Local author pens Bible study for teens

Barbara Hootman

Social media and the desire to fit in make being a teen tough. Prevalent images of sex and violence can make being a teen even tougher.

Just how traumatizing high school can be is something Debbie Presnell, Black Mountain writer, learned from her children, especially her daughter Julianne, who was just entering high school. From those experiences with Julianne and her friends, Presnell wrote “Shine!”

“Shine!” is Presnell’s first book, and it took seven years to become a reality. It is a nine-week Bible study for girls in seventh through 12th grades.

“Julianne was just entering high school, and I was worried whether or not I had prepared her for what was to come,” Presnell said. “Being a teacher, I told her I wished I could sit her down and outline a course for her. She took me up on it, and she and her friends met with me every Friday night for eight weeks during the summer.”

From those get-togethers came “Shine!”.

After the original group of girls met, they wrote comments and questions and evaluated what they had learned. Presnell often rewrote what she had outlined, incorporating the girls’ input into the Bible study.

“From the book, teens learn that when they know God’s purpose for their lives,” she said, “they can live boldly and confidently and learn how to experience freedom they only imagined. They have to learn to understand who God says they are and what he really says about things like fashion, beauty, guys, gossips, friendships, stress, exhaustion, their personal talent, and spending time with him. Once they understand, they shine.”

On her way to becoming a published writer (the book is available at and, Presnell met Yvonne Lehman, the author of more than 50 Christian books. Lehman invited her to participate in the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference that she directs yearly. The outline to “Shine!” came out of the drawer once more, and Presnell was on her way to becoming an author.

“She became my mentor, and I still meet with her and several other writers in a writers group,” Presnell said. “I went into the writers group thinking, why would these ladies put up with me since they were all published writers of books? They were invaluable in helping me.”

Lehman praised Presnell’s work.

“I love the way Deborah gives confidence to teens, enabling them to feel loved, and lovely, and precious to God,” Lehman wrote in the praise section of “Shine!”. “They will want to respond with the best that’s in them, not because he ‘demands’ it but because of love. So encouraging, inspiring!”

Presnell has worked with both high school- and college-aged females for more than 30 years and continues to teach at Montreat College periodically, although she retired after 33 years in the classroom full-time. She is a writer, national speaker and workshop presenter, and co-founder of Shine! Ministries, and a partner in the Sept. 26 Polished Conference, a conference designed for young women that examines self-worth and other issues from a biblical perspective. In addition, she teaches Bible study and sign language classes, has an online prayer/Bible study page on Facebook, and blogs at “Living Life Together.”

Presnell and her husband, Alan, have two daughters and a son. She enjoys hiking in the mountains, walking on a beach and biking with friends. She loves shopping with her daughters and cooking for her family when they gather on Sundays.

“Shine!” will be available at the upcoming mom-and-daughter conference, The Polished Conference (, from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26 at Biltmore Baptist Church, 33 Clayton Road, Arden.

Presnell is at