More than anything as a pastor, you desire to supply life-giving truth to people that walk through your doors, as well as those who engage with your church online. Motivating them to stay grounded in God’s love is your top goal.
There’s no doubt you have a calling to inspire and support –– to shepherd your flock –– but how can you do that effectively in this day and age? If you find yourself wondering how to keep up with the growing demand of online ministry, sermon writing, and pastoring your church, you’re not alone.
Let’s face it – times are changing and saying that the church needs to adapt is an understatement. 2020 is for certain a year of change, but with that it also should be a year for growth – for you and for your church.
Your digital presence matters now more than ever, but don’t let that scare you. Even if you feel ill equipped to give your church a stronger digital presence and uncertain of all that comes with online streaming, social media, live broadcasts, etc., there is good news… more and more people are looking to digital resources for hope, encouragement, and truth.
You don’t have to be an expert. In fact, you don’t even have to recreate content for the various digital platforms, and stress about coming up with new and creative ways of saying the same thing.
Why? Because you’ve already done that work –– it’s all in your weekly sermon. With more and more people getting their content from digital spaces, it’s more important now than ever before for pastors to get into that space in an efficient and impactful way.
You can do this by leaning into your weekly sermons – something you’ve already spent time, energy, and resources writing and studying – by turning them into online devotionals that can be shared in various ways through any digital platform you choose.
As you contemplate how to provide your people with more content for their spiritual growth and maintain encouragement throughout the week, consider the benefits you’ll offer when you transpose your sermons to simpler versions and offer them as digital devotionals.
Devotionals are a great way to provide encouraging content throughout the week to keep your congregation engaged with your church, growing in their faith, and remaining grounded in the Word of God.
There’s no reason your weekly sermon, or even an entire sermon series, can’t be restructured to be used as online devotional content that fuels what you’ve already talked about on Sunday morning.
Why Should Pastors Invest in Creating Devotionals?
The majority of people are more likely to grow in their faith if they are provided with opportunities to easily connect with the Lord. Many don’t naturally have their own set of spiritual disciplines they carry out on a daily basis that will sustain them.
A weekly or daily devotional created by their very own pastor or church staff is a powerful way to assist people in their everyday walk.
We’re seeing that spiritual formation is shifting more than ever to increased at-home and on-demand needs and preferences. Keeping up with the digital age (and also bearing in mind how unpredictable our world has proven to be) will only grow your reach and impact higher numbers of people seeking peace with God and inspiration to live out their faith.
And, when your members engage with your devotional, they’ll be seeing your church’s logo, campus images, or staff photos. This will maintain a connection with them that sticks in their minds and hearts, reminding them of the belonging and camaraderie they feel at your church.
You basically get one hour to pour into your congregation every week. What can you do to leverage the other 167 hours they’re not hearing you preach?
Don’t underestimate the power of the content you create for your Sunday sermon. There is much to leverage and extrapolate from for further use throughout the week that will not only help others engage outside of Sunday morning, but encourage them to deepen their faith.
You have the capability of encouraging and challenging occasional online viewers and regular attendees alike by creating devotionals they can open and engage with at their convenience. This way, you’ll have multiple touch points of discipleship throughout the week. Think about the potential for deeper impact!
Your sermons wouldn’t have to be a one-and-done message for the week that might be easily forgotten. You could expand and reiterate your thoughts in the devotionals each week throughout the duration of the sermon series.
Another reason to consider developing devotionals is that it would give opportunity for your people to use them as evangelism and outreach tools. Individuals would be able to share them with friends, family, and coworkers just by hitting the share button on their device. Alternately, evangelistic groups could use your devotionals to teach, preach, and witness when doing outreach locally or abroad.
Similarly, your lay ministers could use the devotionals as a helpful tool of discipleship as they meet with their small groups, students, and one-on-one mentoring relationships. All of your devotionals can be saved which builds a resource library to pull from in the future.
Sermons Are the Perfect Place to Find Devotional Content
You’ve already written many sermons. Consider the content you already have at your fingertips and could tap into simply by referencing your sermons. You’ve already put in the time and effort to formulate well-researched and well-crafted sermons. Just think of all the mini versions you could produce from the work you’ve already done.
Many books published by pastors are simply sermon series turned into books. Look at your sermon series (already written) like a detailed outline. All you would have to do is expound on what you’ve compiled, adding more details and depth.
Developing your sermon calendar plan takes a lot of thought. Putting together the actual details of each sermon possibly takes the biggest chunk of your time every single week. There’s research, study, drafting, writing, more study, and of course, delivery.
When you develop a well thought out preaching plan, you can look at a month, quarter, or even a year at a time to see the themes and topics you are wanting to cover. The same is true for devotional content, but instead of reinventing the wheel or doubling down on your efforts, why not get more out of the content you’re already pouring so much time, energy, and effort into?
Not to mention when you create ways to utilize the content from your weekly sermons, you’re putting that message in front of your congregation more often and on a variety of different platforms making it much more accessible.
This will allow others to sit with the message longer and apply some of the principles in a practical way that can lead to actual life-change and transformational living.
We’re here to encourage you to use your hard work for more than just a one-shot sermon that might last a week or less in your member’s minds. For relatively little extra investment, your weekly messages can live longer and become more accessible than ever before!
Transforming your sermons into devotionals creates the possibility for fresh content that really comes from something that already exists. You’ll be getting multiple uses out of your one sermon. Not only is this a more efficient use of your time and resources, but allows your sermon to ‘live’ longer and be applied by your congregation more often and in more specific ways.
Devotional Delivery Systems
There are a variety of different delivery systems you can use to get your devotionals in front of your audience. The key is to utilize the resources you already have at hand, while also implementing tools your congregation may already be engaging with.
We hope this list of options will help you figure out what might be a good fit as you consider getting started.
Delivery System 1: Email
Email is one of the simplest ways to get your devotionals to readers, and might be one of the most underutilized. Some of us are in the school of thought that email is dead, but that’s just not the case.
More and more people rely on email as one of their main sources of communication when it comes to services and product updates, news, and pertinent information a company or organization has to share.
If your church isn’t yet using email, they need to be. Although email shouldn’t be the only tool you use to communicate important details, it’s one of many tools you should be leaning into to share with your members and guests. Here are just a few things you’d want to communicate via email:
- Important scheduling changes
- Changes/updates to specific ministries
- Details on special events or launches
- New series updates
- Links to weekly sermons
- Highlights and overview of what’s new at the church
- Ways to get plugged in (i.e. daily devotionals)
By having your members subscribe to your emails, not only can you provide important updates, news, announcements, and any other important communications related to your church, you can pre-schedule your content and even determine who receives what and when.
There are many email scheduling tools your church could be utilizing and they all vary on price point and functionality. Not sure where to start? Here’s a list of several top email service providers:
Delivery System 2: Blog
Posting your devotionals on a blog is another great way to share this type of content. If your church doesn’t have a blog, they are very simple to create and somewhat easy to maintain as long as you have a content plan.
This is where a daily devotional comes in handy. If you treat it as a blog, you are driving more and more traffic to your church website on a daily basis, while also adding value to the reader. Devotionals also provide great shareable content, which will bring more people to these pages.
Blogs are excellent because the content there is accessible at any time, and you can also link to your blog from social media posts.
Delivery System 3: YouVersion
YouVersion, creator of the Bible App and the Bible App for Kids, is an excellent resource for biblical content. Their goal is to create a daily rhythm that puts people in the Word of God.
You can use this platform to post your own daily devotional content and reading plans that are easily accessible by anyone. You can also post special events and even details about your church and when you meet.
You can learn more about this resource and how to use it here.
Delivery System 4: Social Media
You may love it or you may hate it, but the truth is, social media isn’t going away anytime soon. With about 3 billion people using social media, platforms have become more accessible than ever, and if used properly, can be a powerful gateway between your church and your community.
There are many platforms you could be using, but here’s a quick rundown of the top platforms that you might consider as you grow to build your social presence and impact for your church.
There are other variables to consider within these platforms. Some churches find that certain ministries enjoy certain platforms depending on who they’re trying to reach and what type of information they are wanting to share.
Many churches are moving towards utilizing Facebook Groups and not just pages. This allows them to build an online community where those who are part of the group are generating discussion by asking questions, sharing tips, etc. These certainly have to be monitored and there are a variety of ways to do that, but Facebook Groups are a great resource for churches to take advantage of and an excellent place to share church devotionals.
Delivery System #5: Video
The primary place people are consuming video content is most certainly on YouTube.
If your church doesn’t have a YouTube account, you should get one. And with that, your video content should go beyond the Sunday sermon.
Think about it – right now people are consuming content like never before. People receive content in a variety of ways, but having devotionals in both written and visual form allows you to reach a broader audience.
Consider shooting simple videos (could be done with an iPhone!) and offering a short, devotional which can then be shared on social media, as well as a video platform such as YouTube.
Consider allowing others on your staff or volunteer teams to give video devotionals as well. This allows your church to offer a good variety of communication styles and takes the burden off of you to produce all of it.
Delivery System #6: Podcast
Your church may not have a podcast, but perhaps it’s something you have been considering.
If you do currently host a podcast (or plan to in the future), this is a great place to offer your devotionals and share encouragement and inspiration throughout the week.
Pull in resources from your weekly sermon and use your podcast to dive deeper into your weekly message for those who want or need more.
Consider bringing in guests to speak into specific topics or host a “conversation” where you discuss different topics with others. Bringing in another voice is a good way to offer a unique perspective and have a more candid and casual conversation that allows people to think about your sermon and devotional content from a different angle.
Delivery System #7: Print
Even though we’re focusing primarily on digital content here, don’t forget that sometimes print options are helpful in providing a way for you to deliver content in a tangible way.
One way to utilize printing options with your devotionals is to turn them into simple PDF downloads that can be accessible on digital platforms, as well as easily printed for people who may prefer that option.
You can also turn these into handouts that could be distributed among small group discussions, Bible study groups, or even church gatherings.
If you turned a sermon series into a devotional series, you could easily create a printable booklet that offers a daily devotional. For example, a 4-week sermon series could become a 30-day devotional. From that, you would take the big ideas of the weekly sermon and parse them out into related topics throughout the week.
Not only does this allow you to offer an additional spiritual development tool, it’s an excellent way to recycle your weekly sermon content into practical and tangible offerings.
5 Marks of Great Devotional Content
As you plan to put together devotional content for your members, it’s a given you don’t want to waste time — for you or them. No doubt, you’d like it to be excellent, not just mediocre… and it definitely can be excellent!
As you get a consistent system up and running, let this list help you check whether or not it’s making sense for your calendar and also beneficial for your followers. Excellence doesn’t have to mean complicated.
To be great, your devotional content needs to have the following characteristics:
1. Your church’s online devotional should be shareable
Parsing out your sermons into shorter, straight-forward devotionals is a great way to create content that’s shareable. If you’re wondering if your content is shareable, ask yourself this question: does this content add value?
This is especially important as it relates to social media. You are competing with thousands of voices and messages that any number of people are scrolling through on any given day.
What about your content is going to make them stop their scroll? Try and create messaging for social media that stands out from the rest. You can do this through strong imagery, engaging questions, and 1-liner captions that cause people to stop and think.
Chances are your message is already chock full of this type of messaging, it just needs to be recycled and refined for a different platform – one that will ultimately point people back to your sermon. Daily devotionals are great at accomplishing this.
There are ways you can track if your devotional is being seen. Depending on the platform beings used, you can access the analytics and review what content has performed the best based on a variety of criteria.
2. Your church’s online devotional should be esthetically pleasing
People are more likely to continue clicking and reading your content if it’s well designed and easy to follow. Take a look at other ministry’s devotionals, websites, and emails. Make note of the ones you like, and also get feedback from your members of different ages and backgrounds.
This type of feedback will help you determine themes and opinions surrounding what people like and are naturally attracted to. It is especially important to gather feedback from others if you’re trying to attract an age demographic that you don’t fall into.
Bottom line, it may seem like an afterthought, but esthetics are important, and just like the way you package your sermon series, it’s important to think through the imagery and visuals that support your devotional content.
The good news is if you pull from your sermon series to create devotional content, you can utilize the graphics that already exist for that series –– don’t just recycle the messaging, recycle the designs as well.
3. Your church’s online devotional should be user-friendly
Nobody wants to waste time trying to find content or make sense of it. Accessibility is key – the vast majority of people are using a variety of digital channels to consume information.
Successful church communications require the utilization of a broad range of services and channels – not solely one platform.
With that in mind, consider taking your daily devotionals and sharing them on a variety of channels (social media, email, blog, YouTube) so they are easily accessible to a much broader range of people.
You want to make your devotional content impossible for people to miss!
4. Your church’s online devotional should help people have ‘aha’ moments
Your weekly sermon is powerful. Not only does it share the message of the Gospel, you’ve spent time and energy researching, writing, and perfecting your ability to deliver it. Your congregation returns because they are drawn to the way you preach.
Think through the pain points of the reader. What are the predominant issues and topics they are tackling on a day-to-day basis? What sort of cultural crisis are they up against? These things should be driving your content development and provide a foundation for you to go deeper into the issues your congregation is facing.
Take it a step further by thinking through thought-provoking questions that not only challenge the reader to consider many different angles of any given issue, but also equips them with the biblical tools they need as they face these issues head on.
The neat thing about devotionals is that you can take your Sunday sermon and put it into the hands of people to access at their convenience over and over again throughout the week.
Be confident in the strength of your message and take time to develop ways to break that message down into smaller devotionals for your members to access.
Focus honing in on one, simple message for each devotional. It will be tempting to try and pack in a lot of ideas into a single day, but remember – you have the whole week to unpack the sermon into an online daily devotional.
5. Your church’s online devotional should be congruent with the delivery system
Whatever delivery system you choose to utilize for your devotional content, make sure you develop the devotional in a way that works with that system. For example, maybe you’ve decided to simply break down your Sunday sermon into five days of inspiring social media posts.
Great – but remember, a social media post will have some limitations. For example, Instagram will require a strong graphic to go with it and will not allow you to include a link. You’ll also want to consider the length of the message.
If you are sharing on social media, you’ll want to pull in shorter messaging that’s easy to read and has a strong caption line.
If you write out a longer devotional, you may want to post it on a blog that’s hosted on your website. If you do that, take a piece from that and share the shorter piece on social media. If you use email, consider sharing an intro message and an invitation to read today’s devotional while including a link.
Steps to Adapting a Sermon Series Into a Devotional
Hopefully by now you’re convinced that utilizing your sermon series for devotional content is an efficient and resourceful way to engage with your online audience without recreating new content.
As a pastor you’re stretched thin as it is. Why not get the most bang for your buck out of your weekly sermon –– a message you’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and resources crafting?
One of the best ways to do this while also meeting the need of producing relevant and engaging digital content is by adapting your sermon series into an online devotional.
So, how do you create your first devotional piece from your sermons?
Choose Your Sermon Series
First, you’ll need to pick your theme. There are a few directions you could go with this. One easy place to start is to pick your favorite sermon series. Another idea is to identify the most popular or effective series you’ve delivered.
Whichever direction you decide to go, make sure the sermons are relevant to what’s going on in the world. Lean into your community, the themes and topics circulating in the general population, as well as what’s culturally relevant at the time.
These things don’t have to directly speak into what you’re preaching, but your sermons and online devotions should be influenced by what’s generally relevant at the time.
Once you’ve decided which sermon series you’re going to pull from, you should have plenty of content to condense into many devotionals.
To implement this process on a broader scale, consider starting with your yearly preaching calendar and pull out the themes you want to turn into online devotionals. By doing this in advance, you will have a head start on the research and when it comes time to write the sermon, you’ll already be thinking about how the content will also serve as an online devotional.
Highlight the Main Point
As you begin to edit your first sermon and condense it into a devotional, highlight the most important point –– the big idea of the message –– and pick one main example or story that supports it.
Now, fill in word for word what you would like to convey about that point. Remember, it’s not a sermon, but a brief thought and encouragement for the day. You want it to take your reader five minutes or less to read it. So it needs to be simple, engaging, and to the point.
You may consider closing with a main thought to consider or a short prayer to help readers submit their hearts to the Lord and ask God to help them apply it directly.
Don’t be afraid to add your own style through storytelling, powerful analogies, or practical advice, and just like in your sermon, keep it relational so your audience can connect with what you’re saying on a deeper level.
Identify Your Audience
An important step that you do not want to skip is to set aside a little time to identify your audience. If you don’t know who you’re speaking to, it will be difficult to come across as relevant and keep your members engaged.
Think about all the different types of people who belong to your congregation. There are probably singles of various ages, individuals who attend by themselves, and families with varying marital and dependant circumstances.
Remember that males and females generally receive information from different perspectives. The same is true for people at different ages and spiritual maturity levels. So who would you most like to reach with your devotional?
Perhaps create a list with your top priority as #1, etc. or a pie chart showing the percentages of what people groups you’d like to see engaged with your content.
Put yourself in their various roles, circumstances, and challenges. Someone who has recently been divorced is going to interpret a devotional about marriage quite differently than someone who has a healthy relationship.
A young adult is going to consider financial advice from a different angle than someone in their retirement years. A new believer won’t grasp concepts in the same way as one who has walked with God for 40 years.
Surely, you already know all of this, but it’s worth slowing down a bit and considering all these unique angles as you venture into this new spiritual tool for your people.
Choose Your Delivery Method
Your second objective is to choose your delivery method. What system makes the most sense for you right now? Consider your calendar, whether or not you have help on the project, and what system would be the quickest and easiest way to get it launched.
Consider the resources you have at hand and the way you are currently communicating with your church. Don’t be afraid to incorporate new communication channels, but don’t overwhelm yourself by doing too much.
It’s better to be really effective with a few than less effective with many. And remember… you can always switch up your delivery method and try new things in the future.
Formulate a Volunteer Team
Once you’re ready to launch your devotional, consider formulating a volunteer team. You’ve already produced the content through your weekly sermon. What better way to allow that message to go further then by soliciting help from a variety of people to help you do just that.
Chances are, there are gifted and talented writers, communicators, storytellers, artists, and creatives sitting in your congregation who would love the opportunity to serve in such a way! Seek them out and build a team to help you turn your sermons into devotionals and deliver them to your church and community.
Not only will this allow you to be more effective in your approach and execution of creating online devotionals, it will free you up to focus solely on crafting your sermons and pastoring your church.
Be sure to include the types of people who will most likely be reading the devotional (your target audience), and try to select a variety of people who will commit and give you honest feedback.
As this team grows, consider identifying a leader for this team so you’re not doing all the reminding and planning of meetings, and someone else who is able to lead the charge on this effort.
Because this is new for you, it’s wise to start small when launching your devotional. Don’t have enormous expectations for yourself as you begin –– especially if you don’t have any help just yet.
As mentioned before, choose one sermon series to pull from to create a condensed version to deliver. You could start with providing just one devotional a week, and then increase as you get more comfortable with the process.
Once you have a handle on how you want to deliver it, how you want it to look, and you’ve found a healthy rhythm, it’s a good idea to find some volunteer support to help you write and deliver the content.
We’ve spent a great deal of time talking about the benefits of curating digital content for your church and how you can do this efficiently by creating devotionals from your sermon series.
Now we want to share some examples of sermon series that would translate well into online devotionals so you can start thinking creatively about how you’d turn these into weekly or daily devotionals for your church.
This is Us Sermon Series
This series, coming from Resound Church in Hillsboro, OR, is all about us–the church. Because the church isn’t just a building, it’s people. This series explores topics like community, friendship, and the foundation of healthy relationships, and is a great example of a sermon series that could be turned into an online devotional that’s culturally relevant.
James Sermon Series
This series, from Foothill Church in Glendora, CA, covers the book of James and is filled with practical wisdom that challenges us to put our faith into action. Turning a book of the Bible sermon series into a devotional will allow your congregation to dive even deeper into the historical context you are teaching on.
Ephesians Sermon Series
This series, from Seacoast Community Church in Encinitas, CA, is about the book of Ephesians and finding our place in the family of God. This book is chock full of relevant concepts that your congregation can apply in today’s day and age through a daily or weekly devotional setting.
At the Movies Sermon Series
This series, from Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, FL, takes a look at popular films to see how they intersect with God’s truth for your life. Turning this into an online devotional would be a fun way to keep your congregation engaged especially during the summer months.
Exodus Sermon Series
This series, from West Ridge Church in Dallas, GA, takes a close look at the book of Exodus and unpacks how God is drawing us out of where we are currently to be closer to Him. Consider unpacking old testament books into online devotionals to give your church the opportunity to better understand the history of this time.
Colossians Sermon Series
This series, from Evergreen Church in Bloomington, MN, walks through the book of Colossians and the idea that everyone is looking for happiness. This 11-week series unpacks our human behaviors toward achieving happiness and discovering that Jesus is the ultimate source for everything we need… an excellent study for a daily devotional.
I Am Sermon Series
This series, from Grace Chapel in Englewood, CO, unpacks the lesser known or lesser considered traits of God, taking people on a journey of discovering who God is and how He is present in their lives. Creating an online devotional on this topic will allow you to unpack some of these deeper concepts with your church.
Philippians Sermon Series
This series, from Worship Center in Lancaster, PA, is all about what we can learn from Paul in his letter to the Philippian church. Take the book of Philippians and turn it into an online devotional to encourage your church to do further study as they learn about the early church and how to apply what they learn in their own lives.
Acts Sermon Series
This series, from City Lights Church in St. Louis, MO, works its way through the first eight chapters of Acts. The overall theme unpacks the coming of the Holy Spirit and how the world got flipped upside down. The study of the Holy Spirit is vast and this type of sermon series would be an excellent option for devotional adaptation.
Daniel Sermon Series
This series, from Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK, is about the book of Daniel and the conviction Daniel lived his life by. Take your congregation through the powerful stories of Daniel and show them how to apply these same principles in their own lives today as you unpack this through a weekly devotional.
Your church doesn’t need new content to be relevant online
We hope this article has proven useful and given you a great deal of encouragement when it comes to curating digital content for your church.
With more and more people looking to digital channels for information, education, entertainment, and more, it’s essential that the church is constantly staying relevant in this digital age.
That thought alone can be overwhelming for any pastor. Not only do you carry the burdens of your church, you shepherd the individuals who attend on any given weekend, and are responsible for creating and delivering an inspiring sermon each week – one that fosters spiritual growth and motivates people to grow.
Coming up with new content to share online shouldn’t be another burden you have to add to your plate. Instead of trying to create new content that engages online, lean into the content that you already have –– your weekly sermon.
Your sermon is already engaging, well-researched, inspirational, and relevant. Repackaging your sermon into devotionals isn’t just a great idea, it’s a smart idea. This will not only allow you to focus on what you do best – what God has called you to do – it will help carry the message of the gospel even further.
Who knows who you could reach by developing online devotionals from your sermons series.