Nora St. Laurent runs three book clubs outside of Atlanta and has established a successful model that has made her a resource for others who would like to establish clubs. To Nora, Book Clubs are a Ministry that revolve around relationships and through this, the Lord would love the women that He put in her life extravagantly. She facilitates a safe environment where women can enter into relationships. She says it best: "This is not about what church you belong to or how well you know the Bible. It also is not a matter of whether or not you go to church. God has called you into relationship with Him and with me and the other ladies in this group to love, to be loved and to encourage each other." She has a vision to duplicate the model to reach as many people as possible and is writing a book about how to do just this. Visit her blog at http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com/
Moving to a new state can be fun and exciting. The kids and I have had a blast for nine months now. But I needed more; I was so desperate for adult conversation I was willing to give a book club a try. I wasn’t even a big reader. I couldn’t believe I was going to a place I’d never been before to meet people I didn’t know. I prayed, “God give me the courage to go to this meeting and do something I’d never done.”
I tried to calm my fast beating heart as I walked up to the cafe doors. Everything inside my head was yelling, “Turn around, run. There has to be an easier way to make a friend.” I stopped listening to my self-talk and finally entered the very loud, packed coffee shop. Then it dawned on me: I didn’t know exactly where the book club was meeting inside. So many people were congregating around tables. Where were the Ladies of Hope book members gathering? I couldn’t believe I didn’t ask the leader of the group, Tina, what she looked like or at least what she would be wearing. How was I going to find her in this crowd? I was on the verge of panic, so I said a quick prayer.
I was unacquainted with book clubs so I wasn’t sure how to recognize one. Something caught my eye. A familiar book was sitting on one of the tables: The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers, which was the book I read last week in preparation for this meeting. To my surprise I heard someone say, “Are you Nora St.Laurent?”
I nodded. I didn’t want to yell to be heard.
“I’ve been looking for you. Have a seat. Hey everyone, this is Nora. She’ll be joining us. She works at a book store. Now, Nora, we are a pretty informal group here. I hope you don’t mind?”
“I’m glad, Tina. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I like informal. Is this place always so noisy?”
“Yea, we were bumped from the cabin space, where it’s quieter. I’ll try to get it for next month. Make sure you put your name into the bag for the door prizes.”
Wow, a give a-way at book club? I couldn’t believe it. I was so thrilled at the possibility of winning something I almost jumped up and down. I was beginning to forget my nervousness as I entered my name for the drawing.
“Let’s give Nora a warm welcome.” One at a time the book club members introduced themselves.
“Does everyone have their names in the bag? I’m going to pick the winners now. Nora, do you want to draw a name first since you are new? Tina handed me the bag.
“Sure,” I read the name I picked and said, “Mary, you’ve won.”
Mary jumped up to get her prize. She cheerfully took the box of candy Tina handed her as she said,” Janet, come. You have won a fan.”
Janet was thrilled to claim the prize and made her way to Tina as she picked the last winner and yelled, “Julie, you’ve won a packet of stationary!” I was beginning to feel like I belonged. I was beginning to think I could grow to like book club.
The Ladies of Hope book club experience made me think everybody would love to win almost anything, no matter what it was. I thought when I started my book club I wanted to pass on the same love and joy that Tina had demonstrated. I was wrong about people wanting to win anything. I learned that the hard way.
When I conducted my first book club meeting, I gave away three books. I thought next month I’d do something different and give away gift items. I anticipated great excitement on the members faces when they saw the great giveaway I had in store for them that night.
I started the meeting full of joy: “I’m very excited about the door prizes I have for you tonight. I know your going to love them. Does everyone have your name in the bag for the drawing?” I picked the first name.
“Suzy, you’ve won our first prize. Come and get it.”
Suzy ran to the bag of prizes, peeked inside and immediately a look of disappointment spread across her face as she said “No books? I thought there would be books. Didn’t you give away books last month?”
“Yes, I wanted to do something different this month. I thought I’d give away tea cups and saucers. They are cute. ”
“Oh, just thought there were books inside.” Suzy sat down. I watched as she asked several gals sitting beside her if they wanted to box she had just won.
“Beth, you’re our next winner. Come on down.”
Beth slowly made her way to me not smiling at all. She knew what was in my bag. I was beginning to come unglued. I wanted to scream, “Just Kidding, only two prizes tonight not three!” I could barely stand to call the next name and give away the last tea cup set. I restrained myself and managed to say after picking the last name, “Sabrina. You are our last winner.”
I was bummed about how this night was starting out; I had pictured something very different. I wanted to pass on the same love and joy Tina had at my first book club meeting. I told myself to regroup and focus. I had to start a book club discussion.
“Ok, did you love this book or what?” Everyone cheered. My disappointment vanished. At least I had done something right that night. “Okay, ladies, what were your favorite parts? Do tell.”
So, learn something from me; get to know your group. My ladies love getting books as door prizes—not gifts items. The first book club I belonged to loved whatever Tina gave them. Your door prizes could start your meeting out with a bang or a dud. Get to know your book club members’ likes and dislikes before you start giving prizes you like and no one else does.
Until next time.