To BLOG or not to BLOG - That is the Question?

by Jeff Weddle

I'm no expert on computers but I have picked up a thing or two over the years, computer related. Recently I came across Moore's Law. Moore's Law is sort of like Murphy's Law, except completely different. It's an observation of the computer business, which predicts the rate in the advancement of computer chips. As simply as I can state it, assuming I'm understanding it properly, Moore's Law says "the speed of microprocessors will double approximately every 18-24 months." In other words, the fastest new chip, which will make the fastest new computers, will come out every 18-24 months and have double the speed of your current computer, which will then officially qualify as "a clunker." I have a variation on Moore's Law which states that "the church is 18-24 months behind the world in applying new technology to our cause." Don't let that sting too much; that's not necessarily a bad thing. We're not supposed to be running off on rabbit trails our whole lives. But when a new technology comes along and establishes itself, it's good for the Church to take advantage of it--be all things to all men so that by all means we might win some. Looking at church web sites is an interesting task for a rainy afternoon. Try it sometime. What you'll find is pretty much the same thing--announcements, newsletters from summer 2001, pictures of the pie eating contest, face shots of grinning pastors, etc. In other words, stuff people really aren't dying to see. No offense to your grinning face shot. And what are you going to do about it? Most pastors have things they'd like to do on a web site, people they'd like to reach, but they don't have the time to learn HTML to program a web site. Trying to hire someone to do it means you can only work on their availability. How frustrating. There's no hope for the church web site! But now, you're in luck. About 18-24 months ago, blogs became huge on the internet. A "blog" is short for "web log." It's basically an online diary. It used to be the home of rambling teenagers and verbose nerds. Now fortune 500 companies, television shows, celebrities, and political campaigns are using blogs. It's the next best thing. A blog is basically just a web site geared for frequent updates. Instead of having to reformat and mess with a web page setup, a blog allows you to update things by typing your post into a box, clicking the mouse, and publishing your new message. The blog I use from Blogger.com automatically archives all of my posts, which can be accessed by any visitor. Also, it is possible to have more than one person post messages. If you have multiple staff members, each person can post messages on the same blog. The advantages of blogs are: 1) You don't need to know HTML, unless you want to. 2) There are free blog services to set up your own page (check out www.blog-city.com, www.blogdrive.com, or the one I use, www.blogger.com). 3) It's as easy as typing and clicking a mouse. 4) It allows the pastor to look really hip and cool. For an example of a blog, feel free to check out the blog I do for our church http://anti-itchmeditation.blogspot.com/. I use this blog to give daily devotional thoughts, church updates, sermon teasers, personal hobbies, links to articles of interest, updates of the recent goings on from family floor hockey, etc. One other very helpful function I have found is my nearly almost always weekly Sunday afternoon post, which I call "points I was going to make in my sermon but forgot." What a relief it is to be able to get that last point across! Before you rush out and start your blog, it is important to remember that for each new technology and mode of communicating, there comes a new system of etiquette. There are several things, which if applied consistently, will allow you to produce fine, fine blogs that keep your congregation informed, entertained, and anxious to hear your next word of wisdom. I am doing my fourth blog now, the first three failed miserably. I have learned by making mistakes and have come across some rules which will help you get started on the right foot. 1) Update frequently If you have nothing to say, then don't do a blog. If you always have something to say--that one last point you want to get across--then maybe a blog is for you. The success of any blog is directly related to how often you update it. If there's nothing new, people will not come back. Blogs exist for the sole purpose of updating frequently 2) Make short posts A "post" is the term used for a message you put on your blog. Reading on a computer screen is not the easiest, most comfortable thing to do. In order to ensure that people will enjoy looking at your blog, keep your post as short and concise as possible. In other words, if I were writing this paragraph on a blog I would say, "Make short posts." 3) Don't get too fancy Although cable modems and DSL hookups are becoming more frequent, still, for the majority of folks, the old phone modem is the link they are using to your site. Any site that takes minutes to download will not be used often. Keeping the site as clean and crisp as possible will enable people to read it better. Don't feel like you have to have flashing, blinking, and dancing penguins with tinny computer sounds of "The Old Rugged Cross" chiming in the background. 4) Use links When you see a news item that catches your attention, find the web site reporting it and link to it. Make it easy for people to track your thought. Blogging services make linking to other sites as easy as copying and pasting. Even if you are citing a scripture verse, it's fairly easy to find a Bible site which you can link to, allowing people to look at that verse in 15 different versions. Make the site interactive, allowing folks to learn with you. 5) Link to other blogs to increase traffic A blogging thing to do is find other blogs which you like, use, or enjoy and link to them. Ask the blog you are linking to if they will link to yours. By doing this more people will come across your blog, spreading your influence to worlds beyond the one you deal with. With this also comes a caution--make sure your church wants to be linked to these other sites! 6) Don't be afraid to be you People want to know the truth. They don't want to be played with. Use your church blog as an opportunity to keep people informed on what's really going on in your life or in the church. Put up inane things or personal thoughts on life--don't feel like you have to preach all the time. Blogs allow you to share what you think. Let people get to know you, use a conversational, informal tone. If you're always "on" people will often turn you off for you! 7) Be careful what you say Using a blog is ridiculously easy. But easiness isn't always convenient for watching your words. The ease of communication can also lead to an ease in saying things better left unsaid. Although honesty is a necessity to develop trust, there are certain things that should be considered carefully before sharing. Don't get sucked into saying more than you want. As my mother always said, "Never write down anything you don't want the whole world to know." These simple rules will help you understand blogging. If it's something you're interested in, check out the sites listed above to get started. If this sounds like something you would do shortly before eating a flying pig, then leave it alone. Feel free to read through my blog and get some ideas what I'm talking about. Search on Google or Yahoo! for blogs and see what kind of stuff is out there. The two keys to making a good blog are--keep your posts short and update frequently. My experience with my blog is that people enjoy it. They are interested in the insights on life their pastor has. In fact, I have some guys now sending me things they think I'd be interested in making a post about. It's another avenue to open relationships and conversations. To top it all off, it's very easy to do. Our 18-24 months is about up, it's time to get on board and use this exciting new mode of communication for the benefit of the Body of Christ. Go forth and blog!

Jeff Weddle jcweddle@newnorth.net

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