It’s technology training season in the seminary teaching and learning center where I work. In classes, in individual coaching, and in regional and national workshops and conferences, our attention is fixed on helping congregational practitioners, seminarians, and faculty better utilize digital media in their ministries of faith formation, communication, and beyond.
Thus, it seemed like a good time for me to share with the FFLE audience some of the best practices I’ve been immersed in teaching.
I’m going to start with blogging, because it tends to be thought of as an unconditionally good thing (“My church doesn’t have a blog, but I know we should”). I agree with Jim Naughton and Rebecca Wilson that this valuation isn’t necessarily true. But if it is a good fit for you or your church, and if you’re willing to put in the time, blogging is one of the best social media tools I know of to help you reach a wider audience with messages that matter.
Here are a some great reasons to blog:
As a spiritual center of gravity for your church or organization – If you play a pastoral or formational role for a group of people, why would you pass up an opportunity to touch their lives more frequently and spark honest dialogue about the joys and struggles of the community? Blogging can be all that and more for a leader or leaders willing to listen deeply and share vulnerably. Role model: The Patience of Trees.
To join and host conversations with your neighbors – For gospel reasons and survival reasons, churches throughout the secularizing West are once again paying attention to their surrounding neighborhoods. And the most engaged among those churches and leaders are looking for forums to contribute to community discussion. The best way to get started is to read and comment on lots of other community blogs and discussion boards. But there may come a time when you’re ready to get in the game as a host. Trust that your faith perspective won’t keep you from reaching readers if you remain respectful and engaged. Role model: Vicar of H Street.
To help your newsletter content reach more people – This tip I picked up from Meredith Gould, author of The Social Media Gospel. Whether your blog is a part of your church website or a standalone venture, there’s a good chance you’re already creating a ton of content (especially in your newsletter!) that could touch more people when doled out post-by-shareable-post. Don’t forget to make the paragraphs shorter and the vocabulary more accessible. Role model: Sticky Faith.
To say something you couldn’t say on an official channel – Many church leaders find themselves torn between witnessing to their own convictions and shepherding flocks whose collective opinion is more diverse or flat-out opposed. Although starting a personal blog doesn’t solve all the challenges of navigating this pastoral hornet’s nest, it can be part of the process of finding spiritual balance. Role model: Dirty Sexy Ministry.
To give your members a venue to reflect – Continuing a trend online that began on paper in church tract racks, many congregations are starting blogs for seasonal theological reflections. Don’t neglect your best source of potential writers: the people who make your faith community what it is. Role model: Blog of St. Luke in the Fields.
Next post: the church website redesign. Stay tuned!
Full disclosure: Many of the role models above are friends and colleagues. That’s partly why I follow them closely enough to be able to commend them to you.
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