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September 29, 2009 in books, Culture and Media, Disciples of Christ, People, social media, Technology | Tags: blogging, business, Chapman University, Chris Brogan, DisciplesWorld, Julien Smith, presentation, social media, social networking, Trust Agents | by Rebecca | Leave a comment
If you are anywhere near Orange County, California tonight you should make every attempt to go hear Chris Brogan speak at Disciples-related Chapman University. Chris is well known in the world of social media and blogging. I read his blog every morning, because I appreciate his short, actionable posts and his analogies. The comments are always a good read too. If you’re interested in going to hear him, you can get a ticket through EventBrite. P.S. It’s FREE!
Chris and Julien Smith just released a book called Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust. I’m about halfway through – it’s interesting. I’m reading it with an eye toward what DisciplesWorld might learn and employ, but also with the Church, churches, and Christians in mind.
Anyone out there going? If so, come back and post your thoughts after the presentation. I’ll be watching the comment stream on Twitter (type #broganoc into the Search box to see Tweets from the event.)
I get a lot of questions about how churches can use social media. Almost 100% of the time, the person basically wants to be taught a new technique that will help them use a tool like Facebook to attract new people to their church. Generally, I bristle a bit at the idea that social media’s usefulness for churches is all about attraction. Thus, I tend to not give out many how-to’s. Instead, I try to focus on getting churches to re-engage with their story and help them use things like social media to tell that story. However, I have a simple idea that I want to share in hopes that some church will give it a try and let me know how it goes.
If your church is like most churches, you probably have a significant number of people that barely use email and will most likely never use anything like Facebook. Does that mean that those folks have no role in social media for your church? I don’t think so. They will just need a little help. “Where will that help come from,” you ask? I’d be willing to bet that your church is also very likely to have a social-media-engaged population that is right under your nose. Maybe it is the youth group or some young adults? Whoever it is, I’m certain their are at least a few people in your congregation that are using things like Facebook. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to get those folks together.
I’m certainly not suggesting that the youth group teach the elders how to blog or set up a Facebook profile. That will go nowhere quick. However, what if, on a couple of Sundays, a time was set up for story-sharing and faith-listening. What if the young people were given an assignment to ask some of the older folks in the congregation about meaningful moments in their faith life? Those youth or young adults would then be responsible for sharing what they learned on the church’s Facebook page or blog. The older folks could, in return, listen to the faith stories of the younger folks and provide their reflections of what they learned to someone who could post them to the social media space as well. With just a Sunday or two’s worth of work, enough stories could be gathered that the church could post one a week for a few months.
Sure, this idea is not completely fleshed out, but maybe that’s okay? What I like about it is that it encourages different generations to really listen and engage with each other’s faith stories. I also love the fact that, by sharing them on sites like Facebook or the church’s website, it invites the world to participate in that “faith listening”. To me there is no more powerful way to introduce your church to the world than through the stories of your faith. How much better is it when you can also more deeply introduce yourselves to each other?
Could your church do something like this? What ideas does this post give you about ways to engage multiple generations through social media? Am I way off?
Will Boyd is owner of 3 Story Church, a church web and social media firm that is focused on helping churches tell their stories. He has worked with Sojourners Magazine, the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Goddard College, the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt, and others. Will also recently finished a bachelor of arts degree from Goddard College that focused on the role of new media and social technologies in the world of sustainable marketing. Will lives in Seattle with his wife, a Disciples pastor.
June 8, 2009 in Disciples Blogs, social media, Technology, Theology | Tags: blog, blogging, Bob Cornwall, church, Disciples Blogs, Ponderings on a Faith Journey, social monday | by bobcornwall | 6 comments
Like many pastors I’ve taken up blogging. I expect that each of us blogs for different reasons – I read enough of these blogs to get sense of how different we are in our use of the blogs. But, each of us blogs because we have something to say to a broader audience – an audience that is likely broader than our immediate congregation. On any given day I get between 150 to 250 hits. That’s not huge, but it’s respectable, and it is a number far beyond the number I reach in my own congregation (especially when you take a weekly cumulative number).
Rebecca asked me to write this post in part because I blog so frequently. My practice is to blog daily, except when I’m simply unable to get to a computer with internet access! Part of my reasoning for blogging daily might have something to do with vanity. I want to attract readers. With that in mind, early on I had read a blog post by Scot McKnight, author of the Jesus Creed blog, which said that if you want to attract and keep a readership, you have to blog daily. I took up the challenge, and have tried to keep up the pace ever since – and my readership has grown as a result.
As to why I blog – I must confess up front that one of the attractions of blogging is that it allows me to publish whatever I want to publish, whenever I want to publish it. I am my own editor. Now, I enjoy writing, so this is not drudgery. Before I took up blogging I had to depend on the good graces of publishers and journal editors – and I have been able to put out a fairly large number of published pieces, including three books and numerous articles and reviews for both general and academic journals – to get my thoughts in print. Although I have a fairly large corpus of published works, and I even edit a journal (Sharing the Practice), that has never seemed to be enough for me. So, now I can write what I want, when I want, with few if any filters (the only real filter is me – I’m ever cognizant of the fact that I have a family and I’m a pastor).
In my personal blog – Ponderings on a Faith Journey – I write upon a wide spectrum of issues, but always with my faith in mind (except those occasions when I talk sports). Even my political posts usually have a faith component. I also have sermon blog, on which I post my sermons each week entitled Words of Welcome.
The question is – how do I keep this in balance with my daily work as a pastor and my commitments to family? That is a difficult question to answer, except to say I do my best to keep things balanced. Much of what I write are reflections on theology and the daily news. Sometimes I pick up political/social/cultural issues – usually after reading the news online. I might pick up a point to comment on. Sometimes it’s the comments made by my visitors that propels a series of blog posts. I tend not to engage in too many conversations in the comments section, but instead, offer up a new post to further the conversation. Blogging has also given me impetus to finish the books I read – especially the ones sent to me by publishers – so that I can offer reviews. As you can see there is an untold amount of information to dig through, reflect upon, and comment upon. There are times, when I have to really dig deep to come up with something, but that usually has more to do with where I’m at that day than it does with regard to my sources of information.
One of the things that a blogging pastor has to be aware of is the “employer.” Rebecca, in inviting me to offer this post, commented that I often pick up controversial issues. That is true. I’ve endorsed a candidate for President – noting carefully that I did so as private citizen and not as a pastor. I’ve dealt with gay marriage, the death penalty, war, and even abortion. If you’re a church member and you have access to the blog you likely know what I think about such issues. Now, I have the advantage that the search committee – or at least some members of the search committee – had been reading my blog even as we were in the interview process. They knew in advance that I took up controversial issues, that I was somewhat to the left on certain issues, and that I wasn’t afraid to express them on the blog. When I was presented to the congregation, it was noted that I was a blogger. So, even if you don’t agree with my positions, you know I do this. That gives me a certain amount of freedom. But, at the same time I try not to abuse that freedom. My suggestion to prospective blogging pastors is simply to check it out with your leadership. Let them know what you’re up to. If they have concerns about what you write, then heed their warnings.
Not every pastor needs to have a blog, though having ways of utilizing the new media is important. But if you’re going to do this, and do it right, you have to enjoy writing. I write, because it’s part of who I am, and I’m thankful that I have this outlet to express my thoughts. Hopefully over the course of time, I’ve become a better writer and more adept at sharing my thoughts clearly and as concisely as I’m able! I will let my readers decide if this is true.
Bob Cornwall is Pastor of Central Woodward Christian Church of Troy, MI, husband of Cheryl, and father of Brett. He is also editor of Sharing the Practice (Academy of Parish Clergy) and a regular contributor to the Christian Century blog — Theolog.
May 18, 2009 in Culture and Media, Disciples Blogs, social media, Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: 2.0, blog, blogging, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Piatt, Disciples Blogs, Disciples of Christ, social media, social monday, Technology | by christianpiatt | 3 comments
Social Monday: Secrets of powerful blogging
It seems like everyone’s blogging lately, and those who aren’t often feel left out of the loop and bewildered about the whole “blogging thing.”
Well, if it makes you feel any better, lots of people who are blogging are pretty close to clueless too. So here are a handful of tips to help you make more out of your blogging experience.
Know your purpose: Sometimes people blog simply as a glorified diary to jot down personal thoughts to share with friends and family. Others, however, are expecting the world to flock to their blog once it’s set up, and then wonder why they’re getting little or no traffic. So before you even start, try to define why you’re doing this. Is it to educate people about something on which you’re an expert? Is it to get them to visit your website, or maybe purchase something? Maybe you’re using it to build community. Whatever it is, know this from the outset and let this guide your content.
Know your audience: This is another one where people can often get tripped up. Just getting lots of traffic on your blog doesn’t mean it’s effective. You need to make sure you have in mind who you’re writing for, and where they can be found. Once you know this, your blog work will become more effective.
Select a blog host: Once you’ve done your initial homework, it’s time to pick where you’re going to host your blog. There are plenty of free hosting sites, but make sure the one you choose allows for keyword search (described more below), and has the capability to be integrated into your website if you have one (also explained more below). The most common hosts are WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot, LiveJournal and others. But more important than its popularity is whether or not the blog host can do what you need it to do.
If all you want is to create something for a select group, such as a church group, family or specific circle of friends, you’re pretty well set. However, if your goal is to draw in new readers, growing traffic from people you may not even know, read on…
Blog Search Engines: Sites such as Technorati, Blogsearch, Digg and Google Blog Search can help raise the “searchability” of your blog posts. This means that people searching online for the kind of content you are generating may stumble across you. There are plenty more search tools like this, but you want to make sure you’re in the big ones so the most people have the best chance of finding you.
Keywords or Tags: Any blog host worth using will offer the ability for you to add tags to each post. These are the key words people should use to find your post. For me, I always include my first and last name as well since, as an author, I want my name to be high in all search engines when they look for me. Make sure your tags are fairly common words, and avoid using words you think may grab some attention, but that actually have nothing to do with your content.
Active Links: Like in this post, you’ll want to offer direct links to things online to which you refer so readers can jump right to them. Folks get annoyed in the blogosphere if you talk about a resource, and then don’t give them the link right to it. Become a sort of portal of information, and readers will return to find out what else you have to say. This also doesn’t hurt your searchability, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Integrate into your website: This is where I’m a bit of a hypocrite, because although I recommend adding your blog to your website so people can directly read it from your main page, I have yet to do this myself! This can greatly enhance SEO for your site, and it also make for more of a one-stop shop for people to find all they want to know about you or your organization in one place. As an alternative, at least make sure you have direct links to your blog from your website, or even RSS feeds (Real Simple Subscription) so people can track your post activity.
Feeds: If you’re on Facebook or other social networking sites, look into the ability to add a feed to your page. This just means that you tell the site where to find your blog. Once you set up a feed, each new post will automatically show up on your Facebook page. For you authors, you can also add a feed to any book page on Amazon by you. Check out Amazon’s profile features for more on this.
Regular, reliable content: Last but not least, make sure you’re giving readers what they want and expect, when they expect it. Think about if you got your newspaper at different times every day, or if you opened it to find a new layout every time you tried to read it. Familiarity and predictability help lead to faithful readers, so keep this in mind when asking yourself, “is this blog-worthy?”
Christian Piatt is the author of MySpace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation, and Lost: A Search for Meaning, and he is a columnist for various newspapers, magazines and websites on the topics of theology and popular culture. He is the co-founder of Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Amy. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com.
May 5, 2009 in social media, Technology | Tags: blogging, building a personal brand, Facebook, private image, public image, social media, social monday, Technology, Twitter, YouTube | by Rebecca | 6 comments
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” – Ecclesiastes 1:2b (NKJV)
Anyone who’s using social media and has tried to talk with someone who’s not using it about why you use it has undoubtedly encountered the perception that social media is an exercise in narcissistic navel-gazing. And yes, to a small extent, they’re right — Twitter and Facebook and Friendfeed and YouTube are populated by people sharing the minutae of their lives — sometimes in earnest, and sometimes, tongue-in-cheek. [IMO that’s part of the beauty of it–check out this application that picks up all the Tweets with the words “love,” “hate” “think” “feel” and “believe” in them and then tell me you don’t agree].
What I often sense behind the “social media is vanity” objection is that the person objecting understands that the walls between one’s “public” and “private” image have been torn down. And rather than trying to reconstruct those barriers, people have decided to go out and play in this in-between space.
Yep, that’s a little frightening — more so if you’re a prominent leader in your local community, in business, in the church, or in some other sphere. There’s the “public” you, and the “private” you, and you’ve worked hard to cultivate your public image. You want people to respect you, and venturing into social media feels a bit too much like that recurring nightmare of standing in front of the crowd to deliver a big presentation or sermon, and suddenly realizing you forgot to get dressed that morning.
Social media experts are up on this, and they’re ready to help. Do a Google search on the words “build personal brand” and you’ll get lots of good links. While the idea of building a personal brand is not new, there are plenty of people with excellent (and free) advice on how to do this in the dawning age of the public/private sphere.
If I could choose one bit of advice, though, it would be this: Just be yourself. Don’t become paralyzed by the fear that you might accidentally reveal a political preference, or a detail or habit or like or dislike that will suddenly cause your carefully cultivated image to crumble. If you allow fear to be the litmus test for every Facebook status update, blog post, or Tweet, you’re doomed from the start. All you’ll be doing is building a “personal bland” — a vanilla version of yourself that stands out even more in the colorful realm of social media.
This doesn’t mean you should let it all hang out, of course. Use your best judgment, know that you’ll make mistakes, and learn from them. The fact that your athlete’s foot is acting up may be TMI, but people won’t be shocked if you tell them you hate folding laundry, or that you have a favorite TV show. Posting your favorite ice cream flavor might elicit some “me too’s” from the crowd, and (I promise) it won’t damage your credibility.
As long as it’s not vanilla.
April 20, 2009 in Art, Culture and Media, Disciples Blogs, Disciples of Christ, DisciplesWorld, social media, Technology | Tags: blog, blogging, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Piatt, church, Disciples Blogs, Disciples of Christ, DisciplesWorld, DisciplesWorld magazine, Facebook, social media, social monday, Technology, United Church of Christ | by christianpiatt | 3 comments
By Christian Piatt
Christian Piatt is an author and new church planter in Pueblo Colorado with his wife, Amy. His podcast can be found on iTunes, or by visiting his website at www.christianpiatt.com.
When I first heard of podcasting, I thought it was pretty cool. Immediately, I went online and set up free subscriptions for way more of my favorite shows than I can reasonably listen to, but as a junkie for free information, I couldn’t pass it up!
How great would it be, I thought, if I could do my own podcast? But surely it’s way too complicated and time-consuming to manage myself, right? I had received a book on podcasting a while back, but I was too intimidated to get started. For months, it remained no more than a good idea in the back of my mind.
Then, because of a series of curious circumstances, I ended up with a credit of a couple hundred bucks at my local music store, which is a dangerous thing. I wandered the aisles for a while and came across a cabinet of digital recorders. The price tags ranged from $200 to $350 bucks, and given my experience with digital recording gear, I assumed these were mediocre gadgets at best.
Turns out that digital recording technology has come a long way both in quality and affordability. Next thing you know, I’m on my way home with a little portable unit, complete with built-in microphones, cables and headphones. At home, I did a few test runs, speaking and playing into the recorder, amazed at the quality of this little machine that ran off of four AA batteries.
Maybe this podcast thing is not such a crazy idea after all.
I got online and found links to Audacity, a free audio mixing software program. Surely, I figured, this thing is lame. I mean, who can get anything decent out of some freeware? But the more reviews of it I read, the more convinced I became that it could at least handle my basic needs.
Next, I’d need a host site – somewhere to put my podcasts online so people could find and play them. Again, after some browsing, I found Podbean, one of many podcast “hosts” who offer free basic packages to get you started. Like others, they charge for premium services and extra memory storage, but I could get started and see if this podcasting thing was right for me without signing up for some pricey membership.
As a fan of National Public Radio, I had a fantasy of making my podcast sound like “This American Life,” so I’d need some sound clips to break up the narrative. I found more than I could use in three lifetimes at FreeLoops.com and The Freesound Project.
Outfitted with all the necessary gear, now I needed some interesting content. I started by narrating a few chapters from my newest book project, followed by a memoir-style account of my own faith journey and some spoken word clips. But what about ministry? Could I use podcasting to get the word out about our church on a local scale, or maybe nationally? That’s when I put together the “Big Fat Jesus Head” series I did with my wife.
I was getting some decent traffic from friends and people I told about my new project on Facebook, but I wondered if there was another way to get my work in front of people who liked podcasts, but who might not know who I was. That’s when I learned about Podcatchers, which are online services that serve as a clearinghouse and search tool for the thousands of podcasts out there.
In a few months, I’ve gone from this podcasting thing being an intriguing but daunting idea to having almost 600 hits on my first handful of episodes. Even better, when people search my name on search engines, the podcast is yet another thing that pops up. My literary agent was thrilled too, because that book project she was promoting for me found a foot in the door when a publisher showed interest in listening to the first few chapters online.
Next steps include recording Amy’s sermons, archiving personal stories from members of our church, concerts and interviews with other activists, artists and various people of interest. Aside from being a great tool for non-readers to get your message, there’s something deeply personal about hearing someone’s story or message in their own voice.
Now that I got it going, I have to wonder why it took me so long to come around. Turns out even we tech-heads have our hang-ups about new technology. But like anything else, it’s just a new tool at my disposal and, once I learned how to use it properly, became another avenue for personal expression, publicity and connection with people regardless of place or time.
Even better, it’s broadening our circle of people who hopefully will get some benefit from the ministries we’re doing here in Pueblo. If what Amy preached about Sunday can help someone in Nebraska a month from now, it just extends the life and scope of our ministry.
If you ask me, that’s technology at its best.
February 23, 2009 in Culture and Media, Disciples of Christ, social media, Technology | Tags: blogging, church marketing, church twitter, evangelism, Facebook, podcasting, social media, storytelling, Technology, Twitter, twitter for churches | by Will Boyd | 4 comments
The world is aflitter over Twitter. The micro-blog service seems to be popping up everywhere in our culture lately. From television news coverage of the Presidential debates to the first reports and images of the crash of U.S. Airways flight 1549, Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets have been getting a lot of attention and press. All of this attention, in my opinion, is absolutely warranted. These new social technologies are allowing people to connect with each other and share information in ways that we could have never imagined 20 years ago, and this has major implications for churches.
When people are connecting, no matter what over, there is always opportunity. Corporations, our government, non-profits, and churches are all logging in to the social media world to try and tap into this wealth of warm bodies to win over as new customers, donors, and even parishoners. Personally, I have used Twitter to contact customer service about my cable television service, blogs to obtain information about everything from news to products to candidates, and my favorite podcast helps me decide which new gadget is my next “must have.” My own church, University Christian Church in Seattle, uses Twitter, podcasting, and blogs. Even Disciples World is using Twitter. With all of the new possibilities new communications tools like Twitter have to offer, social media is the answer to our churches evangelism and outreach prayers, right? Not exactly.
While these tools are certainly wonderful, they are not magic pills to reach a new generation of people. Setting up a Twitter account or Facebook page for your church will not automatically make your church attractive to the 20 something crowd. Contrary to what we may wish, there is no tool or program that will make people want to come to our churches. What makes people want to be a part of our church communities is the same today as it was 2,000 years ago — storytelling. When we are able to tell our story (i.e. God’s story) to the world both honestly and relevantly, we tap into the same power that drew and continues to draw so many to Jesus. It is from the telling of our story (who we are, why we are here, what we are like, etc.), not the technology itself, that tools like Twitter derive their power for churches.
So, how do churches go about telling their story using these new tools?
First, churches need to become good listeners. These new social media tools are all about conversation. As we all know, the key to being a good conversationalist is being a good listener. These new tools are not like radio or television where the goal is to broadcast a slick message to as many people as possible. Instead, these tools focus on two-way communication. Often times, these conversations are messy, silly, hard…anything but slick and easy. They are, however, quite often meaningful. Communicating like this outside of the church walls can be a new experience for churches, but it is not impossible. If a church wants to begin using something like Twitter, the best thing for them to do is to start by seeing what other people and organizations are talking about and how they are talking about them.
Second, churches need to be willing to play. Jesus told us that we must become as little children. Social media offers churches a great opportunity to do just that. When a church enters the world of social media, it will make mistakes. It will do and say things that seem silly at times. That is okay. In order to be a good teller of its story, a church needs to be willing to speak like a human and not like an organization…and humans look a bit silly from time to time. So go out and make mistakes…it is the best way to learn.
Finally, churches need to be honest as they tell their stories. A church that tries to be something it is not will not enjoy much success in the world of social media. If people sense you are not being honest, they will stop listening to you. You don’t have to be flashy or cool to be relevant and engaging. Your church’s power to attract people doesn’t lie in cleverly crafted marketing copy or cool graphics. Instead, it lies in the power of God. Trust that.
Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, podcasting, or blogs are nothing to be afraid of for churches. While the technologies may seem new and strange, they can be learned. The heart and soul of these tools, though, is nothing new to churches. Churches have been telling their stories for a long time now. If your church chooses to use some of these new tools (and I hope you do), use them bravely and honestly. Have fun with them. And, above all, tell your story well!
Will Boyd is a social media and new media producer and consultant. His company, Will Boyd Media Solutions, specializes in helping faith groups and non-profits navigate the world of social media, podcasting, and technology to tell their stories to the world. He has worked with Sojourners Magazine, the Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Goddard College, the Disciples Divinity House at Vanderbilt, and others. Will also recently finished a bachelor of arts degree from Goddard College focused on the role of new media and social technologies in the world of sustainable marketing. Will lives in Seattle with his wife, a Disciples pastor.
January 5, 2009 in Culture and Media, Disciples Blogs, Disciples of Christ, DisciplesWorld, Miscellaneous thoughts, Religion news | Tags: Associated Church Press, blogging, Bob Cornwall, Cheryl Heckler, Chris Brogan, Dave Bowman, DisciplesWorld, Everyday Food magazine, food, Food Matters, Laura Miller, Mark Bittman, New Year's Resolutions, Phyllis Tickle, Salon.com, The Great Emergence | by Rebecca | 2 comments
If you’re a resolution-maker, you’re more likely to keep your resolutions if you’re also religious, according to a recent study. Read DisciplesWorld contributer Cheryl Heckler’s article about religion and resolution-keeping here.
If you’ve resolved to Be a Better Blogger, like me, and my brother Dave, here’s a good catch-all post on Chris Brogan’s blog: 27 Blogging Secrets to Power Your Community (thanks Dave for including this in your “Look What I Found” list).
Or perhaps you are determined to challenge and expand your mental capacity by reading more. A good starting point on the big questions of our time might be Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. I haven’t read it, but Bob Cornwall has, and he’s given it a thorough and thought-provoking review on his Ponderings on a Faith Journey blog (which he updates regularly). I did get to hear Tickle give a fascinating talk (for about 45 minutes, extemporaneously) on the book’s main thesis during a luncheon at the Associated Church Press convention back in April.
Lastly, if you’ve vowed to eat better and more responsibly (and who hasn’t, after indulging in a little too much Christmas candy), I recommend reading Laura Miller’s Salon.com review of the book Food Matters:A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes, by Mark Bittman. Or just get the book. Miller also mentions her own subscription to Everyday Food magazine as a starting point (you can get a free issue on their website too).
What “goodies” have you found in your quest to keep your own resolutions or improve some aspect of your life? Please share!