I enjoy writing. I write to help people. I write because it’s fun to me. But this isn’t about me. This is about you. Do you have a message? Do you like to write?
If writing is not fun to you, maybe you can (should?) find a new outlet for your message. We ALL have a message, but we don’t ALL have to be writers. If writing is not your thing, communicate your message another way: start a podcast, create videos, host meetups, talk one-on-one, book a TED performance or launch a weekly webinar.
If you hate grammar, your reader will hate your sentences. If you hate writing, your reader will hate reading. Readers know whether you are into it or not.
Writing is not the only way to communicate. Nor is it the best way to communicate. It’s just–well–it’s the best way for writers to communicate. Writers gotta write.
You say, “Well, that’s not me. I’m no writer.” Don’t be so sure. Read on.
AS A COMMUNICATOR, I AM IMPELLED TO WRITE
As a preacher, I preach–because preachers gotta preach. As a writer, though, I follow sermons with something written so the hearer can take the message home. Or I write a summary the next week to help them remember the message. Or I issue a challenge to help them live the message. Or I write a story to humanize the sermon principles.
The written word is my way to help me communicate. I need all the help I can get.
BUT WHAT IF NO ONE READS IT?
Writers have to be willing to crank out content regardless of the outcome. Whether others enjoy my writing affects me little.
I have written a 250-word note to my teens every Sunday and every Wednesday since 2010–including weeks I am out of town–as well as countless personal letters to students, parents and other church members.
How many times have I heard responses to these notes? Less than 10. I can remember almost every comment.
On a particular hard-hitting note, for example, I heard from two people. Two. The comments were akin to: “Wow! That was pretty intense.” Not exactly a compliment, but I’ll take it. At least it caused some kind of reaction.
Last month, I heard about the impact that one of my hand-written postcards had on someone. But the postcard was from three years ago. I had no idea until now that it was even read.
Not even a little.
Writers gotta write.
MOTIVATED BY HELPING PEOPLE
Instead of garnering people’s approval as motivation to write, I write to help people. Simple. Everything I write is meant to help people.
Whether or not people are helped in the end is moot. The intention behind the writing is always the same–helping people.
Sometimes the message is humorous, short or sarcastic. Sometimes I poke fun at teen girls or describe the guys’ sleep-over. Sometimes I instruct. Sometimes I rebuke (rarely). Sometimes I encourage, challenge or reminisce. All of it, though, is meant to help the reader in some way.
I love to write because I live to help people. I always have a message.
WRITE WHERE YOU LIVE
If you want to help people through your writing, do so as often and as well as you can.
Writing starts where you live. I live in youth ministry, so I write for my teens. I live in music ministry, so I write for my choir. I live in church ministry, so I write about Bible study, interns, youth games, books I’ve read, Bible college and anything else I think will be helpful to my church.
If you are in church ministry, you are in a content-producing business. You are churning through excellent communication already, so write it down. Create something that can last beyond the spoken word. If you teach a series on Christian apologetics, write a pamphlet or a booklet about the topic. If you are warning parents about social media for their children, write a summary of all the most popular apps.
Write. For the benefit of others, write.
SO, HOW DOES WRITING HELP?
Essentially, writing helps you in a few ways:
- Communication. Duh, right? Well, no. Writing is an oft-neglected form of communication. How many times we bemoan, “But I announced it 6 times!” Write to communicate through more mediums: social media, email, bulletins, cards, letters, etc.
- Articulation. Writing captures ethereal ideas and confines them to sentences. I imagine my thoughts like a carload of bank robbers being forced off the road. They jump out of the getaway vehicle, flitting in all directions. Writing is like tackling, handcuffing and jailing the escapees (your ideas.) Writing is a struggle, and some thoughts slip away, but at least a few are behind bars.
- Clarity. You are easily misunderstood–tone of voice, a backward glance, closed body language, and a furrowed brow can communicate words that are never spoken. Writing, though, makes its case once. It is stated, and it is done. It can be referenced and analyzed objectively based on the words that are in print.
- Respect. Having articulated your thoughts clearly, you show others that you are capable of both rational thought and detailed preparation. Respect is built on excellence, and writing shows others your realm of excellence (whatever topic you may be writing about.) As a young youth pastor, for example, you can show the parents that you are capable of planning a youth trip and returning when the bulletin said you would.
- Accountability. Accountability can also be called reference, because writing puts a stake in the ground about not only what you said, but when you said it. You are accountable for what you say, but others are, too. In church ministry, for example, you are accountable for the sermon notes you wrote (i.e. “Here’s what I said about…”), and others are accountable for the announcements (i.e. When someone “didn’t know” what time the activity started, you can show the exact time published in the bulletin.)
HOW SHOULD YOU GET GOING?
Write a lot, and write well. Hone your skill as a writer.
The biggest improvements to your writing can only come through reading and practice. Read broadly for perspective, and read specifically to improve your writing.
Read books. Read blogs (like this one.) Read articles. Read forums. Read a variety of genres, mediums and styles.
Practicing my writing is what kills me. I practice a ton, yet feel like I’m getting nowhere. Then Joe Shmoe shows up and crafts a masterpiece that, next to my best writing, makes me look like a proboscis monkey using T9 on a flip-phone. Part of me gets jealous; part of me says, “Forget it,” but another part of me congratulates them, learns from them, and tries to be like them.
Writing only works if it is read. Or if it is worth reading. Try following these basic steps:
- Step 1: Outline (rough ideas)
- Step 2: Garbage first draft
- Step 3: Edit the fire out of it.
Take your idea and start. Start. Go. Write. It will be bad–maybe really bad. That’s fine. Write.
Get your garbage draft down, and then refine it into something usable.
Cut fluff where there should be content. Use the fluff as reference material, if you must, but be relentless about carving your masterpiece. One author said that removing half the words from your draft would result in a stronger message. Try it.
Once you are done carving, stop.
There. It’s done. Good job.
If you have tried to help people, you have done a worthy thing.
THE BEST I CAN GIVE IS WORDS. USUALLY.
Oh, sure, I can be there for people without words. But I’m not much of a hugger.
Usually my best comfort, instruction, reprimand or relationships develop through words, so I am working on making my written word work in ministry.
You should, too. I think you already are.
Most ministry is done face to face, but a big chunk of it is done through writing.
Writers gotta write.
IN SUMMARY, WHY WRITE?
I don’t know why YOU would write, but here are my top reasons:
- I want to. I like it. It’s a fun process for me.
- It organizes the randomness of my mind.
- It helps me help others.
If you have read this far, you are obviously bored. Or hanging onto the hope that maybe this article will pay off.
But if you are inspired to improve as a writer… mission accomplished. Go get started. Don’t expect perfection; just get going.
SO, GO WRITE
So, you, go write. No, you. Really.
Go write something. You already are for your ministry. Print it up and spread it through your realm.
For the sake of Christ, write. For the benefit of everyone else (not you), write. Write to inspire. Write to help. Write to encourage. Write to make people laugh.
People are reading. Write for them.
RYAN RENCH serves as the associate pastor and youth director of Calvary Baptist Church in Temecula, CA, under his father’s leadership, Pastor W. M. Rench. Ryan’s family moved to Temecula in 1987 to plant the church where Ryan was reared and is now on staff. He earned his Master’s Degree from Heartland Baptist Bible College in 2010. Ryan married his wife, Jamie, in 2008, and they have three children: Abe (2012), Charlotte (2014) and Gwen (2016).
Ryan blogs at RyanRench.com and has published several books, including BIBS: Big Idea Bible Study and A Case For Bible College, available from Calvary Baptist Publications on Amazon.com or from the Heartland Bookstore.