No matter the size of your congregation, relationships are at the center. Whether it’s between the minister and the congregation, the minister and the board, the board and the congregation, or the minister and the staff, healthy relationships make for a healthy and thriving spiritual community. How do we keep our relationships healthy, or return to health after trauma? As with personal relationships, there are many ways, and perhaps the most important is open, clear communication.
Many issues can arise during a church’s lifetime: change of minister, relocation, financial mismanagement, rapid expansion—just to name a few. These are the times when open and honest communication is a valued commodity for maintaining connection and trust between the congregation and leadership. While in-person gatherings still will be the best venue for processing, it is good to have a place to post up-to-date information.
A blog can be one of your best tools for timely communication. It’s modern-day storytelling and tends to have a more friend-to-friend style of writing. It also gives a minister an opportunity to share beyond and between Sunday mornings, a place for church leadership to engage in dialogue with the congregation, and more importantly, for congregants to read and respond in their own time. Great social media is always a two-way conversation.
A blog is essentially an online journal, where the most recent entries float to the top. Blogs can be written, audio or video. Getting started is pretty easy, as most websites have an option to create a blog page. If not, try WordPress.com for a free, easy-to-use option and just link to your blog from your website navigation. There are other platforms—Blogger or (the newest) Medium—but WordPress is widely adopted and integrates well with other systems. (Read a comparison of some of the blogging platforms.)
As you launch—or update—your blog, keep these tips in mind:
- Have a plan. Who will write? Will it be just the minister? How about ministry leaders as well? Who will have final approval? Who will post the entries? How often will you post? If you’re not sure, start with weekly or twice a month. Who will respond to comments? Remember: this blog is meant as a listening tool, too.
- Keep it light. Blogs are not meant to be the next great theological tome. Keep your reader in mind and “talk to” them in a conversational tone.
- Answer questions. If you’re not sure what you’ll write about every two weeks, let your audience help decide the content! Congregants and potential visitors want to know more: about the organization, about your talks, about you. It may be next to impossible to address these queries in person. Create a physical and online question box, then use what comes in as blog content. Be open and honest and don’t be afraid to share personal stories.
- Ask questions. Sunday talks tend to be a one-way delivery system. By asking questions in your blog you not only encourage your readers to think deeper, but to comment on the post, becoming engaged readers. It’s a good practice to require approval for comments before they’re made public (it’s a setting on your blog). Take the time to reply to the comments. Warning: Don’t get into arguments. Tone can be hard to read, so this isn’t the forum for an argument.
- Less is more. Blogging allows you to share much more than a tweet or a Facebook post, but don’t get carried away. Blog posts should be around 400-600 words for easy reading. If you’re on fire about a topic that requires more space, consider making it a 3- or 4-part series.
- Share your blog. Most blogs can help automatically post to your social media accounts when a new post goes live. Just because you post, doesn’t mean people will see it! Share with your social and email audiences and make sure blog visitors have an easy way to share your post as well.
A final tip: As with all storytelling, let your blog be an extension of your ministry. It should reflect your tone and your live community experience, and should support the mission and vision of your church.