Monthly Archives: November 2011

Gleaning Writing Ideas from the Ministries You Serve and Support

At this time of year, my e-mail inbox and mailbox fill up with appeal letters from ministries I support and others. Some of them tell stories of people who have been blessed by the ministry and others share news of new ministry opportunities. The same thing probably happens to you. In addition, you may serve in a ministry at your church throughout the year.

What ministries do you serve or support? Have you ever thought of looking deeper into those ministries from writing ideas?

Profiles

Profiles are the most obvious place to start. Ministry leaders and volunteers have a story to tell. They see God working miracles and changing lives. God uses them in the process. In addition, their commitment to the ministry can inspire others.

When you receive those appeal letters, look for interesting stories. How can you share that story with people outside of the ministry? They need to meet that “tentmaker” who left home to serve abroad or the volunteer who uses their summer vacation to build schools and churches, or the domestic missionary who serves on a college campus.

Is there someone who found a unique way to share the Gospel? Is there someone who helps abuse victims grow to health and independence? Is there a CEO who serves meals at a homeless shelter or a family that embraces disabled foster children?

Look for ways to share a profile and interview that person. Not only will you share the story of the person and the ministry, you’ll may also inspire someone else to look for a unique way to serve God.

Issues

Ministries serve every possible need. You probably support ministries that serve needs close to your heart. Write to those passions: hunger, college students, human trafficking, veterans, evangelism, people with disabilities, persecution of the church, children, abortion, singles, domestic violence, seniors—just to name a few.

What ideas spring from the issue itself? How can you make people aware of the problem? How did that issue become your passion? What leading advocate for that issue can you interview? What unique slant can you give the issue? How can other people work for a solution to that issue? What health problems arise from that issue? What other facets of this issue can you examine?

Ideas from Your Service

You may serve in ministries in your church, such as Sunday School, AWANA, youth ministry, college ministry, singles’ ministry, seniors’ ministry, couples’ small group, divorce recovery, 12-step programs, etc. You can glean writing ideas from your service.

Many children’s publications feature fiction and Bible stories. If you work with a children’s ministry on a regular basis, you know what kind of stories appeal to them. Create stories based on weekly themes for the children you serve and “test drive” them. If they work, consider sending those stories to Sunday School take-home papers.

Every week, the ministry you serve probably focuses on a theme. What did you learn? What ideas does that theme spark? How can you use that theme in your writing?

People in ministries share their lives with each other. If the people in your ministry struggle with something or find a unique way to handle it, other people will want to learn those insights, too. You can create how-to pieces or personal experience articles from the topics you covered in your ministry for print publications, online publications and books.

What are the singles’ issues that you deal with in your singles’ group? How do group members handle loneliness, dating or single parenting? What other issues are the members of the ministry dealing with?

What about issues in your seniors’ group? How do they handle the loss of independence or the death of a spouse? What are the health issues they face?

What are the issues that come up in your couples’ small group or your college ministry?

How can you address any of these issues in your writing? Keep your ears open. You may hear a random comment that will spark an idea. Or, the lesson plan or a prayer request may give you an idea. You may not be able to use a specific person’s experience because they may want to protect their privacy. But, you can use their experience as the idea flashpoint for a piece based on your own research and experience.

© Deborah Christensen

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Harvesting Writing Ideas from Fields of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow, we celebrate Thanksgiving. You’re probably already mixing, tasting, baking and making last-minute runs to the grocery store. The good linens sit in piles, ready for their yearly journey to the table. And, you’re coordinating your family like an air traffic controller: airport pick-ups, sleeping arrangements and serving times to accommodate everyone who must make multiple Thanksgiving stops.

As you go through the day, keep your eyes open to writing ideas. Tuck them away to use later.

Thankfulness

A wide variety of publications need pieces on thankfulness, especially at this time of year. What has God taught you about thankfulness? How have you learned to be more thankful?

Share your insights through a personal experience piece, a devotional/meditation or fiction. A publication can use what you write now, while it’s fresh in your mind, next year.

Personal Experience

God uses our personal experiences to teach us about Him, ourselves and other people. Use those experiences to help others. This Thanksgiving, what do you learn about relationships? How do you heal a broken relationship? How do you celebrate the joys in the lives of your friends and family? How do you handle that empty chair at the table? How does the holiday affect the way you relate to others?

Are you spending Thanksgiving away from family this year? How does that change the holiday for you? How do you celebrate? Alone? With others? What does it teach you about your relationship with your family? About the other “family” in your life?

As you celebrate, look for the deeper meaning in your experiences.

How-To Pieces

Thanksgiving offers a wide variety of practical issues that you can use to help others. How do you cook a turkey? How do you set an interesting table? How do you add unique accents to your home that will give it a Thanksgiving feel?

How do you help your children split their time between your family and the in-laws? How do you split your time between families so no one feels slighted? How do you make a new person to the family feel welcome?

How do you bring deeper meaning to your Thanksgiving celebration? How can you serve others through the holiday? How can your church serve the less fortunate on Thanksgiving?

Enjoy Thanksgiving. Thank God for His goodness to you. Celebrate your time with family and friends. And, keep the idea door open so that you can bring in the harvest of writing ideas.

© Deborah Christensen

Writing Ideas Sprout from the Ashes of Persecution

“I bring you greetings from the Soviet Church!”

Tears ran down my face as I heard this historic statement from a guest speaker at a writer’s conference.

It was the early 90s. The Wall fell, the Soviet Union opened up and Christians began to leave the darkness of their hidden churches to come into the light of freedom. As time passed, they practiced their faith openly. Everyone thought persecution had ended.

It didn’t. As the Soviet Union became Russia, persecution crawled out and raised its ugly head in the Middle East and other communist countries like China and North Korea.

Sunday, November 13, was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Christians everywhere joined in prayer for their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Your church may have even participated.

Did you ever think about writing about it?

Profiles

This issue so impacted me I contacted two ministries that serve the persecuted church—Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors. They gave me stories to tell. I combined these stories into a piece for a high school Sunday School take-home paper. It helped raise awareness of persecution for these students.

How can you use the stories of persecuted Christians? Do you know someone who escaped persecution? How can you tell their story?

A Call to Action

What can you write that will take your reader beyond awareness into action? Who can you interview for insight? Does your denomination take an active role in this issue? What ministries can you highlight? What political leaders can you interview?

Offer your readers practical direction. Awareness is good. Action is better.

Broaden the Scope

What other areas are affected by this issue? What does God teach you through it? How has it changed you? What do you learn about loving others? What do you learn about serving others? What is the impact of apathy in the church?

This is one of the most important issues of our time. As writers, we play an important role. We can use our craft to help our brothers and sisters as they suffer for their faith.

© Deborah Christensen

The Desert of Failure Becomes Blooms of Writing Ideas

The scandal swirling around Herman Cain has been all over the news. As of now, the facts still need to come out. We don’t know what happened and we’re not going to address that issue specifically. But it highlights the fact that we keep expecting people to be perfect. No one is perfect.

Everyone has failed morally. Even the man after God’s own heart—David—failed in monumental ways.

Personal Experience/How-To Pieces

Have you experienced a failure? How did you deal with it? How did you overcome it? What did it do to your relationships? How did you see God work through it?

Were you hurt through someone else’s failure? How did you reconcile that relationship?

What insights can you share with readers? A how-to piece can guide your readers through the process of repentance, forgiveness and restoration.

Meditations/Devotionals

What Scriptures helped you through the moral failure—yours or someone else’s? How can you help your readers apply the Scripture to their situation?

What did God teach you about repentance? About forgiveness? About trust? About marriage? About authentic friendships? About an ethical workplace? About honesty?

What insights do you find in biblical stories of moral failure?

God promises to remain with us through all of our trials. You can remind your readers that God hasn’t abandoned them.

Profiles/Interviews

Do you know someone who has gone through a moral failure and came out stronger on the other side? Are they willing to share their story? Can you do a profile on them?

Fiction

How can you take a personal experience of moral failure and incorporate it into fiction? How would your character handle it differently? What choices would your character make that you didn’t? Which of your choices would your character emulate?

A failure isn’t the end of the story. The dry desert pain of a moral failure can transform into seeds of growth and flowering blooms of writing ideas.

© Deborah Christensen

The Bloom of Love and Writing Ideas

Last weekend, a young man brought his girlfriend into a private room at a local museum. A path of rose petals led to a cloth-covered table at the far end of the room, then encircled it. In the course of the evening, he dropped to one knee and asked her to marry him.

That’s how my niece got engaged.

What is your engagement story? How did you propose to your wife? How did your husband propose to you? Other than the proposal itself, what made it special?

Fiction

Use your story as the basis for a scene in the book you’re writing. You can also create a short story around the proposal. What elements would your characters add? What would they omit? How do they react to the event? Does she accept? Does he back out at the last minute?

How can you create drama in the scene that might not have existed in your story? Is it a turning point in the story? Is it expected or unexpected?

Build a scene on your experience.

How-To Articles

A proposal includes more details than someone kneeling in front of the other. How did you set a budget for the ring? How did you choose the ring? Did you do it together? What details does someone need to know before choosing a ring? What is cut, clarity, etc.?

How do you choose the venue where you’re going to propose? How do you make the proposal unique and memorable?

What do you need to know about each other before you ever consider getting married? How do you know when you’re ready to get married?

How do you build relationships with the family of the person you’re dating? Can you commit to that family for the rest of your life? How will you split holidays between the families?

Do you want children? How many? How will you handle the faith aspects of your relationship? What church will you attend? How involved will you be at church? What about finances? Sex?

There’s the romance of an engagement but there’s also the practical issues involved. Your readers need to discuss many of these issues before they decide to marry. You can offer insights from your own experience and guide your readers through the process. Your piece may show them something they never thought of before.

Children’s Articles

You may not have thought of children’s markets as possible markets for anything surrounding an engagement. However, you can create articles for children from unique aspects of an engagement.

Nature pieces: What is a diamond? How is it formed?

History pieces: What is the history behind a proposal? A dowry? How do other cultures propose marriage? Why is it a tradition for the man to ask the woman’s father for her hand? Why does he ask her to marry him while on bended knee?

Miscellaneous pieces: How is jewelry made?

You may not share your engagement experience in a children’s piece but you can get a lot of ideas from it.

Think Outside the Ring Box

You can find unique writing ideas in unexpected places, even your own engagement. Some of those ideas may have nothing to do with an engagement or marriage. Use your imagination. You may find more than just the ring to write about.

© Deborah Christensen

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