The Press Service International—Christian Today 'young writers conference' this month saw the afternoon session divided into two separate sessions and with a set of questions for each of the three 'focus groups'.
Each group had a facilitator, a senior observer and one or two scribes to record the sentiments being expressed but not necessarily verbatim.
Facilitators: Russell Modlin, Rebecca Moore, Sam Gillespie
Senior Observers: Gavin Lawrie, Aira Chilcott, Jeremy Dover
Scribes: Irenie How, Charis Jackson, Haydn Lea, Teagan Russell, Aira Chilcott
One of the groups agreed that we could perhaps do more to support one another in our writing ministry. While we do have our ‘Weekly’ groups, it was suggested that we could perhaps also have state, or area groups, with a coordinator who organises people in the same area to meet together occasionally. This would allow us to physically spend time together, develop relationships, drink coffee (always a positive), and offer one another support in a way that goes beyond the email groups.
Secondly, this group agreed that self-promotion of one’s articles can be difficult: many people do not like the idea of sharing their articles on Facebook, and are unsure if anybody is actually reading their articles. One possible solution was for people to promote each other’s articles that they find helpful, in order to help get people’s writing ‘out there’. Similarly, we could perhaps create an avenue for writers to provide feedback to one another when their articles are posted (particularly writers within your geographical location).
Furthermore, it was noted that there are other Christian publications that accept submissions, so a list was compiled of such publications, with the idea that writers could submit their articles to them for republishing. This group encouraged the use of the young writer Facebook page (closed) to share ideas and place on their own articles.
Another group asked questions: How do we write? How do we get topics? Inspiration? What’s the most important thing about writing? Everyone’s processes for writing are different it seems, some collect ideas and phrases to build and article on, some write about current interests and research. Many write about issues in the church that they think need addressing. Most write as a way to process thoughts and emotions.
A common theme was that we write about things that inspire us, things we are passionate about or thinking about or have been talking with others about. Another common theme in discussion seemed to be that we aim to take the log out of our own eye and get our ship in order as Christians. We want to promote Christian unity and critical thinking: despite our differences, the Gospel truth is the same for all Christians—for everyone else too. We want to celebrate the differences in Christ’s body and love the expression of different views on the same subjects. It is frustrating to see the flattening of the public Christian voice to one perspective without nuance.
And a third group
This group asked the question: What inspires you, keeps you going? The answers were varied—topics through prayer and interaction with God. This young writer described how he was on top of a hill when he was praying and God asked him “Are you gonna be here yet.” And he realised he wasn’t really being present with God and so his first article came from this idea of being present. His passion for Jesus keeps him going “Going into all the world, cover the earth with His knowledge”. God said, “Go public,” and so he takes every opportunity to do that, which is his reason for being part of the young writers.
Another spoke of studying for a year and she realised the Bible is one big story and everything fell into place. Another said life, experiences, trouble, humanity—he’s inspired by identifying with people and bringing hope through God into his pieces to minister to his readers, he strives to be real, being vulnerable has spoken the most to people. And again, how God uses the weak to teach the wise, God’s picked each of us to write. Another spoke of the indigenous community and decided against sending in one article on this subject, what she—a white woman—would have to say or bring it justice. She did send something similar in, but is still wanting to share the first, but when God wants it to be shared
Then another on dealing with disappointment, she’d been researching places to study overseas and it all fell through, the same day she got the email to write her young writers article, so she wrote it out in an article and used it as a way to process with God, being vulnerable is key for her. Then again another hears from God a lot when she’s out in nature, when she started writing 3 years ago it was to process what she was going through, it allowed her to be vulnerable, but now she sees it as all of us having a voice and being God’s hands and feet and talking about Christian living. Her last piece came from a thought that God had planted in her, that it’s enough to wander in the wilderness and stepping into the promise land. She can really see God’s hand in her writing for PSI.
Again, another has been writing for a few years and recognises it as a journey, she’s really recognising that her writing isn’t for her but for those who read it, that it’s helped them to even come to church, and again, someone else, wanted to write so people would read it. He doesn’t want to write unless there’s someone to read it. It’s the same with his preaching. He wants to write something that people grab on to and makes them want to talk about it, to contribute to the work of God in people’s lives. This is what inspires him
More still, one said her last article she asked God for help and just started writing randomly about the reason behind some of our trials and wrote about that and another, it’s a balance of between being real and highlighting God’s truth. His pieces always come at a time he doesn’t want to write about them, but then God’s truth speaks into him and he uses that to point back to God. How amazing, mysterious and wonderful God is. He told a story about buying a swag for a homeless man and how it really inspired an article
The focus groups produced ideas many ideas. One of the scribes sent a summary: Current events, thinking about life, thinking about things from current perspectives, things that frustrate us that may also frustrate others. Writing is therapeutic!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html