I often get asked by other pastors if they should have a blog. After all, it seems like any pastor who is doing anything has a blog. Whether that is true or not, it feels that way. Also, many pastors hope to write a book one day and a blog is a natural first step.
I’ve been blogging for 8 years now and I believe that a pastor should blog. Here are 4 ways to know if you should:
- You feel like you have something to say. If you don’t feel like you have something to say or you are starting a blog because every other pastor in your network has a blog, you shouldn’t start one. Don’t look to fill a void in the blog world, there probably isn’t one. Just write about the things you are passionate about. When I write something, I ask myself, “Do I want to know about this?” That for me is the question. If I’m interested in a topic, I assume others will be as well. This is why my blog has leadership topics, preaching, theology, family, marriage, NFL, fantasy football, health and crossfit and random Dilbert comics. Don’t try to talk about something you don’t care about or aren’t passionate about.
- You like to write. I’ve asked writers about their rhythm and schedule and many writers love to write. I’ve met some that have told me, “I write because someone pays me and I have a deadline.” If that’s you, don’t blog. Stick to books. I tried to make on of our leaders blog because I thought it would be helpful and it was a disaster. He hated it and I stopped trying to force him. It has to be something you want to do.
- It is a great way to shepherd and lead your church or organization. This is the reason I have continued blogging. I love to preach, read books, prep sermons and develop leaders. Blogging is an opportunity for me to shepherd and lead my church outside of Sunday morning. I can post more ideas about my sermon, talk about things I didn’t have time for in my sermon, pass on great articles and helpful resources. This is why pastors should blog. If you don’t, I believe you are missing a great leadership and shepherding opportunity.
- It is work. But it is work. Keeping up a blog takes time. A friend of mine recently told me that he had his highest traffic ever and said it was because he posted regularly. If you want to grow a blog, you have to write regularly. If you don’t, your readers won’t know when there is new content and won’t come back. The best way to grow a blog is to be helpful and write good content. Look at any of the blogs with the most traffic and usually those 2 things are true. Get into some kind of rhythm that works for you in terms of writing and stick to it.
Many in our culture act as if electronics, social media and TV are neutral. They are simply there. That is naive at best. Electronics are not neutral. They dictate our lives, pump us with more desire for approval, and often help us waste time and miss out on relationships with family and friends. They can keep us from work and ultimately, run our lives and ruin our lives.
Below are some helpful questions from Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions by Arthur Boers to ask yourself about your relationship with electronics:
Attention: What is the primary and ongoing focus of our awareness? Screens and virtual relationships? Family and neighbors? Voyeuristic television “reality shows”? Nature and our surrounding environment? Is our capacity to pay attention, dwell, and be aware diminishing? Are we so overwhelmed with information and stimulation that our ability to respond is affected? Are we moving from receptivity to expecting to control what we perceive?
Limits: What guides our sense of what is appropriate? Do we have the moral strength to recognize when something is beyond the pale and that we need to say no? Or does technology, which makes more and more things possible, including voyeurism, pornography, and gambling, also make all things permissible? Which taboos are worth guarding? How does technology free us from moral constraints and accountability? What is the relationship of technology to addictions? How does technology reinforce addictions? How is technology itself addictive?
Engagement: How are we coping with life and its challenges? Do we approach our day and those we love with calm anticipation, eager to be and work together? Or do such rushed and harried attention spans lead us into being demanding and curt? How does technology speed encounters, making conflicts and misunderstandings more likely? Does planned and perceived obsolescence contribute to eroding commitments?
Relationships: Do our lives include rich networks of loved ones, supportive friends, caring confidants, and casual acquaintances? Are there people who know us in our fullness, care about our hardships, and challenge us to grow in virtue? Or are our lives characterized by growing isolation and loneliness, our relationships dispersed and fragmented? What are the implications of having relationships increasingly mediated by technology while opportunities for face-to-face conversations decline and in-the-flesh friendships decrease? How does technology reinforce casual approaches to relationships, ones that are easy to enter or exit but do not necessarily sustain? What kinds of communities are created by our technology use?
Time: Do we have a sense that there is enough room in our lifestyles for the things that truly matter—work and play, rigor and rest, love and laughter? Or are we too busy to live according to our deepest and highest priorities? Do distracting demands and pressures lure us away from our highest values? How does engagement with technology make us busier? And how does technology erode and displace opportunities to pause and determine, reflect on, and honor ultimate priorities? Space: How well connected are we with the geography and places where we are located? Are we rooted in neighborhoods, connected to the earth and our environment? Or is much of our life lived abstractly in “virtual” reality?
The psychologist B. F. Skinner came up with the idea of random reinforcement, where you give a rat a lever and every hundred times it presses the lever, it gets a piece of food. For the rat, that is exciting. But if the number is a random number—any number between one and one hundred—it actually ends up being more exciting. And the rat keeps on working much, much more, even if you take the reward away altogether. I think that e-mail and social networks are a great example of random reinforcement. Usually, when we pull the lever to check our e-mail, it’s not that interesting. But, from time to time, it’s exciting. And that excitement, which happens at random intervals, keeps us coming back to check our e-mail all the time. -Dan Ariely, Manage Your Day to Day
I had my birthday recently and it got me to thinking about birthday’s and social media. Facebook has proven to be nice for a few things when it comes to birthday’s or anniversaries. Facebook tells us when these things happen. I don’t have to remember, write them down or keep track. It will just show up on my page. I can then write a quick, “Happy birthday” and be done.
This is nice and somewhat lazy.
If we’re honest, it makes us feel like we are checking something off and being a good friend. But it is missing something.
If you have ever bought a card for something, you maybe wrote something in it. If anything, you at least took 5 seconds to pick out a card that fit that person. It caused you to have some thought about what you gave them or said to them. Social media has taken that away.
One of the things I’ve started to do and here’s my challenge to you: when you write happy birthday to someone on Facebook, write a message to them on their wall. Tell them why you appreciate them or why they are special to you. If you don’t know them well enough to do that, skip the greeting all together. They won’t know you didn’t write them a message.
At Revolution, we challenged our church to give something up for Lent. While most people give up caffeine or chocolate and then spend 40 days complaining about how much they are suffering, we took the angle of asking, “What takes up time in your life? What could you live without and replace that time with Jesus?” For me, I decided to give up Facebook for Lent. Here are 4 things I’ve learned one week into it:
- Facebook wastes a lot of moments in my day. I took Facebook off my phone and iPad and off my app of choice, Flipboard. I find that without thinking I go to check Facebook. It is amazing to me how automatic it is. As I think about it, it really is sad to me how much a part of my life social media has become. I can get lost in it without thinking about it.
- I care about how many likes I get on things. This is hard to admit, but I like when people like things on Facebook that I post. I want people to be impressed with things. This week has been good because I don’t know what people are thinking about what I post. I’m curious. It is teaching me that it doesn’t matter.
- I have no idea what people are doing, which makes me think I have some fake community in my life. While fake social media community is now the way we do community, it isn’t really community. I have over a thousand Facebook friends, many of them I’ve never met. This is cool on one hand, but it also keeps me from getting community. It makes me feel like I don’t need it. I now have to connect with people give them a call, go out for coffee or have someone over to find out what is happening in their lives. While Facebook is a time saver in this regard, it also keeps you from actually having community.
- My life is connected through Facebook. People have asked me about why things are posting on Facebook if I gave it up. I have given it up, but I realized how much my life is connected through Facebook. My blog, twitter, linkedin, signing into hootsuite and a whole host of other apps have to have my Facebook login. Disconnecting from Facebook was more work than I felt like it was worth. So yes, I’m not reading it.
Question: What did you give up for Lent? What are you learning during this season?
You probably won’t be surprised by this, but a new study shows that we’re having a harder and harder time disconnecting. Even vacations are becoming workcations. Check these stats out…
- Seventy-nine percent of respondents have taken their work-related device with them on vacation.
- More than one-third of respondents admit to hiding from friends and family in order to check email on vacation.
- Nearly half of survey respondents admitted to traveling up to 10 miles just to check email during a vacation.
- More than one-third of respondents admit to checking mobile email even during such vacation activities as skiing, horseback riding and biking.
Once a year, I take a digital detox. This week is that. A week with no phone, no email, no twitter, blog or Facebook. All the posts you’ll see this week were written ahead of time.
I will admit, this is harder than it sounds. In fact, after telling other pastor’s and leaders about it, most of them said they could never spend a week with their phone off. I have learned that this is a much needed practice to stay healthy in leadership. The more and more our lives revolve around technology, the more and more crucial I believe it becomes for us to pull away from technology for a period of time.
I think many pastor’s are worried the world will end if they are out of touch. The leaders at Revolution know how to get a hold of me if the world ends. In that case, Jesus will be here so it will be okay.
I’m looking forward to a week of pouring into my family (I’ve learned that this practice goes a long way with Katie and showing her how important she is), reading some novels, taking afternoon naps and generally doing nothing.