The year is now fading away (or blasting out, depending on your perspective), and I want to take a few minutes to reflect on how the Blog has been doing since last year at this time.  We started this venture in April 2012, so by one way of calculating, 2015 was our fourth year of operation.  By most standards and criteria it was our most successful year yet, possibly by a large margin.

When I started the blog one of my main concerns was that I would run out of things to talk about in a year or so.   It hasn’t happened yet.  I do find on occasion that I write up a post and it occurs to me, “Hey, haven’t I written on this already?”   When that happens, I’ll check (it’s easy to search the blog for past posts, btw: just click on the magnifying glass in the upper right hand of your screen for the search function, and go from there) and sometimes I’m right!   If the two posts are sufficiently different, I’ll normally go ahead and submit the new one as well.  Rarely are they exactly the same.   But as we worked out a couple of months ago (when I asked your opinion), most people on the blog (all who responded) think that if I go over the same ground that I covered two or more years before, that’s OK.  Many people on the blog weren’t on it then, and those who were probably won’t remember the post.  Obviously I, the author, didn’t!

I have been able to sustain the pace of the blog that I set for myself back in 2012.  My goal all along – after asking members’ opinions on numerous occasions – has been to post 5-6 times a week, 1000 words (or slightly more) per post.   Just now I added up the number of posts that I did this past year, and it turns out – mirabile dictu! – I have done 286.  That is exactly 5.5/week.  So I’m spot on, to my amazement.   I also read every comment everyone makes – usually this is 30-40 a day – and reply (briefly, I know, but there’s only one of me!) to questions that people make in their comments.

My biggest challenge personally is squeezing in the time to do it.  When you take into account not just writing the posts but also the comments and other issues involved with maintaining the blog and attending to problems that arise, etc., I think I probably spend about 7-8 hours a week on it.   On one level that doesn’t seem like much – just over an hour a day.  On the other hand, that is something 400 hours a year.   Since I am (more) time conscious (than about anyone I know), I can’t help but think how much 400 hours is.  If I worked a 40-hour week (and how I wish I did work just a 40-hour week!  You’re probably in the same boat….), that would be 10 work weeks a year devoted to the blog.   What I could do with 10 work weeks!  I’m not thinking about going to more movies, reading more novels, getting more workouts, watching more sports, or going for more walks – although all that would be very, very nice indeed.  I’m just thinking about my research, the one thing for which I never seem to have enough time.  Is it worth the time?

At the end of the day I think the answer is absolutely yes (though I do think about it!).  Not only does the blog allow me to disseminate knowledge about the New Testament and early Christianity to people who are extremely interested in knowing more (which is, after all, the ultimate purpose of my academic life) it also allows me to raise significant moneys for charity.  Increasingly significant moneys, as I’ll point out at the end.

We have made several really key improvements to the blog over the past year.   We have implemented a rating system, so you can indicate how well you like a post.  That helps me see which kinds of posts are most useful and beneficial, which helps me then know what kinds of things to focus on in the future.   Possibly the most important improvement is the weekly Readers’ Mailbag, on which, once a week, I respond in quick order to questions that have come in.  I’m enjoying doing those, as it allows me to give condensed answers to important questions; and the response to the new feature has been overwhelmingly positive.  Keep feeding me questions.

I am happy to implement yet other changes to make the blog better.  If you have bright ideas, respond to this post with a comment, or send me a private email.  My goal is to make the blog as good as it possibly can be.   That will make all of you happy, and it will encourage others to join.  And I want lots of others to join.

We steadily increase our membership on the blog.   I’m happy to say that now, for the first time, we are at 5000 members.   And we keep growing.   Anything you can think of to help us attract new members, please do let me know.

I want new members both because I know there are lots of people out there who would enjoy and benefit from the discussions on the blog, but also because the more members we have, the more money we can raise.  For me, as I’ve repeatedly said, that is the ultimate purpose for the blog (though I know it’s not the ultimate purpose for anyone actually *on* the blog!).  If it weren’t for the funds raised for charity, I simply wouldn’t do it.

On that note, I’m happy to report that we have more than surpassed my fund-raising goals for the year, both because of increased membership and because many of you have been so generous in making personal donations on top of the membership fees.   I have not adjusted the fees since we started this venture, and I don’t plan on doing so.  But I do so much appreciate it when people make donations (which, by the way, are completely tax-deductible).  It keeps me going.

I am very happy indeed to say that we raised $116,000 this year on the blog.  You can do the math: it is over $300 a day, every day of the year.   This is fantastic.   The total is, remarkably, $42k *more* than last year (2014; over 60% more!).  I had desperately hoped to raise 100k total, and we have surpassed my goal by a wide margin.  I can’t thank all of you enough.  All of these moneys, as you know, every cent, go to charities that are dealing with hunger, homelessness, and the ravages of poverty.  We are doing a world of good, and my goal is to do more and more and more, for as long as we can keep this venture going.

I want us to do more.   Please help me to increase the subscriptions to the blog.  I’d like you to give gift subscriptions.  I’d like you to tell your family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, dog-walkers, bank tellers, insurance agents, car dealers – everyone in your life – about the blog, and try to get them interested.

I also want to increase the donors and donations to the blog.   Remember, donations are completely tax deductible, and every penny goes to these good causes.   If you have bright ideas either for how to increase our membership or to increase our donations, please do let me know!

I’d like to close by thanking yet again my unbelievably helpful assistant Steven Ray, who takes care of all the technological, upkeep, computer, and membership issues efficiently and gracefully.  He has been with me from the beginning and continues to make the blog not just happen but also thrive. The blog literally could not survive without him.

Let me end as well by thanking each and every one of you for joining and participating in the blog.  It’s been a good year.  I hope our good fortune will continue in the year to come.   All best wishes for a Happy New Year!