Volunteer Christian Writers Are Valuable to Small Ministries

Christian writing and blogging
Photo by Pixelcreatures at Pixabay

Are you a new or aspiring Christian writer looking for writing experience? Search your community or region and see if there is a small ministry where you can volunteer to help with their website or blog.

Even today, many small ministries don’t have a website. For those who do, often the website does not have a blog. There’s no time for it, and no money. What a great way for you, as a new writer, to volunteer.

Websites and blogs benefit small ministries. They help the right people find, learn about, and build trust with the ministry. The very people who would benefit the most from what that ministry offers don’t even know the ministry exists. When those people search online for answers to their problems, wouldn’t it be great if that ministry’s website and blog articles appeared in their search?

A website with an up-to-date blog also shows that the ministry is active and interacts with real people. That visible activity encourages individuals to reach out and contact the ministry. A great blog gives people a preview of what it’s like to interact with that ministry.

Despite all the benefits of a website and active blog, most small ministries don’t have the time or staff to write online. For a small ministry that doesn’t have a website, creating one seems like a big hurdle, something to put on next year’s “to research” list. Blogging feels like a luxury. What if you could help?

All the work doesn’t have to fall on your shoulders, either. (Actually, the Lord shoulders all of this. He invites you to come alongside. Matthew 11:28-30.) You can find supporters for that ministry and engage them in writing for the blog. You will find even more benefits to that process, as those same supporters will become more active in helping the ministry and spreading the word.

At that point, not only will you have an opportunity to grow as a writer. You will also gain experience as an editor and blog manager. Blogs are a great way to learn writing, editing, using images, and interacting with the dashboard of a website. Blog posts are easy to link to social media, so there is another opportunity for you to grow as a social media writer and manager.

All while helping a ministry get the word out about what it offers.

The best benefit of all is getting the word out on the internet about the good news of Christ.

If volunteering for a ministry sounds like a good way for you to grow as a writer, here are some tips for getting started:

1. Pray. Ask God to lead you to the right ministry.

2. Talk with your pastor about local ministries that need volunteer help.

3. Learn about ministries that are active in your local community.

4. Do a google search for small ministries in your region. Check to see if they have a website and/or a blog. If not, pray about reaching out to them. Do some research first to learn more about who they are and what they do. (Sadly, there are still some scams out there that use the covering of a “ministry.”)

5. Pray again!

Then reach out. Tell them you are a new writer and willing to volunteer in exchange for the experience. It will help if you have your own blog (no matter how simple) to point them to. Maybe have a few sample blog articles to show them. If you don’t have any of this yet, don’t let that stop you from reaching out. Just be honest with them about where you are as a new writer.

As you prepare to start helping that ministry, learn all you can about what makes for a good blog post. There are many good, free resources online, which you will find if you do a google search. Also start learning some basics about the best content for a simple website. And continue to hone your skills as a writer. Become involved with a Christian writing or other writing organization. Join a critique group. Keep learning, writing, and growing.

On behalf of every small ministry that needs help, thank you for reading this article and reaching out with your writer’s heart, wherever God sends you. God bless you!

Writing a Multi-Topic Blog

A fellow Christian author asked me how she could help her website visitors navigate the different topics on her blog. That’s a great question, and it’s one I have grappled with for years. I too have a multi-topic blog.

What Is a Multi-Topic Blog?

What I’m referring to here is a blog that has one overarching and unifying theme, but with distinct topics. For example, my overall blog is about growing in relationship with God. But I cover distinct topics such as Inner Healing, Christian Writing, and Biblical Hebrew. Those topics are connected in one way, but different in many others. That’s what I mean by a multi-topic blog.

I’m not referring to two separate subject areas which should have two separate blogs. For example, if I were interested in trail hiking and do-it-yourself plumbing repair, I wouldn’t combine those into one blog. They are two different subject areas. However, if I were interested in do-it-yourself kitchen repair, plumbing, carpet repair, fencing and siding, those could potentially go into a multi-topic blog, unified by the larger subject of “do-it-yourself home repair.”

Disadvantage? Or Advantage?

Now that I’ve clarified what I do (and don’t) mean by a multi-topic blog, let’s look at a key disadvantage and a major advantage of a multi-topic blog.

The disadvantage is that readers interested in just one topic might not want to subscribe to the blog. Someone interested in Biblical Hebrew might not be interested in Christian writing, and vice versa.

The advantage is that readers who are interested in all the topics I cover can find everything in one place. Previously (and much to the chagrin of my writing coaches, I might add), I had different blogs for different topics. It was hard for readers to find me and keep up with new posts, and it was exhausting to manage all those blogs.

How to Help Readers Navigate Your Multi-Topic Blog

As I told my author friend, here are some ways to combine all your (subject-related) topics on one blog and help readers navigate:

  • Make good use of categories, so it is easy for readers to search your blog by topic and sub-topic.
  • Create a page on your website for each topic. Do a category search of your own blog and copy the link of that category page. Place that link on the relevant topic page and call it “[Topic] Articles.” (Look at my pages on this website, and you will see where I have done that.)
  • If you have an email newsletter that you send out to readers, consider creating a separate newsletter for each main topic. That requires extra work, but not as much work as running separate topical blogs.

Those are a few simple ways you can write a multi-topic blog and help readers find the topics that interest them.

If you are not sure how to start out, talk to a few of your friends who are interested in the topics you write about. Ask how they would feel if all those topics are combined in one place. Also, look for examples of blogs that combine different topics. See how they help their readers navigate the different topics.

While it may take some time for you to decide what to do, don’t let that be a barrier to starting your blog. The important thing is to write and share. You can make adjustments as you go along – which is exactly what I have done for years. Happy blogging!

 

 

Have You Thought about Writing Responsive Readings?

Does your church ever use “responsive readings” in your worship services?

If you’ve grown up in a liturgical tradition, you know immediately what responsive readings are. If you are from a church tradition that doesn’t use much liturgy, you might not be familiar with this.

As a writer, creating responsive readings is one way you can help your church (and others) to increase participation in the worship service.

Regardless of your tradition, responsive readings can be a wonderful way to encourage people to respond to God’s presence and to the scriptures.

Responsive Readings Invite our Response to God

A responsive reading (also known as an antiphonal reading, where two or more voices respond back and forth) involves all the people in the church reading out loud together in response to a scripture or to something a leader says or prays.

Responsive readings mean that each person participates in the worship service and responds to God together. Responding is an important function of worship, and we often miss those opportunities. Worship becomes passive, where we just sit and listen or watch.

With a responsive reading, we all become part of the response to God. Whenever we actively participate in worship and respond to God’s presence, we open our hearts for His response to us.

Different Ways to Experience Responsive Readings

There are many ways to experience responsive readings. Some traditions take a passage of scripture, like a Psalm, and highlight which lines people will read out loud. This is often done where the worship leader reads a line, and then the congregation reads a line, and this goes back and forth.

The responsive readings I enjoy the most are the ones where different sections of the congregation read back and forth to each other. For example, the left side of the sanctuary might read one line out loud, then the middle section reads another, and then the right section reads another. At other times, it might be the men reading one line and then the women reading another.

The responsive reading isn’t just passively done. The congregation actively reads the words to each other, and they really focus on the action of speaking these things out loud in a dialogue. The readings might include a refrain or closing lines that all people read together.

The global church has a rich tradition and history of responsive readings. You might be delighted to find responsive readings that have been used historically in your church tradition. I have also enjoyed in my seminary classes when professors have used responsive readings from many different cultures around the world. A quick search for “responsive readings” on the internet shows many examples to choose from.

Writing Responsive Readings

But that’s just the beginning. As a writer, you can play a role in creating responsive readings that help people become active participants in the worship experience and learn how to respond to God.

Some writers create blogs where they supply responsive readings that anyone can download and use. Or you might simply ask your pastor or worship leader if they would like for you to write a responsive reading for a particular occasion.

An Example of Lenten Encounters

One year during Lent, our pastor was highlighting a different biblical person each week, with the theme of “Lenten Encounters.” We were invited to see ourselves in each part of the biblical story, and also to discover how those biblical persons responded to God.

Our pastor invited our church writing group to create a responsive reading. Using the theme of weekly “encounters,” we added a couplet to the responsive reading every week. The new couplet reminded us of the biblical person we had encountered the previous week.

We started out with our foundational responsive reading, which talked about the encounters we hoped to have during our Lenten season. The second week, we added a couplet about (for example) Peter, who we had encountered the week before. The words of the couplet reminded us of Peter’s particular response to God. The next week, we added (for example) Blind Bartimaeus, who we had encountered the previous week. And so on.

As we moved through the Lenten season, we continued to include the couplets from previous weeks. So we continued to remember and acknowledge what we had discovered with each biblical person. Each week, the responsive reading (which was printed in the bulletin) grew a little longer.

When we reached Palm Sunday, the focus shifted to our own response to God. We added a final couplet looking forward to our ongoing encounters with Christ.

That is just one example. The possibilities are endless. Writing responsive readings is a very creative task for a writer or group of writers who want to help people experience and participate in the worship service in a very unique way.

Do You Feel Called to Write Responsive Readings?

If this is something you feel called to try out, begin with prayer and ask God for His guidance. Then do a simple online search for “responsive readings” and look through the many types of examples. Don’t forget to look for responsive readings that might have been used in earlier times in church history. And look for responsive readings that have been created in cultures around the world that are different from  your own. The global and historical church has such a rich tradition to experience.

Then, with God’s leading, either begin to create responsive readings for your blog, or ask your pastor if your church might be able to use a responsive reading that you or a group of writers in your church would create especially for the church. You can even create these for your own family in worshiping and praying together at home.

In whichever ways you choose to write responsive readings, you will discover that this is an amazing experience. Writing responsive readings will also remind you of your own daily responses to God.

Prayer Prompts for Christian Writers

As a Christian writer, I feel it’s important to publish prayers on the internet. The web is filled with so many discouraging and distressing words. Prayer is the antidote. When words of prayer fill the internet, not only do these words offer hope and encouragement. They also speak spiritual change over the online atmosphere.

As writers, we have an amazing opportunity to publish simple yet powerful prayers through our blogs, websites, online articles, and e-books. I encourage every Christian writer to write prayers that can be read by others who are searching online for help and hope.

If you put your prayers out there for people to read, God will guide people to those prayers. You never know whose life will be touched by a prayer you have written and published online. Your prayer might help someone who needs comfort or healing. It might encourage a parent about a child who is struggling – or vice versa. Someone might even encounter Christ for the first time in praying one of your prayers online.

 

Good Writing Means Good Reading

If you are a writer, there’s a pretty good chance that you love to read. When you start writing, you may be tempted to put your reading on hold. But reading time is not something you should sacrifice. The most effective writers are avid readers. Reading is one of the best ways to inspire your creativity and strengthen your writing skills.

You can also create writing projects around your reading. Choose a book of the month to read. Then think of a few creative ways you can practice your writing in response to that book:

1. Write a book review and post it on Amazon and Goodreads. Or find a magazine that publishes book reviews and consider submitting one, based on their specific requirements.

2. Discuss your favorite line from the book on your blog.

3. Join a book discussion group online and share your thoughts in writing and in conversation with others online. (If you have your own writer’s website, some discussion groups will let you link to your website in your profile.)

4. Is this book in your church library? Write a set of small-group discussion questions and see if your pastor is interested in making those questions available with the book. (This might lead to a request for more!) You might even want to send your discussion questions to the author. I created a series of worksheets for teens, based on Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven for Kids, and his ministry published these worksheets on their website.

What other ways can you practice your writing by responding creatively to a great book?

Why the World Needs Christian Writers

The Bible shows us how God works through the written word. Proverbs tells us that the tongue carries the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). You have probably experienced the healing or hurtful impact of words.

It shouldn’t surprise us that God calls people to write. He puts the desire to write in a person’s heart. He nurtures and cultivates it. He shows us what and how to write and where to share it.

Whether it’s a magazine article, a devotional blog, a poem in a church’s Sunday bulletin, a book, or a letter to a friend, God loves to speak through our hearts and words. He knows the hearts He will touch through our writing. He shapes our words so they will reach people in ways we couldn’t do without Him.

Just realizing all of this should help you see that Christian writing is needed in the world. And that God knows how to work through your writing.

Daily, we are surrounded by so many hurtful, discouraging, and deceitful words. Imagine the ways God will use your words of encouragement and hope – words inspired by your time with God and His Word. He will light up the darkness with your writing.

It’s important to really understand this and to remember it often. The enemy will try and discourage you as a writer, often to the point where you will doubt what you are doing and want to quit. When you get discouraged, remember to spend quiet time with God. And surround yourself with people you trust who can keep you encouraged when the enemy shouts too loudly.

In whatever ways you feel called to write, God will use your writing to make a difference in the world.

I love writing books, but I also write a lot on the internet. I remember when I first realized how much the internet needs our words about God’s love. I was helping an author create a promotional piece for her book and I searched online to see what people were discussing about depression. When I typed in, “I am depressed,” I was taken immediately to a gambling site! That’s when I realized how the enemy was using words on the internet to trap people and send them away from God.

What if, instead, your blog and your words of hope had come up in my online search?

As Christian writers, the more we can publish the good news online, the more we can point people toward the healing and wholeness that comes only from Jesus Christ.

The world needs Christian writers just like you. Be encouraged! And get ready to write.