10 Reasons Proofreading Should Matter to a Church

I hesitate to write this post because you might find errors in my own writing. Nevertheless, here’s my point: churches need to strive to avoid poor grammar, misspelled words, and any other errors in their published materials. Below are 10 reasons somebody needs to proofread church materials several times.

  1. God deserves and demands our best.  We know this truth intellectually, but we don’t always allow the truth to affect the way we live. Reviewing materials is one easy way to give God our best.
  2. The gospel is a message to be communicated. That is not to say the message cannot be communicated with less than perfect writing and spelling; the power of the message is not dependent on its proper grammatical form. On the other hand, the gospel message is so essential and transforming that we should want to communicate it well.
  3. In a literate culture, we communicate much in writing. Think about how much we do (and, please know I realize I’m about to use fragments to illustrate my point). Letters to guests. Worship guides for Sunday worshipers. PowerPoint slides for songs and announcements. Emails to workers and staff. The opportunities for communicating well in writing are numerous, but so are the possibilities for error.
  4. Everything we do says something about the church.  My consulting teams always ask to review a church’s published materials, and those materials often provide hints about the church’s commitment to excellence. Sloppy work in published materials usually points to sloppiness in other areas of the church’s ministry.
  5. We have tools to help us proof materials. A spellcheck and grammar check may not catch every error, but they can help us avoid many problems. Indeed, misspelled words that a spellcheck would catch suggest only that we didn’t take the time to review our work. That’s not the best witness.  
  6. Our churches are often seeking to reach educated people. If we don’t catch our errors before publishing them, somebody else will. Carelessness needlessly invites negative critique of our efforts.
  7. Mistakes are easy to miss. I cannot count the number of times my name has been listed as “Church Lawless” in a document. I understand why that error happens – assistants are so accustomed to typing “church” that their fingers automatically go there – but a spellcheck will not catch that mistake. A proofreader should.  
  8. Inadvertent errors can be embarrassing. The bulletin announcement, “The choir is looking for anyone who enjoys sinning,” may be comical, but it’s also inexcusable.
  9. A church’s website can be a strong tool for outreach. Folks interested in a church often begin their search with the website. Non-believers looking for answers might be drawn to a resource on the site. In either case, a good proofreader will help make sure the communication is clear. A website filled with errors sends a message about the church that sometimes distracts from the message of the gospel.
  10. Good writing can lead to better speaking. The person who works hard to correct written work may learn to speak better in the process. That’s a positive result for those who are committed to speaking the gospel.  

What other reasons would you add to this list? 


  • Ron Keener says:

    This blog should go to every church secretary who produces the church’s newsletter. So many newsletters–and there must be 300,000 each month–are examples of how not to produce journalistic products. Add this blog to the position description (if they have one) of every church’s secretary or administrative assistant and thereby honor God.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Ron.

  • I agree that grammar is important, at least inasmuch as it reflects the quality of attention you have given to accepted rules of society.

    However, a church has only itself to blame for a sloppily written bulletin. Too, the care of written materials is an indication of the typical person in that church. Birds of a feather flock together.

    Even without fully realizing it, people invariably use written materials as a quick metric to size up the degree to which they might fit in at a church they are visiting. While “fitting in” is not a biblical precept or directive, it is something people do nonetheless, and it gives them some measure of comfort.

    My Sunday school teacher at Faith Baptist Church, Dr. McDill, said once that people in U.S. society place a high priority on comfort.

  • Hillary says:

    11. The church is meant to set the standard for a society whether the society or the church realize it.

  • Key F Payton says:

    EVERY church communication should go through at least three, and possibly more, drafts (and thinking this way will save your church uncountable hours, which I will explain after the list):

    1) The get-rough-ideas-down draft. Many pro writers call this the “vomit draft.” Whether you think of it as a rough outline, scribblings, or idea-capturing, this draft is in NO WAY ready for publishing to the congregation nor the unchurched—because all these folks DO come in regular contact with our churches’ communications, and we SHOULDN’T want to make sloppy, ill-formed impressions on any of them.

    2) The getting-it-ready-for-review draft. This idea of “review” is crucial, because no church communication speaks for the bylined author alone (each of us represents Christ and His Church to the lost world). So firing off an unreviewed-by-others communication—such as an angry, shallow, or sloppily-put-together web blog, bulletin article, newsletter, tweet, Facebook post, or other communication—doesn’t just bring dishonor on the writer. These also bring dishonor on Christ and His Church, and could also bring along hours, days, months, or even years of reconciling and reputation-rebuilding efforts. (Remember those “saved” uncountable hours I mentioned?)

    3) The pass-it-around-for-feedback-and-final-proofing draft. Again, because no church communication speaks for the bylined author alone (each of us represents Christ and His Church to the world), the original author should ALWAYS make sure their second draft gets reviewed by: a) a good grammarian and proofreader, who will catch things that spellcheck software doesn’t; b) a good logician, who may well also be the “a)” in this process, and can note places where the second draft doesn’t represent clear thinking or solid case-building; c) a calm, balanced co-pastor, staffer, or elder, who can help the author see any excesses of arrogance, anger, partiality, fallacious thinking, “straw man” opponents, etc. (You get the idea.)

    And how does this measured, three-step approach “save your church uncountable hours”? I already hinted at this in my second point:

    Insufficiently considered and reviewed, many a church communication has cost individual church leaders—as well as entire churches, denominations. and parachurch ministries—months or even years of “patching things up,” rebuilding reputations and first impressions through subsequent more-careful communications, and finally talking out unhealthy emotional issues that should have been well talked out before the faulty communication was even sent.

    Hours and hours and days and months, all spent to repair the damage of a carelessly-tossed-out communication that might well have just needed one more hour of review and consideration before it was published.

    In the name of stewardship, I plead with you, church communicator:

    If you and your church “don’t have time” to go through the above pre-publication process, what makes you think you will later have the “uncountable hours” you might well “have to spend” on post-publication correcting, retracting, fence-mending, and reputation-rebuilding?

    And your reputation, once besmirched, may never COMPLETELY get restored, as is suggested in passages like Proverbs 29:20, Ecclesiastes 5:2, Ecclesiastes 10:1, and of course James 1:19.

    Finally, yes, I did put this communication through all three steps, and I still probably left something unfixed!

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