October 2011

Budgeting for Social Media Ministry

Social Media Ministry can be run on a shoestring, but if you want to develop your ministry faster you may want to allow some money to give you some options. Here are some costs you can anticipate.

  • Hosting and registration of a domain name (web address): $25
    This is the only cost on this list that is absolutely necessary.
  • Purchase of a theme: $50 (Themes are templates designed to look good, add functionality and make blogging easy and accessible to anyone. There are many FREE themes available.)
  • Purchase of a digital camera: $100
  • Purchase of a video camera: $250
  • An allowance for occasional guest bloggers: $50 per post ($100 per month ought to be enough). If you build good relationships, many will offer to contribute freely. Barter! It works! Be sure to give proper credit and a link.
  • You might want to allow $500-1000 per year for some design and programming expertise. A designer could make sure you have an attractive header and give you some guidance on the use of colors and fonts. A programmer can help you over some of the interactivity hurdles as you get more sophisticated with your Social Media Outreach.
  • It is helpful to allow a small budget for the purchase of stock photography which is proven to increase readership. Istock.com is a good source and very inexpensive. You buy bundles of points which cost about $1.50 per point. Many photos (the size you need for the web) cost just one point. $20 per month is ample. (You can take your own photos!)

Adding all of these items together, a starting annual budget of $3000 is more than adequate. You can get started for much less!

2×2 started this site in February 2011 for $25. We’ve purchased about $10 worth of stock photography. We purchased two guidebooks for about $25 each. We use cameras our members already own. That is our total investment so far — eight months later.


You can pay for training and how-to books, but there is abundant help available for free on the web. This is a reliable avenue. Information can become outdated faster than books can be published.

There is some comfort in having a book nearby. Teach Yourself Visually WordPress gave us a jumpstart. It’s step-by-step illustrated approach is very helpful. WordPress for Dummies is the other book we have on hand. We found an ancient guide to html that is useful, but lately we’ve just googled what we want to know and found answers easily. Cut and paste the code and eliminate typos!

Don’t let this talk about code scare you. Most code is built into the blogging platform and you won’t need to know any code. There are times when it is helpful, but it is not necessary.

Online webinars are very helpful. We’ve referred you to socialmediaexaminer.com and hubspot.com before. They are great places to start learning Social Media. Both provide much information for free. SocialMediaExaminer runs quarterly webinar series which cost between $200-$400. Hours of trainings are available for a full calendar year. An online community grows around these trainings which is very helpful. Hubspot sells analytical software but makes TONS of information available for free. Visit their site and look for ebooks and recorded webinars. Both sites will point you to other good resources as well. They practice what they preach and are models for what you will be trying to do with your web site!

Hiring a Social Media Manager

As your Social Media Ministry takes off, you may want to hire a Social Media Manager, but don’t worry about that to start. A manager would help maintain the editorial calendar, see that blog posts were written and coordinated with Facebook and Twitter, analyze your Social Media’s performance, and (with your committee) strategize to maximize your site’s success. This is a strength of Social Media Ministry. You can measure results, and what you can measure, you can improve.

A Social Media Ministry Manager is foreign to most church budgets, but the addition of these skills to your leadership team could mean as much to a congregation’s ministry as an organist, choir director, youth minister or other church professional. Aim for it! (But don’t wait until you can afford it to get started!) This is a topic which deserves its own post. Watch for it!

Using Analytics

Another potential budget consideration is to subscribe to a metrics program, which will give you real time reports on the effectiveness of your site. (It is interesting that people in this field talk about web sites leading to conversion. While they mean purchases of services/products, churches have used this language for decades.)

Using the internet makes it possible to analyze the effectiveness of your ministry and lead you toward measurable ministry solutions. No more sitting around at committee meetings and guessing what might work. You’ll have answers.

2×2 is looking into this now! We’ll share our experience in later posts.

SEPA Lutherans Should Advocate for a Sunshine Law

Take some time to read SEPA Synod Council minutes.

http://www.ministrylink.org/synod-council/ (bottom of the page)

Recent minutes of Synod Council meetings — gatherings of SEPA congregations’ elected representatives — are lean, riddled with executive sessions and confidential discussions with vague summaries such as — synod is entering a time when “it would be doing things differently but with less.”

This is the only information reported from what appears to have been a lengthy discussion on Synod finances. The minutes announce the beginning of this discussion, stating only that it was “open and confidential” — a strange term. Why are SEPA financial discussions confidential? Congregations are expected to pay the freight for any financial challenges and will be directly affected by any new way of doing things. Not only do they have a right to know about things their elected representatives are deciding but they surely have insight into any debate on how THEIR resources are being used. Why secrecy? If there are challenges, let’s face them together head on!

Secrecy, coupled with SEPA history, can leave congregations guessing that the private discussions might be about individual congregational “viability” and which congregations might be ripe for the picking. If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, there is reason for concern. Such conjecture may be unfounded, but unless we know more, it is responsible to wonder.

There is more troubling obscurity. In years past, the elected representatives of the church (Synod Council) had contact information listed online. Now there is a list of names, home congregations and term expiration year, making it difficult for congregations to turn to their elected representatives — especially lay representatives which outnumber clergy. Clergy contact information is included in the published roster. While inconvenient, it can be looked up, one by one. Lay representatives pose more of a challenge. If lay representatives are not willing to share their contact information, they should decline to serve. If privacy is a concern, a dedicated email address could be supplied by synod, which can be automatically forwarded to a private email. There should be a way to contact the people who represent the congregations.

If the dates and locations of Synod Council meetings are listed, they are difficult to find.

SEPA Synod Council is acting as if they exist in a vacuum, forming and endorsing church policy hand in hand with the bishop’s office but with neither relating to the people they represent. It is easy for representatives to form a bias for the people they interact with when they have no contact with the people they all serve.

SEPA congregations should go to their next Synod Assembly in May 2012 and demand more transparency from their leaders. If congregations are asked to vote for a budget which relies on one, two, or three of them closing to pay for the budget, they need to know that when they are voting. If they are to expect less from their leaders because of budget shortfalls, they need to know that too.

When are SEPA congregations to learn the outcome of their leaders’ discussions — on the very day a few of them travel to Franconia to vote? Dialogue must begin NOW!

SEPA needs a “Sunshine Law” so its congregations — the people who fund the Synod — know how their futures will be affected by policies discussed in “open and confidential” sessions.

The Lutheran Church is proud of its heritage and its interdependent structure which exists in contrast to hierarchical denominations. Interdependence relies on communication and cooperation.

It is time we begin practicing our interdependence and work together.

Ambassadors Visit Augustus, Trappe

Ambassadors at Augustus, TrappeRedeemer’s Ambassadors planned a special Reformation outing today. We visited Augustus Lutheran Church, Trappe, another church in our region with family ties. The Fry family, descendants of the President of the predecessor body of the ELCA, is from this church and are closely related to several Redeemer members.

The church is also known for its ties to the Muhlenberg family, who played a huge role in the nurturing of the Lutheran Church in colonial and revolutionary times and into the 19th century.

The service was the best attended service we encountered, somewhere around 180, including more than 40 children, who were in worship for the first few minutes, sang “This Is the Day,” listened to a short children’s sermon and disappeared. It was moving to see so many children in church because children have been rare in our visits, with most churches having just a few and often none at all.

The choir sang a familiar anthem and as last week, included at least 15 voices. The service was quite traditional with assistants robed in cassock and cotta, something not often seen.

We were moved by the minister’s sermon. Rev. Warren Weleck spoke of the ongoing challenges faced by the church throughout the centuries and the many attempts of authorities to destroy the Lutheran Church — from the pope to Prussian princes to Nazi Germany. Still, he noted, it survives.

Redeemer knows something of the tactics he mentioned although the destruction we see is from within. That’s what Luther saw, too. We’ve seen our professional leaders intimidated to follow policies against their stated convictions. Our faithful members have been evicted from our property and banned from representation among fellow Lutherans — effectively excommunicated. Lock them out and shut them up is nothing new! We’ve seen denominational leaders hide behind First Amendment Separation of Church and State as they take one destructive action after another. While claiming immunity from the law, they use the full force of the courts to attack lay leaders. Yes, the Reformation Sermon was very meaningful to us!

It is true. The church must be ever vigilant and, like Martin Luther, we must speak up when we see wrong-doing. While Martin Luther’s leadership spurred reform, eventually a lot of the reform happened from within. That’s the Lutheran heritage — which to truly honor we must practice.

After church, we stopped by Ursinus’s Berman Museum of Art and took in the nice exhibit of Muhlenberg artifacts (open till December 10). Muhlenberg spent a good bit of his ministry as a negotiator of peace within the church. Another history lesson for today’s Lutherans.

It was a good Reformation Day for Redeemer!

Redeemer Letter to Augustus Members (our 95 Theses)







Rethinking Advent

It’s not quite November, not too early to think about Advent. About this time a few years ago, a worship committee met with a new pastor to plan the holiday season. A lay member commented without much enthusiasm, “I wish there was a little less Pentecost and we could move Advent up and enjoy Christmas a little longer.”

Surprise! The pastor readily agreed! There was a sudden breakthrough in the rhetoric that insists Advent be kept sacred with nothing of Christmas showing until Christmas Eve. The committee eagerly reviewed the lectionary and made adjustments that moved Advent up two weeks, allowing some Christmas spirit when the rest of the world was enjoying Christmas, yet still giving the Advent season its due. Advent wasn’t abandoned. It was extended with Christmas music introduced slowly in later weeks. The lighting of the candles, etc. adhered to the season. A few readings were moved around. Christmas music was slowly introduced, adding anticipation.

What had happened was not unlike the first Christmas observances — as the church set aside time to celebrate the birth of Christ. The date for Christmas was set to coincide with pagan festivities, catching people as they were ending their celebration of the winter solstice. Most scholars agree that true date for Christ’s birth was probably in the spring. Deciding on December 25 was  opportunistic — and it worked! We can learn from this!

The four weeks of Advent have no real historical connections. It is something the church decided we need to properly prepare for the Savior’s birth.We spend 40 days (the number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness) preparing for Easter with Lent. It didn’t seem right to observe Christmas without a similar period of reflection. Some traditions even call Advent “a little Lent.” There was plenty of Scripture to cover — the hundreds of years of prophecies, John the Baptist, Mary and Elizabeth.

There was a time in Church history when people spent a lot of time in church. Many observers attended mass daily and the traditions/music of Advent had more exposure. Today, the most faithful are in church only four weeks a year for Advent, probably fewer. They don’t have much time to absorb and learn to appreciate the Advent sound, especially when the car radio blasts a different season at them as they drive home.

A typical Sunday morning during the Advent season has the core congregation singing unfamiliar and difficult hymns. Seekers who first enter a church during Advent, perhaps attracted by the more upbeat hymnody they are hearing in the shopping mall, encounter something entirely alien. Visitors are likely to be totally confused. It is difficult to “teach” Advent with Christmas in full swing everywhere else.

We face the same conditions the early Christians faced. How do we get people to pay attention to the coming of Christ when they are otherwise having such fun?

The answer often presented by clergy to their congregations is to keep Advent holy and sing Christmas carols only from Christmas Eve to January 6 — after everyone else has stopped singing carols. Post Christmas Sundays are notoriously low in attendance. The faithful end up singing with lonely joy, and feeling a bit awkward about it! Yet this does not seem a bit odd to many clergy who openly advocate for a rigid interpretation of Advent — no matter how few people get the message!

Advent should be observed. There is a great deal of value in its traditions. But if the traditions are standing in the way of spreading the Good News, allow some room for flexibility. Teach Advent by starting the seasonal music a bit earlier. Some popular Christmas carols are about the prophecies and the joy of receiving (Joy to the World; Lo, How A Rose; Of the Father’s Love Begotten). They lend themselves to the Advent season. Allow the Christmas sound in your worship sooner. Add more hymns to your service if it will help. Allow room for repetition during the season so these often unused hymns become more familiar.

One idea would be to have purely Advent worship, followed each week with a carol sing as a “sending.”

Both seasons may end up meaning more. The rafters will probably not break!

Editorial Calendars: Planning Social Media for the Long Haul

Blogging is a commitment of time that may take a few months to begin seeing rewards. If your congregation does not prepare for the long haul, members can become discouraged and quit after the first few posts. That’s why it is important to hold off on your first post until you have 30 other posts planned and ten actually written. Most experts recommend even more!

Your Social Media Ministry Committee should create an editorial calendar. Editorial calendars are simply lists of content you want to use with dates attached — a schedule! Adjustments can then be made. Over time, the editorial calendar can become a comprehensive tool for planning the use of other elements of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, but for now concentrate on content for your blog.

A good editorial calendar will:

• Help you plan topics
• Help you see that various topics are distributed over time
• Help you make writing assignments
• Give your entire Social Media Ministry a sense of direction

Your Social Media Ministry Committee needs to plan posts for the next three months. Begin by brainstorming ideas for 12-16 posts a month. As a starting point, we recommend planning to post on Mondays and Thursdays — fresh after Sunday’s gathering and before the coming weekend. Don’t quit until you have 48 topic ideas — three months of material. Things will probably happen to change your plans. That’s OK! Having the plan guarantees that you know where you are going if other things don’t interfere.

2×2, launched in February 2011, can testify that the more we post, the better our traffic grows and the more people we reach. Peaks and valleys become predictable. Peaks tend to grow higher and valleys less deep. Frequent posting tends to spur more ideas rather than dry the well. It creates its own energy.

Start with a simple calendar. Here’s a sample you can download, print and use. It is the first quarter of the coming church year — liturgical year B. It begins with the first Sunday in Advent and takes you well into Lent. We’ll post the next quarter soon! •  Editorial Calendar  • This is also available on the Links section of the Navigation Bar on the right.

We’ve set this up to be helpful to church planners, including the Scriptures for Sundays and noting major holidays. In the Sunday square, we’ve allowed space to identify a theme and make any special notes for the coming week. The remaining days allow room for you to fill in the title of a post and assign a writer. The multicolor hexagons are to remind you to use the various Social Media tools — Posts (P), Twitter (T), Facebook (FB) and Video (V). Noting when and how often you’ve used these will help you see at a glance that the activity on your blog is balanced. This is a goal. For now, just concentrate on posting articles. Facebook and Twitter can come later.

Identify a few general topics such as SOCAL MINISTRY, CHILDREN, YOUTH, COMMUNITY, etc.

Review the Sunday scriptures for ideas.

Look at the calendar dates for subtopics: church year, calendar year, things unique to your neighborhood (spring or fall festival, for example). Remember graduations, Mother’s/Father’s Day and historic occasions (Reformation, 9/11, Veterans Day, elections). Think about topics that coincide with church lectionaries. Review current news in your area (elections, environmental challenge, grand opening of a public park or building). Think of the school year (prom, testing schedules, sports, plays, musicals). Find a hook that you can address from your congregation’s point of view. Don’t ignore community efforts that may seem to be in competition (walks for special causes, Habitat for Humanity, disaster relief). You’ll be showing the community that your congregation cares and is involved.

Assign people to prepare the posts. Divide the tasks. If a topic cries for outside expertise, look for someone to help as a guest blogger.

Create a review system. It helps to have someone responsible to look over submissions for basic proofreading. No need for more meetings. Just circulate them by email for sign-off. Decide how much time you need. Don’t be too rigid in your expectations. Blogs should have a spontaneous quality.

Be generous in your editorial review. You want people to contribute and if their material is heavily edited, they will lose interest. Monitor content gently. Your site should have room for different views. It’s part of what makes blogging interesting. Your readers are more likely to participate in dialogue if they sense that their efforts will not be criticized.

A critical tone is easy to detect. One denominational blog we visited reminded participants “Remember to Be Kind.” The warning was repeated so often on the blog site that it might have inhibited contributors, who might have wondered what the monitors thought was “unkind” if it was so important to repeat a warning over and over.

Blogging platforms allow monitors to review comments before posting. You don’t have to worry about inappropriate language, etc. You can create community rules. We’ll cover that in a later post.

Getting Pastors Onboard with Social Media Ministry

Social Media is new — only a few years old from the start and even fewer in universal popularity. Many pastors and professional leadership were not trained in using social media. They probably never gave it a thought when they answered their “call.”

Therefore, congregations may run into resistance when talking with their pastors about developing Social Media Ministry.

Professional leaders should be excited!
• Social Media gives the church tools to reach many more people.
• The people churches want to reach are using social media.
• Social media is a change agent — just look at what is happening across Northern Africa!

While many in the church agree that the church must change, often they are slow to accept the tools which will create change. It seems the Church longs for change as long as everyone (including leaders) can continue doing things the same way! Social Media is a tool for changing ministry. Use it!

Here’s a great video overview from PBS’s Religion and Ethics program.

This video begins with a mega-church approach. It may intimidate you to see the opening scenes of a church with a control room and banks of computers. But watch to the end. It ends with the Social Media Ministry of an order of nuns in the Boston area, who have made it a mission to answer spirital questions online. They have more than 16,000 “Likes” on their Facebook page. Anyone with a laptop and internet connection can do Social Media Ministry.

If your congregation has a pastor that is savvy to social media, great! If not, encourage your leadership to explore the possibilities. Remember, it’s new to everyone!

Here’s the choice for pastors of small congregations:
Continue to preach on Sunday to the same few people and an occasional visitor or go into all the world (without leaving the church office!)

Using Social Media will require some shifting of mental gears. Social Media is most effective with short thoughts (as opposed to skillfully crafted long sermons). Think of the power of parables which were sometimes only a couple of sentences.

Social Media requires frequent interaction, not just once a week. Your leaders will have to restructure their work habits to make room for new work. They will not be alone. People throughout the business/nonprofit world are restructuring the way they work to include Social Media. The church will have to follow suit. Many executives are starting and ending their day with 20-30 minutes of participation in Social Media — and finding it to be time well spent! “I don’t have time,” is not an acceptable excuse.

Social Media invites dialog. It will take a while to develop online dialog, but pastors must be prepared to field questions and engage in online discussion. What a great opportunity!

Social Media requires commitment. Online questions/comments must be answered within 24-48 hours. Longer than that and you have turned a seeker away. All comments deserve a response.

Start with blogging. Facebook and Twitter are often the first things that come to mind when people think of Social Media. They have their place but they are not good places to start if you are encouraging reluctant pastors to get their feet wet. Blogging is more sophisticated — closer to what pastors are trained to do. Professional leaders can maintain their voice better on a blog than in the short and fleeting interactions of other tools.

Share statistics. Start your church blog without your pastor as contributor if necessary. It’s too important to wait. You are not likely to change minds while doing nothing. As your audience grows, share the statistics with your pastor. If you start to get 50-75 new hits a week (as our church experienced after four months with no pastoral involvement), your leadership may begin to see the potential.

Be specific in you initial expectations. If your pastor does not want to contribute regularly, ask for help with specific topics your committee may have identified.

Finding Content for a Church Blog

What topics should a church blog address? This seems like a tough question. It’s hard enough gathering information for the monthly newsletter! But there is a difference. Blogs engage. Blogs have no space restrictions. Blogs allow for last minute changes! The communication potential is endless. Once you get started you’ll be excited to find ideas cascading.

Remember your audience. Your audience is your community. Blogging is outreach ministry. 

You can start with the issues on the minds of the people you know best — your members, but quickly expand your circles. What would interest the families of children in your day school or any of the groups that might use your building (scouts, community groups, AA, etc.)?

Understanding that content should be for and about the people you hope to reach — not about your congregation — is a challenge to new church bloggers. (Failure to understand audience also limits content ideas.)  

Brainstorm for topics. Not all topics have to be profoundly religious but many can be. You’ll get the knack of finding the religious angle to the stories you publish. Try to identify 30 topics at every meeting. (That’s about two months worth of posts). If you have monthly meetings, you’ll overlap, but that gives your committee a chance to review and rethink. We’ll talk about how to schedule posts later.

Here’s a list of possible topics that focus on parents’ issues without forsaking Christian mission–

• Preparing your child for the first day of school
• Teaching young children to pray
• The top ten Old Testament Bible stories every child should know
• The top ten New Testament Bible stories every child should know
• Teaching your children about God’s world (link to local nature reserve or garden)
• When your child asks about Santa Claus
• What Easter eggs and butterflies teach us about God
• Four Bible verses young children can remember.

Here’s a similar list of topics aimed at community or civic groups.

• 6 ways communities of faith benefit the community.
• 5 problems facing our community that need everyone’s help.
• Ten ways faith communities can work with the business community.
• Pitching in to make our town’s fall festival great.
• Why our congregation supports the local blood drive.
• Post a poll: What is the most important problem facing our community? (list possibilities)
• Analyze the poll results.

“How To” articles are also popular and can be addressed from a religious point of view:

• How to prepare your child to deal with bullies
• How to recognize the signs of drug addiction
• How to keep Christ in Christmas
• Teaching your child to deal with peer pressure
• How to deal with a difficult boss

Review popular magazines. They are experts at finding ideas. Look at the topics they address and adapt them to your congregation’s point of view. You’ll notice that they cover seasonal/holiday topics, news, events, common problems, popular issues such as the environment or economy or crime. When your committee meets, brainstorm these ideas and ask each other “How do we see these issues from a Christian point of view?” You will soon have many ideas.

When you’ve created a following, which may take a few months or even a year, start adding content that is more specific to your congregation. If your pastor is on board with the project ask for two contributions each week — a SHORT follow-up from Sunday’s sermon and a teaser for next week’s sermon. Publish one on Monday and the other on Thursday. Of course, you’ll welcome more posts!

Resist the temptation to reprint sermons as blog posts. You want short posts that focus on others. Think of people who haven’t been to church in quite a while. Are they more likely to read a five-page sermon or a 200-word thought? Tailor the message to the audience. (Sermons can be published but should not be blog posts.)

Your professional leadership can also give your committee the confidence to address the topics your committee identifies. They can help you shape the short articles and help your congregation create a voice. They can help create content without having the sole burden.

Establish some themes and rotate them. They might include: Social Ministry issues, Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Women’s/Men’s Groups, etc., Grief, Parenting. Ask others in the congregation to contribute — youth, teachers, business people. Get everyone involved!

Find information for your post. Once you’ve identified a topic, where do you find information? The easiest way is to ‘”google” the topic. You can adapt articles you find online. Many online writers allow you to link to their posts or use their material with proper credit. (Links fuel the internet; you are expected to link to one another.) You can also interview someone in your congregation or community. When you ask others to contribute, remember to tell them you are looking for short posts, not novels!

Make assignments. Don’t end your committee meeting without knowing who will be doing what. Don’t saddle one person with all the work! Who will create the next dozen posts? Who will review? Who will post?

The discipline of blogging will encourage your congregation to think about ministry in more cooperative ways. The circle of people interested in your ministry will grow as they see that you are interested in them!

9 Reasons to Start a Social Media Ministry with Blogging

Definition: A blog, short for “web log,” is a record of articles and topics of current interest. They are web sites that are created on templates and platforms. Blogs rely on frequent updating and make it possible to do so without an intermediate “webmaster.” A key difference between a web site and a blog is that blogs invite comments and dialogue.

What’s in a BLOG?

Blogs contain “posts” or essays. They are often quite short — just a few paragraphs. If they cover more complicated issues they can be much longer. They can contain art, photos and videos, polls, questionnaires and forms.

A blog opens to a page that lists the most recent post first. When a new post is added, older posts drop lower on the page. They don’t disappear but attention is always on the most recent post. (There are ways to feature older posts, which we will address later.)

In addition to a page of “posts,” a blog can contain “static” pages that look like any web page. You have probably visited many blogs without realizing they are blogs.

What a blog is not.

We recently visited a church web site and were excited to see a tab labeled “youth blog.” We eagerly clicked and came to a page with one post that had been submitted by a youth leader months before. One post does not a blog make! 

This points, however, to an important concept in blogging. Be forewarned. To be effective, blogs must be regularly updated and developed. Experts recommend at least two posts a week and advocate for daily posting. This may seem daunting but we will discuss ways to make this seamless and feasible in later posts. The aim is for the blog to increase your congregation’s activity — and the more activity, the easier the blogging (and the more ministry)!

There are several reasons to start your congregation’s Social Media Ministry with blogging.

1. It is inexpensive to start.  

Find the website of a blogging platform you like. There are many — just type “blogging platforms” into your favorite search engine. (2×2 uses WordPress). Choose from a wide library of “themes” or templates. Most are free. Anticipate costs of about $25 to pay for a url (web address or domain name) and annual hosting. This is done online with a credit/debit card or Paypal account.

2. The learning curve is short. 

Your blogging platform will walk you through the steps of establishing a domain name and creating a profile and first blog post. Many themes or templates allow you to create your own header/banner image. You can use a photo or create some art on you computer. It takes about a half day to become familiar with the process (and it can be frustrating at first) but then it all comes together and seems very easy. Hang in there! There is no need to enroll in lots of classes. If you are stumped, you will find many helpful online forums.

3. Your team does not need a lot of technical experience or expertise. 

Blogging platforms remove many of the obstacles small churches encounter in creating a web presence. They are developed by teams of expert designers and technicians. The technology is built in. If you have designers or computer techies in your congregation, they can be helpful, but they are not required. Blogging software, built into the platform, allows you to do fun things like post pictures or videos, sponsor polls or offer downloads which help you capture information. (You may want to find someone to design your header.)

4. Blogs are interactive.

Blogs are a bit like Facebook, but they tend to create more thoughtful, detailed dialogue. This is likely to change the nature of church — for the better. In the past much dialogue in the church has been one-sided. The preacher preaches. The congregation listens. Blogs will open up religious dialog.

5. Blogs attract web traffic. 

Because they are more active, search engines find blogs more easily than static web sites. Most people visit blogs first. This helps people find you, especially if your bloggers write about things of interest to your community.

6. Blogs can involve whatever people you have — one or dozens.

You will want to build a team of people writing for your church blog, but you can start with one or two. Actively look for contributors. Show the talents and gifts of everyone in your church — youth, parents, teachers, musicians, property and finance people, neighbors and friends, clergy (your own and others). A blog must be updated several times a week.

7. A blog may be all your congregation needs for a while.

Since blogs allow for both interactive pages and static pages, most congregations can probably combine their blog and website. If you already have a website you can migrate traffic to your new blog. The blogging platform host will help you do this.

8. Blogging will connect you with talent and expertise outside your congregation.

Topics will arise that will benefit from asking for a contribution from an outside expert. That will draw a new group of people into your readership and grow your community.

9. Blogging will create discipline and foster planning. 

Blogs are always hungry for new material. They will fail without regular feeding, Congregations will be forced to plan a strategy. Your congregation will find a new and expanding sense of direction.

Ambassadors Visit St. Matthew’s, Springfield

Our ambassadors visited St. Matthew’s in Springfield, Pa, twice. One ambassador visited October 16 and three of us visited yesterday. It wasn’t intentional; we just got our signals crossed.

We discovered a well-kept suburban church with all things in good order. The property, which they are about to renovate, seemed to be loved and cared for. The worship service was well-structured with good leadership. The congregation was quiet and attentive, which may seem like an odd observation but many of the congregations we visit are “busy” with lots of moving around. The supply pastor, Rev. David Oppold, told us he was a member of the congregation and often supplied pulpits. He spoke movingly of his work with hospice patients and the privilege of conducting funerals.

The choir of about 15 was one of the largest choirs we encountered. Most churches we visit have no choir. It looked like a lay member led the children’s message which was well-attended. They also have a seminarian working with them, Laura Gorton.

The attendance at the worship service numbered about 80 or so.

The service contained a stewardship message as they are about to embark on a major renovation program. The plan is to raise a $200,000-$300,000 and borrow about one million. Their lay leader stood before the congregation and announced a program designed to encourage weekly gifts of $40.

We cannot help but contrast what we saw at St. Matt’s with our own experience.

A typical Redeemer worship service had an attendance of about one fourth that number . . . and we borrowed about one fourth of the amount they plan to borrow for the same purposes. Our leaders stood before our congregation and advocated for weekly gifts on a tiered basis — $15, $30 and $60 — and had seen improvement in giving. Redeemer’s renovations were absolutely necessary to moving our ministry forward as the working rooms like the kitchen had not been updated in 70 or more years. We did this in an atmosphere of steady membership growth (unlike most congregations in SEPA). The difference in our situation is SEPA leadership attempted to seize our assets, evict our congregation and sue our lay members.

We certainly wish the people of St. Matthew’s better luck with their project!

From the 95 Theses to Amazon.com

Commentary Social Media and the Growth of the ChurchThis week we approach Reformation Day — Halloween to most people. For many Christians it is the birthday of Lutheranism and a spur for many Protestant movements. 2×2 Foundation has strong roots in the Lutheran tradition, although we are aligned with no denomination. We pause to look at the history of publishing and the church and how it will continue to impact our future.

Young Martin LutherIt is often noted that Martin Luther’s ideas — which were not entirely original — had impact on the world because they coincided with the invention of the printing press. His ideas spread across Europe while his reform-minded predecessors were likely to have had their toes warmed at the stake before their influence spread very far.

As the Protestant Church grew, most of the evolving denominations established at least one publishing house. There were also independent religious publishing houses. Writers had to convince publishers of the value of their ideas before they could see them in print. If one publisher turned them down . . . on to the next. If successful (and that could take years), they could look forward to publication within a year as manuscripts were edited, typeset, designed, printed and marketed. Publishing in the church could be a daunting enterprise. (That change in the church often relies on the slow process of publishing may be the reason the church is resistant to change today.)

Denominations sometimes took steps to protect their interests in their publishing house(s). A predecessor body of the ELCA, for example, had constitutional prohibitions against congregations publishing. Perhaps this was an effort to monitor religious thought. Perhaps it was an attempt to corner the market on publishing.

Things are changing. For the last few decades, the church and its publishers have been challenged by the economy. Some publishers closed and some merged. There were fewer places for thought leaders to present their ideas. Now all publishing houses face a Goliath — amazon.com.

Amazon is now making it easy for writers to self-publish and market their books and ideas. The filtering layers of hierarchy and bureaucracy are gone. Anyone can publish — any pastor, any congregation, any seminarian or congregant, or any small group within the Church. In addition, writers can publish ebooks on their own websites. It’s a whole new world for religion and the Church. It will affect Church structure. It remains to be seen how.

Some may miss the tempering or censuring influence of the old publishing system. However, controls are still in place, but the power is shifting. We control what is published by participating. The joystick is in our hands. Dialog on topics of interest to the church are open to anyone with internet access. If you see a wrong idea, challenge it!

Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the cathedral door. Today, we can post our ideas on anyone’s Facebook “wall”!

We encourage congregations to find their voice and use it. The size of your congregation no longer matters. The congregation which sponsors 2x2virtualchurch.com is small. Nevertheless, through this blog, we have reached more than 700 “visitors” in the last seven months and are now averaging more than 50 new visitors each week. That number has a pattern of steady growth.

As we develop this forum, we ask one question — “How we can help other small churches?” That’s our focus and one of our many missions.