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18 Apr 2017

The Best Way to Remain Connected with Your Congregation

Raul Rivera

Compliance

If I told you there is a way that you can stay connected with your congregation during the week without requiring your physical presence, would you be interested in hearing what I have to say?

My guess is that you would be interested.

We are all strapped for time these days. As a pastor, it probably seems like your time is a little more finite than the rest of ours. Combine family, church, and work responsibilities and you are surely going to run out of time during the week. With that being said, I imagine it is probably appealing for you to remain connected with your congregation during the week without requiring your physical presence.

How is that possible? 

Well, it is possible with your very own blog. Now I know some of you may be thinking, “If I do not have time to visit my congregation during the week, what makes you think I have time to write?” You make a very good point. However, having your own blog does not have to be as time consuming as you may initially think.

So before you decide to stop reading, give me a chance to explain how having your own blog can be beneficial to both you and your congregation.

Why pastors should have their own blog

The best way for you to connect to, and remain connected with, your congregation is to meet them where they are. Where are they? They are on their smartphones.

According to a study done by the Pew Research Center*roughly three-quarters of Americans (77%) now own a smartphone. Additionally, the study indicated the following statistics from 2016 regarding technology adoption and usage:

  • 88% of U.S. adults use the internet.
  • 73% of U.S. adults have some form of high-speed internet in their home.
  • 69% of U.S. adults use social media.
  • 51% of U.S. adults own a tablet.

With percentages like these, all signs seem to justify why you should have your own blog, or at least seriously consider having one. If you do a quick Google search, then you will find that many pastors are already taking advantage of having a blog. While the reasons for having a personal blog may vary among pastors, many find having a blog as a good avenue to:

  • continue the conversation from the previous week’s sermon,
  • share their thoughts and opinions on various matters, and 
  • use it as a form of digital discipleship.

While I encourage pastors to seriously consider starting their own blog, it is important to know what would be an effective communication tool for your congregation. If you believe that having a blog would be an effective communication tool, or if you already have your own blog, then I want to use the rest of this post to share with you some measures that you need to consider.

I will share five measures that you should consider pertaining to your blog. However, first you need to determine the type of pastoral blog you want to author.

The best way to connect to, and remain connected with, your congregation is to meet them where they are.

Determining the type of blog you want to author

It may seem as though choosing to author a blog is as simple as picking a hosting platform, such as WordPress, writing out some of your thoughts, and then hitting the publish button. While that is true to a degree, as a pastor, there is a step you need to take before doing any of this.

You need to determine whether you want your blog to be:

  1. a church-sanctioned blog, or
  2. a personal blog with no direct connection to your church.

Why does it matter whether or not your blog is sanctioned or directly connected with your church? Well, I am glad you asked. 

Since your church is a nonprofit organization, there are certain tax and nonprofit laws that your church must abide by. There can be instances in which your blog actually violates some of these laws and can jeopardize your church’s tax-exempt status.

Therefore, to help understand how this applies to you and your blog, we will take a closer look at the difference between a church-sanctioned blog and a nonchurch-sanctioned blog.

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Blog option 1: A church-sanctioned pastor’s blog

When I say “church-sponsored blog,” I am referring to a blog that is supported by the church, developed by the church, and is directly linked to the church’s website. In some instances, a blog could be a part of the pastor’s job description from the church. In short, any variation of these criteria generally makes the pastor’s blog a direct activity of the church.

While a church-sponsored pastor’s blog is not a bad thing, there are some guidelines you should adhere to. Those guidelines are as follows:

  • Do not use your church-sanctioned blog to sell or promote any written material that you may have produced, such as a sermon series. Doing so violates section 4958 of the tax code which can lead to burdensome fines and the loss of your church’s tax-exempt status.
  • Do not use your church-sanctioned blog as a vehicle to advertise your own business (if you have your own) or any other business owned by a family member or board member. This would be a conflict of interest violation according to section 4958 and can jeopardize your church’s tax-exempt status.
  • Do not use your church-sanctioned blog as a platform for politics. Although you may have heard the current administration in the Oval Office talk about repealing the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits all 501(c)(3) organizations (churches included) from directly endorsing or opposing political candidates, you must still refrain from making political comments on behalf of the church or as a representative of the church. This could also jeopardize your church’s tax-exempt status. This topic is more thoroughly addressed in a previous blog. You can click on the article listed below to read it.

(Recommended reading: “Politics and the Church; How Involved Can Your Church Get?”) 

Blog option 2: A pastor’s blog with no direct connection to the church

This option gives you a little more freedom in regard to what you want to write about and include in your blog. When your blog is autonomous from the church, you are not subject to the same tax and nonprofit laws that the church is.

For example, if you wish to use your personal blog that is not church-sanctioned as a platform to address some of the major political issues taking place in our country, then you can do so. However, because of your position as a pastor, I recommend that you clarify the thoughts and opinions expressed in your blog are strictly yours, and you are not expressing them on behalf of your church.

5 measures to consider before starting your blog

Now that you are aware of the two different types of blog models, perhaps some of you are having a difficult time determining which model to use: a church-sanctioned blog or a personal blog separate from the church. Maybe you already know which model is best for you. Either way, before moving forward, there are five measures that you should consider. 

The first four measures will help you determine the best blog model for you, and the fifth measure is a best practice to implement in your blogs, no matter which model you choose. 

1. Decide the purpose of the blog. 

Decide ahead of time what the intent or purpose will be for your blog. Will it be used for further thoughts and commentary on the previous week’s sermon? Will it be used to address cultural, social, and political issues? Deciding the purpose before beginning the blog is an important first step.

2. Will it be a church-sanctioned blog?

If yes, then know that all thoughts expressed by the pastor directly correlate as an expression of the church. If no, then it would be a good idea to include a disclaimer stating that all thoughts and opinions expressed are solely the thoughts and opinions of the pastor.

3. Will you use it to advertise or sell any material for your own support?

Income that you receive as a direct result from a church-sanctioned blog is subject to private inurement. If you would like to have the option to sell personal sermon series via your blog, then it would be best if your blog was not church-sanctioned. 

Remember, if the church sanctions or endorses the pastor’s personal blog as a church-sponsored activity, then that blog cannot in any way engage in an activity that financially benefits the pastor or his family.

(Recommended reading: “Pastors Do Not Own Their Own Sermons!”)

4. Will your blog be used to express any of your political opinions?

As previously mentioned, political intervention is strictly prohibited for any tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. The important fact to remember is that if your blog is church-sanctioned, then the direct correlation to the church limits what can be expressed, such as the endorsing or opposing of a political candidate.

5. Do not use your blog to air out your church’s dirty laundry.

This may seem like a “no brainer,” but there are times when our emotions can get the best of us. You will want to take caution and not use your blog to air out any of your church’s dirty laundry. Additionally, do not assume that because a church member came to you with a prayer request that it would be okay for you to share it on your blog. Even though you may have the best of intentions, such an act could lead to a defamation or false-light lawsuit against you and the church. 

Keeping pace in the fast changing world of ministry

We live in a fast paced world and this fact can, at times, be overwhelming. The same is true in the world of ministry today. The way ministry was once done just a few years ago is now most likely outdated and irrelevant. There are some aspects of ministry that simply cannot be done the same way today. 

Since the world of ministry is changing so fast, I invite you to spend the day with us at one of our Ultimate Church Structure Conferences. During this day, we discuss some of the latest trends in the world of ministry and church compliance, but more so than that, we empower you with the necessary strategies to protect the dream and vision that God has given you for your ministry.

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Source citation:

  1. Smith, Aaron. (2017, January 12) Record shares of Americans now own smartphones, have home broadband. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera

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About the Author

Church Planter. Speaker. Author. CEO. Raul Rivera has had ample experience in the church planting world. His current venture, StartCHURCH, has helped 1000's of churches to start right. Raul has compiled an array of manuals and software tools that help churches stay compliant with the IRS. He also hosts over 35 national conferences per year, training pastors on how to launch their churches. Raul is married to his wife Genel, and they and their five children live in Atlanta, GA.