How (Not) To Write A Christian Leader Bio
How should Christian leaders talk about themselves? Should they parade their various credentials in an effort to explain why they're fit to lead? Or should they embrace total humility, lean toward self-deprecation, and hope their unspoken qualities shine through?
Whatever the correct answer to that question might be, Christian leaders, speakers and authors are constantly forced to wrestle with it for one very practical reason: their 'bio'. Not only are these people constantly asked for a brief summary of their life and work for use in conference line-ups and the back covers of books (on the basis of which people make purchasing decisions), but they're also aware that this form of words will be the way they're evaluated whenever they're Googled.
For that reason, leaders often agonise over their bios. Have they been too proud? Have they been too humble? Worse still – have they been caught trying to disguise one as the other? To put an end to the misery of this thankless task once and for all, I have compiled a definitive guide to writing a Christian leader bio, based on scouring thousands (see point 3 below) of examples from across the Christian world. So next time you're asked to provide a three sentence summary of your entire life for church marketing purposes, this simple six-step system will give you a foolproof route to a leader bio that boosts book sales and guarantees your appearance at church conferences for the next decade. Possibly.
1. List the big achievements up front
Just get the big guns out there straight away. Written 44 books? Make sure that's in the top line. Planted a series of thriving churches across California? That's your opener. People don't wait to read the whole of your bio before they judge you, so make sure the first sentence is incredibly impressive. If you don't actually have any big achievements yet, head directly to point #2...
2. Use words that should only ever be said about you
The great con of the speaker bio is that it's written in the third person, as if penned by some great Christian celebrity biographer, when actually we all know leaders write them themselves. This is important because it then allows the writer to use words and phrases which should normally only be applied to a person by others, such as 'visionary', 'highly-sought after' and 'prodigiously talented'. You can't really call yourself a prophetic voice... but your biographer can!
3. Exaggerate massively
I saw a bio recently which claimed that the leader in question (and his wife) had mentored over 100,000 leaders. Now, either he and I have vastly different definitions of 'mentoring', or this couple spend their entire lives in Starbucks processing an unending line of one-to-ones. Alternatively, it's just possible he was exaggerating. The addition of an extra zero (or two) is a vital part of the modern speaker bio, particularly when it comes to evangelists, who are often found talking about leading an extraordinary number of people to Christ, albeit in far-off parts of the world where they don't seem to have video capabilities or keep any formal records. Don't be shy – just make sure you bump those numbers.
4. Talk about your 'passion'
I'm not a betting man, but if I were to lay a bet on the most-used word in the history of speaker bios, I'd go for this one. Christian leaders are always passionate about something, and very often they're passionate about everything. I'm not entirely sure why this particular adjective appears to be so important in the way leaders describe themselves, but leave it out at your peril.
5. Throw in some gentle comedy
People don't want to think you're boring – especially if they're going to have to sit through forty minutes of you in the Big Top. For this reason, canny bio-writers throw in a little bit of humour to communicate that they're a little bit maverick or 'nutty'. Examples might include talking about a hobby – 'can often be found getting lost up mountains' – or half an anecdote about the falling off the stage in India.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Pentecostals – ignore this section, it's not for you.
6. Make sure everyone knows you're a family guy
Finally, it's important to list those important status-symbols of successful Christian ministry – the family. The more people you can mention at this point, the better, so if you don't have many (or any) kids, throw in a reference to being a beloved uncle, or if things get really desperate, a dog-owner. This is also an important device used by male leaders in more conservative circles to subtly communicate a) that he's the head of the household as well as the church and b) that he's straight as an iron arrow.
It's never good to have to point out satire, but given that I've been misinterpreted in the past... of course I'm not serious. Yet it's amazing how many of the above points would be ticked off by the average Christian leader bio. The leaders in the Bible aren't prone to self-aggrandisement; Paul is constantly trying to play down his achievements and turn the glory back to God, and Peter warns that God 'opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble' (1 Peter 5:5). And in fact, the most notable example of a leader among God's people receiving praise for his achievements is the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon (1 Kings 10), the passage which comes directly before the downfall of the nation of Israel. It's a tightrope of course, but Christian leaders should think very carefully before truly boasting about their achievements – even through apparently innocuous channels like a conference bio.
Martin 'Mr Passion' Saunders is a prophetic visionary genius and the CEO-in-waiting at Youthscape. During a recent visit to India he saw hundreds of thousands turn to Christ at his big-tent revival meetings, although unfortunately they forgot to put film in the cameras. Follow him everywhere on all the social medias.