Adam McLane is one the most prolific youth ministry writers, consultants, and educators out there. Adam is a partner at The Youth Cartel. He blogs at AdamMcLane.com. Adam started blogging in May 2004 on Blogspot. But he was writing quite a bit before he started blogging. He says:
Really, I started journalling in 1993 as a junior in high school. I was living in Hanau, Germany and my curmudgeonly old english teacher made us keep a journal. The habit stuck and I’ve written a little bit nearly every day since.
In 1994 Adam started his life online with AOL. Remember AOL? He used the old dial-up 14.4 baud modem to connect to chat rooms and forums. As a student at the Moody Bible Institute he wrote a paper for his Personal Evangelism class about establishing a ministry online. His vision was a presence to discuss faith and build relationships with people all over the world.
His professor, Dr. Mike McDuffee gave him an “A.” His encouragement to keep going was really what got Adam started on this path of building relationships online, something he continues today. On his bio page, he states, “I love connecting with blog readers.” He also states that is avaiable for rent.
When he really got started with blogging in 2004, he stated his purpose this way:
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!
The main purpose of the blog was to be an outlet for Adam to express himself. “I just had things I wanted to say,” he says, “and write that weren’t about my job. And I found blogging a great outlet for that.” He writes about a wide range of things, from gardening to college sports to photography to youth ministry to Haiti to whatever matters to him at the moment.
As a pastor, Adam was heavily influenced by Ray Pritchard. Ray was Adam’s pastor during his undergrad years in Chicago. He and his wife Kristen were in a church with other young couples. One of the ways Ray connected to his congregation was through his blog. “I felt like I could connect to Ray better as my pastor because of the transparency his blog provided,” Adam said. Ray was on the cutting edge of this medium. The church had “Ask Pastor Ray” forums and an internet broadcast in the late 1990s. Adam recalls, “I wanted to be a blogging pastor because he was a blogging pastor.”
One of the other reasons that Adam started his blog was because he had more to say than he could share on an internet forum. “I didn’t like that I had a thought but it was only read or talked about by members of the forum I posted it on,” he says. The blog became the place for those thoughts to engage a broader audience.
Adam blogs a lot about social media. One of his most read (and most commented) posts was about SnapChat. He originally wrote the post for about six moms who had asked about the picture taking social media app. At the time it was not on his radar, but he promised that it would be. A few months later he was asked about SnapChat by another mom via Facebook.
With that little bit of interest, he sat down and the wrote the post. As of earlier this week, the post has been read about 4,000,000 times since August 2013. And the feedback from the post has been overwhelmingly positive. The post has been shared more than 450,000 times on Facebook and about 5,000 times on Twitter.
Most of the feedback that matters to me has been from young women who had been exploited by a man they trusted to share images. They have been thankful that I’m sharing the truth about the dangers and I’ve been able to share with them that they are image bearers of God, more important than an image shared in a moment.
Blogging about social media is important to Adam because the medium allows youth to introduce a third life: “a life lived mostly online.” This third life, combined with their school life and their church life, is another way to represent Jesus everywhere we go and with everything we do.
Using the example of the SnapChat post, which wasn’t religious in any way. In that instance sharing something important that has helped lots of people was good news to them. My friend Morgan Schmidt says in her new book, Woo, that this action is Gospeling. When you share something is good news, it’s God’s good news even if it isn’t exclusively about good news. All good news belongs to God.
Adam’s love for teenagers and love for the tribe of youth ministry is a main motivator for why he writes about social media, teenagers, and youth ministry.
Due to the growth of his ministry, Adam has gotten a little bit more strategic. “Writing,” he says, “is like any other artistic expression, sometimes its hard and other times you’ll be gushing with things to write.” Yet, Adam does not have a stringent plan. His goal is to have at least five full posts per week. Sometimes it may be less due to his travel schedule or it may be more if there is something that is particularly inspiring.
The “what to post” usually comes to Adam in the mornings. There is no formula or trick to blogging for Adam.
Being transparent, sometimes I have to write things for my blog as an obligation. Like if it’s a book review for a friend or a post that’s tied to a project I’m doing. I find those ones to be the least natural for me and are the hardest to write.
His process is pretty simple. As ideas come to him, he will write them down on scraps of paper or record them in Evernote. Most of his writing gets started in the morning. And it starts, as he says, with “the kettle to make coffee, and stare at an empty screen.” He says that about 75% of the time he wakes up knowing what he wants to write about. About 20% of the time he consults his scrap pieces of paper or Evernote. And about 5% of the time he will go over to google.com/news to search for something that is of interest to him.
His target is 500 words a post, “though,” he says, “I usually go over.” He goes on to say, “I give myself about an hour from start to finish. And I just write my ass off.”
Adam’s final thoughts is great advice for other bloggers and writers: “It’s not magic. It’s just like any craft, it gets easier and you get better at it over time.”