Is blogging a bad idea for clergy?
David Keen is someone who has re-engaged with blogging in both a prolific and thought provoking way. Well worth following. So many of his posts recently have been bookmarked by me in order to come back to later; it’s almost getting to the point of not being able to cope!
I was struck recently by one of his posts on a subject that is close to my own heart – blogging clergy and subsequent difficulties in them finding work.
Although I think it is unfair to talk about specific people, I have come across (at least online) most of the people he mentions who have been ordained but now find themselves in secular employment.
It would be easy to make a rough and ready calculation and decide that blogging as a priest equals future difficulty in finding work. As I’ve recently discovered in firstly aiding my ‘title’ church through an interregnum and then going into a new incumbent level post myself, one of the first things that the Parish Reps did in both places was ‘google’ the applicants.
It’s not as simple as that, however. For most of the cases that David mentions, other things were going on as well. I can imagine that, for some, blogging just made globally public what was already going on locally. In other cases, other perceived difficulties alongside the blogging were probably more valid concerns.
If blogging made clergy pariahs automatically, then the various other people I know who have moved on to new posts would not have done so.
Surely, the issue (as David notes) is about how you blog. It doesn’t mean you have to avoid controversy, but it’s got to be better to sleep on a controversial post rather than slam it into the stratosphere at a high rate of knots. You’ve always got to be aware that people are watching. If you wouldn’t say it in the parish magazine or from the pulpit, then you’ve got to ask what gives you the license to say it online.
I think you’ve also got to be clear about what you’re blogging for and let’s hope it’s not about self-aggrandisement or having somewhere to make a massive noise. In a Christian context, let alone a priestly one, that’s not going to win friends.
For myself, I know this blog started out firstly as a sounding board and reflective tool when I was first considering ordained ministry. I’ve often been able to aid my thought process by putting something out there and letting people bounce it around. An interesting question for me at present is how that ‘sounding board’ may change or whether it can even function in the move from being a Curate to being a Priest-in-Charge. It changed between theological college and curacy and it may well change again.
For others, bloggers have a specific interest area in mind and they stick to that. Some are more assiduous in that task and won’t blog off-topic. For me, I know there are things that have become specific interests areas here because I’m interested in them and so tend to blog about them and so, even if you don’t intend to do so, you develop areas of interest. That would seem a healthy thing to me.
I’m not going to defend the church to the hilt on this one. Clearly, there are people who will shy away if they think someone is likely to have opinions. At the same time, however, we’ve all got to take responsibility for the things we write and have a bigger picture in our mind.