As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. ~Proverbs 27:17
Reading the Bible is crucial to understanding what God has accomplished for us and what he intends to accomplish through us. In addition, it can be quite useful to know what others have gleaned from the pages of Scripture. This is so beneficial, we are providing a few basic steps in writing a devotional.
Are you offering an overview of a particular book of the Bible? Perhaps you are focusing on one of the heroes of the faith. Or maybe you’re wanting to unlock the essentials behind a central teaching of Christianity.
No matter your topic, we have the essential guide for writing a devotional to share with others looking to grow in their faith. We’ll even include some super-pro tips from our very own professors of Old and New Testament studies, Dr. Tiberius Rata and Dr. Matthew Harmon. They have each written books, contributed chapters to books, and even authored devotionals and sermon study guides.
Let’s dive into what you need to know!
Know your topic
Many authors might encourage you to begin with the end in mind. They might even tell you to know where you want to take your audience before you begin. But unlike other books being written, when you are writing a devotional, you are diving into the Word of God. That means the purpose and application were decided long before you sat down to write.
Begin by committing to prayer and your personal study. In order to have something to offer, you need to have done the work. Dr. Matt Harmon advises us to “begin with the study of the text in the original language, if possible. Understanding what the human and Divine author intended to communicate is key.”
What was going on in the world when this passage was written? What was God revealing to the original audience? How is this still a relevant need in our day and in our society? All of these are good questions to ask when studying a topic.
Know your audience
This might seem like an obvious tip when writing a devotional. After all, what benefit would it be if the audience you’re writing to doesn’t connect with what they’re reading? Knowing your audience is key to great writing.
Are you writing generally or to a particular group of people? What are their needs, their struggles, and their pain points? Consider what else they might be hearing about this topic and what truth they need to hear. After all, maintaining intellectual honesty is more valuable than writing a bestseller that does not offer real opportunities for growth.
You should also consider the pace of your readers. How much instruction can they handle in one sitting? This will determine factors like chapter lengths and how quickly you transition from information to inspiration. In the end, you do not want to give them more than they can process.
Know your application points
While we have not numbered these tips, this is where the order is of utmost importance. Too many authors have an application they want to see practiced by their readers before they, the author, ever study the Word of God. This leads to them trying to make scripture say what it doesn’t really say. For more on the importance of exegesis, check out this article.
Dr. Harmon advises, when studying a passage of scripture, to see how the passage fits within the larger story of the Bible and how it relates to other passages that deal with similar subjects. In many ways, this is an extension of our first tip, because you need to know what God is revealing in scripture in order to understand how God wants us to apply the truth.
With this understanding firmly in grasp, you can finally decide what you wish to accomplish for the reader. Are you wanting to inspire, teach, persuade, or convict? What action would you have them take? What knowledge should they gain?
Know your voice
Lastly, your readers will get the most benefit from your writing if you bring your unique voice to the forefront. There are many devotionals and Bible study guides out there by many authors. You do not need to sound like them.
If you’re a guy, it’s probably not a fantastic idea to write a devotional on the highs and lows of being a mother. Stay in your lane and convey the message and the lessons that God has laid on your heart. In doing this, your passion will be most evident.
Much of this last tip comes down to believing that there is a purpose for what you are writing. Do you believe you are a unique child of God? Then offer the truth of God’s Word using your unique experiences.
There you have it, a beginner’s guide to writing a devotional or Bible study guide. Are you interested in learning more about our Advanced Expository Preaching degree? Request more information today, and we’ll send you one of our sermon journals. Grace Theological Seminary is here to equip pastors and ministry leaders on the front lines of ministry.