Little did I know that a class I offered a few years ago, “The Art of Writing a Devotional,” would end up catalyzing a creative writing ministry within our church. Of all the various church ministries, I had never come across one for creative writers. Yet, cloistered away within most churches are writers or would-be writers. Most of them work alone, searching for inspiration, clicking away at their keyboards or scratching words on paper, hoping for a place where they might share their gifts. They are an untapped ministry and worship resource for the church.
How does one go about finding these hidden gems? One way is to offer a class on devotional writing, inviting current or would-be writers. If you don’t have knowledge or experience in devotional writing yourself, you can find someone who does and have them teach the class. A devotional is a simple genre, widely read by Christians, and a good place to start.
After the class, ask for volunteers to write a devotional based on the format that they just learned. Give them an assigned date to send you their piece. Once you receive it, edit it or find someone else with editing skills to do so. Be sure the devotional follows the guidelines you laid out in class.
As the author and editor are agreeing on the final revision, decide where you would like to share it. If your church has a website, that would be a good place to start. Check with the pastor, media director, or whoever is in charge of the church’s website and obtain permission to post it under the church’s blog or another location. Give your pastor or media director the opportunity to review each piece before posting it.
Find a photo or piece of artwork that illustrates the devotional and post it alongside it. From the beginning, our writers’ group has posted illustrations, most of them original, from our church’s photographers and artists. Visuals are 50% of what we communicate through devotional writing! Not only do they draw the reader in, but they also complement and enhance what is written, taking the reader further along in their imagination.
In our case, we had around 10 people, both experienced writers and novices, who were interested in being able to write devotionals to communicate the spiritual truths God was showing them. After we had posted a few on the church’s blog, we decided to write from a regular weekly schedule, which we did for three and a half years.
We adopted a name, Heartland Writers Circle, and began gathering monthly for critique meetings. We usually read and critique three to four of our pieces per meeting. We also support one another through encouragement and prayer.
We continue to hone our skills and perfect our craft. As iron sharpens iron, so our skills and our souls are refined in the process of being lovingly critiqued by one another in our monthly meetings. We also assembled a team of editors, each of whom was assigned to specific writers so every writer had their own editor. This continuity helped us to keep growing and upgrading our skills.
One summer, we decided to print half-sheet copies of our devotionals with a small photo and have them available for parishioners to pick up on Sundays. We called it our “Summer Devotional Series,” and it was well received. Another idea is to collect 52 of your best devotionals and put them into a book format as weekly devotionals and have it printed for members of your church and others. We also encourage the writers to submit their works for publication with magazines and literary journals.
After some time had passed, we added to our repertoire of genres. We fueled this by offering training workshops in writing God stories and short fiction stories. Our God stories are short, creative, thematic testimonies of God encounters or interventions in a person’s life. In addition, a number of our writers have branched out into poetry, both rhyming and free verse. Some also enjoy writing soliloquies, short Bible studies, and prayer guides.
All of the pieces that we post on our church’s blog have a Christian theme such as redemption, light, hope, and praise. But they also include the challenges and tribulations of life as a backdrop to these stories of redemption. Our devotionals include at least one Scripture and conclude with a brief prayer, key thought, summary, action step, or questions to ponder.
We began sending our writings to our church’s diocese, and many of them were posted on the diocesan website, further expanding our outreach. In addition, they are shared on our church’s app and social media sites. Like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind, our ministry’s reach is often unknown. Sometimes we receive feedback; other times not, but we write in faith, believing God is using our words to impact the hearts and minds of believers and unbelievers alike.
During the two-year pandemic, when people were sheltering at home and attending church less, our writing ministry primarily served the purpose of long-distance encouragement. After the pandemic ended, we wanted to take our writings off the screen or written page and share them in person. Hence, a new initiative, Scribes & Friends, was born. Our authors bring their works and read them in person at a Saturday evening public gathering. We include photos or artwork to illustrate each piece and allow time for others to give feedback and ask questions. Currently, we are hosting Scribes & Friends on a quarterly basis in our local church.
We believe that creative writers are gifts to the body of Christ. Through their written words, they quietly minister inspiration, encouragement, and wisdom, exercising prophecy, evangelism, exhortation, and other spiritual gifts. We invite you to join forces with us in the groundbreaking work of calling, equipping, and creating a place for the hidden writers in your local church!
Heartland Writers Circle Coordinator
United Adoration Creative Writing Leader