Even though we are in the midst of a Christian publishing boom, writers often overlook their most obvious audience: their own congregations.
I hate to break this news to all of us aspiring writers, but most of us are not going to write the next “Purpose-Driven Life,” “Love Wins” or any other best-seller.
But why not write a book for your own congregation? Here are five reasons I think writing for your own congregation is an opportunity waiting to be seized:
1. You know your audience.
I’m talking to pastors and church leaders primarily here, I suppose. I think the main reason to write for your own church is because you know your congregation.
You know the struggles, opportunities, challenges and spiritual needs your congregation faces. You know your church’s theology, its practices and its shortcomings.
Few writers get to target so specific an audience because most mass-market books are geared for the widest readership possible.
However, when you write for your own congregation, you can tailor your subject, approach, illustrations and suggestions to your unique ministry setting.
2. Writing to congregations is as old as the New Testament.
Could there be a better book to make the case for writing for your own congregation than the epistles of Paul?
Of course, Paul wasn’t the only New Testament writer to address specific communities. John, Peter, the gospel writers and whoever wrote Hebrews all were targeting specific Christian communities.
3. You can publish your book for free.
In this age of Amazon and Kindle, anyone can publish their book for free. I self-published my book, “The Reconciling Community,” for next to nothing compared to conventional book publishing costs.
4. You can give your book away.
I did not write my book to make money or become famous. That’s a good thing because I have achieved neither fame nor fortune.
I published my book to make my ideas accessible to the widest audience possible. That’s why I’m on Amazon.
But I also published it to be able to give copies to my church. When my book was published, I offered a print copy free to any member of my congregation who wanted one.
My author’s book cost is about $4 per copy, so I could afford to give it away to all who wanted it.
I decided to give as many copies away to my congregation as I could because they supported me while I wrote it. The work is mine, but the time and encouragement to write came from them.
In addition, I donated 20 copies to our state denominational office and have mailed out about two dozen copies to other individuals who expressed interest.
Of course, I occasionally do sell a copy on Amazon. I’m averaging one print book and one e-book purchase per month. Not big bucks, but that small amount has almost paid for the few publishing costs I incurred.
5. Your congregation will benefit from your writing.
They will get to know you as an author, in addition to being their pastor. They’ll be able to share your work with their family and friends. And, finally, they will grow spiritually from your helpful writing.
Just like Paul, you can offer guidance, correction, instruction and encouragement in the form of a book to those closest to you—your congregation.
I enjoyed the experience of writing a book for my church so much that in September I’m going to start another one.
This time the congregation is going to help me gather information and insights into our church’s 157-year history, and together we’re going to write a new church history.
But this won’t be the typical “buildings, baptisms and budgets” review. Instead, I have divided the church’s life into seven eras from 1857 to 2014.
We’ll look at each era and examine the context of world events, local happenings and church life as a whole.
The point is not to just record our history, however. The primary purpose is to examine our history in order to reflect on where and how we have been successful in our ministry, and where we have missed opportunities along the way.
Congregational members will help by providing stories, photographs and artifacts from each era.
I would encourage you to consider writing for your own congregation. Both you and your members will benefit.
And, you won’t have to ask all your pastor friends to write a review on Facebook. That’s reason enough for me.
Chuck Warnock is pastor of Chatham Baptist Church in Chatham, Virginia.