As the managing editor for Arise Daily, many devotionals come across my desk. Each writer has a story to tell, an important truth to share with our readers. But not every devotional gets published. The ones that do have certain things in common, traits that will leave a positive mark on our readers.
Here are six guiding principles of how to write a devotional that will make it stand out from the crowd:
1. Effective devotionals go for one main point. It is impossible to effectively cover all the things in 400-600 words! Preachers call it the Big Idea. Can you express the main point of your article in one sentence? If you can’t, your readers won’t be able to, either.
What is the one thing you want readers to remember after reading your article? Knowing the main point will clarify how you edit. Chop anything in the article that does not support the main idea.
Extra material will just muddy the water for readers.
2. Effective devotional writers come alongside their readers. We are all traveling the same narrow road. Engage your readers with a personal story that will draw them into the article. Be transparent—someone to whom the readers can relate. They might think: I have that problem, too! Or That’s just like me! I need to read more.
When they feel an affinity with you, they will want to know what you have to say. Never brag or put yourself above the reader in any way. Humility is key to being an effective teacher.
3. Effective devotionals teach the Word of God. While the story is engaging, the real power in a devotional is the Word of God. God promises in Isaiah 55:11 (NASB): “[My word] will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the purpose for which I sent it.” God’s Word is transforming. If we are interested in our readers’ transformation, we must teach them the Word.
But be careful that you don’t take a verse or passage out of context. We don’t want to put words in God’s mouth by giving it a meaning it was never meant to give.
Always consider what it says as a part of the whole. Pray over your passage and ask God to guide you to the truth. So tread carefully!
You can make the Bible say anything you want if you are willing to pluck a verse out of its context. But that’s a slippery slope. Avoid it at all costs.
When we interpret and teach a verse or passage correctly, what we offer is solid gold.
4. Effective devotionals teach, don’t preach. Avoid the use of the word you. Instead, use we and us. Paul tells us that we are given our spiritual gifts to strengthen each other: “to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NASB emphasis added). Our articles should build up and encourage, not tear down or burden our reading audience.
5. Effective devotionals call the reader to action. This might be a specific action or maybe a change in how they think. The best way to find an appropriate application is to first look for the timeless principle in your verse or passage. It should be something that can be applied to any people group at any time in history. Drop that principle into the 21st century, and ask God for ideas on how to practically act on that truth today.
6. Effective devotionals point readers to God. He is our hope, our strength and our salvation. We can (and should) depend on Him always. One way to point to Him is to teach about one of His attributes. Inspire your readers to look up. We need to point them heavenward, not at their own two feet.
Remember, Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 NASB).
Peter tells us that we are a holy priesthood. What does a priest do? He or she ushers people into the presence of God and helps them go deeper with Him.
It is God’s intention to use our spiritual gifts to contribute to the work of building His kingdom.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” Ephesians 2:10 NASB).
Writing an effective devotional article can move you and your readers toward that goal.
Find more “How to Write a Devotional” help articles and others for writers, speakers & leaders by checking out our Arise to Lead section of Leading Hearts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Zine Coleman, editor of Arise Daily loves to teach the Word of God! With contagious enthusiasm, she brings hope and encouragement to her audience through rich biblical teaching. Julie uses humor and personal stories to make her teaching entertaining as well as meaningful. Her warm and insightful messages make her an effective and well-received speaker.
During her 20-year teaching career, Julie received professional recognition including being named Anne Arundel County Teacher of the Year. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Capital Bible Seminary. Julie and her husband, Steve, have four grown children and make their home in the Annapolis, Maryland area.