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How to Write Devotionals:
Use a 3-Part Structure

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

As you learn how to write devotionals, you discover that most of them follow a standard 3-part structure.

Each of the three parts of a devotional has a special function.

  1. The scripture: a short passage from the Bible forms the basis for the devotional. It communicates a principle that is reinforced elsewhere in scripture, too.
  2. The illustration: the body of the devotional that presents an authentic life situation and connects it to the principle.
  3. The takeaway: also called the “application,” this element gives the reader a thought to ponder, a prayer to pray, or an action step to take in order to apply the devotional’s scriptural principle.

Why Does the 3-Part Structure Work?

How to write devotionals: use a 3-part structure - with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

It’s Simple

You’ve likely heard of “The Rule of Three,” in which three is a cornerstone structural number. The human mind is proficient at processing information in patterns.

Three is the smallest number by which we can organize information in our minds. That’s why in eighth grade language arts, you are taught to write an essay with an introduction, three points, and a conclusion. Pastors use standard approach to biblical teaching is a 3-point sermon outline.

So when considering how to write devotionals, use a simple three-part structure. The devotional’s message sticks in the reader’s mind more easily.

It's Logical

Devotionals relate biblical truth to real life. What better way to structure a devotional than to present a Bible verse, an example of how it has been lived out, and then a way to apply it? The three-step process makes sense.

How to Write Devotionals:
More About Each of the 3 Parts

The Scripture

The most effective devotionals use a short scripture passage, usually 25 words or less. Any more than that will be too long for a reader to understand. Longer passages can muddy the waters making it difficult for you to extract the one point you’re trying to make.

The Illustration

The best devotionals focus on a single point. Use 100-200 words to illustrate the point: a personal story, an anecdote, a conversation, a statistic, an object lesson, an interesting fact, a pithy quote, a question, or other engaging means. (More on different kinds of illustrations.) You can even point out something interesting about the Bible passage itself or relate a retelling that offers a different insight. Bottom line: use the illustration to connect the scriptural principle to real life.

The Takeaway

This element challenges you to apply the devotional’s lesson – the point – and live it out. A good takeaway gives you a way to live differently as a result of reading the devotional.

More about Devotional Writing

Getting Started Writing Devotionals: A Free Mini-Course ...

Christian Writing Resources for content creators, freelancers, bloggers ...

What is a Devotional?

Where to Look for Ideas for Devotionals ...

Journaling to write devotionals ...

How to choose a scripture for your devotional ...

Save Time: Identify the Devotional Point Before You Write ...

Tips for citing the Bible in articles, blogs, devotionals, more ...

Use a Devotional Illustration to Connect the Point to Real-Life ...

8 Kinds of Illustrations to Use in Devotionals ...

Compare and Contrast: 2 ways to connect your reader to the point ...

Using illustrations in devotionals: FAQs ...

Writing a takeaway: keep it simple ...

Templates for takeaways ...

More tips for writing takeaways ...

Writing Devotionals That Stick: a step-by-step-writing guide ...

Get more tips on our Writing Devotionals Pinterest board ...

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