Thursday, January 14, 2010

Read and Learn -- Blogging and Communication

I belong to a decent sized church. Like most we have a Sunday bulletin with announcements, a newsletter, a weekly email about the sermon; all of which I read faithfully. That puts me in a pretty small group from what I hear. So, on one hand I hear that many people in the Congregation don't read all of the Church news made available. On the other hand, I do read it all; and I still am frequently surprised about things that are going on. My guess is that isn't unusual. I have made the following suggestion to my church and would love comments or suggestions.

A blog, preferably a multi-column format so that different topics could be grouped into different feeds. This has to be lay run -- NO STAFF. I want the people doing things -- signing up families for Angel Food, singing in the choir, decorating for Christmas, working with a local homeless addict, serving on committees, teaching Sunday School, planning retreats and mission trips -- all the stuff going on in the church to post human interest kinds of things on one or another of the blog feeds. No ads, no staff, nothing formal just human interest stories, ideas being talked about in committees, problems with the new security system; just stuff. No full names, no personal info. The church newsletter can pick up a couple of the posts to include in each issue of the printed newsletter.

I see this as potentially solving three problems. First, assuming that I can get people from throughout the church to contribute and their friends all start reading, word should spread pretty rapidly about the things that are happening around us. Second, there is nothing more likely to encourage involvement than to see someone else who is just like you (and not clergy or other paid staff) involved. Third, it should provide great content for search engine spiders enhancing the Church's own Internet presence.

I realize that keeping the feeds fed will be difficult, and might be impossible. Trying to find the people to keep content flowing may be more than I can handle. Assuming, however, that the content end is manageable; what problems do you see and what do you think will come of it?



Nancy said...

I've wondered the same thing. It would seem to me logical to allow the various committees and groups associated with a church the ability and responsibility to be in charge of their own on line information. I wonder why we don't?

Elaine said...

My gut opinion (and I'm not actually referring to my own church, this is just a feeling I get kind of throughout the culture) is that way too many people are afraid of letting someone they don't control say anything publicly. So, instead we say nothing.

To me, the lawyer, that just means that my life will be simpler if I put up a pretty strong disclaimer on the blog that this sucker ain't official. Of course, that does kind of fly in the face of the empower the laity language that is currently in vogue; but read our member blogs long enough and you will figure out that nobody really buys into that.

Ok, so maybe I'm a bit more cynical than usual this week. Hmmmm, I'll work on that.

Sarahlynn said...

I'm with Elaine; I think it makes sense as long as it's clear that the blog is "unofficial." Like this one!

As far as committees and groups being in charge of their own information dispersal, I do think it makes sense to have staff eyes on *official* communications.

We had a situation a few years ago, during a contentious election season, when someone sent out a mailing to the entire church membership that looked like it came from the church and told us how to vote on a hot-button issue. She also put professional-looking table tents in all the adult ed Sunday School classrooms.

And I'm sure that she was acting in good faith, but I was ever so relieved to learn that the church itself was NOT behind that heavy-handed politicking.

So that, I think, is the risk. Some people send hundreds of crappy email forwards each week. Some people can't stop themselves from speaking offensively or sharing their political opinions as if they're fact (or even just representative of the whole congregation). Some people abuse the bullhorn. Alas.

Personally, I still think it's worth the "risk."