Jon Swanson is the executive pastor at Grabill Missionary Church in Grabill, Indiana. He is also a frequent blogger at Levite Chronicles and 300 words a day. We have enjoyed each others’ presence on the web for about three years. We met through our friend Chris Brogan. We both “look at normal things in odd ways”. If you start reading Jon’s blog, you’ll get hooked too!
How did you get started in blogging?
I have written short pieces for reflection for a long time. They were used as radio PSAs 20 years ago, as sponsored radio commentaries 15 years ago, as bulletin cover service settings 10 years ago, and probably for other things I can’t remember. About 7 years ago I started writing for my own sake a journal called “the Levite Chronicles”, a collection of poems and short meditations that helped me keep track of becoming a levite, one who served in the temple in support of the priests. (That’s it’s own post). In 2005, for reasons that I can’t remember, I started a blog at blogger.com with the Levite Chronicles “brand” as a way to move my thinking online. Sometime after that I moved to WordPress.
How do you juggle the real-world of your church job with the virtual world of your on-line ministry?
Which is the real world? There are real people with real pain and real dreams that I first met on-line. Many of these people I have subsequently talked with and then seen face-to-face. Other people I have met face-to-face, in my office, and then have spent significant time with online.
If the question is, how do I juggle time spent with the real people that give money to pay my salary and real people who don’t, that is a different challenge, one that I wrestle with daily. Can I write a post while in my office or only at 11:00 at night? On the other hand, do I answer the email from someone local at 11:00 at night or only in my office?
Because my primary “work” responsibility is spiritual formation, helping people become more like Jesus, I use that as a significant dividing line. If I am writing about productivity, I do that at home. If I am writing about formation, I occasionally do that at my office. If I am answering questions from near or far, I do that either place, because it is about people.
I do find, however, that my time for social media locations such as twitter, varies based on how much interaction I am having with local people.
What’s your favorite post you have created?
The one I am writing next week. And I never get to next week.
What’s the post that caused the most reactions?
I wrote a post called “what I mean when I say pray.” I wrote it sitting in our kitchen, looking at the scene described. It has had a significant value for people who want me to pray for them but can’t quite say that. So they ask for some chocolate milk.
What are some quick tips you would give to a pastor considering adding blogging to his or her mix of ministries?
1. Pick an audience that you want to share your heart with and write. But see them clearly when you write.
2. Make a practice of talking without sounding like church.
3. Give something up. Like TV.
4. Look at it like conversation with people.
5. If you aren’t comfortable being transparent, don’t add blogging. It works best if you are honest.
6. Be careful of “in” jokes. They sound really bad to anyone who isn’t in.
7. Know that people will find you. And they will measure your church based on what they see in what you write.
Are there any in your church that have followed you on-line as a result of your presence on the internet?
There are a couple answers to that question.
1. We changed churches a year ago. People from my old church have kept up with us by following my writing. There are people from our current church that read my blog to find out about me during the interview process and after I was hired. I write knowing that I have a very mixed group of friends.
2. At least a couple people have started writing online because of my writing. I set up a blog for a local pastor friend. My wife is now on facebook.
What encourages you most?
When someone says, “I never thought about God that way.”
What’s the ultimate meal you would share with your lovely wife?
Barbecue brisket from the Coupland Inn in Coupland, Texas. We lived in Austin for three years. Our honeymoon was driving to Austin from Wheaton, Illinois. Barbecue is great there. The Coupland Inn was the best.
Thanks, Jon! It’s great to learn more about you. May God use us for the highest good!