By Stephen Bryant
Many of us associated with MAI are working to cultivate writers. Our goal at Discipleship Resources International of the United Methodists is to expand the faith community’s access to affordable, contextually appropriate Christian resources by building local capacity to write and publish them.
One of the most important things we can do is offer publishing channels—for those already motivated to write and for those who are willing to learn. The absence of channels to publish is discouraging to potential writers, which then also discourages reading in those same contexts. Reading increases when people find content that’s culturally familiar, that “sounds like us.”
Four years ago we began to work with regional church bodies to create and support publishing teams in many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, the Philippines, and Eastern Europe. These publishing teams engage local church people and pastors in writing, developing, and selling content to meet local needs at affordable rates.
We assist these same publishing teams to offer writing workshops three to four times a year in different regions and in a variety of formats. We nearly always start with devotional writing, which engages people in writing about what they know best—their own faith stories and scriptures through which God has spoken to them.
Three years ago we created another publishing channel for church leaders called the “Africa Ministry Series.” We launched that with a three-day writing seminar for faculty of theology at Africa University in Zimbabwe. We helped the faculty identify writing projects and then offered editorial support. We’ve published eight titles so far, all in English, but translated or being translated to French and Portuguese.
Advertising widely in your current publications that you are looking for contributors is an obvious way to cultivate more writers. Offer simple guidelines for what’s expected and where to submit.
Finally, we pray and keep our eyes open for those we suspect have a word to share through writing. Giving them a bite-sized goal gives them a way to get started and gives us a way to start a relationship, see their writing, and call forth the gifts.
Rev. Stephen Bryant serves as executive director of Discipleship Resources International of the United Methodists, working with church leaders around the globe to develop capacity for resource development in places that lack access to the “discipleship resources” they need to carry out the mission of the church in their local contexts.