Blogging to build community

For the seven years I have been involved in communicating on behalf of Mothers’ Union, I have used the following as my inspiration:

“Proclaim the mystery of Christ… clearly. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”
(Colossians 4:3-5)

Back in early July I was startled to find that the central Mothers’ Union marketing dept couldn’t get it’s head round blog based content management – and the feedback from my posting on the matter (A blog isn’t a website?) was significant, particularly Adriana’s comment about “marketing not building relationships”.

There are many examples of individual, good Christian blogs — ones that build a community of readers. I currently follow five of them: A Man Breathing (in training for ministry), Gathering Grace (a rural parish priest), Maggi Dawn (college chaplain and musician), Bishop Alan, and fellow WordPress user Bishop Nick.

In all cases I feel I am learning something about them as people, what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, what irritates them, what their social concerns are, and in some cases how they cope with that thing called ‘life’. Frequently I am prompted to consider with what God wants me to engage.

All this contributes to being part of their community.

Bishop Nick is the Bishop for the Church of England’s Diocesan Communicators and in his Diocesan news when he launched his blog he said:

The brilliant thing about blogging is that it gets conversations (and occasional rows) going in the most odd places… I love the edgy engagement that it allows and am glad the Church can get stuck into this space.

The idea of using blog software as content management for a community therefore seems a logical next step, which is why I took it when it was suggested to me. My hope is that people from all over the world will use it as a way to engage directly with what Mothers’ Union does. I want them to be inspired and resourced, and yes, perhaps commit to supporting it long-term.

This is, in part, marketing, but more than that it builds relationships and communities of like minded people. To use the jargon of an (ex) CEO at the sharp end of computing, I want MU (and Christians generally) to be active members of the new Participation Age — not just passive members of the old Information Age.

It’s a pity then that some of those who’ve been inspired to use blog software for content management on a community website often don’t enable comments and therefore aren’t building a participating community. Fellow Mothers’ Union WordPress users in Manchester are one example, and I look forward to discussing with them at our September Marketing Conference why they do this! I’m sure you can find other examples.

It’s also a pity that web software has created a generation of users who don’t, and are perhaps scared to, interact with a website. Perhaps that in part is the reason why the Mothers’ Union site I maintain is not generating comments – yet I am sure that people do have views about Mothers’ Union work in social policy, overseas development, or family life which they would like to express.

I have heard Christianity condemned as a means of controlling people, telling them how they should think, and why they should think it. If Christians use blogging software without comments enabled, are we feeding the mis-conception that we peddle a command and control mentality? Where is the freedom in Christ and the boldness of the Holy Spirit in the power of which we are called to witness (Acts 5:29)?

I do wonder how many Christian communities using the web are really making the most of every opportunity to inspire participation in the Gospel? It may be a step outside our comfort zone, just as any other form of ministry, but I do believe using the full capabilities of blog software for on-line Christian communities is definitely a “space” that those of us doing the building, need to get “stuck into”.


One comment

  1. Rac, thank you for this. Although I agree with you about a sense of becoming a sort of ‘e-community’ I also think that there is nothing like meeting and ‘being’ in the presence of one another. But for many people, without geographical boundaries, this e-community is very valuable and meaningful.
    It seems that the struggles of the MU to engage through technology are similar to those of TSSF. We have been slow (and almost secretive in the past) to let the wider church know that we exist and have something to offer. Blogging is one way in which members can engage with a much wider audience, and yes, that is a form of ministry and mission.


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