5 Writing Tips for Pastors
Pastor, consider this: you’re called to oversee God’s people, and that means, in part, you need to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. You may not be the best writer, but you have to write whether you like it or not. Whether it be through an email, memo, bulletin, newsletter, or sermon, pastors are writers.
In short, writing is inherent in being a minister of the Gospel, so it is prudent for us to improve upon our writing skills.
Writing is a skill and takes time to craft. Pastor Timothy Keller believes that pastors should spend the first one-third to two-thirds of their pastoral ministry focused on preaching, teaching, and pastoral care before committing to a full-length book. While I am not in complete agreement, I believe this is a good guideline for pastors to consider. I have been in vocational ministry close to 20 years, and have devoted much practice to improve my writing (though I believe I’m still better at spoken word!)
Maybe the Lord is inspiring you with an idea for a book, but maybe not. Either way, writing is a part of your calling, and I strongly encourage you to consider implementing these five tips to improve your writing:
1. Make Writing a Priority
Learn to capture your thoughts into written words. Our culture is geared toward consuming bite-sized content. Whether it is in a journal, or on a blog, work on getting your ideas into writing. Set apart time on a daily basis to focus on writing. Over time, you’ll notice your writing improve.
2. Don’t Waste Your Email
Encourage your people through email or private messages. Slow down and be thoughtful of how you craft your words, refer to Scripture, and provide replicable counsel. Writing emails is inevitable. You might as well use it as a regular discipline to help improve your writing.
3. Send Helpful Newsletters
Church eNewsletters can be a drag, but they don’t have to be! Try to focus on creating a 1 to 2 paragraph devotion on a verse, passage, or chapter in the Bible. Keep it focused, punchy, and geared toward reflection and conversation. Writing concisely takes effort and practice to accomplish, but it’s worth it.
4. Share Your Devotions
Continuing from point #3, make it a discipline to capture something on a weekly basis that speaks to you. You can use your own reflections and share them with your people in written form. Not only will this help encourage your flock, it will sharpen your ability to communicate your thoughts and experiences. To strengthen your skill at explaining Scripture, try avoiding cliche Christianese phrases, and instead think about sharing Scripture in a fresh, helpful way.
5. Write Thorough Sermon Notes or Manuscripts
I have friends who write their sermon notes on a Post-It Note or two. Other friends of mine, like Pastor J. A. Medders, manuscript their sermons. I prefer to work from a thorough outline. One of the things I’ve learned is that when I clearly articulate my main points in a sermon outline, I help improve my writing. On a similar note, communicating concisely in sermon preparation helps the clarity of my writing.
You might be a poor writer right now. But if you’re a pastor, you need to work at improving your communication skills–including writing. While practice doesn’t ever make perfect in the area of writing, it does help you become better. Improving upon our writing is important so that we can effectively communicate the Gospel. The hope is, one day you’ll get to the point where you are ready to write a book.