This November marks the first anniversary of Covenant of Love. So I’d like to take this opportunity to share some insights I learned through trial and error. What works for a Christian blog, want doesn’t work. Mistakes I’ve made and what is really important.
1. Friends Matter Most: I’m starting here because, as I’ve discovered, the Christian community is a Covenantal community. No two people agree on all points. But it is when you can develop respectful online friendships in the blogging world, that whether or not we agree, your blog will truly be benefited. Because from respectful dialogue you can celebrate with your friends on issues where you agree and take constructive criticism in areas where you do not. And, what’s more, you support each other’s blogs and will extend the influence you have. Friends matter most.
2. Content Matters Most: Because Covenant of Love was new, I decided the best way to “introduce” my blog to the wider Christian blogosphere was to do a “book giveaway”. I had hoped that this would allow my blog to go viral and once having discovered it, that people would return regularly. In retrospect, nothing makes a blog go viral like a great blog post with great content. My posts titled N.T. Wright, R.C. Sproul and the Scarecrow, and Soul-Journey Into The Lost World of Genesis One generated nearly twice as much action as the giveaway.
3. Courtesy Matters Most: Passion and inexperience results in the use of many exclamation marks (!). Exclamation marks can be a dangerous thing because they often communicate a message contrary to what is intended. For example, a writer may use many exclamation marks because they are shocked or excited about something, but the reader will read into those exclamation marks as arrogance, pride or immaturity. Exclamation marks can be powerful and effect when used infrequently and timely. But it says something of the writer’s skill when he is able to communicate a powerful point without the need of exaggerated emphasis. But what I have also noted is that people will be more inclined to dialogue with your blog and engage with you as a blogger if you write with courtesy and humility. It is fair and expected that when you write you will be giving your opinion, and in doing so you can be firm. But be respectful, or become your only reader.
4. Controversy Matters Most: Writing on matters of controversy will almost certainly drive your blog status up – at first. But how you handle the controversial subject will weigh heavily as to whether someone will return to read new stuff. If you write in favour of someone’s view, they will wish to see if you have any new insight to add. If you write against someone’s view, they will want to see what you have to say (and most often make an attempt to rebut you). If possible, be your own worst critic, be as well read on the subject as possible, and be open to correction. Controversial issues can be divisive, and the church does not need any more division. But controversial issues can also open fresh lines of thinking on old and difficult problems, and we Christians need to allow our received traditions to be challenged and to open our minds from time to time. Controversial blog posts can help, but they need to be written with a spirit of exhortation and humility.
5. Comments Matter Most: We are way beyond the age of passive-web-surfers. The internet is no longer about information retrieval; it is equally about information bestowal. People want to engage and contribute to the information out there, particularly by sharing the information they have; i.e. they leave comments. Whenever possible, engage those comments, because one thing is for sure: when someone leaves a comment they will almost certainly return to see if you’ve responded. Seeing that you have will make their return worth the cyber trip. You can expect that they will come back again. A word of caution: choose your battles wisely. Many commenters’ are like drive-by parishioners: they blow in, blow up, and blow out. Some people just want to cause trouble while others are consumed in their own pride and feel it is their mission in life to correct everyone with their absolute opinions. I suggest that a great deal if humility will be required not to take their bait.
6. Inspiration Matter Most: Why do I blog? This question has taunted me since I first opened Covenant of Love. Do I blog to stroke my pride? To vent my frustration? To hammer those I disagree with? Or do I blog to add something positive and constructive into peoples lives? Another way to put it: if Covenant of Love ceased to exist today, would it be missed at all? If not, then what is the point? I want Covenant of Love to be a place of useful (and sometimes challenging) information, of resources, and of spiritual encouragement. I don’t think I’ve been able to cultivate any of these to any great degree. But bloggers who do are those Christian blog sites who have proved to be most successful. In time, I hope to be there.
Special thanks to those who have been returning friends and partners to Covenant of Love this year, to José who helped get Covenant of Love up and running, and to Craig Adams who has come along side in recent months to help keep Covenant of Love running by contributing great articles.