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Blogging General Conference: How to create and connect

By Laura Buchanan*

The Kenaston Family

Diane, Rachel, Joe, Judi and Connor Kenaston. Photo courtesy of the Kenastons.

As Chair of the Commission on General Conference, Judi Kenaston will see eight years of planning come together in Portland, Oregon, next month. During the 2012 General Conference, Judi and the Kenaston family shared their experiences via their family blog. Daughter Diane and son Connor agreed to share their expertise to inspire delegates to start their own blogs.

Why do you blog?
“I particularly like blogging because it provides a more in-depth experience that counters the superficiality of our 140 character world,” answered Connor. “Personally, I use my blog for everything from online journaling, to an outlet for poetry and prayers, to my reflections on contemporary issues and how I understand these issues through my faith.”

What was your favorite part of the 2012 General Conference blogging experience?
“I loved having an outlet for the many emotions, thoughts, and experiences I was having,” said Diane. “General Conference can feel like a roller coaster. It requires constant self-care, self-awareness, and time to process what is going on inside.”

Connor Kenaston is a United Methodist Global Mission Fellow serving in Missouri and first lay reserve delegate from West Virginia at the 2016 General Conference. He blogs to stay in touch with his home conference and process his experiences as a young adult missionary.

The Rev. Diane Kenaston is pastor of University United Methodist Church in St. Louis. She served as a monitor for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women at the 2012 General Conference, and will experience this year’s conference in Missouri via livestreaming and blogs.

Do you recommend a blogging app?
“I use the WordPress app,” suggested Connor. “WordPress is by far the most popular blogging site and is pretty easy to use.”

Where can delegates find ideas for content on their blog?
“Anything you are thinking, experiencing or questioning could become blog content,” offered Diane. “What are you worrying over? What do you need to process? What are your hopes, dreams and prayers? How have you experienced God today?”

How can delegates get creative with their blog?
“I like blogging because I can create an integrated story of my experience that incorporates photographs, videos, or sound files. For example, if a song is running through my head while I'm writing, I'll probably embed it early in my blog post so that you can listen while you read. One could also use media as a tool to discuss an issue or topic - for example, you could embed a video and then discuss it,” said Connor.

How did you engage readers during the 2012 event?
“I linked our blog posts on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, using the hashtags for General Conference. If I had written something that I thought would interest a particular group of people – such as the congregation that I was serving, alumni of my seminary, or my annual conference – I would also post a link there,” suggested Diane.

The official hashtag for the 2016 General Conference is #UMCGC.

How can blogs be shared?
“Be sure to share your blog posts on all of your social media sites - Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Twitter. You can even set Wordpress and other sites to do it automatically,” Connor recommended. “It’s also important to categorize and provide a number of tags for your posts…and encourage people to subscribe. Finally, be an active reader. If you subscribe or like someone else’s post, chances are they are going to wonder who you are and check out your blog.”

What tips would you offer to new bloggers?
"Set up the blog and write a test post before you leave for General Conference. It's more relaxing to figure out the technology ahead of time," suggested Diane. "Setting it up early also means that you can give your blog address to your local congregation, district, friends and family before you leave. The folks at home will want to know how to follow you!"

Connor said, “The most important advice is, honestly, just write! Embrace who you are and your writing style. If you're someone who likes to write casually and integrate jokes, then do that! If you like to write more formally on more serious topics, then do that! Staying true to yourself will help develop your voice as a writer and will attract readers who appreciate that style.”

*Laura Buchanan is a public relations specialist at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tennessee.