We’re all about helping churches make disciples digitally here at Disciplr, and one of the most powerful ways you can do this is by running a healthy church blog.
Here’s the sad thing: most church leaders know that running a church blog is a good idea, but they don’t have a lot of people helping them avoid some of the common mistakes bloggers make.
So I’ve put together a list of 11 major church blogging pitfalls to avoid. But I can’t take all the credit: Paul and Brian on the Disciplr team and Christian blogger Jayson D. Bradley helped me in refining this list. Thanks, gents!
11 blogging mistakes churches should avoid
(You can download this infographic for free here.)
Let’s get a closer look at how to avoid these mistakes, shall we?
I’ve listed some practical reasons these practices aren’t good for your church, and some ideas on how to steer clear.
1. Blogging without leadership buy-in
A church blog just won’t last if the leaders aren’t on board. They’re going to be the ones signing off on new posts. They’re going to be the ones pointing people to the blog on Sunday mornings (or they should be—we’ll get into that later). They’re the ones who need to approve hosting charges, special announcements, everything.
Good blogging is a big investment. You don’t want to make that investment without your church leadership’s buy-in.
2. Blogging without a specific purpose
Many church leaders know that it’s good to have a church blog, but they wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what advantage blogging give them. That means there are a lot of churches blogging (which is good!) without a clear, specific purpose for doing so (not so good).
You need to set a specific purpose when you blog, otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time spinning your wheels. The good news is that there’s no one “correct” purpose for a church blog. You can blog to gain local search engine traffic. You can blog to teach your church. You can blog to share stories of what the Holy Spirit is doing in your community.
Just make sure you’re not blogging for the sake of blogging.
One way to avoid this pitfall is to answer the question, “What kind of church blog do I want to run?” My friend Aaron Linne outlines a few kinds of church blogs in this article at LifeWay. Here are two of the types he suggests:
- The expert blog. “The pastor is the expert; the work he puts into Sunday morning can reach dozens (or thousands) more by posting on a church blog. Most pastors will ingest and wrestle with many more resources and ideas than ever make it into the Sunday morning sermon. Perhaps the blog can be used for a deeper dive to get more out of the pastor’s personal research and insights.”
- The personal blog. “If a small group leader or Sunday School teacher is sharing on the blog about their preparations for a missions trip to East Asia, the reader gets a glimpse into the people—not just the programs—of your church.”
Bottom line: if you know what your blog is for, your readers will, too. And they’ll keep coming back for more.
3. Only blogging about Sunday
Most church activity happens on Sundays, which means that’s when churches churn out most of their material. It’s when you preach sermons. It’s when you teach lessons. It’s when you share YouTube clips from Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ. It’s when you perform music.
That means there’s a huge temptation to make your church blog all about what happened last Sunday. There’s nothing wrong with putting Sunday-centric content on your blog—in fact, I think video or audio sermon recap posts are great ideas!
But a blog that’s all Sunday all the time? Not a great idea, and here’s why:
- Only posting material from Sunday mornings leaves far too much content on the table. There’s a lot more going on in your church, your city, and the global conversation than what happens one morning every week. And on that note …
- A Sunday-centric blog runs the risk of being disconnected from your congregation’s week. If your entire blog revolves around Sunday, you’re creating an excellent resource for half a day every week—but you’re not going to be a great source of help to congregants looking for things to think about throughout the week.
Instead: try to keep a balance between Sunday-focused posts and content that isn’t necessarily about what happened at church. You could write thoughts on current events, thoughts on family life, thoughts on spiritual growth—there’s a lot your church can write about!
4. Treating the blog like a bulletin board
You know those restaurants with community bulletin boards? They have a tendency to fill up with business cards, tear-tab flyers, and assorted print noise. Everyone knows that if they have something to say, they can just stick it on the board—and so everyone does.
It’s tempting to do this with your church blog when it comes to events. You have a lot of stuff going on during the week:
- Youth group
- Small groups
- Community events
- Yada, yada, yada
There’s only so much time to give announcements Sunday morning (to the people paying attention). But a blog has infinite space for infinite announcements! With all the events a church can put on, it’s easy to treat your church blog like a digital bulletin board.
But then you run into a few problems:
- People don’t read blogs like bulletin boards. A blog is a place where your congregation (and potential visitors) should find helpful content—not a long string of “Don’t forget the car wash!” and “Mom’s brunch next week!” posts.
- Even if people did read blogs for event updates, how would they get there? Blog posts take a little while to index (be found by Google), and unless your church members are just eagerly checking up on your blog twice a day, you’re probably not going to get your information to them in time.
Instead: Use email for most announcements, and either put all your announcements in one e-newsletter that goes to your whole congregation or only send announcement emails to the groups of people who need to hear about them. (For example, the ladies’ Bible study may not need to know about the father-son breakfast.) Write blog posts only for events that people will want to share and reference more than once, and try to do so at least a month in advance of the deadline you have in mind.
5. Not mentioning the blog during service
You can have a fantastic blog with heartfelt posts on how to bring the gospel to your community. But if it’s never mentioned on Sunday, it’s going to take your congregation a while to figure out that it exists.
Instead: If you’re putting the effort into blogging (and that takes a lot of effort), you should be giving your church every chance to find useful content you can. Point them to the blog for more information about the search for a new children’s pastor. Point them to the blog for testimonials from the latest youth missions trip. Point them to the blog for supplementary stories and thoughts related to the sermon (this is great for pastors who tend to have more to share than time will allow).
Point them to the blog!
6. Not posting often enough
Imagine someone moves to town in late August and begins looking for a church. They Google around until they find your website. They hit your site, look around, and say, “Oh, sweet! They have a blog! I’ll check that out and see what these folks are like.”
… And there’s been nothing posted since Easter.
How often should you post? The short answer is, “Enough to show you’re still alive.”
The also-short (but less sarcastic) answer is, “Shoot for at least once a week, don’t drop to less than once a month.”
Granted, that really depends on what your blog is for. If it’s a place to keep your congregation engaged throughout the week and attract visitors searching online, then this is a good rule of thumb. If you’re treating your church blog more like a library for your church to access from time to time, then don’t worry about how often you post (but you might want to hide the dates so it doesn’t look like your blog is dead).
7. Publishing posts that are too short
You’ve probably been told that people’s attention spans are too short for long blog posts. And depending on what you’re writing about, a 200-word post may be all you need.
But if you want to write posts that people in your church (and the Web at large) will reference for years to come, you need to get used to writing long-form original content.
The best online marketers will tell you that their longer blog posts tend to get the most traction. Longer posts rank higher in Google, they get more shares, and they win more followers. (Here’s a 2012 article that sums up the argument for long content nicely.)
How long is just right? According to blogger Kevan Lee, the ideal length of a blog post is at least 1,600 words.
I understand. If you’re shooting for a blog post a week like we talked about earlier, that’s a lot of words to throw on top of your weekly sermon prep. If you’re not one of those people who sit down and bang out crazy-long blog posts every day, you have a few options:
- Share the load. Instead of writing one blog post a week, write one a month and delegate the other three weekly posts to others on church staff. Your executive pastor could write about leadership. Your children’s pastor could write posts for parents.
- Get a writer. Find someone on church staff or in your congregation who’s a fine writer and whom you can trust to write content on behalf of the church.
Just don’t make a habit of writing blog posts that could fit on an adhesive note.
8. Stealing someone else’s content
We all know plagiarism is wrong. But for whatever reason, swiping someone else’s content and either not attributing it or misattributing it happens more than you would think in the Christian blogging world.
In Jayson’s words:
In January of 2013, I published a post called 3 Phrases Christians Should Quit Relying On. It was my first viral post, and it was pretty exciting. But one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the number of posts my friends discovered that were overt copies. Some borrowed the idea, while others honed in and elaborated on one aspect. I had one blogger use two-thirds of the post’s outline as their own. Guess how many of them credited their post’s inspiration? If you guessed zero, you’re right.
You’re not out to steal other people’s content (or make them feel like you haven’t given them proper credit). So here are three general courtesies to abide by then you’re sharing someone else’s content on your blog:
- If you see something that inspires you to write, it’s good Web manners to credit them with a link to their original content. (Even if you don’t agree with the other person’s material, it’s the classy thing to do.)
- If you’re going to quote more than just a paragraph of their material, you’ll want to get the original blogger’s permission to do so. (You should also look into using “rel=canonical” tags in your HTML.)
- Make sure you’re attributing work to the right author! You’re playing by the rules, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is. I’ve seen a church copy-paste someone else’s post and give them credit, only to find out that the person they credited lifted that content from someone else!
My recommendation: share small chunks of other people’s content, but most of your blog should be original. After all, the readers want to hear from you, right?
9. Blogging without a consistent voice
You don’t need every blog post to be written by the same person, but you do need every post to sound like something that would come from your church.
There are a few ways you can pull this off:
- Designate an editor. This person assigns post ideas, manages the blog calendar, and is your champion of voice and style.
- Clarify the topics you’ll blog about. For example, Disciplr blogs about discipleship and technology. If your church can be consistent in subject matter, it will help you be consistent in voice.
- Write up your church brand standards. This is a document that handles how the church looks, feels, sounds, etc. Sheri Felipe’s article is a good place to start when making this.
When you blog with a consistent voice, your readers know what to expect from you—and there’s a better chance they’ll start reading more of your content.
10. Always trying to go viral
Sure, it’d be cool to get two million hits on your next article. But for the most part, going viral is overrated. Here’s why:
- You get slapped with the hosting bill.
- You have to deal with all the comments.
- You have to face that sad, sad feeling of your blog going “back to normal.”
Granted, there are a lot of great benefits a viral post can give you. Ad revenue, possible conference speaking positions, conversations with a bigger community, etc. You might even get a book deal.
But chasing virality is a tough game for churches. It’s hard to write something relevant to your own church that could also be shared by millions. (And that’s probably not where you should be spending your energy.)
Instead: Focus on making content your congregation and potential visitors will find helpful—not just on content you think could go crazy viral.
11. Not giving your readers a next step
I couldn’t write a list of blogging mistakes without including this one.
You wrote a great post. You put in all the work to make something excellent that people came to your website to read. And they did—they read it. Now what? You need to give your readers a logical next step (this is what marketers would call a “call to action”).
You don’t need one call to action for the whole site, but it’s smart to have one for each individual post. It could be anything:
- Sign up for your church’s email list
- Add an event to your calendar
- Download the sermon mp3
- Invite someone to church next Sunday
You can see how important this is. After all, you’ve put all this effort into writing awesome content that brings folks to your site. You don’t want to lose them now!
A blog is one of the most powerful tools to use for digital discipleship, so it’s important to blog well. These are a few common mistakes bloggers make that I’d hate to see your church have to deal with.
What are some other pitfalls to avoid in running a church blog? Let me know in the comments!