Writing for Life and Ministry – Brandon O’Brien

Writing for Life and Ministry Brandon O'Brien
Writing for Life and Ministry: A Practical Guide to the Writing Process for Teachers and Preachers by Brandon J. O'Brien
Published by Moody Publishers on July 7, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Writing
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Is Your Biggest Ministry Obstacle Writer’s Block?
As an active member in ministry, writing is usually inevitable. Perhaps you approach these opportunities with excitement—or maybe you procrastinate to avoid the task altogether, your pages remaining forever blank. No matter how you feel about writing, approaching a project can be overwhelming. Knowing what to say can be as confusing as knowing where to begin.
Perhaps for you, the first step in the writing process is simply to demystify the writing process, to realize that you are capable of accomplishing your projects. If so, then Writing for Life and Ministry is for you. Seasoned writer and writing coach Brandon J. O’Brien examines the obstacles that often inhibit ministry leaders from thriving as writers. Most importantly, he simplifies the writing process, so it is both accessible and flexible to fit your style.
Don’t let the craft of writing keep you from flourishing in your ministries. With this resource, you’ll learn how to plan, draft, and revise. The included exercises will enable you to hone your craft and develop your skills. Best of all, you’ll be ready to tackle that writing project you’ve been putting off with confidence.

I’ve always been a “writing pastor.” In my early years, I stuck woodenly to my full manuscript. In later years, I learned to deviate from and return to the script with ease, as the situation called for it. While I could preach or teach extemporaneously—and did so in small group settings—and even though I always knew the content of my message fairly intimately (save on a few occasions, I’ll admit), the comfort in manuscripting messages came from the future ability to transform those messages into other mediums.

A couple of months ago, I stepped down from active ministry in order to move pursue a doctorate while following my wife’s career. One of my major projects during this time is to take all of this material and rework it. Well…easier said than done. I had thought that a wealth of information would be less intimidating than a blank page and blinking cursor, but I was wrong.

Amid this process, I discovered Brandon O’Brien’s Writing for Life and Ministry. Not only did this small book give me the practical resources to break down what I needed to do and where I needed to go, it inspired me in which particular project to pick. This is a handbook I’m going to return to time and time again.

The Writer and the Reader

Part one helps writers develop their audience, which O’Brien talks about in three stages:

  • Write for yourself. If you’re not interested in writing it, people won’t be interested in reading it.
  • Write for your ideal reader. Identify your specific audience and write directly to them.
  • Don’t alienate everyone else. Remember that others may be “listening in” to your conversation with your audience.

The Find Your Focus worksheet is something I found very practical and very helpful in determining where to take my next writing project. But Writing for Life and Ministry also had a lot of inspirational and aspirational goals too. This first part does a great job in helping writers identify their “why” and help them take their abstract desires and put them into concrete words.

The Process

Part two is all about the process. If you’re generally a “pantser” (meaning that you write without much planning), then this process is going to be a kick in the pants for you. O’Brien advocates for a severely structured outline as a method of keeping on track and balancing the overall work. While I am an outliner myself, I probably wouldn’t be so severe on the outlining for fear of it stifling creativity and ending up with a product that feels like it rolled off a template. But, if you’re struggling to put any words on paper, this would be a good place to start.

The chapter on brainstorming is one I found exceptionally helpful because my problem is not “What thing I should write?” but “Which of the things should I write?” Using his brainstorming method, I determined which of my projects it made sense to tackle next.

Writing for Life and Ministry

Writing for Life and Ministry is one of those books that will never be far away from my keyboard. Brandon O’Brien’s concise, practical, and inspirational advice is exactly what those in ministry need to take their teaching and preaching ministries to a wider audience. I may even have to buy a second copy, because the current one already looks well-worn from use!