Today marks the sixth-year anniversary of the blog.  It’s hard to believe, but, well, it’s been six years today.  Time to look back and see how we’re doing and look forward to figure out what we can do better.

So, first, to start in terms of raw numbers.   In terms of posts, I’ve added them up and it turns out I have made 275 over the past year.   That’s about 5.3 per week – so basically five with some extras thrown in now and then.  That’s the pace that feels about right to me.  It gives people a lot of bang for their buck, but it gives me a couple of days a week when I can luxuriate in knowing I don’t need to work on the blog.  Good all around.

Total numbers since starting six years ago: 1739 blog posts.  That’s 5.6+ per week, so I’ve slowed down a bit, but I don’t plan on slowing down any more.   Some of those 1739 are repeats: over the past couple of years I’ve started reposting every week or two a blog post from three or four years earlier, on the assumptions that a) most blog members weren’t members then and so didn’t see the post yet; b) since I don’t remember writing the thing it’s likely that people who read it back then won’t be intimately familiar with it either; and most important c) if it was worth saying once it is probably worth saying again.  I haven’t heard any complaints about this practice, and have gotten some positive feedback, so I’ll plan on continuing for now, not as a steady diet but every week or two.

I have received, read, and posted 15,753 comments over the past.  That’s just over 300 a week. For the life of the blog the number is 65,037, which comes to just  over about 190 per week.  That means the comments are on the rise.   I do try to answer every question I get.  If I miss one (or several) (or many) it’s simply because I’m working as quickly as I can and might miss something.   Even though the numbers of comments/queries are increasing with time (as one might expect with a growing venture) so far it is not a burden I can’t handle.

It normally takes me from an hour to an hour and a half to deal with the blog every day: I write a post, edit the post, post the post, put it on facebook, answer queries on facebook connected to the blog, then deal with comments (typically 50 a day) on the blog itself.  If it gets more onerous, I’ll have to go to Plan B.  Whatever that is.  (People have suggested lots of options; so far I’ve been stubborn.)

The reason the comments are increasing is because the blog is growing.  As it turns out, it’s a bit hard to count the people who have joined the blog, because there are some year-long members, some three-month members, some one-month trials, some people who are cancelled but not yet off the blog, and other fuzzy categories that I don’t completely grasp.  But by my count we are up to about 5500 members of one sort or another.

I would like to grow that more and more, of course, since that’s more or less the point, even if it creates certain headaches for me (given the fact that no matter how much I’ve begged and pleaded, I’m still allowed only 1440 minutes in the day and 7 days in the week).  The reason it’s the point is that from my perspective the blog is not only about disseminating knowledge/information about the NT/Jesus/ the history of earliest Christianity/and all related topics (though it certainly is about *that*) but also about raising money for charity.  The more who join, the better!

On the money angle — the part I am most keenly interested in — we have resumed impressive growth after we appeared to have bottomed out in 2016-17.  This year (2017-18) we raised a record $137,000 for charity.  That’s $20,000 more than the year before, roughly a 17% growth rate.  Now *that’s* good.   At this rate we’ll be billionaire contributors before we know it!

I’m always trying to think of ways to increase our revenue in won’t require more time from my end.   One idea that I’ve floated may come back onto the table this coming year — when I have a bit energy for such things during a research fellowship at the National Humanities Center — possibly developing a new multi-tiered membership program, where those who are members now (under the current system) will continue to get all the benefits they have paid for (no change at all) but adding a “sustaining membership” tier or two that might include something extra, for example some form of group contact with me directly on occasion or … something else.  If any ideas occur to you of what that little “extra” might be for people at a premier membership level, do let me know.

You too can help in the blog’s endeavor and goals – not only by continuing to belong to the blog, to read the posts, to make generous (rather than snarky) comments, and by asking whatever genuine questions you have, but also:

  1. Telling family, friends, business associates, neighbors and your congressional representative about the blog, letting them know how great it is, how much worth every one of the few dimes each week it costs, and urging them to join;
  2. Giving gift subscriptions to loved ones and even others who might enjoy having a membership (it’s easy: click “Gift Subscription” on the home page!); and
  3. If you really enjoy the blog, and realize that you’re getting way more for your money than one could reasonably expect, and want to show your appreciation: making a separate donation to the blog (just click Donate!). Any amount is fantastic.  You can do it as a one-time gift or as a recurring gift.  People do both.  Would you be willing to?

Let me close by saying many thanks to everyone on the blog.  Your active, interesting, and engaged involvement makes a huge difference to me and to everyone else.  I appreciate the generosity of so many of the interactions.  There is very little rudeness here (some that I inadvertently let slip – but not much) and that makes this blog both unusual and special.

I’d like to single out for special thanks my assistant Steven Ray who makes the whole thing happen.  He’s been with me from the planning stages well over six years ago and for every step of the way since.  His knowledge, skill, abilities, and commitment are as good as they get, and we both anticipate a long future of fruitful collaboration ahead of us.

Tell me what you like and don’t like about the blog.  If you have any suggestions for the improvement  – any at all to further our goals – please do let me know, either in a comment here (that’s the easiest way) or in a private email.

Best to all as we move into year seven.  And for now, happy anniversary!