Power to the Pews: Church Devotional Content

Power to the Pews: Church Devotional Content

May 9, 2012 by

This is part three in our series on guerrilla church marketing, Power to the Pews.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave the great commission we all know well:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Ever since he said these words, Christians have thought about what it means to “make disciples” and teach people to obey all that Christ commanded. The results have been everything from hardcore catechesis and the Sunday School movement to, more recently, mid-week small groups and online Christian communities.

If communication really has changed as much as everybody’s saying it has, it’s time to re-think the great commission again. These days, people don’t just “receive” the good news. Fewer people are in church, Christian radio is on the decline, and Sunday School has become practically extinct in many denominations. Not even an online devotional has the same power and punch that it did five years ago.

Christians want to talk more, maybe even speak with authority, and social media is giving them the chance to do it. Can the church learn something here?

The Example
A couple of years ago, my church invited its children and youth to participate in the usually-very-grown-up Advent season. Pastors asked children to draw pictures related to Advent and displayed the pictures in special mid-week services. They also asked teens to write daily devotionals that were put together as church-wide devotional books. Staff members guided students in the selection of Scripture and format for each devotional, advertised the devotionals, made them available outside the sanctuary and posted them online.

The response was overwhelming! It turns out our teens had a ton of meaningful things to say about God and how he had been at work in their lives. And who isn’t moved by a child’s picture of God’s love? After years of being taught in traditional contexts, students were now given the chance to process Scripture and articulate their faith in new and creative ways. The projects and support allowed them not only to share their faith through artistic mediums, but also to play a part in the teaching and inspiring of their church community.

The next year, the Advent project expanded to the Lent season too, and ever since then, children and youth have participated in both. This year, the devotional book project expanded to an online blog of writing, art, and video where people can comment on what’s been posted. There are plans for this blog to continue after Lent and expand to include both children and adult contributors too. The children’s art project also has grown to include adults.

See what’s been happening? It’s no longer only the pastor and Sunday school teacher taking on the great commission. The people in the pews are talking too, and it’s making a difference.

Post By:

Erin Williams

Erin Williams loves to write for the church and individual Christians within it. She lives in a fun yellow house in Dallas and enjoys family, friendship, working hard, food and wine, fitness, coffee and ranches.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

3 Responses to “Power to the Pews: Church Devotional Content”

  • curtis
    May 9, 2012

    Having congregation members share devotional materials during worship is a great idea, but there needs to be some vetting or discussion component as well. If I show up to worship with a picture of God in a flying saucer taking all Christians to live on another planet, that may be a sincere expression of my beliefs, but I also should be ready to have the theology of my depiction challenged and be willing to enter into a discussion about my beliefs, even to the point of being willing to admit that my beliefs may be misguided, or, at a minimum, not shared by nobody else.

    Just because I have the power to share does not mean I am always right. Sharing is the beginning of a conversation. The conversation must not end with the act of sharing, it must include a willingness to receive feedback about what I have shared, and a humility to acknowledge that the truth I share may not be held by anyone else, and perhaps I need to re-examine my truth.

     | Permalink
  • Erin
    May 9, 2012

    Hey Curtis,
    You bring up a good point. In our church’s specific example, I should have added that staff members also edited the devotionals before turning them into a book, making sure the students’ content was theologically sound. The cool thing is that most of it was! I don’t think the artwork was edited, but I tend to think the majority of children’s artwork at church is fairly harmless, however theologically incorrect it might be.
    There have been a couple projects where I’ve edited a lot more “vigorously” ~ in those cases, you’re right, their “sharing” wasn’t necessarily helpful for the church.
    Social media-wise, I honestly have a hard time with some of its effects I wrote about in this post. I agree with you that there needs to be some definite mediation. Church leaders need to be in those conversations, listening and speaking on behalf of Christ. I often wonder what our role is as an authority when there are so many new voices out there.

     | Permalink
    • Curtis
      May 10, 2012

      “I often wonder what our role is as an authority when there are so many new voices out there.”

      That, in a nutshell, is the question that got many people started into what is now called the Emerging Church Movement. The notion of some new type of shared authority. Different churches will answer the question in different ways. Social media has certainly forced many churches (at least the churches that are paying attention!) to re-examine the question of authority. Not unlike the way the printing pressed forced the church to re-explore the nature of authority in the 1500s.

      These certainly are exciting times for the church!

       | Permalink