Pastors are in a wonderful position to know what people need. Day-in and day-out you hear the longings, fears, questions, and hopes people in your communities have. Pastors are usually terrific storytellers, and every week they craft a message that weaves those stories with biblical application in order to address those needs.
As the owner of a publishing company I hear from a lot of pastors who want to write a book, and I encourage this. But I also know there is a huge learning curve for pastors in this process. Here are a few things pastors need to know.
- Speaking and writing are not the same. When you stand before your congregation you already have credibility; you have a relationship with those people and they trust you. When writing a book you have to build all of these things with your reader with only your words.
- Non-verbal communication is probably a greater part of your communication success than you may think. However, as an author this element is missing, so your written words must convey your meaning fully and effectively. For example, when you are preaching those dramatic pauses and the slower pace you use to allow your audience to ponder what was just said need to be written into your book and this requires a different skill than the one you use when preaching.
- Some pastors have a gift of taking complicated theological concepts and making them accessible to their parishioners. But where some still struggle is moving from the teacher/preacher position to the fellow sojourner position. The truth is no one wants to read a book from a know-it-all. As the pastor in the pulpit, you can tell people things that if written in the same way in a book would come across as finger pointing. Again, there is a way to write with truth and conviction that also comes across as a friend who has learned a few things. But it requires a different skill than the one you mastered for preaching.
- You might have heard a common theme by now–you need a different skillset to write a good book. Even if you wrote terrific college papers, you need to learn a few things to write a book that will sell beyond the people in your congregation. The good news is there is a way to get this skillset. All across the country there are Christian writers’ conferences, and many have pastor tracks. There are also Christian critique groups who will help you shape your message into one that will showcase your gifts.
Pastors who call me about publishing a book are offered this information, but they also receive encouragement. So let me encourage you–you have the things no one can teach. You have empathy, a deep understanding of felt needs, the gift of storytelling, practical biblical knowledge, and a passion for your message. All of these things will make your book a gift to the world.
One final word. If you believe in your message and feel it can help others, then is it not worth it to learn the ropes necessary to bring that message to the world in a way that will make that message the best it can be? You got the education needed to take the role of pastor so your dream of imparting a message that would impact the world would come true. I encourage you to do the same for your book writing dreams. We need your voice. We need your books.
Cheri Cowell is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and her latest book is One Story, One Mission, One God Bible study is available from her website and your favorite online retailer. To learn more about her publishing company and some of the conferences she attends, visit EABooksPublishing.com