Pastoral ethics and the use of AI is a hot topic these days. Just so you know I only used AI to generate the picture for this article. The rest, warts and all, is entirely mine.
Unlike the pastor in the picture, I don’t write my sermons by hand. Typing is faster and allows for quick fixes for my errors and spelling mistakes. No more “Liquid Paper” as in the bad old days of typing!
I’m such an advocate for tech in general (I write my sermons on Google Docs at my desk but if I get a flash of inspiration later I can edit them anywhere almost from my phone) and now advocate for AI, I suppose many people wonder if I’ve sold my soul and some chatbot is writing my sermons for me. After all, with Now.site and MyAI — which I have a business relationship with and can earn commissions by promoting if it’s the right solution for someone or some entity — you can “train the AI” to “sound like you” (or so they say).
Maybe so, but as far as writing my sermons, that’s not something I feel is ethical. In religious terms, my pastoral ministry is something I sense as a divine calling. I’ve been given words to say and I must first think them as I reflect upon the scriptures and then SAY them. For me, using AI to write a sermon would be the same as plagiarism. Both are anathema to me. Lord knows we have enough preachers who were discovered borrowing sermons wholesale without attribution. I even knew a pastor who borrowed/stole a departure letter to his congregation from another website. When the email was forwarded to me it was reduced to plan text html so I could see the OTHER CHURCH it came from. No surprise. This guy was known for stealing sermons all the time.
I guess that allows for more time on the golf course.
But I don’t even recycle or reuse my own sermons for the most part. For better or for worse they’re all new each Sunday.
But I do use AI in my ministry. How?
First, not IN my sermon. I craft every word myself. I think most are OK. At least I’m not ashamed to preach them.
Where I’m terrible is sermon titles. So I would not have a problem taking my manuscript and asking AI … “List 3 some compelling sermon titles for this manuscript”. Given their length I’m probably using Claude.ai for that.
I also don’t mind having the same chatbot “suggest bullet points” for the sermon manuscript too.
I like Sermonspark.ai’s discussion question prompt you could use with other chatbots.
I’m testing AI’s capacity to take my sermon text and spin off daily devotionals from it to stretch the fundamental work of the sermon into daily reminders. I’m still testing that. We’ll see if it survives. If it DOES survive it is because it’s building on the work I’ve done myself.
Of course whatever AI suggest I feel free to alter somewhat or just use it as a prod to do better myself. I frankly don’t know a preacher, writer, content creator, etc. who doesn’t think they can write better than some of the boring verbiage cranked out by chatbots. No good writer, in my opinion, could go long without HAVING to edit the output of AI.
I’m talking about bullet points, discussion questions, and sermon titles of course. The sermon text itself is sacred to me so I’m writing that myself.
But not all my ministry writing is “sacred”.
Recently I wanted to write a page about a service with provide seniors… foot care. After the details and how to schedule I wanted to include text on the importance of foot care for seniors our “Fancy Feet Food Clinic”. AI did a better job on that part of the page than I could or WANTED to do! Thank you AI!
When it comes to my Now.site business website I purchased this because I WANTED AI to help me quickly generate unlimited business related landing pages and even the affiliate site itself. On the blog you’ll find there, these pages are edited by me and inspired by my own words, but are significantly AI assisted. I type in 60 words (usually more because I want to give it a very good idea of what I want) and the system returns for me a related picture, a significantly expanded article based on my 60 word + input and all that remains for me to do is edit, do cross linking (I’m sort of a fanatic there) and approve it. This has saved me immense time for SACRED WORK because it’s doing the MUDANE work for me. The system also drafts emails and social posts for me that I can modify to my heart’s content. It’s perfect for businesses in that regard. It allows business people to focus on the CUSTOMER, not the tech stuff.
Since I’m actually marketing AI assisted websites, I think it’s kind of ESSENTIAL to be able to highlight what they can do for people.
To summarize, from my perspective drafting sermons is a sacred task I’m unwilling to delegate to even AI that supposedly can “sound like me”. Sorry, I just can’t move past the sense of divine call and obligation. As I said some help with titles, bullet points and discussion questions is the exception.
But for ministry and business writing in more mundane areas, like that foot clinic and my business website, then I’m happy to have AI do some heavy lifting for me.
What’s your policy in your field about using AI? I’d love to hear it.
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Looking for pastoral AI tools that follow the model I’ve outlined above and turn your audio sermon into a variety of resources for social media and daily devotion? Check out my review on PulpitAI at Church Tech Today.