I’ve taken some time away from the blogging world to recover from a short illness, to focus on other writings, and to keep up my day job during a rather intense time of traveling the state, preaching at churches, and meeting with pastors and laypersons. This absence from the blog has given me time to reflect upon its usefulness and value, and to ponder its future. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this, too.
I wrote my first entry for the Five Practices Blog just over one year ago, and since then I’ve submitted nearly one hundred entries. I’ve been surprised in some measure by the wide reach of the blog. Many times I’ve encountered avid readers among the laity in small rural churches in the mid-west, and other times I’ve been delighted by comments and personal email I’ve received from people in states across the US and from countries around the world, including Germany, Scotland, Russia, and the Philippines. Pretty cool. And several blog entries have been picked up for re-publication by the United Methodist Reporter, Lewis Center on Church Leadership, and by various other blogs and periodicals. The unexpected and mostly unknowable penetration of the material into various contexts and conversations is perhaps the most interesting, rewarding, and positive fruit of the effort.
On the other hand, the relatively small number of people who subscribe to receive email reminders (a few hundred), the limited number of comments or responses on the blog itself, and the fairly low numbers of contacts overall (in contrast to the high visibility and great receptivity to the Five Practices book) call into question the usefulness of the blog. Does it serve a helpful purpose? Is it worth the effort and time? What is the value and impact? How well does it serve pastors, laypersons, congregations, the conversation about the Five Practices, or the role of the Episcopacy as I seek to serve Christ and the church? Those are the kinds of questions I’ve been mulling over.
The original purpose of the blog was to “identify and connect congregations and church leaders who seek to multiply their ministries by repeating, deepening, and improving on the Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.” Along with the FivePractices.org website, the Five Practices Blog was intended to serve as a source for new ideas, best practices, suggested readings, etc, to help pastors, laity, and congregations cultivate more fruitful ministries. As with any such endeavor, the purpose has morphed through the year. Many of the most well-received blog entries were personal reflections from my journey as a pastor, bishop, and father, or were “thought pieces” about young adults in the UMC, the economic downturn, or the value of taking risks in ministry. I’ve tried to avoid bureaucratic bishop-speak as much as possible.
Don’t misunderstand my intention with today’s blog: I’m not thinking about stopping, but I would like to invite you to help me with course correction or redirection before I start the second hundred entries. How are we doing? What would prove most helpful? What’s of primary value to you in this blog? The practical ideas? The personal reflections on pastoral practice? The conversations that these provoke? The focus on the Five Practices? The sharing of experience? Simply hearing what one bishop thinks? Something else? And what would you like to see added or done differently? Help me discern the value and future of the blog.
I’ve recently been part of several conversations with people encouraging me to step deeper into the ethereal world of internet communications rather than to retreat from it. (Hard to imagine, since I can barely figure out how to answer calls on my iPhone!) We’ve been bantering about the possibility of audio podcasting to supplement the blog. These might take the form of 10-15 minute weekly podcasts that would include:
1. Short interviews conducted by me with pastors or laity about a particular ministry or best practice in their congregations,
2. Short interviews by me with church leaders I have the privilege of meeting in my travels, such as other bishops, political leaders, writers, national church leaders, etc.
3. Personal reflections on my experience and travel or about significant issues that face the church. These podcasts (or Blogcasts? Blogpods?) would be accessible for listening by clicking on your computer or could be downloaded automatically by free subscription from any of several podcast sites. (Those who know what I’m talking about…well, they know what I’m talking about. Others will have to learn along with me!)
Let me know what you think, either by commenting on the blog site, or by emailing me directly at RSchnase@aol.com. I enjoy writing, and I’ve appreciated the stimulating conversations that many of the blog entries have provoked. But I’m also clear that this is not about me, and I don’t want this to become self-indulgent, or just more junk mail for people to sort through. This is about how to strengthen the ministry and mission of our church by encouraging one another to greater fruitfulness to the glory of God.
Yours in Christ,