Blogging Tips: a series at youthmin.org

bloggingtipsbenkerns

Over at youthmin.org there is a really interesting series of posts all about blogging.  The contributor team have all written a post sharing the blogs that inspire and sharpen them.  Just like the team, there is a wide variety of opinions and influences.  I would encourage you to check them out and expand your reading diet.  As far as my contribution, here is who made my list.  Who is on yours? There is so much I don’t know!

It is so easy to think that you are the master of the universe.  But what I have found is that whenever I get to this point, I realize that I am simply the master of my own universe.  This is the reason I love to read.

Blogs are the great equalizer.  They are posts by people just like you and me, people who love Jesus and love kids.  They approach the gospel and ministry from so many different perspectives that I am always challenged to reexamine my own ministry and strive to continually improve it.  If you are new to reading blogs, there are a ton of great ones on this site, get to reading.  But even more, if you are aren’t writing on one of your own, go to wordpress.com and get going!

Here are my top 5 favorite blogs:

These are not all specifically youth ministry blogs, but ones that challenge me to be a better pastor, parent, and person.

1) http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/ This is Fuller Youth Institute blog and is jam packed with thoughtful posts backed up with legit research.

2) http://sethgodin.com/sg/ Seth Godin is a brilliant writer and blogger.  Everyone says that if you want to know what a great blog is like, look at Seth’s.  Unfortunately, mine is nothing like his, but oh how he challenges me to get off my butt!

3) http://youthleaderstash.com/ is a helpful and practical resource.  Not only will you find clever games and images, but great curriculum, funny videos, and an encouragement to do youth ministry well.

4) http://restlessfaith.blogspot.com/ is a blog written by a friend of mine, Chad McDaniel.  He is one of the most thoughtful and godly youth pastors I know.  I am always spurred on to know Jesus and love him more because of his blog.

5) http://www.youthministrymedia.ca/ As an old guy who is increasingly out of step with all this technology, Kolby Milton is my guide through these complicated waters.  His blog is captivating, interesting, and incredibly helpful.

What I look for in a blog

Everyone seems to have some rule about what works and what doesn’t on blogs.  Keep your posts under 500 words, write to a specific audience, use a theme that is original and clean.  Unfortunately I break all these rules and so should you.

ARE YOU REMARKABLE?  Is what you are writing worthy of remark?  The blogs that I like are ones that stir me to consider things differently, push me to something new, and even change my current position.  If you make your audience think and compel them to remark, then you are hitting a home run!

ARE YOU A POSER?  It seems that online you can say whatever you want, be as controversial as you want, and blow up people and the church with little repercussion.  I work with students and doing things that are shocking is every day in this job.  Blogs that go for shock and awe flame out and lose my interest very quickly.

WILL YOUR POST SHARPEN ME?  I am desperate need of refinement.  I am a total wretch who has been saved by grace and am still confused why God would use me in pastoral ministry.  Because of my state, I need to be spurred on to know Christ more deeply, love students unconditionally, and do ministry that is worthy of the calling that God has put on my life.  If I find a blog that does that, then I am all in!

Don’t just be a consumer of information, be a contributor.  The body of Christ needs your unique perspective, so get after it!

what i have learned from my first year as a blogger

It is hard to believe that I have been running this blog for a year! As I have reflected back on this last year, I have seen how God has used this little site as a tool to continue to transform and refine me. It has just been a hare over 365 days ago that I decided to take a stab at this blogging thing and from that day forward I have found the learning curve of my life steepen at an exponential rate. It is so nice to be reminded that I do not have everything all figured out. It is not quite so nice to realize I have almost nothing figured out. But I have thoroughly enjoyed this new hobby of mine and am thankful for the ways God has used it. With a year under my belt, I wanted to share with you some of the things I have learned by cranking out 3 little posts a week for 52 weeks.

I am still in the market for new friends: I know that blogging is a new media, and friendships may be defined rather loosely in this world, but I have found that they are friendships all the same. I have had the pleasure to interact with so many people this last year and from such a wide verity of locations and backgrounds. Some of these people have actually become friends. I have had the pleasure of meeting several of them in person, and others I am anxiously waiting for the time God allows us to meet face to face. In person or virtually, I have had the pleasure to be sharpened and stretched in my faith, in my profession, and in my person and for that I am grateful. If you are looking for some good reading I highly recommend some of my new peeps.

Jeremy Zach at reyouthpastor.com Benjamin Read at intentionalstudentministry.com Chad Swanzy at youthleaderstash.com Kolby Milton at youthministrymedia.ca Andy Blanks at youthministry360.com Robbie McKenzie at robbiemackenzie.com Rusty Pettus at pettus.wordpress.com

I am a small fish in a big ocean: Have you ever been to a large youth ministry conference and been blown away by the 3000 other youth workers wondering around the convention center? As great as you are in your context and how ever much your students and parents are impressed with you, you are still only one of many youth workers out there loving a group of students into the kingdom of God. I have been honored to have had a couple of opportunities to serve outside my local context, and when I am not careful, I can begin to be pretty impressed with myself. But even my local network, my denominational connections, or training at a certain event are still pretty shallow ponds compared to the entire world wide web. Blogging has been a truly humbling experience, to be one tiny little site among billions in general, millions of blogs, and thousands of youth ministry blogs is pretty overwhelming. It is nice to be reminded of my true place and to do the thing that God has called me to because he has called me to it.

I have become far less critical: I have not given up thinking critically, but I have died to my critical spirit. It has been a favorite pastime to rip apart people who are out there writing and speaking. Don't they know that I should be the one out there impressing people with my mad skills. Ha! Consuming information and judging others may be easy and build some street cred with your small circle of friends. But to move into creating content and contributing to the conversation turns out to be much more difficult. To write something and have it out there for the world to see, criticize, push back on, is much more challenging then I thought. And after a year of this, I have realized that I have far more respect for anyone who is out there taking the risk, trying it out, contributing in any fashion then a clever tear down after a seminar.

Everyone has a voice; finding it is harder than it seams: You would think that spending my entire career in student ministry I would have a clear understanding of my voice. But the truth is when our only feedback loops are the closed system of our local church we slow down in our development. It gets incredibly old to simply say things and have the listeners and readers choke down the words because I am a pastor. When we expand our circles and deepen our ponds, we allow others to push back on us, to not let us get away with shoddy thinking or theology. And in this process we come out refined. We have a voice that is valuable to the conversation, that encourages and equips others for ministry. There isn't one master voice that accomplishes this, it is a community of voices that contribute to this process. While I am still enjoying my baby talk season, I have appreciated those who have encouraged me where I am and have pushed me to go farther.

The post that started it all: Looking back, there is absolutely nothing extraordinary about my original post, or about any post since. But I still stand behind my original sentiment. I my post, Is it even ok to be average, I said, "Most likely you are an average, common, and typical youth worker. But because we are connected to Christ and he loves to use our common and often feeble efforts, let us relax. Today we can enjoy the God who loves us and who calls us and uses us, warts and all. We can strive to be excellent tomorrow."

This has been a great year. Thank you for the part you have played in molding me and shaping me. I do not long to be Doug Fields or Andy Root. (ok, a little bit I do,) In my heart of hearts I long to be the fullest version of me that God has dreamt up before the dawn of time. And God is using this little blog, and your input and friendship to accomplish that goal. For that I am truly thankful and blessed!

Happy Anniversary!