Have you ever been asked to supply a devotional for a Bible study? The first time I was asked to serve in this capacity I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know where to start. How should I choose a topic? How do I come up with enough information to fill up the allotted time? Though the process was scary, it ended up being a wonderful blessing.
Here are a few ideas for how to develop a devotional that will bless you and those to whom you speak:
First things first, pray about the theme, occasion and audience. What will your audience need? Will they be mostly non-Christians who need to hear about Jesus? Are they new Christians who need practical instruction? Are they seasoned Christians who may need some encouragement? Oftentimes God will use something you have recently learned in your personal devotions to be the topic for your devotional.
Once you have selected a passage, study, think about and analyze it. Sometimes it is easiest to pick a Bible story or event from which you can draw a truth (Example: The story of Hannah teaches us about faith). Read your passage several times and list all the ideas that come to you as you read. What did your Bible character struggle with? What did he or she learn? How did God change that person’s life? What can you learn from the character about what to do and what not to do?
After you have read and meditated on the passage, seek out sources to gain additional insight. Commentaries, Bible dictionaries and concordances are excellent resources. Many commentaries are also available for free online. Look for a dominant theme or truth in the passage that can teach a practical lesson with a practical application. The application should be useful and relevant for the age group you are addressing.
After you have compiled the substance of your devotional, make sure to limit your information in accordance with your time allowance and audience’s interest. Begin organizing your thoughts on paper. Start by stating your purpose in a clear, concise, declarative sentence (Example: “I will teach the ladies to trust God through difficult times by using the example of Ruth.”). Then, write out all of your points you would like to emphasize from your passage. You can approach it chronologically, as when you follow a character through a life event, or topically, as when you teach about joy, peace or patience.
It is helpful to add a personal touch to your material. Do you have a personal story or illustration that will help to drive your point home? Personal experience will help personalize the message to the individuals present. When you have everything you would like to include in your devotional, develop a detailed outline using complete sentences that you can follow. It may also be helpful to write in the transitions you would like to use to avoid repetitive statements (Example: “Since we know…”).
Finally, prepare a conclusion. Often, people spend so much time on the substance of the devotional that they do not give enough attention to the conclusion. This is a huge mistake. The conclusion is the most memorable part of any type of speech. If you under-prepare and fumble through it, much of your earlier substance will be lost on your audience. Use your conclusion to summarize your main points and apply it to your listeners personally.
If and when you are asked to prepare a message or devotional, take a deep breath, pray and prepare. Most likely it will be you who receives the greatest blessing.
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