Well, it’s 2016 now, and that means a new year, and new goals and ambitions for our ministry. I have some ideas, and I thought I’d write a quick post to let everyone know what I’m thinking.
Because this year I shifted some things about the blog, that you might have noticed. Firstly, I stopped thinking of it as just a blog. I tend to refer to it more as our ministry now, instead of just our blog. That may seem like a simple shift, but it’s a fairly monument one, because of the implications. A blog is often a hobby, just a place to write, something you do in your spare time, something that can get set on the back burner if need be. It’s not something you really worry about.
But a ministry is something else entirely. A ministry needs planning, it needs caring. It needs dedication. Because a ministry is doing work for God, and in as much as we are all supposed to do everything we do as if for God, a ministry still tends to hold a special place in our minds. It gets a little more attention, a little more dedication, a little more structure. At least, in my mind it does. When I look at the early church in the Bible, you can see when it shifted from a bunch of guys excited about Jesus and telling everyone to a group that had a ministry. They started getting organized, they started planning.
And in the last year, I’ve been making small efforts to step in that direction. Small, mostly because I don’t know what I’m doing. But also, because there’s one more thing a ministry generally needs to keep going, and that’s funding, especially as it continues to grow, as we have been.
Every month we have hard expenses to keep this ministry going, some of which include
- Web hosting
- Email hosting
- Mailing list hosting
- Podcast hosting
And while they’re all small costs, they add up, and in 2014, it wasn’t a problem, because I had a fairly cushy full time contract, and I could afford to foot the bill for this expanding ministry. But, in November of 2014, things changed. My client sold his company, and the new owners … well, they destroyed it. I won’t go into details, but essentially right before I left on my mission trip, they let me know that when I returned, I would have no work (not the best timing), and since I’m contracted, there’s no unemployment insurance. Let that be a lesson to those of you who are small business owners: don’t rely on a single client for the majority of your income.
So, 2015 has been a real struggle for us financially. Since I’m the sole income earner in our family, and 95% of it disappeared, well, you can imagine how that hurts your budget. Thankfully, God saw us through, and while we’re not exactly doing well yet, we’ve always had food on the table and a roof over our heads.
As well in 2015, I’ve been trying to make a decision. Do I go and find a “real job”, where my family can be comfortable financially, but I’ll basically be a “weekend dad”, and this ministry would probably due to a lack of time. Or, do I see if I can turn it into something that can help support us, along with my other business, so that I can continue to dedicate the time I want, the time I believe this ministry needs, so that I can continue to feed my family, as well as see them throughout the week.
And that is a very difficult decision to make. I mean, given the choice I would do this full time. But the fact is, with the small amount of income we take in on the blog, I make an estimated $2 an hour in this ministry (with product sales, affiliate commissions, coaching, everything), which is impossible to feed a family of 7 on. Compare this to getting a “real job” where my experience and knowledge could probably net me a $70/hr+ job full time as a senior software engineer with likely a department under me, which, plus commute, would mean I’d be lucky to write a post every week or two, and I’d have to drop the podcast, close my coaching practice, and no more time to building courses or all the other things I want to do to help people.
But, the outside pressure to get a “real job” is immense. Thankfully, Christina has been very supportive, or else I think I would have caved a long time ago, and this ministry would have died.
So, 2015 was a bit of a test, to see if it’s actually possible to have an online ministry that can have a viable income, or at least part of one, as I can supplement with some of my software engineering projects, but as I’m rebuilding my company, they still aren’t steady or numerous. For example, this year our total income was about 1/4 of the previous year. It’s honestly been a little scary at times.
But, in all honesty, and in an effort to be transparent, the blog has been providing some small income. As I said, not much ($2/hour or so the last 3 months), but not nothing. Enough to pay for our groceries for a week and a half, which isn’t insubstantial. So, I’m going to try and make a run of this. To see if we can manage another year drawing income from this ministry as well as my other business, but in order to do that I know I’m going to have to step it up. So, here’s my plan, so hopefully people can hold me accountable to it, so I can continue to serve:
1.5 Million Views – First and foremost, I want to help more people, and I know that 99% of the time, I don’t get any feedback at all. But, that doesn’t mean they aren’t being helped. Now, views doesn’t necessarily equate to people being helped, but it’s the best proxy I have. This year we had 1,000,000 page views, and next year I want to increase that by 50%. Not a small goal. In order to do that I plan to:
- Write a minimum of 3 posts per week (that’s at least 156 posts in the next year)
- One podcast episode
- One series post (like the marriage challenges)
- One anonymous question (hopefully I get enough questions to do this)
I’m also going to try and create at least one ‘pinnable’ image per post for those who use pinterest, to make it easier to share and spread the word about the sex-positive Christian community we have here
I’m also thinking about creating some sort of anonymous referral program, because a lot of people are asking “How can I tell my friend about this without her knowing it’s me?” So, I’m going to try and come up with a method to do just that. Perhaps a short e-book that could be sent, via our site, so that it can’t be traced back to you, but would give them a bit of information about what they can find here, as well as some posts that are … easier to digest.
I’ve also reformatted the home page to try and make it clearer about the various different content we have. I’d love to know what people think of it in the comments below.
I also want to increase Facebook interaction, if possible, but I don’t have a solid plan for that yet, but one of the marriage challenges will be to share the blog with someone (be it on Facebook or any other method). I’m curious to see how many will have the courage to do that. Don’t worry, I’ll write an appropriate post to make the sharing easier.
I want to increase the effectiveness of our mailing list – Actually, our mailing list does quite well. About 40% of our emails are opened, which is really good according to industry standards. About 15% of the emails actually cause people to visit the site, which is well above industry standards as well. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t improve.
I’ve been a bit dissatisfied lately with how the mailing list is working. It keeps sending emails a day late, sometimes 3 days late, and that’s irritating me. So, I think I’m going to try a different approach. Right now our mail service (Mail Chimp) automatically sends an email with each post. They’re very impersonal and it simply grabs an excerpt from the post and sends it.
So, this year, starting next week, I’m going to turn off the automated service and write a weekly email every Friday letting you know what the challenge is, what the podcast episode was about, what question was answered, and any other items of importance. I’m hoping that if I send fewer emails, they will be more valued, and I won’t be spamming you will an email every day. Plus, they’ll be nicer, hand written emails, instead of automated form emails.
By the end of 2016, I want to see the ministry generating 1000 USD each month – That’s a big scary goal for me. Mostly, because I find it hard to ask for money, regardless of the context. If I could, I would work all my life for free, so long as someone would provide food and shelter to me and my family, and the tools so that I can be effective, then I’d be content. I honestly live to serve. But, that doesn’t mean it’s good that I’m afraid to ask for money. I think it’s probably a sin of pride in some way. And I know all the things people say about people valuing things they pay for, or that they support. I know the verses like “A worker is worthy of their wages” (1 Timothy 5:18), but I still have difficulty asking. I hate when I have to send bills to my business clients, and those are people who have upfront agreed to pay the amount. Doing sales is absolutely brutal for me.
It’s also scary, because if I can’t manage it, if it takes in little to no income, then it means it’s not possible, or at least not possible for me at this time, and then I will have to make some very difficult decisions. I’m hoping the survival of the ministry resting on my actions in this area will give me the courage to chase this goal.
As a first step, I created a Donations page where you can give a one time gift, or a recurring one, because, in all honesty, people do sometimes send us a gift as a thank you, in appreciation of something they’ve learned, or to help support us (for which we are grateful beyond words, you have no idea), and others might wish to do so, but don’t know how. So, in all humility, I submit that that page is an option. I’m also going to adding a link to donate at the bottom of posts and in my emails when answering people’s questions. Absolutely no obligation to use it, but if you feel moved to, we’ll be grateful for your gratitude 🙂
I’m also going to be doing more “sales” type things, but only with things I believe are of value. I refuse to sell garbage. So, I want to create more premium content, like our course for wives to learn to be more sexually engaged. Every wife who has gone through it has sent me such amazing feedback about how it has changed their marriage, but also their personal life. I’m humbly proud (if that’s a thing) to have been able to be the instrument for such a change. People keep telling me it should cost more…but I just can’t bring myself to raise the price. In fact, I keep running sales…like I said, I hate asking for money.
But, I want to create more courses like that. I have at least 2 planned for men, that I hope I can do this year. I also want to run some webinars to give a taste of what the courses are like. I have a presentation already created for Becoming more sexually engaged that goes through a unit of the program, and I’m going to share it free for anyone who shows up. If people like what they see, perhaps they’ll be interested in the rest of the course. If not, I am convinced that even that one unit will help just about any wife with struggles in that area, so it’s not wasted time. So, stay tuned for those. I hope to run one webinar in January at least, which means I have to pick a date soon.
So, those are my goals for 2016, my plans for our ministry. I’m hoping Christina will get back to contributing one day, perhaps this year sometime, but right now she just doesn’t have the energy. Our youngest is … well, he doesn’t sleep well, and that’s harder on my wife than I, both because I can’t breastfeed him, and because she requires more sleep than I do in general. But, hopefully he’ll learn to sleep, and she’ll have the energy to write some posts with me, because people keep asking for her input. But, until then, I’ll be here every week, writing posts, recording and editing podcasts, creating courses, delivering webinars, answering emails and offering coaching wherever it is needed, because at the end of it all … I love this ministry, and I don’t want to be doing anything else.