A Special Post for My Class

This semester, I’m teaching a class at Andover-Newton Theological School called, “Pastoral Uses of Social Media,” and this week we’re looking at blogs and blogging.

In addition to our usual online discussion boards, I’ve asked them to come over here and engage in a conversation with those of us who read and comment on this blog.  I’ve told them that Seth Godin has called a blog a “megaphone combined with a telephone,” and that seems to be what this blog is for me: both a bully pulpit and a place to write personally, and even to interact in the comments (though I don’t do this as much as I should).

So, for those of you kind enough to comment on this post, please tell the class does this blog or blogging in general have any importance in pastoral ministry?  If so, what importance?

The class will also be involved in the comment thread, so try to be nice to them. 🙂

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  • Blogging if very important in my ministry. I’ve been blogging my sermons for the last four years at redeemersermons.org. It is a great way to share them more broadly – not just on the blog, but then also through Facebook and Twitter. It lets the words and reflections have a life beyond Sunday morning. It gives potential visitors a chance to get a feeling for what we are talking about. It allows for posting of additional content – pictures, links, video – if people want to dig into it some more.

    Our blog is also the biggest referrer of web traffic to our church website, by far. So, it is an important portal for people to find out more about our church redeemerwoburn.org.

    I’ve also started blogging personally about social media and the church at pastorkeithanderson.com. It’s a modest blog and I haven’t posted in a while, but its good to have out there. I particularly like that I can refer people to previous post when they have questions about social media/web design. It’s like having my own FAQ section.

    I don’t have many comments on my blogs. People most often interact with me through FB or direct message.

  • A friend and I are both on faculty at an evangelical Christian college. We both regularly read Tony’s blog, but I’m the only one of us who comments.

    Once I asked him why he doesn’t comment, or blog himself for that matter, and he looked at me like I’d sprouted another head. I pressed him on this, saying that his contributions to the conversation would be extremely valuable.

    Finally he said, “The conversation is important, but the Internet is forever.”

    He is in the religion department at our school (I’m in communication) and involved in pastoral ministry. It’s obvious to me that he fears reprisals from denominational leaders simply for speaking the truth of his mind.

    This is a man treasured by his colleagues, students, parishioners, and administrators. Yet blogging and blog comments represent a threat to him because these activities amplify the witch hunting of a minority of agenda-driven people.

    I think this is something online culture has yet to effectively grapple with and address.

  • Blogging for me has been a tool to share spiritual thoughts with a virtual congregation (if you can call it that). In terms of personal development, blogging has helped me to both organize my thoughts better, and to be more consise; people will only scroll so far, and thats and indication of how long you can hold their attention from the pulpit.

    While the blogging experience seems to drive trolls out of the woodwork, and make us critical of one another; it also has served as a kind of open source thought cauldron. I’ve enjoyed Tony’s thoughts for some time, and while I don’t always agree, it feeds my personal development. The real danger with blogging is that we end up talking past each other and never really communicating. All good theology comes from pastoral concern.

  • This is an excellent forum! I am excited to hear and learn about other pros and cons associated with blogging. Looking forward to reading more comments. Best, L

  • the “business model” for producing, delivering and consuming religious goods and services has changed and continues to change, in large part due to communications revolution of which social media is part.

    So prospective Christian religious professionals would do well to consider how blogging/other social media is going to change their professional prospects, how they produce, market, and deliver their professional services, etc

  • I think so.

    I have used commentary here for resources on sermons.

  • Carol H

    Definitely a good forum for discussion, I will agree – however, one thing that concerns me is the possibility of taking a statement out of context (people do that with Bible verses all the time!) How do you deal with criticism if someone misreads/misinterprets what you wrote?

    I like the interconnectedness of blogs, although. It gives me an opportunity to hear/read many different voices.

  • Pierce Withers

    I notice a lot of the reservations that Keith observed with this co-worker both in the discussion boards of our class and with the people that I work with in the ministry setting. It seems that feel of reprisal or fear of not having an appropriate “boundry” erected around your personal life from your ministry is the motivating factor for many people.

    It seems to me that through social media outlets like blogs we have the chance to “flatten” the Church and, as Seth Godin points out in his book, a chance to transform through being “leaders” as opposed to being “managers” of a process set out by the higher-ups. But this is probably scary for many people.

    Thanks to all who posted here for sharing with our class.

    Pierce Withers
    Seminary student at Andover-Newton

  • Pierce Withers

    I notice a lot of the reservations that Keith observed with this co-worker both in the discussion boards of our class and with the people that I work with in the ministry setting. It seems that feel of reprisal or fear of not having an appropriate “boundry” erected around your personal life from your ministry is the motivating factor for many people.

    It seems to me that through social media outlets like blogs we have the chance to “flatten” the Church and, as Seth Godin points out in his book, a chance to transform through being “leaders” as opposed to being “managers” of a process set out by the higher-ups. But this is probably scary for many people.

    Thanks to all who posted here for sharing with our class.

    Pierce Withers
    Seminary student at Andover-Newton

  • Pierce Withers

    Now if I could just learn how to single-click instead of double click. Sorry for duplicate post!

  • Pierce, that is a fear that many clergy express when we talk about social media. I share a lot of my ministry and life on social media. One friend described my approach to social media as “inviting people into something of the whole of my life and honoring the whole of theirs by paying meaningful attention to them.” I think that’s pretty accurate.

    I’m okay with doing this for two reasons 1. Like it or not, pastors/ministers are already public figures. After all, we claim to speak for God. It doesn’t get more public than that. The four walls of the sanctuary just give the illusion of anonymity. 2. The most effective witness is a personal one. I get the most response from people on my personal Facebook profile – far more than our church FB page, website, or blog. That’s where the action is. I think pastoral leaders have to be willing to step out (with care, thought and intention) further than they have thus far.

  • Celeste

    As I probe deeper into the possibilities offered through this course I am looking for models from those who have blogging for awhile, and those who have created their own blogs. Your special post, Tony, is helpful for both. So far there aren’t many comments from those who use blogs for their ministry . I’d like to hear from others, especially those whose ministries are outside of congregations. I am a hospital chaplain. Anything I post is highly protected. I think my best avenue is free lance, apart from my work. My outlet would be to keepa blog to encourage others and offer an open forum for their thoughts. Sure there are plenty out there (you’ve got a good one, Tony). Being new at this I want to keep searching for good, creative possibilities. Following Godin’s lead, I wonder what’s new and innovative in the blog world that can really make a difference.

  • Carol H

    I think one struggle I have is that in a congregational polity, such as American Baptists (and UCC, too) the pastor is not automatically the “leader.” Yes, as clergy we are in a leadership role, but the voice of the congregation is the authority. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the whole congregation involved in blogging?

  • I think I may well be opening myself up to all manner of critiques, but I would suggest that the “to blog or not to blog” is a decision normally made earlier in one’s pastoral ministry.

    What I’m getting at is the “boundary” question. This was once (and often still is) spoken of as something to be maintained above all–but for me (and I think most millenials after me) this just perpetuated the same dichotomy as church clothes and listening exclusively to Christian music on youth trips–it suggested that you behave and conduct yourself one way in church and that you’re someone else–you’re real, authentic self, when you’re not at church–and this extended even to the pastor.

    I’m guessing you guys may have already covered this in your class, but when Zuckerberg said he didn’t believe in personal privacy, people were pissed off–but I don’t know anyone under the age of 25 who didn’t kind of agree. We know what social media is when we pick it up. If I’m a hot-headed jerk in a facebook feud with an old college friend over NPR firing Juan Williams, then yes, people will see that–including my youth and the people I serve. But they also know me and can love, nurture and encourage me. And they are people to whom I can honestly confess my own shortcomings.

    It’s not perfect and I’m not saying I’ve got it down, but it does feel more honest and in that sense, much closer to the church I need as well as the one I want to serve.

  • I was a pastor for the past 14 years and used forums and blogs for the last decade. They served two great functions:
    1) I would put up a new post every Wednesday. For those who were part of our small groups, it provided a conversation starter. In turn, as I would get feedback from the small group leaders, I would craft sermons for the upcoming weeks so that it was a sort of a congregation wide dialogue (we also had open Q & R during the services).
    2) I was able to follow other thinker’s blogs. This was hugely significant. I was frequently not seeing eye-to-eye with my (often older) denominational leadership and by reading other blogs I was able to gain perspective of the massive shift that our culture as a whole was going though without feeling like I was ‘losing my faith’ or ‘going crazy’ – both of which I watched multiple peers and friends go through.

    I think that when you have times of great transition, realignment, and re-imagining a place to exchange ideas and compare notes is really vital for both the congregation / community and also for those privileged with leadership responsibilities.

    I continue to blog & podcast as I go through my program as a way of staying in dialogue with those I have met along the journey and those who want to keep trading notes on what we are learning and where we don’t behave / read the Bible like we used to 🙂

    p.s. I was terrified of retribution and would never comment using my real name when I was a pastor. When I went to enter my name just now in the comment box, I typed the name of my podcast out of old habit! yikes. That boogy-man is a terrifying thing.

  • The greatest affirmation I receive from my congregation is how my blog “makes them think.” Usually a positive response :-), this comment serves to show how a pastors blog creates space to challenge paradigms in a safe, discussion-based environment.

  • I am a Presbyterian Pastor that has been blogging regularly for the last three years. Instead of blogging for the church I have used the medium as a way to engage the community outside of the church.

    I write on local food, sustainable agriculture, “going green” and other issues related to consumption. Sometimes I write about how faith and church intersect with these issues and sometimes I don’t. After a year of blogging, I was picked up by Spokane’s major newspaper and now cross post the blog to a green-living site managed by the paper. Every time I put up a post, my headline is listed and linked near the top of the front page of the newspaper. Today the headline “How would Jesus Farm” has been running on the front page of the paper all day.

    I see the blog as part of my ministry of engagement with the community.

  • Celeste

    Craig, That is the kind of blog I’m looking for! Can I do a search for it under the headline title? Thanks for your comment.

  • A Google search will work or just click on my name above and it will take you there.

  • Loretta I.

    I really am enjoying all the feedback from many diverse people in ministry.

    Can anyone provide the top (3) Best Uses or Best Practices for blogs relating to church ministry / Youth Ministry for Pastors?

    I am curious to know HOW the big blog winners or those with successful blogs create meaningful use.

  • Jenn Macy

    Thank you all for your thought provoking responses. I was especially interested in hearing from Pastor’s how they use blogs to interact in a new way with their congregation.
    Do you find that the blogs reach a different population within your church that traditional sermons do not? Does the amount of time people spend on the internet daily play into why blogs are effective or is it a change in the culture where our congregants are looking to interact with their minister’s in a new way?

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  • Jim Leavitt

    This has been a very interesting and educational dialogue to read on how people have used blogs for ministry and other purposes. I see a lot of potential for this media for ministry and just as a way of reaching out to a wider community (which I do see as a type of ministry). I see a lot of church newsletters that go out on a monthly basis that include some sort of column by the pastor. Taking that same column and putting it on a blog site is just an extension of this same ministry.

    I do also share the concerns of being taken out of context and misrepresented by others. However, as I think on this and what others have posted here, I find myself thinking that I can not let such reservations rule my decisions. After all, was Jesus worried about this? Or the apostles, or Paul? I don’t think so based on what we read in the scriptures and therefore, if I speak the truth in love, then I can not be worried about how others might use or misuse my words.

  • Rahsaan

    I just spent the weekend on a long drive with a friend debating biblical interpretations of sexual orientation, gender roles, video games and violence. Because of my comfort with this friend I was able to articulate previously unexpressed beliefs, argue loosing points (just because) and try on new ideas to see how they fit. After the conversation I realized 1) I argue better after I’ve written my points down 2) I think I could have had this same discussion in a more thoughtful and fruitful way with a community of people who have a variety a differing views and opinions. Thank you all for sharing your insight on blogging and how it has influenced your ministry and personal lives.

  • The logosdivinityguildworks.org site isn’t up yet. But, as I encounter new theological, and archaeologico-pastoral encounters through blogging and tweeting, I’m amazed at this back-facet of the diamond of the internet. I’ve designed for, used and utilised and written for the internet for a decade and a half, and as a business/design professional it’s served in a distinctly ‘for profit’ capacity.

    Now, I’m being introduced to tools and widgets and implimentations that benefit the spiritual forming, and shepherding of souls. It’s a remarkable gift of this time in our collective and historical continuum, to be able to bring to the body of Christ and Church. Thy Kingdom come, and thy kingdom connected. All roads can lead us to what, and wherever Emmaus lives for us.

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