Recycled blog content. God says “NO”!
October 1, 2013 • Glenn Murray
Would you sit through last week’s church sermon again? No? Then why make your readers do it?
One of the most common cries from content marketers is “recycle old content.” “It saves you time,” they say. “It’ll help you become part of the conversation,” they say.
I say otherwise. And so does my good mate, Anglican Lay Preacher and relationship counsellor, Greg Colby. (Alright, you got me. He’s not God, exactly. But he’s a big man, with a big voice, and he IS a preacher. That’s close enough isn’t it? 😉
All blasphemy aside, men (and women) of the cloth have been doing content marketing for more than 2,000 years! So if anyone knows how to keep it fresh, they do.
Today Greg shares a few of his secrets with us…
Question 1: Greg, how many sermons have you given in your time?
I’ve been preaching sermons on an off again since 1986. As a lay preacher I get to preach probably once per month, and there have been times where I’ve had to come up with a sermon every week for a few months. So let’s call it 200 sermons and about 100 reflections or meditations for different groups I’ve led over the years.
Question 2: Do you find it hard to come up with something new / original / thought-provoking each time?
In one sense, yes. Although the range of areas in life that theology speaks to could be seen as limitless, it is hard to come up with something new and interesting each time I speak. There is an old church joke that says the point to any sermon can be condensed to ‘God’, ‘Jesus’ or ‘the Bible’, and every sermon is a variation on those themes. The way I have approached sermon writing each time is to look for the ‘touch point’ – that aspect of the scripture reading I’m preaching on that speaks loudest to me… If it matters to me, its very likely it matters to someone else as well. It’s easier to speak passionately about something that matters, rather than just waffling for the sake of filling 20 minutes between hymns! It is vital that some time be spent in teasing out that ‘touch point’, researching how it might impact others and what ‘authorities’ have to say about the topic. In the case of preaching, the authority is the bible, or perhaps reading about what other theologians have had to say. Just sitting down and trying to write doesn’t usually bear much fruit. The 5 Ps are still important (Prior Preparation Preventing Poor Performance).
Question 3: I read a post today that said recycling content is about, “…taking existing content and adding to it to create something slightly new. For SEO reasons…” To me, this is a ridiculous approach. The only reason they’re not simply duplicating old stuff is SEO! The author went on to say, “Recycling content makes it easier to supply all the different channels you have to fill…” Do you ever just recycle content from a previous sermon? Do you ever just fill the gap?
The temptation to recycle is always there. I do know preachers who have been in ministry for many years who have a file of sermons that they just regurgitate every three years (the cycle of readings through the bible in the church calendar). Their theory is that no one really recalls their sermons anyway! And whilst that may be true, you can hardly present with as much passion something that is just a re-hash. Something that is fresh and real for today’s audience or congregation will result in a far better presentation. I sometimes use the same examples – but I try to ensure that I point out ‘as I’ve said in other sermons…” Because really, congregations aren’t dumb, people know when you’re giving fresh ideas and when you’re not.
Question 4: How do you keep your sermons fresh and engaging? How do you keep people coming back?
I try to relate what I say to today’s world and to today’s important issues. I try to ensure that at the end of my sermon, people have heard how what happened 2,000, or in some cases 4000 years ago, is still relevant to our lives today. I also like to tell personal stories. People love to know how my life has been impacted by what I’ve read and researched, how knowing what I know and believing what I believe has changed my life or made it richer and more fulfilling. In Real Estate it’s all about Location, Location, Location. In sermons its all about Relating, Relating, Relating; if there is no point of connection with the hearer, they turn off pretty quick and start updating Facebook instead of listening to me!
Question 5: Anything else you’d like to mention?
The real joy of delivering a sermon, for me, is articulating in language that connects, what to many people can seem to be the mysterious and difficult to understand themes of the bible, so they go home feeling they have a point of relationship with God and the text of scripture, or an understanding that they didn’t before.
A final word from Glenn…
Firstly, a quick thanks to Greg. He’s a busy man, and I appreciate his time.
Secondly, I wanted to reiterate his closing point from question 3: “…people know when you’re giving fresh ideas and when you’re not.” You may think you’re fooling people with recycled content, but you’re only fooling yourself. They may not unsubscribe (yet), but it won’t be long before they relegate you to the ‘Read If You Have Time’ basket. You want them to look forward to your content, not to approach each post with a vague sense of Déjà vu.