devozine Writers Workshop
The devozine staff has designed this workshop model for use by youth workers who want to encourage young people and/or adults to write. We have had good response to this workshop and have always received good meditations. You are welcome to use this workshop model in a variety of settings where youth and/or adults who write for youth are present. For the best results, you should allow at least 1.5 hours for the workshop.
NOTE: This workshop requires that you have available copies of devozine’s writers guidelines and upcoming themes.
1. WELCOME AND OPENING DEVO/PRAYER
- SAY: “This workshop is designed for youth and adults who want to learn how to write meditations for a youth audience. It is for you whether or not you’ve written for publication before. The session will be conducted in two parts. In Part 1, we’ll talk about what makes good devotional writing. In Part 2, we’ll practice writing for devozine.”
- If your group is not familiar with devozine, SAY: “devozine is The Upper Room’s daily devotional magazine for young people. In each issue, there are nine themes, one for each week; the daily readings reflect on these themes. Teenagers and adults write about their experiences in life and the ways their relationship with God has influenced their lives.” (For more information, read the devozine story.)
- Consider opening the session with today’s meditation from devozine.
2. OPENING ACTIVITY
- If your group members are not familiar with one another, open with a brief icebreaker activity to make people feel more relaxed. It can be something as simple as asking people to tell the group the following: name, age (if a teen!), and a fun fact about themselves.
- If your group members are familiar with one another, lead people in a brief “checking in” activity, such as asking people where they have seen God this week.
PART 1: WHAT MAKES GOOD DEVOTIONAL WRITING?
1. POPCORN DISCUSSION ABOUT “DEVOTIONAL”
Invite the group to discuss these questions:
- In your experience, what is a devo or a devotion? (NOTE: Some may call it a meditation.)
- How is devotional time important to you? to your youth group or a small group of which you’re a part?
- What are some examples of types of devos or the settings in which they are used? (Types—prayer, scripture reading, journaling, prayer walk, meditation on a song, the Examen. Settings—family devotions, camps, retreats, youth group, individual devos, meetings.)
- What types of devotions have you led? What did you do? What was it like?
2. POINTERS ON GOOD DEVOTIONAL WRITING
SAY: “Let’s talk about what makes devotional writing ‘good.’”
- DEVOTIONAL WRITING SHOULD INVITE PEOPLE TO COME CLOSER TO GOD.
- Have you ever been around someone who made you feel like you wanted to be closer to God—someone who made you hungry for God? A good devotion can and should draw you closer to God and to others.
- The trick is not to be the best or the fanciest writer but to be open and honest, inviting others into the presence of God.
- DEVOTIONAL WRITING SHOULD TELL ABOUT REAL EXPERIENCES OF REAL PEOPLE WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO APPLY THEIR FAITH TO DAILY LIFE.
- You don’t have to have all the answers to your questions and dilemmas to write a good devotion. Sometimes just describing the struggle or articulating your questions and problems may help and encourage others who are struggling with the same issue.
- Be authentic, honest—write about personal experiences. We write best about what we’ve experienced, don’t we? In 1 John 1:1, we read: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the word of life.” John was writing about the things he had seen and experienced—and this makes for powerful writing.
- Your journal can be a great source of devotional writing because your journal records your real thoughts about what you have experienced. What we write from the heart very often will touch the hearts of others.
- DEVOTIONAL WRITING SHOULD EXPRESS ONLY ONE MAIN IDEA. IT SHOULD LEAVE ONE MEMORABLE IMAGE WITH THE READER.
- This is an especially important point since devotional readings are usually brief. Don’t give in to the temptation to try to say a lot in one devo. Just pick one point to make.
- Use simple concrete images—these are the most powerful. Jesus described himself in simple images that are easy to grasp and remember: “I am the light,” “I am the door,” and “I am the good shepherd.” When you use one memorable image, readers can take that with them and remember it at other times during the day.
- Use words that paint a picture. You want to guide the reader to a particular place so that the reader thinks, feels, hears, sees, and touches what you want them to experience. Good writing opens the readers to their own treasure of sensory memories.
- DEVOTIONAL WRITING SHOULD LEAD PERSONS INTO FURTHER CONVERSATION WITH GOD AFTER THEY FINISH READING THE MEDITATION.
- A good devotion will help readers to take time during the day to be aware of God’s presence. Reading the devotion is not the end of what they need to do each day. They need to go on being with God throughout the day. That’s why it’s good to conclude your devo with a reflective question or thought or with a prayer or a journal prompt.
3. ANY QUESTIONS?
(Answer any questions before asking people to write.)
4. FREE WRITE
(Pass out paper and pencils.)
- SAY: “Now that we know what devotional writing is, let’s start writing. I don’t know about you, but I often have a hard time getting started. So to get your creative juices flowing, we are going to begin with a free write. For 3–5 minutes we are going to write nonstop. Write about anything—how you feel, something that happened today or yesterday, anything—just don’t stop writing. Don’t lift your pen off the paper until I say STOP. If you get stuck, write “I don’t know what to write” until you think of something. OK? Ready. Set. Write.”
- ASK: “How was the free write—easy or hard? Would anyone like to read aloud what you wrote? This is a good exercise to get the juices flowing. You can do it by yourself at home.”
PART 2: WRITING A DEVOTION
1. THEMES LIST REVIEW
- SAY: “Now that we’ve gotten our creative juices flowing, let’s look over a list of themes that we might write about for devozine. As we go through these, pay attention to the ones that spark an idea or bring to mind a memory or an experience. Jot down notes to help you remember these ideas or memories so you can pick one to write about later in this session.”
Go through the themes and questions, pointing out the different angles writers may take.
- SAY: “Did one of these themes remind you of something that has happened to you or of something about which you have strong feelings? If so, consider turning this memory or feeling into a devotion. You may use one of the “expanded questions” to frame your devo. Or perhaps you would like to write your devotion in the form of a prayer or a conversation with God. If none of the themes speak to you, write about anything—an issue in your life, something that’s on your mind, or an important moment in your faith story.”
2. WRITING A DEVO
(Pass out copies of the writers guidelines and, if needed, Tips for Adult Writers.)
- Invite people to browse briefly through the guidelines (and tips).
- SAY: “Let’s write a devo! Remember—be brief, to the point, and deal with just one thing. Don’t try to cover too much ground. The devotions in devozine are only 150–250 words long. But don’t worry about stopping to count now. Just write for the next 20–30 minutes.”
(Allow 20–30 minutes to write.)
- ASK: “Would anyone like to read aloud what you have written?”
(Allow a few minutes for volunteers to share their devos.)
3. WRITING A 5-SECOND PRAYER
- Invite people to browse briefly through the guidelines (and tips).
- SAY: “The last thing we will do is to write a 5-Second Prayer to go with your devotion. You may choose to write a prayer for your own devotion or for one that someone else has read aloud. The 5-Second Prayer should express what you want God to know about what you have written—in honest, conversational language. Or if you prefer, write a question that would cause you or the reader to think more deeply about what you’ve written. Or write a “Thought for the Day” that relates to your devo and offers something to continue to“chew on” throughout the day.”
Allow 3 to 5 minutes for writing the 5-Second Prayer.)
- ASK: “Would anyone like to read their prayer?”
(As the leader of this workshop, please collect the devos and mail or email them to devozine.)
- SAY: “The last thing I want to ask you to do is to take a note card and on one side write what you thought of the workshop today. What was good? What needs to improved for next time? This has been a great time to hear your thoughts and to experience your gifts and skills. I hope that this magazine will be an encouragement in your life. Thanks for sharing. Keep writing!”