcerated women, many of whom don’t have very good reading skills, according to White. Having access to an audio Bible is revolutionary.
“Many of them read on a lower reading level, so it’s very difficult for them, especially if they get a King James Version,” she explained. “It’s very difficult for them to just sit down and read and even think they might understand God’s Word.”
And White knows, from firsthand experience, that there just aren’t many gender-specific tools available to women. An extensive glossary of research has shown that to be the case. One 2014 paper on the issue argued the criminal justice system “still bases much of its policy on empirical research conducted using a majority of male subjects,” despite the fact the number of female inmates is on the rise.
After searching for a female-voiced version of the Bible, the Courage for Life founder realized she wasn’t going to find one. So, with the help of Grammy-nominated artist Amik Byram and a handful of voice actors, White proved necessity really is the mother of invention. She made her own female-only audio Bible using the New Living Translation.
The project is already enjoying early success: State prison systems in Georgia and Missouri have agreed to make the Courage for Life Bible app available on more than 80,000 prison-provided tablets.
In addition to the app, Courage for Life plans to implement weekly classes to help the incarcerated women “develop a personal relationship with the Lord, and teach them how to read study and apply God’s Word to their life.”
White said she hopes what Courage for Life is offering these women will “help them work through areas of life that keep them in bondage to fear-based decision-making by strengthening and helping them embrace their God-given courage.”
Scripture, she added, “completely changes your outlook, your perspective, and your direction. It changes your life.” As a result, state prison officials have been “very enthusiastic” about making the app available to their inmates.
It’s for survivors, too
For a lot of women who have endured sexual or domestic abuse or assault, there are not a lot of tools available to them within the evangelical church. The Courage for Life Bible app, and the ministry’s other curriculums, help fill that vacuum.
White explained evangelical culture has created a “male-dominated Christianity.” Though she noted she’s grateful for godly men in ministry, she pointed out that women have different needs from men.
“I think it’s critical that we focus on women’s needs,” she said. “There’s enough programs out there that are dealing with the male needs.”
From a practical standpoint, it’s important at-risk women—particularly those who have endured abuse—have access to content that is curated and created by other women.
“A male voice is going to remind them of their offender,” White explained, making the case for the female-voiced audio Bible. “A female voice is going to be soothing, comforting, and going to bring hope and healing even more than that male voice would possibly bring.”
But the app isn’t just for women.
One of the state prison systems partnered with Courage for Life is making the female-voiced Bible app available on all its prison-provided tablets, in both its male and female facilities.
“What we’re finding is male offenders, men incarcerated are relating to this audio Bible as well as the women,” White said. “Because many of those men have been abandoned by men or abused by men. … If anyone spoke about the Lord to them, it was primarily the women.”
The evangelical church, she added, so often “neglects the role of the woman in the spiritual growth of the family.” Courage for Life, though, is determined to fix that.
If you would like to download the free Courage for Life Bible app or learn more about White’s ministry work, click here.