Plagiarism & Copyright in Ministry

The Proper Use of the Original Works of Others

In recent years, major media outlets have brought attention to the seemingly widespread practice of pastoral plagiarism and copyright violations within churches. Copyright implications arise in most areas of ministry—online streaming of sermons and worship music; using images and photos on the ministry website; providing music for choirs, worship teams, and special music; showing DVDs to children and youth groups; use of Sunday school/small group curriculum; projecting song lyrics onto screens during the worship service—just to name a few. Furthermore, with the advent of entire websites devoted to providing sermon outlines and illustrations, the vast numbers of resources available online, and the addition of thousands of weekly sermons posted by pastors and churches all over the world, it is no longer unusual for search engine results about a particular preaching topic to yield a number of pastors’ outlines and sermons that are virtually identical to one another. This raises issues of both copyright and plagiarism.

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