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I’m probably not the best person to be writing on this subject. There are plenty of other bloggers (Unitarian Universalists and others) who are much better at the whole thing than I am. But I have been blogging for some time now (5 or 6 years at least), and I have learned a thing or two…even if I don’t always put those things into practice.

The first thing I’ve learned is that it pays to blog regularly. Of course there are selfish reasons for this: the more you blog, the more hits your blog gets, and the more hits your blog gets, the better you feel. It’s just human nature, I guess. But there are some other things involved here, too. Blogging is essentially journaling in public. And journaling, according to the Rev. Dr. Barry Andrews (religious educator extraordinaire and scholar…you can check out his web page here) was one of the spiritual disciplines of the American Transcendentalist. And since we Unitarian Universalists are the spiritual heirs of those folks, taking one of their spiritual disciplines seriously is pretty much a no-brainer. (That is, of course, if you like to write. If you don’t, there are a bunch of other Transcendentalist spiritual disciplines one can emulate.)

Like any sort of journaling, the more you do it, the greater the rewards. Those of you who have read Julia Cameron’s Artist Way are acquainted with her concept of Morning Pages. The idea is simple: you get up in the morning about 20 minutes earlier than you usually would and you just write. For twenty minutes. Without stopping. If you do this long enough, you may just begin to peel back some layers from your (overly?) critical mind to find some nuggets in your psyche that you weren’t even aware of. Yes, this could be dangerous for some, but all in all, humans are a pretty resilient bunch, and doing a little digging into one’s subconscious may not be a bad idea. Blogging may not allow you to go as deep as The Artist’s Way, but if you do it regularly, the very act of having to find something new to write about may just push you a little further than you would otherwise want to go.

Another way that blogging can be a spiritual discipline is by helping you engage on a deeper level with others. You can do this two ways: by taking the comments on your own blog seriously and responding to those comments in an open, honest, and timely way; and by commenting on other bloggers’ posts openly and honestly. I really have to confess that I’m not the best role model for this practice, but I’d like to do better. So right here and now I’m pledging to do one simple thing: read all of the blog posts mentioned in The Interdependent Web, Heather Christensen’s weekly roundup of UU blogs published by the uuworld.org; and in addition to reading all of the post, I promise to try to openly and honestly comment on as many of those posts as I feel I have something meaningful to say.

I truly feel that there’s still a place for blogs and blogging the brave world of social media. I also feel that by participating as both a creator of content and a commentator on others’ content, one can engage more spiritually in one’s world.

One of the things I hope to accomplish with this blog is being a test case for parish ministers and other religious professionals. What I mean by that is simple: rather than making a bunch of almost impossible suggestions for religious professionals to follow, I want to offer my own experience as a gauge of whether or not my suggestions are actually doable. In this case, my suggestion is that ministers, religious educators, congregational life directors, membership coordinators, etc., post regularly to blogs on their congregational websites. The reason? Blogs remain (in spite of what the pundits say) the centerpiece of any social media strategy. You can tweet on Twitter and post on Facebook and update your stream on Google+ all you want, but unless you have an anchor, so to speak, that holds your social media strategy in place, you may just end up with a bunch of interconnected webby stuff that doesn’t necessarily add up to a complete picture of who you, the religious professional, really are.

So that’s what this is about. As I noted at the beginning of the month, I’m trying to follow Chris Forbes’s plan for engaging in social media as a pastor. Chris suggests that you (the religious professional) add fresh content to the internet at least three times a week. Truth is, that can be a tall order. In my case, I try to do one Small Group Ministry plan a week (usually posted on Sunday), a significant post about some topic that’s on my mind (most recently about writing sermons from the inside out), and one more post, something that doesn’t take as much time. And this one is it. My plan is to practice doing a brief post once a week, a post that takes only fifteen minutes to write. It may not be as focused as the SGM session plan or the longer posts on a hot topic, but it’ll be something to keep folks, er, posted on what I’m thinking.

So with about six minutes to go, here’s what I’m thinking: you need a blog, religious professional, and you need to keep the content fresh. And yes, it shouldn’t take a lot of your time. So think about what your three posts a week might be about. One thing I would encourage (have encouraged, actually) is using one of your posts to let folks know how it’s going with your sermon writing process (if you’re a parish minister, that is). I think a post along those lines is incredibly important because as we move further and further into the Digital Reformation (as Elizabeth Drescher calls it), what we offer online will become increasingly important. I envision the day when congregations truly are fifty/fifty: split evenly between face-to-face, physical ministry, and online virtual ministry. And if we want the sermon to remain at the center of our ministries (which is has been for both the Unitarians and the Universalists since their beginnings in this country), then we need to make them accessible to those whose connections with our congregations are primarily virtual.

Okay, I never said this would be pretty. But I’m giving it a try. With less than a minute to go, I’ll say “Good-bye” until next time.

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