Do you sometimes feel like the “I’m everything” woman, then end up feeling like “I’m nothing” when everyone wants a piece of you? Want to find an alternative to the impossible demands placed on the modern woman? In her latest video, YouTuber Zoe Earnshaw explores five problems with the modern sense of self in her new channel ‘Real Life Bible’.
Using a mixture of entertaining illustrations and wise insights, Zoe lands on the unique and wonderful freedom of letting God, our creator and redeemer, define us.
This wisdom was gleaned from the struggles the Christian television producer experienced when she migrated from the UK to Australia with her family during the pandemic and ended up living in a tent for three months with just two suitcases.
“It felt like a period of my life where it was a complete deconstruction of who I was. We just lost everything overnight, like my mobile phone number, all my friends, my family, my job, our house, our stuff,” she reveals.
“It was quite an extreme process of God removing everything and saying ‘Trust me’, which I didn’t do brilliantly well. But when I was at my lowest point, when it just felt like everything that I thought defined me had been removed, what was left? Who was I at that point?”
Looking back on that time, Zoe realised that her true identity lay in knowing God as her creator and redeemer.
Zoe made the video for her brand-new YouTube channel, Real Life Bible, a Bible-teaching platform for Christian women. Zoe takes issues and doubts she is struggling with and tries to find answers in the Bible for other Christian women who may be feeling a similar sense of confusion and instability. Other long-form videos explore issues such as how to handle the problem of loneliness of being on the other side of the world from her family and how to develop the fruit of the spirit of patience during a camping holiday with the family. These are Vlog-style videos, where Zoe challenges herself to learn and apply a topic from the Bible while on the go, but she is also preparing sequential series on themes such as guidance. There are also a variety of shorts and Bible verses to feed your soul.
In all of her videos, Zoe employs the game-changing tools of AI art generation that allow her to create Hollywood-style cinematic still images that would have been impossible last year when she dreamed up the idea of a YouTube channel for Christian women.
“Suddenly, nine months ago, these AI art generators just popped out of seemingly nowhere. Within seconds, you can get cinematic Hollywood-style images of, for example, historical scenes from the Bible, or you get crazy fun things like a kangaroo going camping. It’s unbelievable.”
“The million-dollar question for me is trying to find what the trigger points are.”
Zoe was awarded a fellowship from Sydney-based women’s foundation Anglican Deaconess Ministries to develop the channel, and it’s been a huge blessing for this one-woman band, who researches, writes, edits and performs all her own material.
“It’s just me on my own, and so to have this fellowship where I can come in for a year and have the financial support – because YouTube at the moment is providing absolutely zero income – but, just as importantly, be in this amazing environment where you’re surrounded by these incredibly inspiring, gifted, gospel-minded women who are all doing different things, who are super-interesting, who you can just bat ideas around with … has exceeded my expectations.”
Zoe says her key motivation is to provide helpful teaching material – and an alternative voice – for the millions of Christian women who feel invisible in mainstream culture.
“The million-dollar question for me is trying to find what the trigger points are, what are the things that people are really struggling with. How are their lives difficult? How is their faith challenged? And what are the answers they’re looking for? I’ve got my own questions, but there’s no point in making videos no one’s interested in. So whenever I meet anyone, I’m like, ‘What are you interested in? What are you struggling with?’ And to be around women all year has been amazing.”
Zoe confesses that she sometimes feels like Noah building the ark. It’s confronting putting herself out there where everyone can see if she succeeds or fails. While she has a plan to attract 100,000 subscribers to Real Life Bible, in these first weeks, she has a modest 150, many of whom are friends and family.
“Part of me is going, ‘Oh my goodness, you’re a crazy woman’ because there’s not a lot of people in this niche and I’m doing something quite different,” she says.
“There’s every single niche under the sun. You can find chicken farming, you can find very particular types of Dungeons and Dragons, you name it. Actually, there are millions of Christian women out there. There’s such little stuff that’s made specifically for them. They’re on YouTube and watching millions of hours a month.”
“Christians have become so invisible in popular culture that we really need to regain a voice.”
As well as ministering to women’s faith on an individual scale, Zoe prays that Real Life Bible will fill a gap in the market in content for Christian women.
“I am a firm believer that Christians have become so invisible in popular culture that we really need to regain a voice, and it needs to happen on all fronts, in politics, education, media, to have a different voice in people’s heads to provide an alternate worldview,” she says.
“There are still statistically so many Christians out there, but it’s like we’re invisible and so my prayer is that this YouTube thing that I’m doing, hopefully, will go beyond itself and will be a part of a movement of Christian content creators who are using these more democratic social media platforms to regain a voice of Christianity. So my prayer is that, God willing, there is an audience for this and there’s a hunger for it.”
Zoe has spent years trying to determine how secular educational YouTubers are succeeding, often reaching millions of followers from their bedrooms. She concluded that the key is not production values but the personal relationship the YouTuber develops with their followers and the value of their offering.
“I chose to do YouTube because I wanted to reach people en masse because I’ve got skills in video, which is massively scalable.”
As someone who left university wanting to go into an area where she could reach people with the gospel on a bigger scale, Zoe spent a few years producing light entertainment in London for Channel 4. Having discovered how difficult it was to get Christian content past the television gatekeepers and observing how easily Christians in the media get pushed off track, Zoe decided to use her unusual skill set – with degrees in theology and television – to create an alternative Christian voice in the mass media.
“My life’s desire, God willing, is to reach people with the gospel, but strategically, I chose to do YouTube because I wanted to reach people en masse because I’ve got skills in video, which is massively scalable,” she explains.
“In my previous life in England, I tried the SEO approach to have a website and grow it that way, but it’s very difficult to grow a website and get people to it. However, I realised during the pandemic that there’s this massive opportunity on YouTube because if you provide YouTube with videos that people watch all the way to the end, YouTube actually does all your publicity for you.”
For example, a brief 15-second video about thunder she recorded while walking home from work in a storm – and quoting God’s sovereignty on the weather – was viewed by 2500 people just because YouTube put it in front of them while they were browsing.
“YouTube has put my videos in front of tens of thousands of people already … There’s a massive potential to grow something big if you can play the game right in terms of doing the strategy that works on YouTube.”
“YouTube has put my videos in front of tens of thousands of people already.”
The challenge with YouTube is that growth is very slow at the beginning, but when it does take off, it does so at an exponential rate.
“The general way of making income is you get a little bit of money through ads, but you’ve got to be ginormous to make money. So you get between $3 and $10 for a thousand views, and you have to work pretty hard to get a thousand views,” she explains.
“That’s not really enough to pay a video editor or the household bills. So my goal is to have 100,000 subscribers by year five, which would create enough income through patronage or sponsorships in videos.”
But in these early days, Zoe has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to employ a video editor next year to allow her to concentrate on research while maintaining the quality of her videos.
“I want there to be a whole fleet of Christians giving a Christian worldview.”
“I don’t want to talk off the top of my head; I want to do the Bible teaching seriously and provide depth and insight, even though it’s light-hearted and accessible,” she says.
“If it grows, one of the things I’d love to do is to be able to encourage other content creators to start up and do their own thing, so I would love to create a ministry to do that as a parallel thing. But my main goal is to reach a lot of people with the gospel. My prayer is that I make content that God uses in people’s lives, and then as people share it and find it helpful, it grows organically.”
With three tween-age children, Zoe has an added motivation for providing answers from God for the challenges young people face. Knowing how young people consume content, she wants “people like me and younger people than me to be in their heads when they pick up their phone. I want there to be a whole fleet of Christians giving a Christian worldview so that when they’re flicking through TikTok, they’re there alongside all this other kind of crazy stuff that they’re seeing.”