How to: Benefits and challenges of building a local parish blog

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What are the benefits and challenges of having a  local parish blog? I’ve built our parish blog for a year now. I’ll share my experiences, tips, challenges and benefits.

Being a non-profit and faith driven organisation we don’t sell a product or service. (Though we have several services every week for free.) The parish blog (in Swedish) is one of the best ways to reach out with our message on recent and relevant topics. Building a blog takes preparation, a defined strategy, follow up and hard work.

The rewards of a blog are worth the effort. A blog drives traffic, connects you with people and gives visibility to your parish.

Preparations for a parish blog

I won’t go into the specifics of setting up your website and blog in this post. But rather go into the practicalities of launching a blog. Setting up a website and a blog are their own separate topics.

The issue of consistency

Before you launch your blog you want to know you’ll have people to create great blog posts. I set a goal to post at least once per week. One year in I’m happy to say I have reached that goal. It comes down to having a group of people willing to write at a regular basis.

Who can write for a parish blog?

In my parish there is an open invitation to everyone in the parish to blog. Blogging differs from writing an article for the local magazine or parish newsletter. I provide help and support to those new to blogging.

Strategy

Part of the ministry

Our blog is a part of the ministry.  Apart from blogging, we have a rock band, an art group and a drama group. We call this Creative Arts. Each blogger speak their own mind. This is important. There is no editorial group refusing or approving posts. The blog aims to write about life in the parish, Christian life and commenting on recent news and issues.

Relation to the church year and Sunday readings

Every week one priest is blogging. This post relates to the readings and the theme of the coming Sunday. The starting point of a blog post must be relevant. It has to catch the readers’ attention. It can be an article or editorial in the news. Or issues we all are facing in life, work, school, relationships, family and health.

The starting point relates to the readings and themes of the coming Sunday. When it’s appropriate it’s possible to link to a group or activity in the church.

Long term goals

One challenge for the church is to be relevant. “The Bible says…” or “When Jesus lived…” generally require an audience already interested in the church and the Bible. When that is not the case we must address people in another way. A blog gives the church a great possibility to say “In the news today…”, “When you face this issue…” and show how faith and scripture are relevant.

A blog is the start of a conversation. Conversations can start online and offline. Mark Schaefer suggests that we only see about 2% of our audience in the analytics. The other week I learned that the youth group had talked about one of our blog posts dealing with children in Swedish jails. Feedback like that tells me the blog is working.

So far comments on the blog have been few. Conversation happens on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and offline. I recommend Dorien Morin’s post Is blog commenting a lost art for a great read on blog commenting

A blog drives traffic. It’s a goal to use the blog as an entry point to the parish. From the blog the reader can discover more about the parish, our website and social media pages.

Follow up and work hard

This is important to point out. Building a base of readers take time. Looking for authors. Creating content for the blog. Sharing in social media. Follow up on comments and analyzing the statistics. To mention some tasks.

Do you have a parish blog, or a local business blog? What are your experiences? What have been your challenges? What benefits have you seen? Welcome to share in a comment.

Photo by kpgolfpro, Pixabay