Question #1: What is the value of a local church blog?

#Q1. What form would an effective blog take if written for a local church audience by a local church pastor? What do you think?

#Q2. I’m wondering if a blog can take the place of a local church website and be easier to maintain and keep up to date.

#Q3. I’m wondering if a blog can replace the mailed church newsletter with a free alternative that incorporates social media.

#Q4. I’m wondering if a blog will be useful at shortening the sermon on Sunday by extending the delivery of information on a topic through devotional posts on the following weekdays.

If you comment, you might begin with a number to let us know which of the four questions (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4) above you wish to speak about. Please use plain numbers (1, 2, 3, 4 …) to address the comments below.

DIARY OF MY EXPERIENCE

  1. 9-27-17. I’ve been doing this off and on now for several months. It was a lot more interesting when it was an idea rather than an obligation. I’m finding that when I’m done with the sermon on Sunday morning, I’m really done. It’s no longer interesting and I want to run away into something new and more interesting. Apparently my sermons also have the ability to bore me.

2. 9-27-17. My preaching style is to preach from an outline. The outline is on Powerpoint slides. I do not do the additional work of developing a manuscript because I can think on my feet well, respond to audience feedback and insert or delete stories and observations that would improve the sermon. I advance the slides myself using a remote control. Using slides limits deletions somewhat. The thought is that each slide is 1 minute of sermon or less … a standard from broadcasting that helps keep an audience alert.

3. 9-27-17. My sermons have always been long, running from 25-30 minutes. I am able to hold the attention of the people, but it bothers me that I am unable to be more disciplined and finish closer to a little more than 15 minutes.

It helped to write my sermon series in Powerpoint. Now it’s easy to move an idea farther down in the series where it is more useful. I am working with the big picture when I have the whole series in a single Powerpoint file.

I thought I could similarly offload ideas from the sermon into the five weekly blog posts, allowing me to simplify what I said about them or even omit them entirely as I could include them in the blog. There seems to be no difference in the length of the Sunday sermon, unless it is even longer. This frustrates me.

4. 9-27-17. My plan was to pay for the oral sermon to be transcribed, and then use the transcript as the first draft for the week of blog posts. A 27 minute sermons turns into a 3300 word transcript … about 124 spoken words per minute. I’m finding that reading my spoken words in print is humbling. I have a variety of things I say routinely as transitions … “I would like you to know” is one … so I have a clearer picture of what is being heard, and I’m not pleased.

5. 9-27-17. I upload the sermon Sunday afternoon or evening after separating the sermon from the recorded service. The service charges 75 cents a word for “first draft” quality … which means a single pass and sometimes with a typo. I then review the text, separate it into paragraphs and begin to repair multiple awkward passages. These worked in spoken format but seem very amateurish in written form.

The transcript is supposed to arrive within 24 hours, so the Monday morning post to Facebook is some sort of video, typically a link from Youtube, on some topic related to the sermon. On the week where the disciples rowed against the wind for four miles across the Sea of Galilee, I posted a video of a woman who rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. Sometimes it is a hymn or a contemporary Christian video.

This week the transcript did not arrive on Monday so that I could set up the Facebook post to appear at 1 am Tuesday morning. It arrived around noon on Tuesday – not typical for this company. So I am unable to make the Tuesday morning post and sorely tempted to not post this week. If someone comments, that would indicate that they are reading the notes on the Facebook page at least.

6. 9-27-17. I am determined to have the personal control for the sermon to be closer to 15 minutes this week. It’s a matter of pride. I’m considering making five points, and then letting those points be expanded for the following week’s blogging.

Why 15 minutes? People do listen attentively to the sermons for the entire time I preach; the sermons do hold their attention. But 20 years ago I was dealing with some significant complainers and I spent a great deal of time praying about it. My position was simple – what if the last story I told that morning was one that made all the difference in the life of a person listening? If the sermon consists only of what I feel God wants people to hear, is it dangerous to leave anything out. I prayed a great deal over this.

The answer I received felt as if it was a message from God. Put into words, it was something like this:  “Dave, I’m fine with your longer sermons. I’m pleased with what you are saying.” (The made me feel good about myself and my efforts.)  “But you really do need to understand that no one listens or remembers anything you said after fifteen minutes.” Boom.

7. 10-01-17 I was successful in the goal to have a shorter sermon this week. It  came in under 15 minutes! I was pleased and the people seemed to have much more energy after worship.I’m rethinking how to share the material out in blog posts.

I’m rethinking how to share the material out in blog posts. This is turning the process on its head and working backwards. I will start with and limit myself to five points which will become five blog posts. I also find that I am expanding the sermon by including content which connects it to the series – what in fiction is called back story, which can go on the blog but not the audio sermon. Plus, I’m expanding the sermon by referring to additional scriptures which explain what is happening. Those can surface in the blog, but not in the audio sermon.

I’m also aware that my fussing over the church blog is preventing the investment of energy into the other part of the Collegeville project, which is to develop an effective workflow for my writing. I may have to step back on this part.

8. 10-04-17. While the commentary for the local church drawn from transcriptions of my sermons spread out over 5-6 days has been interesting, it takes far more time and energy than I had thought. Plus, it is easy to fall behind and miss the 1 am publication date so as to have the post mentioned in Facebook.

I was sick yesterday, and **boom** – I am now 2 days behind.

I’m going to have to put this project on hold in order to work on the primary purpose of my Collegeville Workshop project, which is to develop and refine a “writing workflow” which will help my productivity.

It still is helpful to remind me of some of the difficulties of taking on a regular publication schedule for a local church blog.

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