Fast Facts about Shannon Bennett
Name: Shannon Bennett
Organization: Museum of the Bible
Favorite Bible Verse:
“Faith is the evidence of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Hometown: “I currently live in Arlington, Virginia, was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi; but lived for 15 years in the Orlando, Florida, area and spent four years in Jerusalem, Israel — those two places really feel like home to me.”
Favorite Destinations: Israel and Florida
Hobbies: Reading, attending live theater, concerts and MLB games — and, of course, travel
When Shannon Bennett met the founding president of the Museum of the Bible at a conference in 2013 and was offered a job, it was her opportunity to combine her experience in marketing and tourism, the master’s degree and museum work she did in Israel, and her faith.
“Although they had been doing traveling exhibits for a long time, I got to be the very first employee on the ground in Washington, D.C., which is a pretty exciting experience,” said Bennett. “The Bible is such a rich book, and it has had such an impact on every single facet of society. Getting to bring those stories to the public, where we can connect any specific topic to the Bible — it’s all about grabbing people and enriching those stories.”
Bennett began her career as a performer in entertainment operations with the Walt Disney Company and then moved into its travel and tourism marketing division. It was after the attacks of September 11, 2001, that she left the travel industry for roughly five years and worked in the legal field but also rediscovered her faith.
“I really came back to my faith in a powerful way, and that’s when I started working with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem,” she said. “I eventually moved to Jerusalem and lived there for four years, where I volunteered doing Christian outreach for the Holocaust Museum.”
Simultaneously, Bennett got her master’s degree from Hebrew University before returning to the U.S. in late 2012.
“I grew up reading the Bible, and I was already passionate about my faith,” she said. “But when you just read the book, you lose sight of the reality of it. When I went to Israel for the first time, I was just impressed by the land where these things happened. I was in the place where these things were written.”
Washington isn’t considered by most to be a faith-based city, but, said Bennett, if you know where to look, the city is filled with biblical references. Among the Museum of the Bible’s permanent exhibits is “The Impact of the Bible,” which traces the book’s influence on everything from city architecture to fashion and pop culture. The museum has a wide range of artifacts, including the original bill of sale for the Mayflower and a portion of the Western Wall, that bring the stories to life for visitors. There are exhibits that connect the Bible to everything from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to the lyrics of popular hip-hop music.
Bennett said a visit to the Museum of the Bible can be great for those who can’t make the trip to Israel, as well as for groups and as a field trip, some of which are currently virtual.
“As difficult as this year has been, it’s enabled us to explore some of the things that we just don’t have time to do with the museum open and running every day,” she said.
The virtual exhibits and programs — you can even have a Zoom meeting with a living-history interpreter — have allowed the museum to become available not only to those in Washington but also to people around the world.
“We’re pulling all these pieces together so when you learn about the history of this country, we tell the whole story and you see how the Bible is ingrained in everything you’re experiencing,” said Bennett. “For me, being able to connect people to those things that run deep in all of our souls, for them to see or touch an item — you’re touching thousands of years of history that relate to this book — the Bible — and our history of faith. It’s just overwhelming sometimes.”
1. Insider intel is like gold. Not only will the locals know the best places to eat, how to avoid the crowds and which attractions are worth your time and which to skip, they will also let you know where the hidden gems are. It’s these stops that will differentiate your tour from others and cause people to join you on your next adventure.
2. Be careful about adding people to your group simply to fill it out for economy’s sake. On one trip I was involved in, a couple was added to the group who had completely different expectations and desires for the trip. Throughout the entire journey, there was a pervasive sense of discontent and conflict.
3. Take the time to connect your group with local ministries. I know of groups who have built relationships with ministries and individuals they encountered during a tour that have lasted over a decade. Both sides are still benefiting from this connection.a