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33 Great Links for Leaders, Readers, and Creatives – January 3, 2015

Here’s a list of some of the best things I’ve read this week!

Great Links and Articles

4 Measurements Leaders Need to Weigh, Not Count, by Scott Cochrane

5 Sure-fire Ways to Motivate Your Son to Use Pornography, by Rick Thomas

FREE PDF: The Science of Blogging – How to Build a Tribe and Get Over 1,000 Visitors a Day, by Paul Sohn

The Most Important Church Trends of 2015 and What to Do About It, by Will Mancini

3 Ways to Press Through Unanswered Prayer, by Lysa Terkeurst

10 Facts About America’s Churchless, by the Barna Group

Grace Alone for Living Alone, by Scott Attebery

10 Ways to Make a Big Impact On a Small Budget, by James P. Long

5 Socially Acceptable Ways Church Leaders Self-Medicate, by Carey Nieuwhof

Listen to Tomorrow, by Dan Kimball

A Checklist for Intentional Living in 2015, from BE:KIDS

The Spiritual Openness of the Younger Unchurched, by Ed Stetzer

4 Things Successful Leaders Keep Doing, by Dan Black

5 Ways to Respond When Life Throws You a Curveball, by Charles Stone

6 Steps Toward a Courageous Organization, by Brad Lomenick

10 Simple Things You Can Do to Start Building a Thriving Small Group Ministry, by Mark Howell

7 Social Media Trends Your Children’s Ministry Leaders Need to Know About, by Dale Hudson

Looking Ahead to 2015, by Adam Legg via Church Marketing Sucks

Hurt People Hurt People, by Derwin Gray

The Top 30 Blogs Christian Leaders Need to Read in 2015, by Brian K. Dodd

The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read the Week of December 29, by Brian K. Dodd

How to Create Facebook Video Ads, by Rocco Alberto Baldassarre

4 Ways to Read More Books in 2015, by Jon Acuff

A Plan for Blessing the Whole World, by Rick Warren

Clarifying Your Life Vision, by Cary Schmidt

Church Growth Begins With the First Impression, by Steve Caton

When We Grow Passionate In Prayer, by Jonathan Parnell

36 Tools and Tips for Social Media Marketers, by Michael Stelzner

How We Did Christmas Eve In a Movie Theater, by Carrie Evans

5 Up and Coming U. S. Tourism Cities (Includes Bentonville, AR), by Leah Still

Phillip Yancey on Christianity’s Negative Stereotypes, by Eddie Kaufholz via Relevant Magazine

Newsweek On the Bible – So Misrepresented It’s a Sin, by Albert Mohler

How to Know if a Dream or Desire Is Really from God, by Holley Gerth

Favorite Tweets

6 Tips for Writing Blog Posts That Get Read

ForwardThe world is full of great leaders with great ideas who will remain somewhat unknown because they just don’t know how to package their ideas for market. Since this is the age of blogging in which everyone is in the publishing business, it’s imperative for anyone who wants to be a thought leader and influencer to know how to craft a basic blog post that grabs and moves readers.

As an editor, I filter through a ton of material each week in search of content I believe Pastors need to be healthier leaders. What I often find is great content that will probably never be digested because the mechanics of the post are off. So here are my editorial, insider, words-to-the-wise suggestions for aspiring bloggers…

Write a Killer Title

Don’t blow this. Be poetic with your subtitle, but craft a title that spells out exactly the benefit the reader is going to enjoy by reading the article. The only point of a blog post tile – I mean this – the ONLY point of the title, is to get the reader to read the first sentence of the post. I’ll write more about writing great titles soon, but start with writing titles that

  1. Address a need or problem.
  2. State some kind of goal.
  3. Give a clear preview of the content that follows.

And it never hurts to start your title with a numerical digit. Psychologically, it conveys a sense of value. So “8 Tips for Writing Blog Posts That Get Read” is better than “Writing Better Blog Posts.” But don’t go to seed on this or you’ll annoy your regular readers.

Write a Killer First Sentence

If the only point of the title is to get the reader to read the post’s first sentence, then guess what the point of the first sentence is? Yep. Get the reader through the first paragraph. When I started writing the post you’re reading, the second paragraph was originally my first, but it would never grab a reader. Instead, I’m trying, with my first sentence, to grab the attention of people who hope to package their great ideas better.

Write a Killer First Paragraph

If this feels redundant, you’re getting it. We’ll get to your great content in a moment, but our first goal is to get the reader into the post. We do that with a first paragraph that summarizes the reason why the reader should continue. A traditional thesis paragraph states what is coming in a dry, academic way, but a blog post is a bit more emotionally involved, commanding attention.

Eliminate Everything Unnecessary

There is no set length of a good post. Brian Clark writes long while Seth Godin gets to the point, but both know how to make every point and paragraph meaningful. Whether your post is 100 words or 1,000, pack it with value and chuck the fluff.

Break It Up – Make It Readable

Books require paragraphs, but blog posts require bullet points and subtitles, and sometimes graphics too. This is a basic rule of “web copy” that can’t be ignored.

Drive It Home and Tell the Reader What To Do Next

We can have plenty of readers, but no practical influence, if those readers don’t actually do anything as a result of interacting with our content. So always ask, as you’re wrapping up your post, what should the reader do next? It doesn’t have to be something monumental like “go save the world.” It can be as simple as:

  • Leave a comment.
  • Check out a product.
  • Share this post.
  • Go save the world… you get the point.

My hope in writing this post is that some of you who are reading will gain an understanding of how to better spread your ideas. You know some good stuff and you have a desire to share it, so share it well. Show me a headline I can’t not read. And while you’re at it – tell your friends about this post!

What did I miss? What would you add?

The Basics of Blogging and Online Publishing

BloggingBlogging is such a weird word. We never used it until people started keeping “logs” on the “web” of their life called “weblog” and for some reason, we dropped the “we” and were left with the art of blogging. And in a sense, it has changed everything. How? Because now, everyone is a publisher.

Every business, every church, and every institution is now a publisher, and those who publish with the most gusto win. It’s the age where people with few connections and little resources can grow their voice in the marketplace in inexpensive and creative ways.

I’m writing this post for those who haven’t jumped in yet. I’d love to dialog about the latest developer’s beta version of WordPress or Google’s search algorithm, but my goal is instead to reach out to those who are on the verge of blogging and push you over the edge to take the dive. If you need to read no more, head over to WordPress or Tumblr and get started! If you’re still looking to rationalize your decision, read on…

Why Blog?

Still with me? Let me give you some reasons to jump in.

  1. Everybody is doing it. This is normally a stupid reason to do anything, but in this case, what I mean is that everybody is talking and conversing about everything, and your voice matters.
  2. It’s easy. There was a time when you needed to know html or write the code for your own blogging platform. Now, with a few clicks you can sign up and from your smartphone, you can blog.
  3. It’s cheap. In fact, it’s usually free, or costs peanuts, to get started.
  4. You can earn some income. Don’t plan on getting rich off of blogging. It’s been done before and will be done again, but don’t assume you’re going to be the next John Chow, who makes money online by telling people how to make money online. Most of the “six-figure bloggers” were in the game early, but you can still earn a bit of an income if you’re patient and consistent.
  5. You can expand your influence. Ideas change the world, and today, ideas are shaped by the conversation online.

In other words, this isn’t just for geeks and nerds anymore. It’s for you too (assuming you don’t fall into either of those categories).

What To Do

Convinced? With me? Good. Now what in the world are you going to blog about? What does “blogging” look like for you? You can make blogging a time of personal journaling, but I want to challenge you to think a little harder than that. Let’s re-define blogging as putting your passion into words for the world to experience.

Your passion.

If you are passionate about underwater basket-weaving, blog about it. If it’s vintage and retro living, go for it. If you’re all about the latest flip-flops coming out of the fashion scene, blog about it. The blogs I read are those written by people who are passionate, whose passion spills out in a contagious way.

In words.

Blogging can include video and other forms of media, and will more and more as time goes on. What I’m getting at is that blogging is the act of allowing your passion to escape your heart and find expression online in a form others can consume.

For the world to experience.

I talk a lot about the experience of reading blogs because I’m a design and communications nut. For me, content is highly important, but so is its aesthetic surroundings. I’m not drawn to mere words. I’m drawn to the experience of reading them in their creative context.

Blog On Topic

So blog about what you know, what you love, and what you can speak authoritatively about to the world. Stay focused. I blog about an array of subjects, but they are mostly related to each other. If I started blogging entirely about weedrat recipes, I’d lose my readers, no matter how good weedrat stew might be.

Network With Others

Writing is good, but reading is better. Speaking is great, but listening is even greater. Blogging isn’t simply the dissemination of information. Rather it’s the joining of an ongoing, developing conversation about a niche. The more people you help, connect with, and pour into, the more you and your blogging influence will ultimately benefit.

Read Great Blogs on Blogging

Don’t read them all – you’ll go nuts. There are too many of them. But some of my own favorites are:

  • WeBlogBetter.com (I started this one, but Kiesha Easley has taken it beyond my wildest dreams).
  • ProBlogger (A lot about earning money, but a lot about powerful networking too).
  • Copyblogger (A whole lot of longer posts about writing, communication, and marketing).
  • Fuel Your Blogging (I used to be the Editor, but Christopher is much better!).
  • Kikolani (She gathers together some of the best resources on the web).
  • Social Media Examiner (Not all about blogging, but the broader topic of social media, of which blogging is one part).
  • Chris Brogan (An expert who blogs his expertise rather freely).
  • Danny Brown (Few understand blogging activism like Danny).
  • Michael Hyatt (He understands blogging from the perspective of a respected publishing executive).
  • For Bloggers By Bloggers (A steady stream of great tips).
  • Blogussion (Another great site with great tips).
  • Hubspot offers another list of great blogs too.

Jump In!

Here’s my step-by-step guide to getting started with blogging in a half an hour or less. Understand that if you can get hosting, a domain, and a custom-designed WordPress theme, you’ll be better off in the long run. But this isn’t the long run. This is the moment of taking the plunge. So here’s my challenge:

  1. Sign up for an account at WordPress.com.
  2. Pick a nice theme that reflects the personality of your blog. You can change later, and even move your WordPress.com blog to a self-hosted platform. For now, pick something pretty.
  3. Create an “About” page where you tell the world whom you are and other ways to connect with you (link to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social profiles).
  4. Write a blog post. No, “This is your first blog post.” doesn’t count. Craft a catchy, attention-getting title and briefly pour your heart out.
  5. Post the hyperlink on Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else you hang out online. Don’t be shy. Do it!

Oh, and below, in the comments, tell me where you blog! What would you add to what I’ve said (for the soon-to-be newbie bloggers)?

Image credit: Kristina B

Showcase: Tyson Foods Hunger Relief Blog Makes a Difference

In my other role as Editor of Fuel Your Blogging, I’ve recently begun a new series of articles highlighting some companies that “get” blogging and use it well. Today I posted about Tyson Foods’ Hunger Relief Blog.

Showcase: Tyson Foods Hunger Relief Blog Makes a Difference

Are You A Christian? We Should Know By Your Praying

One of my favorite blogs to read regularly (an online magazine for ministry, really) is the Shepherd’s Fellowship, the online magazine of John MacArthur and the Master’s Seminary faculty. Today, they have chosen to relay to us an old message from J. C. Ryle, a hero of the faith, who asks the question, Do You Pray? Our answer carries a lot of weight according to Ryle…

And I say, furthermore, that of all the evidences of the real work of the Spirit, a habit of hearty private prayer is one of the most satisfactory that can be named. A man may preach from false motives. A man may write books and make fine speeches and seem diligent in good works, and yet be a Judas Iscariot. But a man seldom goes into his closet, and pours out his soul before God in secret, unless he is in earnest. The Lord himself has set his stamp on prayer as the best proof of a true conversion. When he sent Ananias to Saul in Damascus, he gave him no other evidence of his change of heart than this, “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9: 11).

Do you wish to find out whether you are a true Christian? Then rest assured that my question is of the very first importance — Do you pray?

You’ve got to read the whole article, then pray…