“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their worlds to the ends of the world.” (
People who preach the gospel have many ways to use their Spiritual gifts. For some, this means pastoring a church. For others, it means serving on the mission field. Or, a person may dedicate their life to teaching children, youth or adults in Sunday school. And a few seek the Lord’s leadership by writing for the Christian market.
As a writer for religious publications, preachers have the opportunity to touch the lives of multitudes every week, every month. For example, an inspirational message on the back of a church bulletin reaches over 300,000 weekly. And many Christian magazines send a message to 50,000 or more each month.
As a writer, realize the awesome responsibility you’ve been given to share the love of Jesus with thousands. How can you use your gifts? What writing tips make a difference in being published? What type of magazine articles can be directed toward the Christian market?
Suggestions for Being Published
What makes a difference in your article being accepted – or ending up in the trash can? Depending on the writer you ask, you will receive a variety of answers. Experienced writers agree: these tips will help you submit an article for publication.
• Study several copies of a magazine before submitting a query letter or manuscript. You ask: How can this help? By showing a profile of the people who read this magazine. Look at the age of the people. Are they young families, or senior adults? Advertisements provide a clue to the economic level of the readers. For example, do travel articles cover exotic, expensive locations – or does it suggest ways to enjoy traveling on a budget?
Another reason for reading back copies: Does the magazine publish articles offensive to the Christian lifestyle? Would you, as a writer, want your name in this publication?
• When quoting Scripture include complete, accurate references and the particular version used. Check writer guidelines for the preferred version.
• Always honor deadlines. Editors must meet their schedules. Building a reputation as a writer who beats deadlines gives you an advantage. In fact, email or use postal mail, early. Avoid last minute work. If you had to rush, your work likely will indicate it.
• Expect to edit and rewrite. Many writers make a first draft on magazine articles by putting down thoughts quickly. Then, they go back and edit and rewrite. By allowing the manuscript to “get cold” and reading again in a couple of days, you see the words in a new light.
• When you query an editor, mention that photos are available. Learn to use a digital camera and email pictures along with articles. Smaller magazines lack the resources to send a photographer to the location.
• Serious writers understand the importance of using technology. Today, with Internet connection, scanners, email, and computers a writer can work and never have to leave the comforts of home. Although these tools make work easier, they are not necessary to producing copy for the Christian market. However, all magazines insist on typed copy – not handwritten. If you do not type, locate a person in your church and pay them to type your work. Then you may email, or send a diskette or a CD to the publication.
• Collect writing ideas from everyday life. Listen to conversations as you wait in a grocery line. While listening to a speaker, take notes. As you read inspirational books, keep a note pad nearby.
• Use your five senses in writing. Children, especially, learn best this way. How can you describe a beautiful sunset created by God? Using words, show the reader how the bark on a tree feels to the bare hands. Test your olfactory senses by pulling in the fragrance of a beautiful rose. Think of your senses as a gift from God — one that makes the world a better place.
• Block off time for assignments of different lengths. For example, if you are assigned a long Sunday school curriculum unit, schedule a time each day and commit yourself to write.
• As you become more experience, you’ll find shortcuts to save time. Keep a journal of these tips that work for you;
• Make a daily writing schedule. Jot down deadlines on your calendar. Do you need to email an editor about an assignment? Where can you find data on the number of new churches established each year?
• When writing a query letter, send published clips of your work. For example, you want to write a travel article for a Christian senior magazine. Sent clips of a published travel article focusing on seniors. If you have not sold articles, include in the query letter that you have traveled on senior trips, mentioning sites that are friendly to older adults who might need special assistance. Always include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE).
• Use sidebars for material that supplements the regular article, yet doesn’t seem to fit into the body of the manuscript. This breaks up the article and provides interest to the reader.
Focusing on Magazine Articles
Writers share their faith by inspiring others to action, by instructing teachers to develop interesting curriculum that reach the audience and by entertaining children through Bible activities that teach. The following article types lend themselves to the Christian market:
Inspirational – If you can use material objects to relay a spiritual truth, the inspirational market may be for you. Think of ways to encourage a new church member, to equip young parents who have moved their membership to your congregation, or to uplift a person’s spirits.
Humor – Many people can tell a funny story, yet few understand the mechanics of writing one. If you can make an editor laugh, you’ll find many opportunities for this style of writing.
How -To – Two basic kinds of how-to articles are project and problem-solving. Both are straightforward and require a step-by-step process. In the project article, the reader learns how to make a Bible school craft, the advantages of doing it and reassures the simplicity of the project. The problem solving speaks of a concern (such as how to help your church grow), advice from a recognized leader or an anecdote that illustrates a point.
Travel – Did you know that travel and tourism are major industries? Therefore, travel article continue to increase in popularity. Think of locations where church groups might visit. Is there a site available for youth groups? Include activities of interest to the readers, information on lodging, restaurants and wholesome entertainment.
Realize that not everyone who reads your article will actually travel to this destination. Some remain “arm-chair” travelers. Therefore, make your information interesting material that educates as well as entertains.
Interview/Profile – Closer to a biography than other articles, the profile uses comments from others to give total personality coverage.
Questions & Answer – In ten to twenty questions, the writer provides questions and the subject of the article gives the answer. Or, it might consist of several authorities in the field. For example, ask a series of questions on how small churches provide activities to reach young people and teens.
Both novice and veterans writers benefit from attending Christian writing conferences. Check the Cross & Quill: The Christian Writers Newsletter for an update here. For a annual listing on writing for the Christian Market, use Sally E. Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide, Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois.
Writing for the Christian market is a ministry. God calls preachers to communicate His word to the world through both speaking and writing. Pray that God will guide you to use the highest quality of biblical and professional standards as you reach multitudes for Christ.
Carolyn Ross Tomlin is a ministry wife and writer living in Jackson, TN. She has published over 3,000 magazine articles in every major denomination, and frequently leads workshops on teaching others to write and publish for the Christian market.