These days, it can seem like every church, pastor or theologian has a blog. – lots of people giving lots of thoughts about lots of subjects. But there is a world of difference between a small personal blog that only a few people read and a blog that’s a powerful communication tool for you or your church. Below are three observations about some more successful blogs and how they do what they do well.
1. Content is key. First and foremost, people want to read a blog that has something to say. A blog can give people all sorts of useful information – news, reviews, analysis, discussions, summaries, commentary, and on and on. But just putting a post up doesn’t mean that post will be read. Readers can quickly recognize the difference between a long post that rambles and a Twitter-sized post that has something important to say.
For each post you make on your blog, ask this question – “What would I post if I could only post one sentence?” This isn’t the same as coming up with a snappy title or a bumper-sticker slogan. Instead, this sentence should be the main idea of your post. If you find yourself coming up with multiple ‘main ideas’ for one post, spread them out. Not only will your readers be able to follow your ideas better, but you’ll have more content for future posts! As you write your post, make sure that your content always points back to that main idea.
Look at the main ideas of your last group of posts (looking over the last 3 to 6 months is best). Do most of the ideas relate to one another, or are they all different? Many good blogs focus on one subject area. For example, Dan Dick’s United Methodivations focuses on commentary regarding the United Methodist Church, especially in regards to discipleship. This kind of focused content helps readers to know what kind of content they can expect from a particular blog, and expectations help keep readers coming back for more.
2. Spread it out. You don’t have to unload all of your knowledge or the church’s news in one post! Blogs are made so writers can add information easily. If each of your posts covers only one main idea, then a reader can scan them easily for what he or she is interested in. The one-idea-per-post structure also makes searching and linking easier for others. If a great idea is buried in a post with a lot of other main ideas, it can get lost in the shuffle.
In spreading out your posts, try to post as regularly as possible. A blog with long gaps (months or more) between posts often conveys a lack of something to say, and readers will be less likely to check back to see if new posts come up. Try to have a regular update schedule – for example, post every Thursday. Also,try developing a regular feature like a weekly news summary or chapter-by-chapter Bible study. Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed has a weekly summary feature; Faith and Leadership’s Call & Response gives daily summaries of interesting web articles. Readers look forward to regular features that have proven in the past to be interesting or helpful.
3. Pursue your passion. Why blog at all? Because you have passion about something! The structures of prioritizing content and spreading out ideas both serve to focus a blogger’s passion and make it more accessible to readers. Don’t just tell people facts or give people analysis – show them that what you have to say is interesting, helpful and important. Help your readers experience the information in your posts. Use stories, give concrete examples of abstract ideas, reflect on your own feelings about the material… here’s a link about how good writing in general should be done.
Don’t be afraid to be distinctive! Each blog will have its own style. Arts & Letters Daily simply gives three links each day to high quality web articles; Don Miller’s blog serves as a place to test his ideas before he puts them in book form. All of the best blogs convey their passion about their subject matter – “I think this is important, and I hope to show you why this is important too.” A well-sustained blog can convey your ideas in ways that let your passion shine through in content that is understandable and consistent in quality from post to post.
Rev. Michael Dettmer is a Licensed Local Pastor in the Staunton District.