So you are thinking of creating a blog for your parish and not really knowing how to start or what to “blog” about. Don’t feel like you are alone, we all started there. The one advantage faith bloggers have over all other bloggers . . . an endless supply of content. Ideas for blog posts are the most difficult component for any blogger. But when it comes to faith, it’s encountered everyday in the lives we live. So what’s the best approach for a blog at the parish level? Here are my thoughts:
- Who should blog? The Pastor, parish Priest, or Deacon are the best people for this. This is a great supplemental opportunity to engage the parish community like never before. Priests and Deacons are often confined to homilies or brief discussions here and there. The blog offers them another avenue to share their thoughts, teach, and engage the community. If the person is too busy or not comfortable with using the application, simply assign someone to post for them. Have the Priest email over their article and cut and paste the post under their name. However, they should be taught how to use the application in terms of replying to comments (which should be moderated).
- What to blog? A good overall blog is themed and give it catchy title (within reason obviously). “From the Pastor’s Desk”, “Church Talk”, “Holy Grounds”, etc. Avoid putting a particular person’s name in the title so transition for any change later on is seamless. A great place to start at the parish level would be readings throughout the week. This is a great opportunity to speak to the theme of the readings, the background, how they apply to life, etc. It’s also a great opportunity to highlight “above and beyond” volunteer efforts with the parish and thank them publicly. Or you can also use it as an opportunity to answer faith questions that come from parishioners.
- Where to blog? There are several great free platforms that are easy to use and can easily be linked to on the parish website making it one of the navigation links. Some of the free easy-to-use and set up services are Blogger or WordPress.com. Each time a new post is up, you can share it out on your parish Facebook page, Twitter account, and/or have a feed of the blog visible right on the home page of the website.
- When to blog? This is one of the biggest questions when it comes to blogging, how often? It’s up to you. My personal opinion at the parish level is that it should be a minimum of weekly. Bi-Weekly at a maximum. Any longer than that and people forget or simply lose interest.
Sounds easy, right? That’s because it really is. There are some general pitfalls that one can fall into with blogging and here’s just a few and how to avoid them:
- Lack of ideas sometimes called “blog food”. I keep a notepad on my desk, and when an idea arises I jot it down. Then I cross them off as I complete them.
- Being boring. Using personal stories that relate to the topic are always good to include. I typically try to write imagining I am speaking to another person. This keeps things grounded and hopefully comes across more personal. And add a nice graphic header. Get a volunteer to design a fun graphic.
- Keep it short and to the point. It’s very easy to write a very long post. You’ll lose your readers. People read differently online, and keeping things short and to the point is best. People love lists too (when applicable). Don’t know why, but they do.
- Avoid venting at all costs. The great thing about the internet is that you can get a thought or idea out to a very large audience in a very short period of time. The bad thing about the internet is that you can get a thought or idea out to a very large audience in a very short period of time. If something is frustrating you . . . stay away from the computer. We’ve all done it, and that is why I am pointing it out.
- Avoid negativity. We are surrounded by negativity all the time. I have found that positive messages go over a lot better. They may not get the most comments, but they are far more impactful and the message is retained longer.
- Reply to comments. The easiest thing to do is forget and someone asks a question for further understanding. Check back like once a day to see the reaction.
- Watch Copyrights! Images that people upload are copyrighted. Other’s blog posts are copyrighted and you can not simply cut and paste their post claiming it to be yours. Use copyright/royalty-free images. When quoting someone else’s post, link to it.
Remember your audience is your parish. It’s always good to start local. Will it attract a larger audience? Yes. Encourage your parishioners to share it out in email, on Facebook, Twitter, tell people, etc. Plus built in SEO things like images in each post will be picked up by search engines. Have fun. What are your thoughts?