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Friends reunite around ‘Experiencing God’ after collectively doing study 27 times

Deborah White (left) was introduced to the "Experiencing God" Bible study by Paula Kaufman (right) in the 1990s. Since then, though they lost touch for a while, the two women have each done the study multiple times.

ABILENE, Kan. — Most people complete the Bible study “Experiencing God” in about 12 weeks. Longtime friends Deborah White and Paula Kaufman have camped out in the popular workbook for more than two decades.

“When I finish Experiencing God, I get another copy and start all over again,” said White, a retired life coach in Abilene who has gone through the study cover to cover a dozen times. “Whenever I arrive at the end of it, I get excited knowing I get to begin again.”

White was introduced to “Experiencing God” in Peoria, Ill., by Kaufman, who served as their church’s women’s ministry leader. Kaufman has completed the study at least 15 times herself, but originally discovered it at a retreat in 1993. She told White she made it a habit to complete “Experiencing God” every year. White decided to adopt the same practice, but when she moved to another city more than a decade ago, the friends lost touch. It was Experiencing God’s re-release this April that led the two friends to reconnect through a mutual friend. They recently spoke over the phone to share stories of how the study has shaped their lives and ministries.

“I had no idea Deborah had taken my challenge to heart and been doing the study all this time,” Kaufman said. “It was encouraging to hear how she’s been blessed by it like I have all these years.”

Identifying God at work

White called Experiencing God an anchor for her soul. Over the years, she and her husband have moved 32 times because of his job. While changing cities every 18 months takes a toll on a person, White said she found the study a steady reminder of the Lord’s plans and purposes – one that helped her identify life coaching as a way to invest in women.

“The study has taught me God is always moving and is always there,” she said. “If you really want to discover your purpose in life, look around, find God already moving and jump in.”

Kaufman took the same counsel to heart when she first did the study. The lessons she learned in Experiencing God informed her work in women’s ministry and led to her taking on new ministry roles, such as a singles-again ministry.

It also served as the catalyst for her co-creating a Christian day program called Camp of Champions. At the time, Kaufman and her brother, Steve Wiegand, had been going through Experiencing God independently in different cities. When her brother visited Peoria in the Christmas season of 1994, the siblings began to explore if God might be at work in bringing a summer day camp to the area.

“At one point, we were told we had started too late and wouldn’t be able to launch a camp in 1995,” Kaufman recalled. “I went back to my Experiencing God Bible study group and prayed. I then returned to the camp launching team and told them, ‘It’s true. We can’t, but God can. We will reach kids in 1995 that we will not reach in 1996.’ We decided to keep pressing forward.”

That summer, the camp launched with two locations. Twenty-eight years later, the camp is still going strong. It has served thousands of kids and grown to six locations for 2022.

“Camp of Champions wouldn’t have started without Experiencing God and the idea to look for where God is at work and join Him there,” Kaufman said.

Refreshing a classic

White and Kaufman are just two of millions of people around the world who have resonated with the message of Experiencing God. First published in October 1990 by Lifeway Christian Resources, the study by Henry Blackaby and Claude King promotes a God-centered way of life that helps people know God intimately, recognize His voice and understand His will for their life.

In the past 32 years, Experiencing God has become a perennial favorite Bible study, selling more than 8 million copies in English and translated into more than 75 languages. This April, the study is hitting another milestone by being re-released with new video content that includes Richard and Mike Blackaby, the son and grandson of Henry Blackaby.

“I don’t think there was any way of knowing how dramatically Experiencing God materials would take off,” said Richard Blackaby, reflecting on his father’s original work on the study. “My dad always said there is a deep longing in people’s hearts to know and experience God. Many people knew there had to be more to the Christian life than what they were experiencing.”

With this refresh, each Experiencing God Bible study book will include a digital code for accessing the online video content through Lifeway On Demand, making it more affordable and accessible than ever for churches and individuals to watch the study’s videos in a church classroom, at home or on the go.

For White, this is a dream come true.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am because the revised workbook will provide access to the recordings,” she said. “In all the years I’ve done the study, I’ve only seen the videos twice. I always wanted to watch them more than that, but the price of the physical set of videos made that unattainable. Now, I can purchase the book and get a code to watch the videos for free online. This takes it to a new level for me.”

When White tunes in to those videos this month, it will mark her 13th time going through the study.

“Experiencing God doesn’t change, but I do,” she said. “That’s why I do it every year. This Bible study is my constant. It brings me into the living Word of God.”

More information about Experiencing God can be found at Lifeway.com.