Blogging for evangelism
‘Blog’ is short for ‘weblog’. A blog is a type of website, but differ from the usual site style, by having these characteristics:
- An informal, personal, ongoing diary-type commentary by an individual: either about his/her life, or opinion/news about a specific topic.
- Most blog entries are plain-text mini-articles, though pictures, audio, and even video clips can be incorporated too.
- Latest blog entry appears near the top of the front page, with previous entries below it in date order.
- Blog entries are usually short; longer posts are sometimes split so the balance of the item is on a new page.
- Readers often have the opportunity to add their own comments about a blog entry, or even respond to other people’s feedback.
- Readers can opt to receive an alert by RSS every time a new entry is posted on the blog.
- Most blogs are created and updated through a web-based interface system such as Blogger. No technical knowledge is needed to start a blog, though technically-minded people can install software on their servers to create more sophisticated and customizable blogs.
For some of the very best blogs for Christians, about evangelism and strategy, go here.
Key differences: blogs versus other websites
There is a vital structural difference between a blog and a typical conventional website: a blog is effectively only ‘one page deep’. Visitors usually read only the latest entry on the homepage, unless they follow extra menu links that blogs usually offer, such as ‘about me’ and ‘books I am reading’.
Because a blog is informal and personal, it can create a feeling of personal relationship between users and the writer – this is called a sense of community. The journalism principle remains true: “People are interested in people.”
To achieve its purpose, a blog must continue to have new postings added at regular intervals. This requires continued commitment and discipline.
Increasingly, web users also expect ordinary websites to have blog-like fresh comment and news too. Some conventional websites also incorporate a blog section, and some blog sites are also designed to draw readers into a linked conventional website on the same subject. In the secular business world, blogs have proved to be a good way to lead new visitors into corporate websites.
Problems in using a Christian blog for evangelismWe cannot use blogs for online outreach in the same way as conventional websites, for the following reasons:
- A normal outreach site offers a range of different pages. The starting point on its homepage may be a bridge strategy topic, a felt need, or an apologetics approach. However the homepage is only a jumping-off point, rather than the place where you find most of the content. Typically, outreach sites have a ‘layered approach’, with pages explaining different aspects of the Gospel several levels down within the site.
- A blog site however, is largely what you see on the homepage. Other pages are only one level deep: usually being continuations of abbreviated or archived postings, or extra menu links that the blogger has added about him/herself, books being currently read, favorite links, etc.
- But a Christian blog site in which most postings are reiterations of the gospel, testimony, or devotional, will appeal to very few non-Christians, who are almost by definition unlikely to be interested in reading this type of Christian blog. What non-Christians actually wish to read is stuff that reflects their secular interests or felt needs.
|Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.|
How to start an outreach blogAlthough there are countless thousands of Christian blogs, almost all of them are written for Christians, in Christian language and addressing Christian concerns – we can call this the 99 percent problem. While not-yet-Christians may accidentally find them, in most cases they are unlikely to stay to read, unless they happen to be seekers.
To use Christian blogs for outreach, we must understand how they work best and the ways they differ from conventional websites. Spend lots of time reading different secular blogs: find them in directories such as BlogCatalog and Technorati or in the Weblog Awards.
Analyze which ones are actually readable, communicate well, and why this is. You’ll notice an incredible range of blog subjects. Some few people have the gift of being so perceptive and witty in writing, that they can write engagingly merely about their own lives and thoughts, so that others will read the blog for these things alone. Such blogs can become wildly popular with web users – for example see the secular blog Petite Anglaise by an English-woman living in Paris.
Blog evangelism is about building online relationships with people within an area of shared interest. The offline equivalent is the way we relate face-to-face with people we work or study with, or meet socially. We make friends with them and enjoy their company, rather than preaching at them. Online relationships can be deep and used by God. As they get to know us, they sense that we have things in our lives that they do not yet possess and they effectively give us permission to share. It’s that fragrance spoken of in 2 Cor 2:15. Writing that is from a Christian worldview, and from a heart that has been transformed by the Holy Spirit, should sound different! One area we must carefully avoid: whining and complaining. Many secular blogs take the opportunity to rant and unload a lot of negativity!
Apart from writing blogs appropriate for not-yet-Christians, you can also share faith by adding your own comments to other blogs. This strategy is explained at the end of this page.
The Twitter ‘microblog’ service is yet another way to communicate with friends: more.
Here’s the blogging strategyBuild a blog around a secular topic or felt need that interests you. We should always ‘write what we know’. The subject could be sport, music (including pop music), your hobby, local community activities, a health issue you face, some project you are involved in – just about anything. The blog can even just be a diary of your life (like Petite Anglaise) if you really have the gift of writing compellingly and openly about yourself. Women are more likely to do this well than men! Some people create a family-news blog primarily for the extended family.
Postings that contain your opinions on anything (Christian or secular) should be tentative, sensitive and open-ended, inviting the reader to comment online (or at least, to think).
To attract significant readership, with millions of blogs already in existence, a new blog must have a specific focus and occupy a clear niche. To have a very broad brief – “My thoughts on the world and everything” – is unlikely to be successful unless you are a reconteur with the skills of a Peter Ustinov or a Garrison Keillor.
The blog name should not sound Christian but be catchy and easy to remember, and immediately reveal the specific focus and niche you have chosen. Blog names are usually informal, and often whimsical or humorous.
Have a clear mental picture of your target reader. Understand how not-yet-Christians think, and avoid things which would be off-putting, or only understood by Christians. Take time to assess your readership and site purpose, using our questionnaire.
A local community-based blog can include links and postings to appropriate local church activities.
Where you feel there is an appropriate faith angle to add within the context of your secular topic, express this in a non-preachy, sensitive, jargon-free manner. An explicit faith comment is almost certainly not appropriate in every posting. “Less is more.” To help you remember not to lapse back into ‘Christian-speak’, try to imagine that you are writing for a specific non-Christian that you know. Indeed, it will also help if you find a non-Christian who is prepared to critique your writing and give you his or her reactions to it.
You can also tell your personal story on the blog ‘about me’ link. This should not be an in-your-face preachy testimony, but an overall introduction to you as a person. Who are you? What do you like? Where do you live? Pets? Interests? But of course, you can go on to add that finding a relationship with Jesus has been the most significant element in your life, and how it happened. [How to write a testimony].
If your blog really helps other people to cope with their own lives, it is likely to be popular. One parent writes, “We have set up a blog which recores our one-year-old son’s treatment for leukmia, and the highs and lows for us each day. ‘Get Well Freddie’ has recieved more than 68,000 page views in the eight months since his diagnosis, and he has a small community of supporters who comment regularly and provide encouragement.”
Blog systems also enable you to add additional links, such as ‘books I am reading’ and ‘favorite sites’. Here’s a chance to include a book or two that would be truly accessible to non-Christians. But add some secular books too, showing you are not stuck in the Christian ghetto.
Likewise, in the ‘favorite links’, you can add appropriate sensitive outreach sites such as Power to Change, Women Today or others appropriate to your particular readership. Also include some best secular links for your chosen topic, including other blogs.
Fruit is most likely to result from a blog outreach as you slowly build relationships with individual site visitors, either through their feedback postings, or in private email/messaging to them. If most of your readers turn out to be Christian, you obviously need to reposition the style, content and language of your blog. The X-Spectrum perspective may help you.
Examples of outreach by Christian blogs
- Talk.TheLife.com, Movies.TheLife.com and discussdavinci.com
are blogs linked to the outreach site TheLife.com, one of several major
outreach sites produced by TruthMedia.com. Written entirely with not-yet-Christians in mind,
they are an example of how to avoid jargon and relate to people within areas of common interest:
The team also operate a BlogMentor program to trains volunteer Christian mentors to come alongside the visitors who have posted comments on these evangelistic blogs, by providing responses to comments, engaging further discussion, sharing related resources, and praying for these visitors. Volunteer mentors sign up to receive email notification new postings to the blogs.
- A Filipino Christian immigrant in Switzerland blogs her expatriate experiences
without using Christian jargon words, although she does cite her Christian faith in her ‘About Me’ page,
and occasionally blogs about her Sunday School ministry and cell group activities in a non-preachy way.
“Despite the fact that most of the readers do not share my Christian belief and convictions, we do get along in this blog. There is mutual respect and understanding. There is online friendship. There is wholesome fun. It’s friendship evangelism   at work. Indeed, we can redeem the blogosphere for Christ!”
Kelsey writes openly about her family experiences, in a blog enticingly
and self-deprecatingly called
– True confessions from the everyday life of a sorta shallow Christian mom’.
Her writing is witty, winsome and lacking in Christian jargon or insider
stuff, so it works well for anyone. She comments:
“I write from a Christian worldview, but my site isn’t one of those geared for other Christians. Christ is in me, and is a large part of my life, and so there’s plenty of ‘God stuff’ mentioned and implied in my writing – but it’s not preachy, devotional, or inspiring in nature. It’s really sort of silly, fun, and honest. It’s just life as a Christian mom. It’s a small, new blog, without a lot of traffic. And yet, people are finding it, reading it, and deciding they ‘know me’ well enough to start an email conversation about salvation. I’m astounded at the honor that is!” Full story.
- Geraint Lloyd in UK writes ‘Lloyd on life’.The purpose is to post discussion on
issues in the news, or more personal thoughts, from a Christian worldview:
Lloyd on life.
- Vic lives in remote British Colombia, Canada, and blogs about wildlife, and her own
experiences, from a Christian viewpoint:
- Scot has a computer technology-related blog in which his Christian faith emerges naturally at appropriate
Scot Yang’s Playground.
- Lois Turley is an experienced web evangelist who has produced several different outreach sites.
When she was diagnosed with the eye problem ‘strabismus’, she started a blog on
this health issue:
“Eyes Apart helps people with vision impairment and social acceptance issues relating to crossed eyes. This often provides opportunities to tie in how God has helped me through my own vision struggles and given me clearer spiritual vision too.”Although for health reasons, Lois is unable to maintain this blog now, you can still check the approach she used.
Scrap Happy is a Scrap Happy is a scrap-booking blog by Chelsey. Although most of her posts are about scrap-booking, she references her faith in an open and natural way.
- Bruce has a philosophical blog:
Being Human in Faith, Art Science.
It asks questions and offers thoughts, without being preachy.
- Liz is a Christian author from UK:
Her blog is specifically non-preachy and accessible, she writes: “Am really enjoying blogging
and even my next-door neighbour reads it – who is not a Christian. Have had some great interaction and feedback.”
- Racheal is a Nigerian working with an Internet company in Nigeria: True Life Stories. She shares her life story, particularly relating to an illness. (Blog no longer being updated.)
Anyone can do it!We must emphasize again: you do not need technical expertise (or money) to operate a blog. Just enthusiasm, an understanding of how blogs communicate best, and the ability to write in a brief, enticing style. It should be informal but clear and structured, using humor.
Edit, revise and shorten your entries before posting: how to. It may be better to write entries in a word-processor, and even print them out for proof-reading and revision, and only copy them across into the blog interface after checking (though most blogging systems allow you to correct and change entries after you have posted). Poor grammar/spelling or jumbled thoughts will reduce your writing’s credibility.
Many blog entries are far too long and self-indulgent. Some, indeed, are virtually unreadable. Unless, of course, you produce something so intentionally banal it is popular, as Dave Walker used to with his parody The Dullest Blog in the World.
Use frequent line-breaks to split longer postings into separate paragraphs – this is much more readable, but not often done.
Internet Evangelism Day target for 2017IE Day wants to encourage the start-up of a wide range of outreach blogs this year, using this strategy. Then we will feature them on this page. So please share with us news of any outreach blog you produce or hear about.
Ask God if he wants you to start a blog – and what strategy you should use.
Then read The Top 12 Blogging Tips of All Time!
For some ready-made material which you can include in a blog, or (probably better) introduce briefly with an ongoing link, check Probe for a wide range of seeker-friendly and skeptic-friendly articles.
Links on starting blogsCheck Beginner’s Guide to Blogging for a short introduction.
- You can start a blog in minutes with a ready-made online system such as
MSN Spaces |
Life with Christ.
Tools which you download and then install on your server include: Movable Type (Review) | WordPress (Review) | ExpressionEngine and many more.
Search online for more discussion about their features, advantages and disadvantages.
- Choosing a blogging tool
- How to start a blog
- Learn how to keep an online journal
- Wikipedia guide to blogging
How to promote your blogResearch and implement the many different ways to promote your blog online, thereby making it easier to draw in and retain readers. Sample links: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4. Cite and link to other blogs where appropriate, and they may link back to you.
Place your blog URL in your email footer. Mention it to your friends on Facebook etc.
Because there are so many blogs out there, you need to work on promotion. Consider bidding for some secular AdWords on Google, based on the subject area of your blog. You can cap your payment at a modest monthly sum.
- If you have enabled readers to post feedback on your site, be prepared to check frequently and remove any abusive comments.
- Although most blogs are written by a single person, some operate well with two or more people working together in a team.
- Remember, all your personal thoughts are there for the world to see. Do not break the confidences of others. Do not post your home address or phone number. A contact form is better than posting your email address online, where it can be harvested by spammers. An easy alternative which many people use is to spell the ‘@’ and ‘dot’ characters in words, and leave users to translate them.
- If you start a blog with one of the ready-made services such as Blogger, your blog URL will be in the form http://yourchosenname.blogger.com. If you change blog providers, all incoming links to the old blog will cease to be valid. However, if you register your own domain name for your blog (eg. www.mikesfootballblog.com) then you can use it to point to the actual URL wherever your blog is currently located. So, for example, if you have started with a free online service, and then decided to upgrade to using your own installed software, your URL remains the same.
- Not quite the same as a blog, but Squidoo is one of several places where you can build your own single web-page within a community of similar pages, on a topic you have good knowledge on. This is an ideal way to create content with onward links to other sites.
Contributing to other people’s blogsMost blogs offer readers the opportunity to add their own comments. Blogs are seen as very much an ongoing conversation, a sharing of views and ideas, often as a community of friends; rather than a one-way commentary. Because of abuse and spamming, you may have to register before posting comments, and the blog owner may wish to approve such postings before allowing them to be displayed.
We can use this opportunity to share appropriate insights. Here are pointers to this strategy:
- Search for blog by subject, or for specific blog postings, using the keyword search on Technorati or Google Blog Search. You should normally search for secular keywords, otherwise you will only find Christian blogs. Of course, keywords may not appear within the blog in the context you expect, so you will probably need to check a range of blog postings before finding one that is appropriate to contribute to.
- You can search for a wide range of keywords, ranging from personal interests, to topics like the ‘meaning of life’, health issues and life problems, hobbies, sport, New Age spirituality terms, philosophical concepts – almost anything.
- Foundational to this strategy is being appropriate, contextual and sensitive. Posting ‘shoot from the hip’ preachy slogans and Bible verses is not the way forward. You are a guest in someone’s house. Be tentative and polite – just throw in ideas and thoughts that actually relate to the blog posting, but from a Christian worldview. Open-ended comments that make people think, and may lead to further blog comments, are better than closed statements. Never be argumentative, negative or combative. If this is your style, find a different forum to display it! Avoid getting side-tracked into politics or social policy issues. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...” (1 Pet. 3:15) An insensitive or argumentative spirit will completely negate the message you are trying to communicate.
- It may be appropriate in postings, to include a Christian website or specific page that relates to the issue under discussion. Some blogs allow this. Have a portfolio of such URLs (including individual internal pages), available on your computer so you can easily copy/paste the address across into the blog. These can include sites such as www.IamNext.com, www.powertochange.com, www.womentodaymagazine.com, www.mentodayonline.com and www.thelife.com.
- Keep a record of which blogs you have contributed to, and return to them from time to time. There may be comments generated following your comment, which can be replied to. Maybe you can encourage friends to visit the same blogs, and (using these guidelines) add their own contributions to any discussion you have started.
- When you have found by experience which keyword searches best lead to blog entries appropriate for commenting, use the Google keyword alert service Use the form below. to send you emails of new blog postings relating to these keywords.