Mark Howell is one amazing small groups guy. He is currently serving as the Pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in the Las Vegas, Nevada area.
Today our interview climbs right into Mark’s sweet spot: blogging and small groups.
Rick: Mark, I once said and still believe that every small group pastor should subscribe to your blog. In my opinion, your blog, on a consistent basis, unveils information vital to small group ministries. I know there's much we can learn from you. I'm wondering, why did you start blogging?
Mark: First of all, thank you so much for the many times you've said that. That means so much to me. I started blogging in 2005 mostly as a way to share what I was learning about ministry and leadership. My very first blog was called Commentary from the Edge. Didn't last long. I changed the name to StrategyCentral.org and have over 1100 articles there on strategy, innovation, change, leadership, and mission. I launched MarkHowellLive.com in 2008 when my time with Lifetogether ended. I wanted to be a resource to small group champions.
Rick: Do you think small group pastors should be bloggers? If so, why? If not, why not?
Mark: Blogging offers a really good way to communicate with small group leaders. Unless you're the webmaster at your church, there's no easier way to make a lot of content available and add new content easily. Should every small group pastor blog? I don't think I'd go that far, but I would say most should take advantage of this easy way to make information available 24/7.
Rick: Who should a small group pastor's audience be: their entire congregation, their own small group leaders and coaches, other small group pastors or some other audience? Why did you think this?
Mark: I think it depends entirely on the purpose of the blog. For example, I write MarkHowellLive.com entirely for small group champions (point people). It's really not written for small group leaders. Because I review small group curriculum there, small group leaders stop by, but it's really not written with them in mind. Eddie Mosley's blog is written for his small group leaders. Now that Ben Reed has a wider audience, his blog has edged away from the narrower content world of small group ministry.
Rick: I've noticed on your blog that you do interviews, book reviews, share how-to's for small group leaders and pastors and other very impressive content. If a small group pastor asked you what content categories would make an effective small group pastor blog, what categories would you suggest they give consistent attention to?
Mark: I wouldn't want to generalize this answer. I think the real key is that when you determine your audience, it will inform your content. Your own interests ought to shape what you write. Otherwise it will always be forced.
Rick: I know this seems like a crazy question, but I learned from you that many of my blog posts were too long. How many words would you suggest is right for a blog post? Why do you think this is the right length for the average blog reader?
Mark: I learned that 500 words is about right. It's no secret that attention spans are shorter than ever. One key is to think about individual bites. A lot of times long blog posts are long because there are several good bites that each could have their own post.
Rick: I'm sure I've missed some important aspects of this conversation. What did I miss that small group pastors who blog need to be sure they know when blogging?
Mark: If you want to succeed as a blogger, you've got to have a bias. You must have an ax to grind. My bias creates a never-ending source of content. Underlying everything I write is the conviction that ordinary people can lead a group and the way to connect the 60% who are unreachable with the attractional model is through the ordinary people in the crowd's edge.