When the Editor Tells You to Change

I have been asked to be a part of the premiere issue of Relevant Network's first issue of their new resource for leader, Neue.  I'm honored to take part, as I truly believe this is going to be incredible resource for leaders.  However, because this is the first issue for the resource, I'm having a bit of trouble finding the right voice for my article. My initial take on the topic (new media for ministies) was to approach it from a philosophical point of view.  I blog regularly, I create videos, I'm working on my own personal metanarrative stories, I'm utilizing micromessaging for LIfeWay content... I'm deep in the trenches of utilizing new media on a regular basis.  So, what interested me was something a bit more abstract, talking about some of the history of media and how we got to "new media," and then connecting the two to see a bit why we do new media the way we do... and, thus, how we should do it. My editor, the wonderfully patient Corene Isreal at Relevant Networks, wasn't interested in all that.  ;-) The great thing about working with an editor like Corene is that she is able to both uplift me in what I've done right but also sternly let me know what she's looking for.  The fact of the matter is they have a plan and an image for their product; if I'm going to tell my message the two need to match. I think the key for any freelance writer that's starting out is a willingness to be teachable and flexible.  I know the messages that are important to my heart and threads of them will naturally come out in anything I write.  Corene, however, knows what she wanted for this article, and waxing philosophically about the history of media and the cultural concepts behind new media was not it. To quote Corene's first round of feedback for me:
In general, you should give specific examples of churches, websites, blogs, etc., that are doing cutting-edge things. As someone who knows a lot about new media, you likely come into contact with or know about a lot of innovative things happening. When you talk about blogs, for examples, give examples of some churches/ministries that are doing some creative and cool things and talk about why. Same with the other sections. Be specific and allow people to really hone in on what you're talking about.
Yeah, that's totally what I didn't do.  Oops. It's tough for me because of the dreaded "curse of knowledge" - like she said, I come into contact with innovative things that are happening all the time.  But, at my pace of life, what was innovative a three months ago is copied and processed and old hat already.  Writing this article really made me stop and think: if I could only point someone to a few faith-based blogs as prime examples of what TO do, what would I include? I like that Corene challenged me and knew that I had the answers in me, it just took some massaging to get me to slow down and catch her vision.  I like that my article is going to fit with the flow and tone of the rest of the product.  I like that what I have written is something that may actually help church leaders dip their toes into the blogging world instead of me speaking a language that doesn't really connect yet. I like that my editor told me to change.
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The 1,000 Foot View of a Fickle Public? (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog)

Scott McCellan recently posted a reader's response to the very idea of a magazine like Collide.  To pull from the posted quote:  You don’t seem to be interested in the 1,000-foot view. You take a myopic look at things like Facebook, etc. that will fade away and be replaced by something else in a year or two by a fickle public. In doing so, it seems like you promote the methods over the message. Any church that follows fads like that will always be chasing after the next thing in the never-ending quest to be “relevant.” Christ wasn’t interested in cool. He was interested in loving people, and in doing that, he redefined cool.  I'm posting my response on my blog instead of the Collide blog because I don't want anyone to be confused with my opinion on this matter with any kind of official Collide response (since I've written for them). First, I have to say how awesome it is that Scott would be transparent and post such a quote and response that's diametrically opposed to the very nature of the magazine, and open it up for discussion on his blog.  Second, I think that the respondent who wrote the quote is completely wrong on the idea of culture more-so than any kind of question about Christ being "cool" or about chasing something "relevant." The respondent appears (to me) to be frustrated with methods or the "fickle public"'s desires changing every two years or so.  The problem, to me, is that he thinks that churches interested in things like Facebook or some cutting edge technology or underground cultural shift is an attempt to be somethinig that the church is not. For me, acknowledging that I am, in fact, a part of mass culture and am influencing and partake in it, I see a very different side of this arguement.  It is not that the church is struggling to keep up with culture and "fads" but that the entire concept of "fad" has radically changed in the past few years. A "fad" is no longer a "fad" - it is culture.  Innovation follows innovation in today's world and, as such, the mass media and culture is always shifting and changing.  By the time any cultural shift hits mass/old media, the culture leaders have moved on to something else. The New York times recently produced an article on how the fast-paced world of blogging-for-pay creates additional stress and has negative health effects on the bloggers.  This may be true for most of us.  However, today's young adults have been blogging for years; today's children are used to blogging being a part of their lives.  Blogging wasn't a new thing to many people several years ago, and it's certainly not a "new thing" today.  But people still treat it as a fad. There are still many spiritual leaders who don't understand that blogging or Facebook groups or church web sites aren't some attempt by the church to catch up to culture.  I, instead, proclaim that it is the exact opposite. The freedom that technology brings to broadcasting a message means that, for the first time in church history, lay people can share their faith journey with the church - and world - at large.  No longer must the strongest, most Spirit-driven message come from the pulpit.  Instead it can come from a teenager's blog or a media guy's video cam. Magazines like Collide and sites like digital.leadnet.org exist not so the church can chase after cultural shifts, but so that leadership can understand the changes their membership is goign through.  I fear a pastor who doesn't have a blog because it tells me that he won't be able to connect with where I am in life.  I fear a church that doesn't have a website because it means that they think people will find out their address by looking it up in the phone book (you know, that big yellow thing you throw away when they keep delivering it to you). My biggest fear, however, is that those of us who have embraced the new tools at our disposal won't be mentored and loved by our forefathers who have not embraced the technology.  That they will think it's all a fad and that we don't understand the 1,000 foot view and, as such, aren't worth investing in.  And all their knowledge and passion that could be broadcast to the world will simply die with them. So please, don't judge me and my kind as being fickle or not understanding of Christ's love just because we have the ability to flow with the changes in culture and understand that "fads" are either dead or the norm, depending on your point of view.  I'd rather learn from you.  I'd rather sit at your feet and discover what your heart is about and how your passions can still impact humanity on a person-by-person basis.  I want to know what has you so caught up that you want things to stay the way they always were... because I've never lived in a slow-enough-paced world to even know what that means. And, in truth, I can't wait to see what replaces blogs and what's after social networks and how videos change our worship services.  I can't wait until music ministers can embrace the internet and use tools like LifeWay Worship to gain access to hundreds of songs to find the right one to compliment the worship experience.  I can't wait until the seminaries provide completely online degrees so the pastors who can't take the time to leave their congregration can be better educated.  I can't wait until we get past this bubble of growth in the digital world and have a new common denominator where people are connected all the time and have been used to it so that it isn't so stressful on our bodies. And maybe then I can feel loved by the people who judge me and my tools of communication as worthless. 
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How Should Your Church Blog?

One of the things that I get asked often in relation to blogging is a simple question: how should I blog? Blogging is a trend, for sure, and many people have a sixth sense that it's something they should be doing. Blogging is so very relational and specific to the author's style that it's hard to put a simple "this is how you do it" together. Instead, let's first look at the different kinds of blogs that might be out in the digital ether... con't 
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Responding to Scoble

Last week I wrote an entry about mentoring.  In it, I mentioned that one of my business-mentors, who doesn't even know me, has been Robert Scoble.  Scoble is a blogger who effectively changed the way a large number of people (myself included) percieved Microsoft by giving us a glimpse into the daily life of its employees. Amidst all the various people that link to his blog, he noticed a little link coming from blog into his.  He took time out, came on over, and read my post on my needs for mentoring.  And then he posted a little thank you note. This is why he "gets it."  I'm no one important to him; but, for whatever rhyme or reason, he took time to post on my blog.  To a blogger, having one of the people come by your blog and post anything is quite the honor.  But that's the magic of blogs... it lets us all interact with people we'd normally have no other avenues to connect with.  Him posting on my blog reminds me that I need to join the conversation on others blogs more frequently. Growing up, I've had this image - mostly from Hollywood movies and the like - that people of great success don't often interact with people of less success.  The CEO of a company doesn't have time for the guy answering the phone.  A millionare isn't interested in a struggling coffee shop owner's daily life.  I don't know if that's really true or not.  Quite regularly when I've reached out to people that I consider to have had great success, I've found them to be very human and sometimes even humbled by my admiration of them (not that I'm anyone special). This is the beauty of things like blogs... it allows people of great success to reach down and say hi to people of less success, and vice versa.  Scoble gets to post on my blog, and I get to post on his.  This approachability is going to be key not only for people, but for corporations, the government, and the church. So thanks, Scoble, for stopping by and saying hello.  Thanks for showing how important transparency is, and how approachability can change perceptions.  And if you're ever on your way to Nashville, you can have a lunch on me.
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