Blogs, content, content marketing – all SEO and marketing buzzwords – but what’s the real benefit of having a church blog on your website?
If any of the above came as a shock, well done to you. You have managed to stumble on to my church communications blog without the knowledge of what a blog actually is – quite an achievement.
Now, why do people blog? For me, my first ‘proper’ blog was/is called Sticks and Stones. This blog came about as a way for me to share both my thoughts and some of my photography, but without constantly shoving it in to people’s faces via social media. Sticks and Stones helped me to develop a creative outlet, and was an enjoyable use of my time, rather than something I sought to make financially viable.
It is entirely possible to make money from a blog, with advertising being the most common source of income, but to do this requires a more focused approach; unlike Sticks and Stones, which came to be a fairly random collection of my thoughts, blogs that seek to attract advertisers need to have a specific goal in mind, to ensure the blog is getting read by the right people, who keep coming back – advertising nectar.
Please note, posting to a blog in a coffee shop is a clear sign to all that you have “made it”.
With all of this said, the chances are you aren’t seeking to make money from your church website’s blog. So what is the purpose of a blog, for you?
The Blog’s Purpose
Eurgh, here he goes again. Purpose. Reason. Meaning. Why am I here…
I may bang on about it, but everything we do as church communicators needs to have a purpose. Other than taking up space without being useful, communications without purpose not only fail to communicate anything, but they take up resources – time for example, something which many church communicators feel they are short of.
So, what should be the purpose of your blog?
Aside from the potential SEO benefits that a well-written blog can have (contributing to how high search engines like Google place your site in search results), we must remember our two main audience types – those within the church, and those who do not currently attend. A blog can serve both – yippee, multitasking!
Your members and those that attend your church can benefit from the blog as a source of information, as well as encouragement. Posts can highlight what’s going to be happening soon, as well as what has happened recently, in the form of write-ups or reviews. The blog can sit as a link in the chain of your communications plan, giving extended details about events that can only be mentioned in the Sunday service notices, or serving as a landing page from social media, or even the front page of your website where the most prominent news is highlighted.
Blog posts can also serve as landing pages for events themselves, with online ticket sales embedded in to the post. They can feature sign-up forms, surveys and whatever other digital content you can think of. Recent sermon videos can be posted along with a brief commentary, or upcoming sermon series can be promoted.
In short, anything you want your members to know about can be put in a blog, to work in tandem with your other communication methods.
Almost all of the blog content produced for your internal church communications can be useful to those who aren’t members or attendees of your church – provided they are written in a way that is accessible and easily-understood. Ensuring that blog content is easy to swallow is not to patronise those who are less familiar with churches, moreover it is to ensure that we do not use words and phrases that are so ingrained in our church tradition that we don’t give them a second thought – yet they mean nothing to those for whom church is a new experience. Perhaps some readers of our blog have never set foot in a physical church building – what does propitiation mean to them? To use a less extreme example, what about sacrifice? The meaning of the word may be reasonably clear, but the wealth of spiritual ‘baggage’ it holds to the Christian may be completely lost on someone who is not.
Blogs are, by their very nature, public. Therefore, we need to take extra care that our content and writing style appeals both to the unbeliever and the believer – probably in that order. We need to make the effort to go beyond ‘seeker-friendly’ – many of our website users will not actively be ‘seeking Jesus’ but may have clicked on a link out of curiosity or even boredom. Plus, going the extra mile to avoid ‘Christian-ese’ language may even benefit some of our own members 😉
Do we really need a blog?
To bring this all together – anyone can blog, but should everyone blog?
There are a wealth of free blogging platforms and most modern sites are built with this functionality – my site, for example, uses WordPress. The act of clicking ‘New Post’, writing a bit of content and hitting ‘Publish’ isn’t a difficult one. However, good blogs take time, care and attention. Well-written content sometimes takes hours of consideration and planning, as does figuring out an ongoing schedule to spread out your blog posts over time as well as to keep them coming. Persistence is key here, although add some delegation in to the mix and you might be on to a winner winner chicken dinner. Chances are there are plenty of members at your church who have tales to tell, and plenty of others who are good with words – use them! But the point here is still plan, before jumping right in. Plan, then jump!
Another important consideration is how you will share your blog via social media – the user path of visiting your church website, and clicking the ‘blog’ link will likely not be your main source of traffic. Individual blog posts can and should be shared, both by your official church social media channels, and your individual church members/attendees. Top quality posts will naturally be content that people want to share with others, but it’s not against the law to give a gentle shove of encouragement once in a while – ask those in your network to share your content.
Don’t neglect your other communication methods, either – you can drive traffic (buzz, marketing term. Translation ‘get people’) to your blog with a quick mention during the church service/in the news sheet/in an email update/at a prayer meeting. Give it a go!
Finally, I recommend that you only blog if you have something worth saying. If you’re spending hours trying to think of what to write, it may be that the topic you eventually come up with isn’t something that people will be jumping out of the pews to read – but don’t confuse this with being stuck for ideas. There are many interesting things happening in your church – past, present and future – you just need to figure out how to feature them. Which leads to my final tip:
Stories are what people engage with. Good stories are what people want to hear. Stories are powerful tools: Jesus used them! And you, church communicator, are part of a community, both local and worldwide, that has stories and story-tellers coming out of its ears! Not only this, but these are powerful stories, of lives that have been changed by the creator God, King of this world.
I humbly suggest that you use them 😉