Christian Blogging And Social Media

For the last three months I’ve felt like I’ve been in a bit of a funk about this whole blogging and writing thing. And it’s not really the writing itself, it’s more about the way in which I should promote and share the things I write.

For a time I ended up deciding not to promote my writing on my personal Facebook profile because I felt it wasn’t who I wanted to become. I had noticed that in the previous few months nearly everything I shared was my own writing from my own blog. I didn’t want to be that guy. There’s a kind of arrogance to that, I think. There’s something not quite right only promoting and sharing the things I am doing.

Ironically (conveniently?), the last week or so has seen a few Christian bloggers commenting about the state of Christian blogs. It’s been an interesting conversation to follow.

Tim Challies’ kicked it off with a post about the kinds of blogs there are in the Christian blogosphere. He made the case that the decrease in Christian blogs is due to the rise of the rightfully named ‘ministry blog’, in amongst a brief point on the future of blogging. Samuel D. James at Letter & Liturgy then made some great points about the various effects of the ministry blog, but also raised concerns bloggers need to be aware of as they seek to have their content written. In the last few days Challies’ has again written about Christian blogging, this time encouraging more Christians to write and publish their own content on their own blog for the sake of the wider church. Again, he makes some great points and I certainly found it encouraging for my own blogging.

In this day and age of platform building through online presence, everyone being a brand, and the addictive nature of social media, it is worth thinking about the impact this has on Christian writing and blogging. For what it’s worth, here are a few more observations I believe worth consideration.

First, the temptation to stay perceptively relevant.

Years ago, when I started blogging myself, there was the belief that having your own blog helped you become a thought-leader in your field. This was, and still is, true. Sort of. The decrease in personal Christian blogs doesn’t mean there are less thought-leaders, it just means these leaders are more likely to be writing on larger ministry blogs. But for the Christian blogger who has a small audience the temptation is to try and impress others with their thoughts. To impress others usually means staying relevant and talking about topics that are ‘in the news’. In other words, writing what other big ministry sites are writing about (the irony of me making this commenting while referring to the ongoing Christian blogging conversation has not past me). I see this in the youth ministry sphere all the time. As posts comes through my RSS reader each day I find it amusing that 3-4 of the large youth ministry blogs are talking about similar things all within a few days of each other. In this way the big ministry sites are actually talking to themselves most of the time and the perception is that everyone is being relevant.

Second, the opportunity to share a message. 

Christian ministry is about the message not the man. The message is centred on the Good News, it’s not about the person who is delivering that message. Because of blogs and social media the opportunity to share this message is phenomenal.

Part of the difficulty in my wrestle to promote my own things isn’t the lack of opportunity to share whatever message I wrote about that week. It is the question of frequency and what other perceived. My own issue may have been solved if I only took time to share the writing of others. And while it is something I do, I don’t do it that often. I just don’t want to flood my own profile with my own articles, let alone other people. I also don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time curating content. Curating. It just sounds dirty. But, it is the reality of the blogger life.

Third, the meaning of humility. 

Humility is something we as Christians strive for because we recognise we’re not the centre of the universe. This is not to say we can’t say or do anything that will increase our own profile. This can naturally happen as our writing becomes more well-known and for the message that we proclaim. However, in seeking to be humble there is to be a constant checking of our own hearts as to where we’re leaning. The temptation to think that we are better than others somehow because we publish a blog post on a Monday and Thursday each week is real. It’s real because humility is difficult to cultivate when you’re seeking to write and publish and speak a message. Again, it’s not about the messenger, it’s about the message. But because they are intrinsically linked the temptation to redefine humility in our own minds becomes a reality.

Fourth, the slow-drip social media saturation. 

Again, my little break of self-promotion provided me with conversations with people who thought I was weird. And I say this because some people were almost angry at me for stopping the promotion of my own material. They just couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t promote it. It was unfathomable to them that I stop promoting my blog posts on my personal profile and instead suggest people subscribe via email or follow my sites FB page.

To me, this pointed out how many of us Christians have been sucked into the culture of social media, platforming, and self-promotion. It has come to the point where we have no problem with any of this kind of behaviour and thinking. We don’t stop to think just how much we think of ourselves as a brand, instead this is now natural, it is what makes up personhood. Thankfully, we are able to reset ourselves when we realise that we haven’t been created as brands but as people; people who are created by God and for his purposes in this world.

Fifth, the settling of the self. 

After prayer and reflection, conversation and writing myself clear, I’ve come to a sense of peace about how I am to write, where I seek to write, and what I will and won’t promote on social media. There are, of course, no particular rules about all this, just like there are no rules in what you can read. But there is most likely a wiser course of action to take. In the end each Christian blogger needs to wrestle with who they are, who they are in light of God, and what they are seeking to get out of their own blog.

Like Samuel D. James comments, there are plenty of temptations to get more involved in social media-land because of blogging. But, there is also plenty of opportunity to find more of your own heart and character in amongst it all. When I say the ‘settling of self’, I mean finding where you are comfortable with right now as you seek to write and share for the glory of God.

The whole point in all of this has been to figure out what exactly is God calling me to do about my writing and sharing of said message. Surely, as we seek to improve our blogs as Christians, and have Christian bloggers speaking into the wider church in their own ways, we are seeking the benefit of others, serving the Church, and trying as best we can to articulate and highlight the grace and glory of God.

My Top Posts of 2018

Each year I set a number of writing goals, some of which correspond to the regular writing on this blog. This year has been up and down.

I start off at the beginning of the year full of energy, but to sustain the goal of one post per week on this platform is often interrupted. Sometimes it is life that gets in the way, sometimes it is motivation, sometimes it is a lack of ideas, sometimes it is a lack of confidence, sometimes it is a perfectionism that I can’t get over for a while. Whatever it is and whenever it is I still try to push something out that I’m thinking or reading about. If you’re a regular reader of this site then I hope something has been helpful for you.

Top Posts of 2018

In assessing 2018, in terms of my writing and blogging, there are some encouraging things I’m pleased with and others that I’m not.

In terms of raw statistics, in the last 12 months, I’ve managed to:

In many ways this is pleasing to see. Things have improved and been on the increase year by year. There is slow growth, nothing viral, but growing nonetheless.

In terms of what people actually read when visiting this site, here are the posts written in 2018 that were the most popular:

1// Make The Bible Project Your Bible Reading Plan For 2018

By far and away this post was the most popular. I think it was helped by Google, who pointed people here when they search for ‘Bible Project reading plan’. It’s an excellent plan and one that I was following for some of the year.

2// Chair of Deacons Postpones Meeting To Confirm Identity of Youth Pastor

I was playing around with my writing a little at times and had a go at writing a satirical piece for the Babylon Bee. It wasn’t accepted but fun to write at least.

3// Billy Graham and Gramps

When Billy Graham passed away early in the year I interviewed my grandfather, who helped run some of the crusades in New Zealand back in the day. It ended up being republished on TGCA and on the NZ Baptists site.

4// 5 Learnings From Being ‘Acting Senior Pastor’

The Lead Pastor was away on leave for a few weeks. I was the only other person on staff. Here are some reflections from that time. It’s happening again after Christmas too.

5// Is It Time To Take The Guilt Out Of Your Bible Reading?

Another post about reading Scripture. This one looked at how we can take the guilt out of doing so, like skipping days or beginning to find ourselves behind in reading programs and guides.

So, those were the posts written in 2018. Overall, the top five posts that were most read, written at anytime in the last 9 years, were:

Thanks for reading!

For those interested in stats from previous years you can read about 2015, 2016, and 2017.

On Keeping A Journal

Over the years, probably on and off since high-school, I’ve kept a journal.

On Keeping A Journal

At times I’ve been consistent with this practice. I’ve taken dedicated time and discipline to write what I’ve experienced or felt about certain moments. Whether by typing or whether by handwriting I’ve dedicated time, notebooks, and files to exploring what is going on within. During certain seasons I’ve been able to write daily, expressing thoughts about the days just gone and reflect on how I’m understanding those experiences.

At other times, usually when the season is a hard one, I feel compelled to write. I feel compelled to make sense of what is going on. I feel compelled to discern what my mind and my heart is really saying.

You see, often through the exercise of writing, whether it be in list form or a more comprehensive essay, life can be made clearer. As I work through an issue, an experience, or a particular emotion, the ‘thinking on paper’ provides clarity.

Another aspect to journaling that I find helpful is the way it can become a spiritual exercise. A spiritual exercise centred around writing out my prayer for the day, the day coming or the day past, where I can be entirely honest with God.

Even within ourselves, we rarely take the time to really explore what is going on within our own hearts and minds. Through a journal we are able to explore those ideas, concepts, emotions, seasons, thoughts, issues, and pressures by patiently writing or typing our inner most thoughts. Between the pen and the page we are able to discern our own hearts and seek wisdom from above.

After more than 15 years of this practice, with a few breaks in-between, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong way to journal. In high school we may have been taught some form of formalised writing, and for some reason we carry over to our personal lives those structured ‘rules’ around how we are to express ourselves. There aren’t any rules for writing a journal, it is yours and you can do with it what you like.

As to reading old journals, it probably depends on purpose. I’m always nervous about re-reading something I wrote years ago. It’s like reading the ‘old me’, or at least taking a step backwards, realising how stupid and immature I was. I’m certainly nervous about it. But, for some of those more diary-entry journals it is worth being reminded of what I’ve experienced and gives perspective on the now. For example, I always find it interesting reading portions of my journals from my time in Lebanon, now over 10 years ago. Those entries can be a reminder of what I did, who I met, and what I was thinking at the time.

A little while ago I came across this post, talking about journaling as a pathway to joy. It highlights, for those of us who have a faith, that journaling can be a beneficial spiritual exercise, keeping our hearts and mind on the things of God. It talks about some of the similar things I’ve outlined here, but provides some good ways journaling intersects with our relationship with God. As the author points out,

“…journaling is a way of slowing life down for just a few moments, and trying to process at least a sliver of it for the glory of God, our own growth and development, and our enjoyment of the details”.

What about you? Do you journal? What have you learnt through it? 

My One Blogging Goal For 2018

With the turn of the new year comes the flurry of posts about how to improve your blogging in 2018. I think I’ve read a dozen or so already.

It’s made me think about my own blogging for the year ahead.

My One Blogging Goal For 2018

There is no doubt that I enjoy the writing process. It clarifies my thoughts, it helps me think out loud, it gives me the opportunity to express my opinions and ideas. Depending on what kind of day it is the writing will come easily, but more often than not it is hard. It requires actually articulating my thoughts in a systematic or structured way. Writing requires me to sit in front of a blank screen and turn that white document into something worth reading.

I’m not sure I achieve this very often, but it seems people do read what I write. I am appreciative of that.

And I’m particularly thankful for those who have read the odd post over the last 12 months. I’ve had a focus to increase readership and write more regularly, which was achieved, even if there were seasons where nothing was published.

But they were last year’s goals. And having read enough “Improve Your Blog” type posts it is apparently important to have goals coming into 2018.

For the coming year I have reservations about setting number goals about readership. It keeps me focussed on numbers, which at the best of times are encouraging but totally distracting and beside the point at the worst. So for 2018, instead of focussing on the statistics, which get looked at far too often, I have decided to make my goal writing-based.

That is, I want to write from the heart more this year. 

Reflecting on my own writing I don’t believe I write from the heart enough. Sure, I may have a post that moves someone else. I may have a good piece of writing that connects with a reader. But am I actually writing from the heart?

To me, writing from the heart is about putting words on paper that reflect more of who I am.

It isn’t giving more of my opinion, it isn’t making the post feel more energetic with faux-excitement. Writing from the heart is about writing truthfully, clearly, and with an openness that leaves part of me on the page. It means I’m not hiding behind words but I’m putting myself on the line when I write and publish.

While this goal isn’t particularly measurable, certainly not from the outside, it may cause me issues when seeking to evaluate come the end of the year. But that’s my issue. For now I’m committed to writing through this blog, seeking to help others in youth and young adult ministry reflect on their experience and be better in their work.

Let’s see how we go.

What about you? What’s your number one blogging goal for the year? 

My Top Posts of 2017

Earlier this month I wrote briefly about how I’ve managed to achieve a couple of blogging goals this year. I wanted to write more regularly in 2017, and as a result I’ve averaged a published post per week on this site and a few guest posts on others. The second goal was to increase the amount of views from last year. I aimed to double last years result and achieved this too. Happy days.

Top Posts of 2017

But, there are a few things that continue to get read reasonably regularly so here’s a list of the five most popular posts viewed this year (2016 and 2015).

One, 11 Things: The Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor Relationship

It seems there’s a few people out there wanting some tips on how to deal with the Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor dynamic. It’s not surprising, it’s probably the number one reason Youth Pastors move on from their job.

Two, Growing Young – Keychain Leadership

I wrote this over twelve months ago. I was working through the book Growing Young. This post talks about how churches need to be willing to pass the baton of leadership to young people. It is a key chapter in the book and worth reading entirely.

Three, Growing Young

Here I begin the Growing Young series, which I wrote over a period of three months. I write about each chapter, but this one gives a general summary of the whole. Again, it’s a book for those in youth ministry and church leadership (and others if they’re interested).

Four, Beginning As A Youth Pastor: 11 Things I Wished I Knew

I wrote this in preparation for a presentation. It describes what I wished I knew when I started out as a Youth Pastor. As it turns out I had 11 points, and those 11 points were then made into a blog post each. This series has already been mentioned with the number one most popular post on the site. This one covers them all.

Five, On Youth Pastor Position Descriptions

I saw a really poorly written position description for a youth ministry position and I got annoyed. This resulted in further articulation of my thoughts in this post. It seems it was reasonably well read and rather relevant to people. Not really many surprises there if you’re a Youth Pastor.

Some other random bits of information about this blog:

  • The top five countries where readers are from are Australia, the USA, the UK, Canada and New Zealand. Australia and the US bring in the most by far.
  • Facebook and search engines are the digital spaces people come from to read.
  • I currently have over 200 posts available for people to read.

If you’re a regular reader, thanks very much for coming by. I am always in two minds as whether or not keeping this up is worth it. When I get to the end of the year and begin to re-evaluate my goals there is something about giving this up that I would find painful. I hope the words written here are worthy of being read, fun and humourous at times, and most of all bringing glory to God as I write about youth ministry.

Thanks again.

Achieving Blogging Goals

Today I achieved my main blogging goals for the year.

It’s a day to celebrate! 

At the start of the year I set myself two main goals to achieve by the end of 2017.

Achieving Blogging Goals.png

First, I wanted to write and post more often. Making sure I could achieve this meant I needed to make it specific and measurable. The goal was to average a post a week by the end of the year. This is now my 58th post. I achieved this goal with when I posted about freedom.

Second, I wanted to have double the amount of views this year than I did in 2016. Last year I had 2,567 views. Today I tipped over 5,134! This is awesome news, and very pleasing for all the work I end up putting into this site.

So, it is a day to celebrate.

I can tick off two major goals I sought to achieve at the start of the year. It didn’t come easy. There were times when I didn’t think I’d make it. The regular writing, editing, and posting takes more time than I’d like to admit. But, with intentional focus this year it seems to have worked.

More people are reading my stuff, which often blows me away–that people actually take time to read what I write and occasionally comment. And, for a personal blog that is targeted at quite a niche topic it’s certainly on the improve.

So, here’s to achieving goals!

(Let’s not talk about new goals for 2018 just yet)

 

Published: Grace In Relationships – The Youth Minister And The Volunteer

A few days ago I had a post published at Rooted Ministry. This is part of a series about ‘Grace In Relationships’. I focussed on what it means to extend grace as a Youth Pastor to those who are committed volunteer leaders in your church.

“Often, relationships can be made complicated in unhealthy ways. However, when grace is the marker in a relationship – youth ministry volunteer or otherwise – that which seems complicated becomes easier. Truth is eventually able to be spoken, forgiveness is able to be given and received, and love and kindness shines through. If you’re sceptical, look no further than the grace given to us through Christ Jesus. I encourage you to seek to make grace the centre of your relationship with your volunteers, as I believe it will not only transform the culture of your youth ministry to another level, but also transform your own heart.”

You can read the whole post here.

When You’ve Been Writing For 8 Years And Your Blog Still Sucks

I’ve been writing on this blog, on and off, for about eight years.

And yep, my blog still sucks.

There are probably a number of reasons the blog sucks. The writing. The topics. The lack of consistency in publishing posts. The poor promotion, even though it is the age of social media.

I don’t like to think about these reasons. It’ll send me into a spiral.

But, yeah, the blog sucks.

When You've Been Writing For 8 Years And Your Blog Still Sucks

Any person with basic mathematical skills will work this out when they read my stats. A blog’s stats are like Microsoft Excel to an accountant, they measure and tell the story of the site. They help the owner of a blog calculate how well they’re doing.

Well, my stats tell me that my blog sucks.

I’m not even sure if I should tell you my stats. I don’t see this as a done thing in the blogosphere. Everyone is so secret about it.

Here goes.

  • So far this year I’ve had 2000 post or page views. The most views in a year was 2016, at just over 2500.
  • The most views are directly to my homepage. In terms of the most viewed post, the winner is an obscure post about Christian persecution in the Middle East from 2014.
  • I have 97 people who follow this blog through WordPress or via email.

So as I was saying, my blog sucks.

There are days I want to blow it up. To detonate it and send it into internet oblivion. To see it gone from the history of the web forever. I then wonder whether anyone else would like to see this happen too.

But then there are days where I just want to keep plugging away. To keep trying to publish regularly. To write things and let the world have them. To create and put out into the world thoughts, reflections, and understandings that might have an impact on someone.

And so I don’t and won’t blow it up right now. I won’t hit the switch. I won’t delete my words from the interwebs.

I’ll keep going.

I’ll keep posting.

I’ll keep writing.

Because at the end of the day I have seen improvement. I enjoy the writing process and putting things out there for others to consider. I am pleased with some of what I have written. It’s not about the stats but my own growth in my writing.

But, yeah, my blog still sucks.


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Detonate‘.

My Blogging Year – A Retrospective

How do you summarise a year?

I suppose you could use a one-word expletive, which I notice a number of my Facebook friends have used to describe 2016. But, there are a number of factors that make up a year with its various highs and lows. The variables of family, friends, work, hobbies, recreation, health and fitness, and more, make up much of what we call life. Each of these areas we may be able to summarise, but to tie them all together is difficult.

restrospective

Over at The Daily Post there is the challenge to summarise my blogging year. And upon reflection there are a few insights we can glean.

First, I had six good months and six poor months of posting content. I obviously don’t like winter very much nor am I inspired during these months. I posted often in the January to March period but soon dropped off before taking up publishing again from October through December.*

Second, the main topic I posted about was ‘youth ministry’. Of the top five most read posts three of them were on the topic of youth ministry. This isn’t too much of a surprise considering I was intentional in what I was to post about this year. Youth ministry was one area I wanted to write more about and this is clear through the posts I’ve written in 2016. The other factor would be the change of ministry role, becoming Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults at the start of the year. These things seem to point toward a youth ministry passion and this is being seen in what I write about.

Here are my top five posts:

  1. The Ageing Youth Pastor
  2. Starting Fresh As A Youth Pastor
  3. Why Every Youth Pastor Should Watch ‘Spotlight’
  4. ‘N’ As A Social Media Movement
  5. I’ve Never Been To Aleppo

Third, there was a 30% increase in traffic to the blog in the past 12 months. This has been encouraging and positive. You do expect an increase when you’re coming off such a low base though. 🙂

Fourth, the top five countries where readers come from are: Australia, USA, Brazil, New Zealand and the UK. Four of them are not surprising. One of them is. You can probably guess which one.

Fifth, each New Year that passes brings with it a good opportunity to reflect on the worthiness of writing and blogging. I’m one of those people who enjoy reflecting on events, conversations, experiences and time-periods. Blogging is no different. And while some people are against New Year resolutions, believing that January 1st is only another day, I do find it helpful to reflect and set goals for the next 12 months. These goals don’t need to be anything complicated, but they do need to be specific. My choice to write more about youth ministry seems to have been achieved as I’ve seen a few things here gain some traction with readers. It’s also helped me think through the topics in more depth.

For 2017, consistency will be the key and the main goal for this blog. I seek to me more intentional about writing topics and will also aim at writing at least one decent piece per week. 

If you’re a blogger (or perhaps there’s something in your life you need to be more intentional about) then what would be your main goal for your blog in 2017?

*Another factor here may well be the birth of our second child. Probably can’t discount that variable either! 

2015 In Review

The WordPress.com stats monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Considering I’ve hardly written at all this year (7 posts in all) I’m pretty happy with these. Here’s hoping for a better writing year in 2016!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.