youth ministry

Behind the Scenes on this Year’s Top 20 List

Today I published the YS list of top 20 bloggers in youth ministry. It’s the second year for publishing it (third year I’ve done it) and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

I thought it’d be cool to pass along some notes from the process:

  • Overall, there was exceptional growth this year. In 2010, the YS Blog was the clear #1. Statistically, it was well ahead of the pack. This year that same blog came in at #5. What happened is that the YS Blog was largely flat in growth, lost its lead, then got passed by 4 blogs to drop it to #5.
  • There were a few new entries to the top 20. Kenda Creasy Dean, Greg Stier, Terrace Crawford, Rethinking Youth Ministry, and Doug Fields are all new to the list in 2011.
  • At quick glance, you’ll notice few women, which continues to baffle me. With what I index, there is a ratio of 5 men for every female youth ministry blogger. What’s weird about that is that the field is typically evenly split with 50% men and 50% women. For now, Kenda Creasy Dean and Kara Powell (Fuller Youth Institute) are our female bloggers. (Kara does about half the blogging for FYI, Brad Griffin does the other half.)
  • Looking at the rankings with a 3 year lens, I’m actually pleased with how the formula works. It’s 66% publicly available stats and 33% an influence ranking. (Who knows where that other 1% goes!) If you’ll look year over year over year, it’s cool that there aren’t wild fluctuations.
  • This list is pretty democratic. I’ll index anyone whose blog is on youth ministry, is active, (posted in the last 60 days) and has some statistical value. (Like… more that 25 readers per day top get into the top 100.)
  • Unlike last year, where we saw a HUGE drop off between #5 and #6, there is no dropoff in the composite ranking. There’s no drop off in the index and that carries all the way to #50.
  • Speaking of the composite ranking. Josh Griffin barely held off Mark Oestreicher for #1 this year. I wasn’t sure who’d be #1 until I added the very last numbers.
  • 2012 is “game on.” I think anyone currently in the top 10 could make a run at the top spot next year. There’s even a couple between 11-20 who could make a run at it.
  • On a personal note, it’s really cool to see my blog creep up from #5 to #4. I’m no Tim Schmoyer. But I’m getting there!
  • Last thing, this is a labor of love. I love doing it. And I have seen how these rankings have been used in the past 2 years, so I know that while everyone feels a bit weird about ranking bloggers… it’s ultimately good for the genre of youth ministry blogs AND it’s good for the visibility of the field of youth ministry.
Got questions? Leave me a comment.
Blog Highlight

Happy 7th Birthday,!

Photo by persocomholic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

On May 25th, 2004 I wrote a post called, “Why am I starting this?

Perhaps many people start a blog because they are trying to prove to the world just how smart they are? Perhaps others do it so they can feel like someone is listening to them? Perhaps others do it as a way to share what’s going on in their lives.

But why am I doing this? Mostly as a way to share with myself, just what is going on. I’m not going to use this as a platform for anything else but… Well, whatever I feel like posting. Quotes. Golf scores. Youth Group talks. Carry-over rants. Interesting articles. Stories about the kids. Whatever I want!

Seven years later not much has changed. I’m still going and I’m still writing whatever I want.

Some stats:

  • 3,549 posts in 2,555 days = 1.38 posts per day.
  • 6,260 comments on 3,549 post = 1.76 comments per post.
  • 3,549 posts averaging 500 words = 1,774,500 words I’ve published here.
  • Started on Blogger, moved to Typepad, finally now on WordPress.

Thank you, faithful reader

In the early days I was shocked if a handful of people read my posts. Then, a few years later, I remember the joy of noticing that I had hit 100 daily visitors. Then, living in Romeo, Michigan I remember bumping into people at church or even people at the supermarket would stop and tell me something they liked about my blog. Today? A good day sees a lot more than that. And I’m still just amazed that you show up.

Thank you.

Thanks for reading my thoughts– good, bad, and ugly– of a youth ministry guy just trying to figure stuff out.


What is my blog all about?

With the influx of new readers and subscribers, (RSS & email) I thought it was good to do a little reset.

Why do I blog? What do I blog about? How do I go about blogging? These are the questions I answer in the video above.

social media

How to repost a blog post with style and grace

Since I first wrote about people stealing my content last November, “How to blog, write, and speak with integrity” I’ve gotten lots of contacts asking me how to properly repost or cite blog posts, web articles, and news stories.

Here are some tips for reposting internet content with style and grace.

  • Never repost an entire article without permission from the site owner. First, its a breach of etiquette. Second, nabbing someone’s content without their consent is theft of their intellectual property. Third, even if you link back, most agree that search engines will punish both domains for duplicate content. How do you get permission? You ask! Email the author or use their contact form or just leave a comment on the post. Most will, happily and free of charge offer you their content.
  • Use an excerpt of no more than two paragraphs. Chose the part of the article that reasonated with you the most or makes the point most clearly, and excerpt it. You can wrap the excerpt in the context of a point you are writing about or simply post the excerpt with a question or thought for discussion. Bloggers consider this a high compliment. And news agencies (and other sources very sensitive about their intellectual property) won’t be concerned that you are trying to gain traffic off of their content.
  • Set your excerpt apart graphically. For any quote of more than two sentences use the block quote feature of any blog editor. To make it even more clear that I’m quoting something, I like to italicize the whole piece.
  • Link directly to the source content. Typically, I link to the source two times just to be absolutely certain my readers know the excerpt is not mine and where to find the source. I set the the quote up (or follow-up) with linking the article to the authors name. “I was reading Adam McLane’s dare for pastors the other day…” Then, after I’ve posted the excerpt, I link to the source with the words “Source” or “Read the rest.
  • Hat tips and Trackbacks are still good manners. A hat tip is simply a gesture that another person provided the idea for your post or otherwise recognizing another person for contributing to your post. (ht to Adam McLane) A trackback alerts the blog owner that you’ve linked to them. On some sites, the trackback appears as a comment on the original post while on other sites it never appears publicly but is tracked by the owners site software. In WordPress, I manually enter a trackback for every link I put in a post to a news site or blog.

I hope these tips are useful. Each of these things only takes a few moments but makes a big difference in creating professional quality content. More importantly, to your readers it communicates that you aren’t a slob with other people’s intellectual property.

Have more questions about this topic? Leave a comment!

Web/Tech Weblogs

Reminder: Back-up your blog

This morning I woke up and my blog was down. With more than 6 years of content here that is scary.

It was a healthy reminder to me that it was time to back-up my blog. (After fixing some corrupt tables)

This is your reminder: If you haven’t backed-up your self-hosted WordPress blog lately, you need to do it.

Don’t know how?

No problem! I wrote a tutorial for you over on the McLane Creative blog.

social media Weblogs

Blog economics of hate

The easiest way to draw traffic to your site all you have to do is hate on people.

My definition of flaming content online: To bad mouth purely for the sake of creating traffic, link baiting, retweeting, Facebooking, and otherwise bad-mouthing a person, organization, company, or news item for a purely selfish reason. (Read here to see what it is like to receive these criticisms)

Why does this work? When someone reads something that you write, they are left with a number of choices. Do nothing, comment, talk about it, share it, tweet it, email it, or bookmark it.

Over time, you learn that people are more likely to link to or forward something that is salacious than they are something that is benign, informative, or encouraging. That’s just the nature of consuming new media. The result is that some people write purely to draw traffic and since “flaming sells” they know that flaming people/organizations will draw more notoriety, traffic, and the hope for… income.

Here’s a formula that I’ve seen play out for the past several years.

  • Normal content = x1
  • Flaming content = x5

That’s pretty much what it looks like. If your Twitter account, Facebook profile, or blog flames someone you’ll get more traffic. Why? People love to read rants.

So are you saying that all blog traffic is drawn to flame speech? Not at all. And here is why:

  • Remarkable content = x10 (or more)

Which leads to my point: Most people write hate/flame based content because they don’t have the time/guts/brains/skills to write something remarkable in the first place. In other words, it is easier for them to draw traffic with flame-worthy content than it is to draw traffic with remarkable content.

Adam’s Law of Traffic: Write something remarkable and everyone will talk about it. Write about something you hate about someone and some people will talk about it. Write about normal stuff and only your mama will talk about it.

Bonus math: Since mountains of people like to copy the thoughts of others… sometimes giving credit and other times not.

Copied content + traffic = x5


Rules for Blog Comments

Quick synopsis:

  1. I reserve the right to edit your comments if they contain foul language.
  2. I welcome all comments and all types of comments.
  3. You may use a pseudo-name so your “real name” isn’t publicly visible.
  4. But you must use your real email address so I can follow-up with you.
  5. You are welcome to use my contact form to send me comments that will not be published on my blog.
  6. Anonymous comments with invalid email addresses will be deleted.
youth ministry

The state of youth ministry blogs

It’s been a couple of months since I published my list of Top 20 Youth Ministry Blogs at the YS Blog.

And for the most part the list did what I was hoping it would do. People took notice that YS had taken notice of blogs enough to rank them. And the net effect has been that many who had stopped taking the genre seriously are now take it seriously again.

It’s hard to explain and its impossible to pin it on just the rankings. But it was clear that youth ministry blogs were on the decline. Now they are noticeably getting stronger.

Am I taking credit for that? All I’m saying is that publishing the rankings didn’t hurt the genre.

Here’s a few observations: (In no particular order)

  • The quality, quantity, and effort put into youth ministry blogs has increased in the past two months since the rankings went public.
  • There are lots of new youth ministry blogs to index– awesome!
  • The method used to calculate the top 50 will continue to refine.
  • It looks like I only missed a few sites that could have hit the top 50. (This was my big fear!) I did ask those who voted on the top 50 to tell me who was missing, that group brought up only 2 blogs that weren’t indexed. For a first public shot… that’s not bad.
  • For 2011, I’m glad that I’m just the math guy and I get to turn over the influence ranking part (33% of the overall ranking) to the 2010 top 20 bloggers.
  • Basically, everyone from #11-20 wants to be in the top 10. Which is fantastic because it forces EVERYONE to grow and get better just to stay in the top 20. I’d be impressed if anyone can crack the top 5… there is a big statistical hurdle between a top 5 blog and the rest.
  • I’ve noticed a lot of folks in last years top 50 are making changes. They are getting right with Technorati and Google. They are making sure their RSS feed works. They are probably doing some SEO stuff. In other words, the whole class of youth ministry blog is getting better not just from a content side… but from a set-up side.
  • I think I’m going to exclude from index if they haven’t updated in 30 days. It’s tough because it takes me a couple of weeks to get through the data. So I might just index everyone and scrub the data right before I send the top 50 for influence ranking to the top 20.
  • Those of us on the list have had some weird effects. I know I’ve heard more bizarre product pitches in the last two months than I’d ever heard before. And marketers have definitely taken notice. Crazy town.
  • Yes, I think it is possible for a new blog to make a first year appearance in the top 20. Because some of the indexes that go into the composite score take time to build… I sincerely doubt anyone could amass the traffic to go from launch to the top 10 though. But I’m sure its possible.
  • I’ve had to laugh at the humility thing of those on the list. Lots of people on the list don’t know how to react. Christians try to act humble when they are proud. I think it’s OK that they are OK being on the list. It’s not like they politicked to get on the list… no one knew it was coming!
  • Speaking of politics, unlike other rankings in our world, the YM blog ranking is open. If anyone thinks their blog has a legit shot at getting into the top 20, let me know so I can start indexing it. Last year, I indexed more than 100 blogs. I have a feeling I’ll be indexing 200+ in 2011.
  • A lot of people have asked me about adding Twitter/Facebook numbers into the mix. I’m resisting that urge for a number of reasons. I actually think blog indexing and social media indexing are two different things. Truth is, size of a social media circle is completely meaningless.
family Weblogs

Kristen is Blogging Again

Yup, Kristen has got her blog going again. I know she plans on talking more about our families shift to an organic lifestyle, gardening, shell hunting, and fun stuff for our kids.

Kristen was a pretty successful mom-blogger when that fad was hot. She got burnt out with all the free product people sent us to review so I think she’s going to avoid that this time around.

She and I sat down yesterday  to talk about a new look for her blog… let me know what you think. We were looking to create something fresh, open, and elegant. (Yes, the shell is one she found in a neighborhood in Haiti. Only Kristen could find a shell in a path a mile from the ocean amidst all that garbage!)


A few blog updates

Most people read my blog via RSS or Facebook these days. (Roughly 50%) So if you are one of those people you won’t notice a few of these changes to my blog. Here’s a few updates, nothing death defying.

  1. Added an FAQ and Free Downloads page under the “About me” tab. I love that people are using my contact page more and more. But I thought I’d just put the most obvious stuff there.
  2. Swapped out the Feedburner email form for a better looking daily email from Mailchimp. Here’s a look at the archive. If you want to switch, simply opt out of the Feedburner email next time it comes and fill out the form in the right sidebar.
  3. Also new to the sidebar, I’m feeding my Delicious account. So if you want to see what I’m bookmarking in the adolescent research and youth ministry categories, that’s right there.
  4. It seems like people have figured out all of the Twitter and Facebook sharing, liking, and retweeting stuff at the bottom of every post. Thanks for that.
  5. A few people have emailed that they missed the monster. I’ve taken note of that, so you’ve been seeing him appear in some more content lately.

I’m always adding and playing with stuff on my blog. This is kind of my test site for all the other sites I manage. So if something looks funky from time-to-time, now you know why.