Blogging your calling

I just started a little blog for the people in my Sunday School – it’s not fancy but it’s a place to continue Sunday’s discussions, finish pieces of the lesson left unfinished, and to form a transition of sorts from week to week. The scope of this site is pretty modest, and I think classes (whether RS, priesthood or SS) lend themselves to this type of blogging, but I wonder what other callings would benefit from a blog/online journal/discussion group. I could see a YW or YM site that works well with an activities calendar or that has a number of links for resources, but at the same time I would think that blogging about the actual YM/YW lessons from week to week would be a disaster (putting myself in the shoes of a deacon or teacher, I’d never want to contribute to a blog like that).

Similarly, people with lots of responsibilities or who have access to personal information about ward members (such as RS President or Bishop) would need to be very circumspect about any of their blogging — not just for fear of sharing inappropriate details, but also because of the risk that their personal views may be taken the wrong way or have unintended consequences. From that idea I springboarded into the bigger thought questions of why there are no blogs by General Authorities and whether that is a situation that will change. Personally, I think there are no blogs by G.A.s largely out of demographic inevitability than any actual decision not to participate in online discussions; that said, even those General Authorities who are interested in blogging or otherwise diving into cyberspace would be wise to do so slowly, carefully and (at least initially) under very controlled circumstances. To a certain extent, the expansion of the LDS Newsroom (most notably with the participation of Elders Oaks, Ballard, Wickman and others) could be seen as such toe-dipping.

To those General Authorities reading BCC: let me extend to you a formal invitation to participate at any time in any way you see fit. There is room on our permablogger roster for any of you. Mi blog es su blog.

Comments

  1. It’s probably wise of you not to give us the URL for your SS blog, although I’m sure plenty would enjoy it.

    Can’t wait to see if you get any takers on your invitation!

  2. FHL, there’s nothing to see there, except for how I shamelessly steal thoughts from Feast Upon the Word and Jim F’s lesson materials. Like seriously Old Testament-level theft.

    PS, re: invitation — the wheels are in motion!

  3. I was shamed into leading a gardening “interest group” for Relief Society Enrichment. When planning meetings and making assignments proved fruitless, I just set up a blog where people could post photos, ask questions, share info about U-pick orchards, offer plant starts, etc. That turned out to be much better than trying to arrange meetings (our ward is quite spread out). My husband doesn’t have a blog for his youth SS class, but he does invite his class to email him a question about the reading before Sunday. Some do.

  4. Do many people in your class participate on your blog? My fear is that the loud, dicussion-dominating person in class would be the loud, dominating person on the blog, too.

    I teach Sunday school to the 16-17 year-olds. It’s a great class, but wonder whether they would have any interest in a blog.

    I also steal shamelessly from Feast Upon the Word and Jim F. (I miss Karl).

  5. Our stake YW president wanted to start a blog to advertise activities, post pictures of events, encourage units to report on successful activities (that other units could then copy), and spotlight individual girls. Our stake is light on youth and it was our intention to build a feeling of community even though the stake is very spread out.

    Anyway, the stake presidency said no.

    The end.

  6. I tried a blog for Troop Committee in leu of meetings, but it failed mainly due to most of my staf not being internet people. It was me and 1 other person who ended up using the blog and so that was that.

    For YM presidency meetings, I decided to go with e-mail instead. Much more people use e-mail than blog. Granted it is less “permanent” but an e-mail list has certain advantages regarding privacy etc.

  7. ESO, sounds like someone made the mistake of asking for permission.

  8. I blogged my Primary lessons (I became creepily famous in my ward for it) but that was for the benefit of other teachers, not the 7-year-olds.

    If you’re teaching any of the 14-18 year olds, I recommend skipping the blogs and going straight for a Facebook group. It doesn’t seem like the younger crowd is going for the blogs the way slightly older people do, and you bypass alot of the internet nastiness (and privacy concerns) this way. My area’s YSA rarely even know that we have our own website for activities, but even the inactives who moved away four years ago participate actively in the FB group.

    And the barriers to entry don’t seem to intimidate the over-14, under-30 crowd at all. Under 14, and the TOS and federal law make things difficult; much (*) over 30 and you have the usual problems that make email lists so much more attractive… and that mean you have to print out a few copies to hand out in advance for the people who “just don’t do computers.”

    (*) Varies by region and other factors. I wouldn’t risk a FB group or even a blog in my Relief Society, but I bet the Elders’ Quorum would do just fine.

  9. It’s slightly less au courant than a blog, but I try to email a summary of our lessons to my Valiant Boys’ parents every Sunday evening (with much less success now that we have a newborn). The 11-year-old boys don’t read it (and probably wouldn’t participate on a blog), but the parents love it. The boys aren’t really good at sharing what they’ve done or learned about (at church or at school) and by broadcasting it to their parents, their parents can follow up and hold discussions on the same thing, whether it be at dinner or at FHE or just through the week.

    If I ever teach an older class, though, I just might steal your idea. I like it.

  10. This is a great idea. We are currently emailing EQ lessons out to the membership of the EQ (as a reminder and because many members have callings that take them away from EQ meetings), but a blog would be so much better because we could continue the discussion and have a better exchange of info. I’m going to start this right now.

  11. Matt W–indeed, the Stake RS has a secret blog.

  12. Steve,
    I hate to ask this, but how do you know that GA’s are reading your blog?
    Isn’t that a bit . . . presumptuous?

  13. Interesting timing, Steve.

    We are in the process of creating a network of blogs for our stake after Elder Teixeira came to our Stake Conference and showed the leadership what he had done as a Mission President in Brazil. I have set up linked blogs for the stake and each of the obvious auxiliaries – not any posts on them yet, but with links to the major church sites and RSS feeds to the daily gems and newsroom highlights, a separate “blogging etiquette” page (with links to Elder Ballard’s Ensign address and a couple of posts about blogging etiquette), etc. I am overseeing the effort, and we are working on how to structure the author and admin permissions and how to work comments and posts. I envision any wards in our stake who want to do so modeling their own after our stake blogs.

    We also are discussing how to set up training sessions to introduce blogging (and other modern communication technologies) to the general stake membership.

    I want to keep it simple and non-threatening for those who are not technology savvy at all. If anyone wants to check out what we’ve done so far and give me any suggestions, let me know through a private e-mail to:

    fam7heav at juno dot com

  14. Steve Evans says:

    Jessawhy, why do you hate to ask? And what makes you think I am being presumptuous? Hint: I’m not.

  15. I started a blog for my sunday school class where I posted PDFs of my weekly handouts/worksheets, as well as led an online discussion. People from other auxiliaries would download and print the one-paged, two sided handout and use it each week for their scripture study. Members from other wards who came to visit also used the site to download handouts. The handouts were in NO WAY liberal or even super intellectual. No quotes from anyone but GA’s etc. People really appreciated them because they were in worksheet form, and one could still get the gist of the lesson without actually being there (and of course, people remember so much more when they have to actually write things down).
    So–my little blog was getting a modest following, and I could tell it was helping the whole ward feel closer….it just seemed as thought there was a more vibrant energy felt at church. Things quickly accelerated when the primary pres. started a blog, This got the stake’s attention, and suddenly blogs became “against the first presidency’s wishes” and “not safe”. The “confidential priesthood” letter actually said to encourage the blog creators (me) to use “less creativity” in my calling. Hmmm……..Needless to say, the whole incident has left a bad taste in my mouth, because I know our ward was benefitting from the blogs. What to do?? I was luckily out of town for a month while the decision was made, so I just didn’t post anything for about 6 weeks while I tried to work out a way to be obedient while remaining true to what I knew was right. I have recently started posting my weekly worksheets/handouts because I’m still getting requests from people outside the ward. I just never mention the blog anymore, and don’t have the address on the handout. It’s my own way of being passive aggressive, I suppose. As a woman in the church you can really hone your passive aggressive skills quite nicely–there are so many opportunities to do so!!!:)

    Perhaps one day there will be more transparency regarding the use of blogs in wards–meanwhile us “creative folk” will just have to work our wonders in other ways….

  16. I recently was called as my ward’s Enrichment leader, and I started a blog just to post recipes for dishes served at Enrichment functions. It’s been up for a few months and I’ve publicized it in the monthly newsletter and by making in-person announcements in RS, and it got its first visitor YESTERDAY.

  17. Our ward RS has a very active Mommy Club blog. And our YW pres has managed a Facebook group that allows/encourages them to have nearly daily interaction with each other.

    SBK: Who was the letter from? Was the issue that you were posting non-correlated material?

  18. Norbert: The letter was either from the high councilman or the stake presidency. It was written to the bishoprics and only spoken about in bishopric meeting. My husband, who is in the bishopric, showed me the letter. ;)

    I don’t believe I had un-correlated material on my handouts. That being said, I do not follow the lesson manual word for word–the handouts contain roughly the same material that the lesson manual provides, but it comes at it from a totally different approach–ie, the 5 layers of scriptures—story line, setting/character analysis, doctrine, personal application, and intellectual analysis(which I rarely got to). I think what people liked about it was that they actually began to look and study the scriptures differently, versus just being fed the same stuff without learning the “how’s” behind it. I still do the same handouts each week, so I don’t think that was the issue.

    I think the stake actually believes that no one in the church is doing blogs and that everyone is just using the lds.org tools for wards. We are in the south, so that should explain a lot. Although, my brother, who is a YM pres in California, also created a blog for the young men and it was shot down by the stake. When I created mine, he told me it was only a matter of time before I would be told to take it down as well……

  19. SBK–your handouts sounds great. I would love to have a look at them.

    I think there is a certain fear of losing control and a fear that the blog may appear official, even if the content goes wacky (you know, down the line, when you have been released and someone else has taken over). Anyway, those are my best guesses at why blogs would be viewed as problematic by stake presidencies (including my own) who seem comfortable enough with the same content being distributed on paper or via e-mail lists.

  20. ESO, I agree that might be a problem, but I can’t see that a ward member doing a blog for other ward members on his or her own server space is any big deal, especially if it has a dsclaimer ‘This blog is NOT an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ I mean look at LDS Media Talk: those are some major players doing exactly what we’re talking about here. (I’m hoping they see the link and comment since there’s no contact information on the website.)

  21. For the poor, set-upon clerks out there, there are a number of Wiki’s and fora available — not quite blogs, but very nice.

  22. Steve – I’m just curious to know if you require (or suggest) posters to your SS blog to be anonymous.

  23. I wonder if the problem the stake had with SBK’s blog had anything to do with adding more work to callings. That’s been preached against some by Elder Ballard and others. I live in a stake that takes every piece of counsel in that direction very seriously. Those who worry about the church’s activities and meetings taking up their time would have nothing to complain about in my stake. On the other hand, after four years, I can count on one hand the number of stake members in other wards whose names I know; I know as many members in an adjoining stake that I’ve never lived in.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Bro. Jones, that is a very interesting idea. So far that’s not a question we’ve run up against, and since the blog is only for Ward participants I don’t know that it is ever going to be an issue. I would probably disfavor anonymous or pseudonymous blogging in that particular context, in an effort to reproduce the same feelings of harmony and unity that you can ideally have in a real-world classroom.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    John M., I guess it can be to some a pretty fuzzy line between magnifying your calling and adding to it unnecessarily.

  26. Jim Donaldson says:

    I am the seminary teacher in our building. Adults are always saying they wish they could participate (I’m sure that they don’t mean it, they are just trying to be nice to us wretched folks that have to get up so early), so I have a weekly purely voluntary e-mail list that I send to the adults that includes that week’s seminary reading schedule and some though-provoking questions about the previous week’s material to initiate reflection. The reading schedule is a great way to organize private scripture study and it leaves the weekends open to read the Sunday School lesson. The bishop is on the list, so I assume it is fine.

    I also have another email list where I occasionally send out interesting (weird, odd, humorous, inspiring) church related items, and so forth, also entirely voluntary. Sometimes discussions start there in an e-mail ‘reply all’ format. No one has ever said a word to me about it not being appropriate and I occasionally pass out the sign up sheets in priesthood and relief society (with permission) so it isn’t like it is underground.

    This is an alternative to more formal blogs and web pages.

    Bye the way, the seminary rule is that you can’t send emails directly to kids, only their parents, but that has never been a problem.

  27. molly bennion says:

    I would like to see much more teacher training done by blog. Not the whole lesson course, but brief presentations and then open discussions of such important skills and knowledge as, for example, 1) how to ask good guestions, 2)how deal with difficult disciplinary problems, 3) how to teach by the Spirit or 4)how to find good resource material. We could reach so many more people than we do with an occasional course for a few. And we would learn from the experience of many more teachers.

  28. molly, that is part of what we are looking to do with our stake blogs (#13) – teacher training, stake leadership training, lesson and talk sharing for those who couldn’t attend, service announcements, event coordination, etc. The hope is that we can reach more people in all that we do, while cutting down on the number of face-to-face planning meetings that we hold. Even with strict visit rights for some things, we will not discuss confidential things that will be retained for face-to-face meetings, but there is SO much that could be done via a blog that could reduce non-essential travel and meeting commitments – and that could make the Church more readily available to our shut-in members, for example.

  29. Be cautious, Ray, that you don’t end up with everyone in the stake feeling like a shut-in member. It’s possible to be so unimposing and efficient that it’s the same for those who aren’t leaders as if the stake didn’t exist at all.

  30. I can’t tell you how tempting it was to submit a comment here under the name of a general authority and say something like “Beware of apostasy” (as a joke, of course). But, alas, my conscience got the better of me, and perhaps I will now be spared from being permanently banned from this blog.

  31. #29 – Can you be more specific? What exactly is your concern?

  32. JT, if it makes you feel better one of the permas already did just that, then thought better of it and deleted it.

  33. Whoever it was, I love you.

    Both for making the comment, and for deleting it afterwards.

  34. StillConfused says:

    I have tried to have blogs and websites related to religious stuff and am told that the church forbids it. Maybe that has changed.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    StillConfused….. I think you are indeed confused. Doesn’t the presence of the Bloggernacle kind of indicate something to you?

  36. StillConfused: Read Elder Ballard’s speech to BYU-Hawaii on Dec. 15, 2007 – or the abbreviated version in the July 2008 Ensign. (“Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet“) He in particular is almost begging members to “join the conversation”, and he mentions blogs explicitly.

  37. J Golden Kimball says:

    I blog for my calling, in the Young Men’s Presidency.

    http://www.lds-ym.com

    I talk about activities, ideas and other items of interest to Young Men Leaders.

    I never talk about individuals, that is just not appropriate.

    I Don’t really talk about doctrine, I leave that to those deeper than I, I have my hands full with Faith, Repentance, Baptism by immersion and The Holy Ghost.

    Also I do it anonymously, mostly because I am often too lazy to proofread, and I don’t want to be personally embarrassed by stupid typos.

  38. So, it’s OK, even helpful, to sometimes discuss how to run programs without discussing the individuals the programs are supposed to serve. That’s a relief to hear.

  39. Tommy Monson says:

    Thanks for the invitation.

    I’ll start working on a guest post right away!

  40. I posted my three-month supply ideas on a blog when I was emergency prep coordinator for a time. I have since been released, but now that the Church is asking for that kind of material to be shared, I sent them a link to my blog in case they wanted to link to it. It’s nothing fancy and never really got as organized as I wanted it to be, but it was a way to share recipes and ideas to help people get their own thoughts going.

    Since then, I joined with a couple of other ladies to keep the effort of sharing food storage ideas alive on a new blog.

    My sister was asked to create a site for their regional YSA program. I think the web can be a great tool, but obviously each area’s leaders might take a little different approach.

    I also think it’s likely to be the most effective and accepted when we are using the tools to help disseminate information. It could get a little more difficult when doctrinal interpretations are involved, imo.

    (So, Steve, I wanna see your blog.) :)

  41. #19
    I agree with your assessment 100%. My blog is http://www.ldssundayschool.blogspot.com
    As I said before, I don’t post anymore, but do continue to link the handouts to the blog each week. Thanks for asking about the handouts/worksheets!

  42. I’ve used OT as a blog for elders quorum issues from time to time.

  43. I know as a fact that certain anonymous blog commenters are GAs. For example, Languatron=David Bednar.

  44. Token Average Member says:

    Well I suppose he will have to change that now.

  45. Someone ought to make a film sometime called, “Being gst.”

  46. I would love to see how your sunday school blog works. I have some ideas, but it would be cool to have an example of how someone else did it and hints about what works and what does not.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    Bruce, it’s very simple. Not much to look at.

  48. SBK- your blog is a fantastic resource for Sunday School and prayerfully studying the BoM. Thank you for the link.

    M&M – thanks for your link as well. This is great information (and quite relevant personally as I address my rather appalling attempts at provident living).

    I have posted my RS Lessons for our Times on Slideshare and started a blog with the content of the lessons in direct response to Elder Ballard’s BYU speech that was referenced earlier. I do it primarily to share lessons with sisters who can’t be in RS because they are fulfilling their respective callings. Plus it helps investigators find the truth they are seeking.

    The more that faithful Church members regularly post updates, lesson materials and comments to web 2.0 sites, the more our true messages will overwhelm the detractors (and connect with our youth who regard email as ‘something my mom uses’).

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