Tag: successful

What I’ve learned in 3 years of blogging

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging for 3 years now. I’ve loved interacting with you guys, building this community of people, and processing my thoughts out loud. Thanks for giving me grace to think and grow all along the way.

I’ve learned lots of lessons over the past 3 years. Many I’ve had to learn the hard way.  Hopefully I can save you some frustrations.

Lessons I’ve learned in 3 years of blogging.

1. The more honest, the better.

People will connect with you more over your honesty and transparency than they ever will over your victories and moral platitudes.  My posts that have gotten the most positive feedback have been the ones where I’m gut-level honest with my thoughts and experiences.

2. The more accessible, the better.

As I make myself accessible (here, on the blog, through comments), I find people appreciate that. To build community, you’ve got to build relationships.

3. Be generous.

The more ideas I share, resources I recommend, connections I make, and in general, the more I can give away, the more I always get in return.

4. It’s as much about ‘rhythm’ as it is ‘discipline.’

I hear lots of guys say that blogging is a discipline. And I get that. But I like to look at blogging and see where it fits in the rhythm of my life. Rather than ‘disciplining’ myself, I’d rather it be a flow of my life.  I’ve found more joy and inspiration having a blogging rhythm than having a blogging discipline.

5. Put in the work now and you can reap the benefits later.

I can look back and snag some great, well thought out ideas. Someday, I just might write a book. You know where I’ll turn first for my good ideas? The archives.  And it’s because I have put lots of work into so many posts.

6. Just publish.

Some days, my thoughts aren’t fully developed or perfect or polished. But I just have to “publish” anyway.  It’s better to float ideas and thoughts out there, and synthesize them as you go, than to every single thought fully planned out before completion.

7. I enjoy writing.

I really do.  I’ve found it a great avenue to flesh out my thoughts.

8. It’s about quality posts more than ‘technique’.

I’ve read articles on blogging technique, SEO, key words, timing, consistency, and focus.  And while those things are important, don’t forget to write quality posts!  If you write good stuff, Google will find you.

9. Mixing up the type of posts I write (video posts, social media, theology, etc.) is as helpful for me as it is enjoyable for readers.

Writing the same kinds of posts every day gets boring.  So I mix up the categories, the style, and the focus to keep things fresh, both for the readers and for my own creativity.

10. I have no idea what it really takes to write a post that’s going to take off.

I have written about this before HERE…and it’s still true.  The posts I feel will take off…fall flat.  The ones I write on a whim go viral.  I default back to #8 and #9 (above)

11. I’m not done.

And neither is blogging.  Blogging is a great tool, and our culture is continuing to turn to blogs for information, ideas, and insights.  I’m definitely not done.

If you’ve read my blog at any point over the past 3 years…thanks.  Keep sharing your thoughts, experiences, and insights.  Keep leading well, changing, and growing.

I hope I’ve helped you on your journey in some small way.

 

 

 

 

5 easy ways to make your small group fun

How do you build enjoyment into your small group?

photo by iStockPhoto.com/nano

Because if you’ve ever been a part of a small group that’s boring, you know that humor, laughter, and fun don’t happen naturally. And what one person find amusing, another can find offensive. Fortunately, although the presence of humor and fun can’t be guaranteed, group leaders can help ensure there’s freedom and space to pursue it.

5 Easy Ways to make your small group fun

1. Don’t plan to start on time.

If you start right off the bat with the study questions, you show quickly that you don’t prioritize your group members as individuals. You only prioritize getting through the curriculum. Plan on a casual start to your group each week. My group builds in 30 minutes (at least) each week before we start the study.

2. Include food!

There’s something about food that seems to break down walls of resistance. Eating with your group around a table (or, if you prefer, standing up while eating snacks) helps to build a tight-knit community.

3. End on time, but don’t end on time.

When you finish with the study questions and close in prayer, make sure to be done in time for group members to hang around and enjoy each other’s company each week.

4. Plan for some fun.

Maybe your group needs to put down the book one night and just do a good old fashioned pot luck. Or game night. Or go bowling. Or go hang out at the park. Or grill out. Or have a chili cook-off. These events can lead to a much richer study time when you pick the books back up. Also, plan it during the time you normally gather for small group; this way, you can reasonably assume your group members have blocked off that time each week.

5. Plan extra-group activities.

Pick a random Friday night and have a girls’ night out. If you have children, have the dads gather to offer childcare for the night. Then switch for the next week. Or go on a camping trip. Or go to the lake. Or go out to eat on Sunday after church.

If you truly desire to build a community of people who love and care for each other, will go to bat for each other, and consistently encourage each other—find a way to have some fun. You’ll find yourself eagerly anticipating your meeting time together each week. You’ll be less likely to burn out. And your group will find a renewed energy each week.

They can thank me later.

If I haven’t yet, allow me to convince you why it’s vital for the health of your small group to incorporate “fun” into its life.  Read my thoughts HERE.

*I originally published this for smallgroups.com

 

6 vital reasons to incorporate fun into your small groups

Dear Small-Group Pastor,

I just want to take a minute to say that we’re all proud of the way you’ve done your research and found the most biblical curriculum. You’ve trained your small-group leaders to have airtight, foolproof theology. They can move from a discussion on the Nephilim to ecclesiology, then weave in a bit of distinction between Calvinism, the resurrection, and eschatology.

You’ve taught your group leaders how to facilitate a discussion, minister to the EGRs, fill the empty chair, raise up apprentice leaders, and plant new groups. You’ve helped groups become more “missional” by consistently serving their neighborhoods and communities. Group members are working to baptize and make disciples of all nations, starting with their families and neighbors.

But one thing is missing. Small groups aren’t fun. Sometimes they’re boring, actually. Sometimes people only come because they feel like they are supposed to.

So here’s my plea to you, small-group champion: incorporate fun, life, and humor into the small groups at your church.

Why to Focus on Fun

1. If it’s not fun, people won’t come back.

It’s possible to get more information in a more convenient time in a more convenient way through many other means. Podcasts, books, blogs, and forums offer information and discussion environments at any time of the day, every day of the year. What separates small groups from each of these environments is the relationship, face-to-face aspect. Make sure you maximize this!

2. If there’s no fun, it’s not reflective of real life.

If your group is intensely serious, it can drain the life right out of people. We’re only wired to take so much seriousness. And often, our work environments give us plenty of seriousness.

3. If there’s no laughter, people are missing out on great medicine.

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). Maybe what hurting people need isn’t more medicine, but a healthy small group. They need to laugh together so hard that they snort. They need to laugh at themselves. They need to laugh at a corny joke. Because God has wired us to receive healing through laughter. I’m not sure how it works, but after a difficult day at work—with the kids, with finances, with in-laws—laughing helps to melt away stress and anxiety, bringing healing to your aching bones.

4. Have you ever belly-laughed?

Seriously, there’s not much that’s more redemptive than belly-laughing with someone in your small group. If you’ve laughed that way, from your gut, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, then I sincerely weep for you. Join my small group, please—we’ll show you how to do it.

5. When we have fun together, we show others that we serve a good God.

Check this out: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them'” (Psalm 126:2). Did you catch that? When our mouths are filled with laughter, others are convinced that God has done great things among us. Could the flip-side be true? If our mouths aren’t filled with laughter, could people become convinced that the God we serve isn’t good? That he doesn’t take delight in loving is people? That the God we give witness to is ultimately boring, and the eternity with him that we say will be wonderful is painted as dull and lifeless?

6. Laughter builds community.

Laughing together can help your group bond in a rich way very quickly. Don’t neglect times of fun and laughing. Relish those times together. Jokes that carry from week to week, laughing at random things, and having fun together help set the stage for deep discussions, building trust among those in your group.

Convinced?

Have you ever been a part of a boring small group?

*I originally published this for smallgroups.com

 

Blogging’s not cool anymore

Blogging isn’t cool anymore.

There, I said it.

It seems that almost every person on the planet can say either, “I have a blog…” or, “I used to have a blog…”

You used to be cutting edge if you had a blog, back when the first ones launched in 1999.  Now, in 2011, bloggers are a dime a dozen.

And there are so many mediocre blogs out there that if yours doesn’t significantly stand out, you’ll get lost among the noise.  Here’s what I mean:

There’s no guarantee today that if you start a blog, it’ll become successful.

There’s no guarantee today that if you have a blog, it’ll continue to be successful.

And though this may frustrate you, it thrills me.  It drives me to work harder, faster, more creatively, and more passionately.  Creating art that is relevant, helpful, and sharable is difficult, given the level of noise that social media is creating in our world.  But the product that successful bloggers are creating is getting better and better.

In the long run, the fact that blogging is difficult will make you a better writer, communicator, and artists (assuming you stick with it).  And it will force better artists to step up and continue to create better art.  And in the long run, the number of active blogs may decrease.  And that competition is good for the system.

People aren’t just clicking on blogs anymore.  They’ve got to have a reason.

What reason(s) are you giving them?

Why should someone read and subscribe to your blog?

 

Leveraging Blogging

I don’t write my blog posts so that I would hit the Top 100 Christian blogs (though I do love the stuff that Kent, at ChurchRelevance.com puts out).  I write them because I process things externally.  The best way I work out my thoughts is to put them out publicly for people to see and critique.

It’s just how I’m wired.

Which means that this blog benefits me more than it will ever benefit someone else.

But, since I’m writing it on a consistent basis, I thought it prudent to leverage the platform to the best of my abilities.  So here’s some suggestions I’ve got for you if you care to leverage the power of blogging.

Leveraging your blogging platform

1. Consistently write posts. Don’t let weeks or months go by without a post.  You gain influence through consistent posting.  Even if it’s once/week, consistency is important.

2. Write substantive posts. Deal with real issues that people face.  Answer questions people are asking.  Dig into issues that are important.  Pictures are great…but if you want to leverage influence, put some substance in there.

3. End your posts with a question. I always try to invite dialog, because I am not simply trying to broadcast information.  My aim isn’t to put together a good monologue.  I want criticisms, questions, comments…and I’ve found that others want the ability to chime in.  Ending my posts with a question help people know how to best jump in the discussion.

4. Make your posts shorter. My rule of thumb is to keep my posts less than 500 words.  I know that if I get over 500 words, I lose people’s attention.  So I try to get rid of the fluff, and get right to the meat of what I’m trying to say.

5. Read other blogs and comment on them. Engaging others on their turf, on their platform, is a great way to interact.  And if your goal is to leverage influence through blogging, this is a great way to do it.

6. Connect your ideas through other social networking platforms. Broadcast updates through Twitter and Facebook.  Add your info to Networked Blogs.  To PostRank (see my thoughts HERE on measuring success by social engagement).

7. Move beyond the screen. Don’t let interaction stop at the comments section of your blog.  Schedule up a face-to-face conversation.  Get a TokBox going.  A great value of social media is that it can get you further relationally with those you’re developing a network with online.

What am I missing?  Would you add anything to this list?

Have you worked on any of these things?  Any success?

 

How to write a good blog post

I’ve written quite a few blog posts.  On my blog alone, it’s over 250.  And though that doesn’t make me an expert, I can say that I now know quite a bit more about the art of blogging than when I started.

So how do you write a successful blog post? While I could delve into SEO, social media marketing, and strategic timing of information, and while those things are important, I’ll talk more in this post about the actual nuts and bolts of writing a successful post.

What goes into writing a successful blog post?

1. Get creative with your title. If your title is lame, you’ll lose most readers.

2. Grab people with the first paragraph, at the very latest. If possible, grab them with your first sentence.  If you don’t, people will never read your content.

3. Be provocative. Your momma (and Thumper from Bambi) may have told you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” but I’m telling you, “If you don’t have something interesting to say, don’t say anything at all.”

4.  Leave people thinking about what you wrote all day long. Try ending with a memorable, original statement.  Think, “How can I say this in a catchy, repeatable way?”  If your ideas are provocative and easy to remember, you give people the chance to marinate on them.

5.  Don’t be afraid to offer your opinion. That’s why people are reading…they want to hear what you think.

6. Reread and reword any extraneous material. I don’t mean for you to take out illustrations.  But think how you could word them more succinctly.

7. Provide lots of links. Go crazy with the links.  Making your posts interactive allows your readers to crawl from your posts to other related info.

8. If your post has to be more than 250 words long, make sure it’s scannable. In other words, make use of bullet points and numbered lists.  Bold and italicize words so that somebody could quickly scan and get what you’re talking about.  If they want more info, they’ll read more carefully and click the links that you provide.  If there’s no way to get your idea across in less words, and no real way to make it scannable, you’ll need to offer the info in multiple posts.

9. Invite conversation. If you always end with a conclusion that’s definitive, and leave no room for discussion, readers will check out.  Make sure you give the freedom for differences of opinion.

10.  Consistently post quality information.

 

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