2019 – By the Numbers (Part 2)

2019 – By the Numbers (Part 2)

Social Media Year in Review

 

Last week I wrote what is essentially the “first half” of an overview of last year.  I may still write a “top ten” list of the most read posts from last year, but while last week’s post was mostly about the church, this week’s is more personal.  While I did include some blog statistics in last week’s post, it was only those that related to the weekly posts of the Sunday sermon and, although that is probably the bright spot of this report as well, this post will cover more ground than that.

First, and most strangely, my old blog on Blogger, which I no longer maintain, and which I have clearly labelled as having moved to my new address on WordPress, still gets regular traffic.  It seems that, at some point, I might be forced to either edit every single post with a note about moving or delete that account entirely.  In any case, even though no new content has been posted there in almost four years, it still had considerably more traffic (5814 views) than my new one (3994 views).  This is both humbling, and an illustration of how well Google can push traffic toward its own properties.

Obviously, the traffic on my blog is pitifully small, especially when you read that you can begin to “monetize” your webpage or blog once you reach a benchmark of something like 10,000 visitors per month.  Even so, while the number of visitors to my old page is about half of what it was the year before, the number visitors to the new page nearly doubled.  Specifically, there was an 85 percent increase in visitors from 2018 to 2019 which was only slightly better than the 84 percent increase that we saw from 2017 to 2018.  So, while traffic to this blog is still small, its growth has almost doubled in each of the last two years.  And that, is both encouraging and humbling.

Some of that growth is reflected in the increase in subscribers.  At the beginning of 2019, 70 people subscribed to my blog on WordPress, and at the end of 2019 that number increased to 120.  Separate from that group, there are also two lists of folks who subscribe to blog notifications.  The first receives each week’s Sunday sermon, in its entirety, by email.  That list grew from 141 to 213.  The second list receives email notifications every time that I post a blog (like this one) that is not a Sunday sermon.  That email is usually just a notification that there is a new post and includes a link to that post.  Less impressively, his second subscription list increased from 18 to 24.  I’m not sure which of these is “cause” and which is “effect.”  Did increasing blog traffic drive increased subscriptions, or vice-versa, or did they feed one another?

On Facebook, I have, so far, resisted the call to create a new profile and separate my “public” and my “private” or “personal” life, but I do try to be careful not to accept too many friend requests from total strangers.  As of now, I have 812 Facebook “friends”, but I have no idea how much that might have grown since last year.  Neither do I track the growth of my network on LinkedIn, but again I do try, somewhat, to limit that platform to people that I’ve met in person.  Theoretically, Twitter should be the place where I gather “fans” that I haven’t met, but I probably don’t expend enough effort or focus there, so over the course of the year my follower count dropped from 389 to 371.   The number of people who subscribe to paper copies via snail mail decreased from 7 to 5, and although we haven’t been able to get into a routine of getting videos posted, a few things did and the number of people subscribing to my YouTube channel somehow managed to increase from 3 to 7.

Again, even though what I do online is not anything close to my “main” ministry, we are reaching people through this medium and the results are encouraging.  I hope that your New Year is a bright one.

For all of you you’ve been here all year, and for those of you who are new this year, thank you.  Feel free to comment below and let me know how these messages might have helped you this year, or what topics you might like to see addressed in 2020.  As usual, I’m sure there will be more ideas than time, but even if I don’t get to yours, your suggestions and comments are always welcome.


To read the first installment of this year-end review, click here: 2019 By the Numbers (Part 1).


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2019 – By the Numbers

So now that we’ve turned the calendar to another year, and we are already preparing our “End of Year” reports for the Annual Conference, what do the numbers say about where we’ve been?  And, as is often the case, it depends.  There is always more than one way to look at things and our church is no exception but, at the same time, I think that there are some useful numbers worth examining.

Let’s begin with the number that everyone probably asks about first, attendance.  In 2018 we reported an average worship attendance of 71 in our Charge Conference report.  This year, in June, we reported that number as 78, and by the end of 2019 our average was almost 80 (technically 79.82).  Obviously, that’s a significant improvement but we all know that a church “our size” should, and could, have far more than that on an average week.  Still, we should all be pleased that we’re moving in the right direction.  What’s more, I hope that I’m not the only one who has noticed that we’re beginning to see more visitors, more repeat visitors, and a few more children and all those things are good signs.

But so far, none of those increases that we’ve seen in worship have found their way to Sunday School.  Attendance in our Sunday morning classes was 37 in 2017, 39 in 2018, and almost 39 (actually, 38.94) in 2019.  Even so, that isn’t bad news.  Considering the number of members that we’ve lost in the last three years, holding steady is a solid accomplishment.  Moreover, thirty-nine people in Sunday school and eighty in worship, means that 48 percent of our regular attenders are coming to Sunday school every week.  And whether you know it or not, that is a huge percentage that any church would be proud of.

Our social media presence is also, however slowly, increasing as well.  In January of 2019 our church Facebook page had 199 followers and by January of this year that number had risen to 219.  And, although even while 219 “likes” in the social media world is still tiny, a ten percent increase is still good news.  And during that same time period, the number of people who subscribe to our Sunday sermons increased from 206 to 333.  Of course, just because people subscribe doesn’t mean that they read those messages, and although it’s harder to put specific numbers to online readership, the number of readers has increased substantially as well.  Even more difficult, is trying to understand how any of that contributes to attendance or ministry at our physical location in the real world, but in a era when most people visit your webpage before they visit your church, having a healthy online presence is good news.

And, of course, we have many more programs, mission, and volunteer opportunities going on year-round that are even more difficult to count or number.  Our Thanksgiving dinner partnership delivered more than 1100 turkey dinners on Thanksgiving morning, we had a very successful burger event during Carnation Days in the Park, our church donated far in excess of our pledge to Habitat for Humanity for last  year’s Apostle Build and in the process our volunteers had a highly visible presence at last summer’s weekly concerts by the caboose downtown.  Our scouting program is healthy, growing, and continues to produce Eagle scouts and train the leaders of tomorrow.  But more than that, we now have two scout troops because this year Troop 50 has become Troops 50 as they formed a new all-female Troop 50, for girls and young women, alongside of the existing all-male Troop 50.

There are many more stories that could be told, but it seemed as if this was a year in which we were constantly hearing good news.  While we may not yet be where we would like to be, or perhaps moving as quickly as we might like, we are moving in the right direction.  The numbers affirm what many of us have suspected.  Christ Church is moving in the right direction and I want to thank all of you for all the hard work, in a hundred different places, and in dozens of events, and in countless hours of effort on the part of… well, practically everyone.  I want you to know that you are making a difference.

I’m looking forward to what this new year will bring, and I hope you are too.

Blessings,

Pastor John

 


To see “2019 – By the Numbers (Part 2)” a review of my social media presence in 2019, click here.

 

 

 


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Perspective is Everything

From my Facebook post on New Year’s Eve:

Tonight as we watch the clock count down to the New Year, scientists around the world are watching two spacecraft doing something totally amazing but altogether different.

The New Horizons probe, which just a few years ago took some incredible photographs (and changed planetary science) as it passed Pluto, tonight, just past midnight, passes by Ultima Thule (Ull-tim-a Too-lee), a smallish object (about the size of New York – 20 miles across) in the Kuiper belt. Ultima Thule hadn’t even been discovered when New Horizons launched. Optima Thule is more than 4.1 BILLION miles from earth and a billion miles beyond the orbit of Pluto, so far away that even at the speed of light, radio messages to earth take six HOURS to return to earth. New Horizons is traveling at almost 10 miles per second (32,000 miles per hour) as it speeds by, but the photos and other information that it collects in the next few hours will take more than a year to transmit home. Ultima Thule is the most distant object that humanity has ever been able to study up close.

NASA OSIRIS-RExAnd earlier this evening, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, after a delicate astrophysical dance that lasted for months, has slipped into orbit around asteroid Bennu. While Bennu is “only” 1.2 billion miles away, it has taken OSIRIS-REx over two years to arrive since its launch. But if Ultima Thule is the most distant object we are studying, Bennu, at only 1600 feet wide, is clearly the smallest. And because Bennu is so small, its gravity is similarly weak, making it incredibly difficult to carefully place OSIRIS-REx into orbit. The spacecraft’s orbital speed is only one TENTH of a mile per hour (or five centimeters per second) and it is orbiting only 1.25 miles (2 km) from the center of Bennu. OSIRIS-REx will study Bennu for about a year, and then, around July of 2020, will descend, capture a sample from the surface of Bennu, and return that sample to earth in 2023.

While sometimes the news headlines make us despair for the future of the human race, we often fail to pay attention to those who represent the better part of our nature.

I often wonder what discoveries await us after the return of Jesus Christ when we will have all eternity to explore.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

 


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A Life’s Calling

A Life’s Calling

December 30, 2018*

First Sunday after Christmas

By Pastor John Partridge

 

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26             Luke 2:41-52              Colossians 3:12-17

 

Tomorrow is the last day of the year and Tuesday we celebrate the arrival of a new year.  Many of us will make resolutions, but often those don’t turn out well.  We are filled with good intentions but making a new activity into a habit is a difficult thing.  Gyms tend to be jammed full of new members at the beginning of a new year, but after a few weeks or months, negotiating the parking lots becomes a far more manageable activity.

Despite our failures, our intentions are good.  We’re trying to make a change.  Well-known Christian author C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” And since the beginning of a new year often has us thinking about changing our lives and making a new start, what is it that we should consider changing?  Is there a better way to go about this than simply making resolutions that we don’t keep?

As we consider that question, let’s begin with a small taste of the story of the prophet Samuel that we find in 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26.

18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home

26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.

Samuel was dedicated, by his mother, to the service of God from the time that he was old enough to be weaned from his mother’s breast.  He worked in the service of the priests and his Mom would guess how much he had grown each year and bring him a new robe when they came for the annual sacrifice at Passover.  But the interesting thing is not that he grew physically every year, as long as we eat, we can hardly avoid that.  The interesting thing is that not only did he grow taller (that is, in stature), but he also grew to be a nice person and the people around him grew to like him and trust him.  But we are also told that Samuel grew in favor in the eyes of God.  So, not only did the people like him as he developed physically and mentally, but God’s love of Samuel increased as he grew spiritually.

But one of the reasons that this is interesting isn’t simply that it happened, but that this phrase is used in other places to describe other people.  Specifically, we find it in the story of Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem, at the age of 12, as an adult under Jewish custom. (Luke 2:41-52)

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Jesus and his family, and likely most of his community, travel to Jerusalem for the same reason that Samuel’s family did, to celebrate the Passover.  As an adult, Jesus was able to make his own choices of where to go and when to go there, and so he did not commit a sin by not traveling with the caravan that was heading home.  Even so, as a twelve-year-old boy, adult or not, his mom and dad were not pleased.  But there are two things that I want to highlight.  First, Jesus already knew something about the call that God had on his life and was already pursuing teachers and scholars who could help him to grow spiritually.  Second, the last sentence is almost the same as what we saw in the story of Samuel.  “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”  As Jesus grew physically, he was also growing in wisdom, and not only did the people around him grow to like him, God did as well.

But what about us?  What should we take home from all of this, especially as we prepare to usher in a new year?  First and foremost, we should remember that whether we are seven, or seventeen, or seventy-seven, we can always grow in wisdom and in spiritual maturity.  If it was important for Jesus to seek out teachers and scholars who could help him to grow, then it seems obvious that none of us should ever feel comfortable saying that we know all that there is to know and that we are done learning.  But beyond that, let’s also look at Paul’s advice to the people in the church of Colossae in his letter to the Colossians.  (Colossians 3:12-17)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

As the followers of Jesus Christ, we are to wear compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience as obviously, prominently, and regularly as we wear a shirt or pants.  We are to cut each other some slack when we are less than we could be and forgive each other when we mess up.  And more important than all of these, is to remember to love because it is love that holds the whole package together.  Without love, we can’t really be compassionate, gentle, humble, patient, or truly forgiving. 

Every day we must allow Jesus to rule over our hearts and not get caught up in the materialism, greed, narcissism, hedonism, and all the other -isms that our culture tries to teach us.  And the way that we are to grow in spiritual maturity and love is to keep the story and the teaching of Jesus in the center of everything we do.  Find good Christian teachers, read good Christian books, sing Christian songs, coach one another when we make mistakes so that we stay on the right path, teach one another the lessons that we have learned, and we should do all these things because we are grateful to God for what he has done for us.  And every day, both in words and in actions, give thanks to God for the gift of Jesus Christ.

Our goal in the new year, and every year, should be to be like Samuel and Jesus, and grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and the people around us.  Our calling isn’t just to eat and grow physically.  Our goal isn’t to grow taller, or fatter, or balder, or older, we are going to do those things rather naturally.  Our goal is to grow the way that Samuel and Jesus did, to grow in wisdom, to grow so that the people around you notice your gentleness, compassion, and forgiveness and like being around you.  Our goal is to grow in spiritual maturity so that we continually become more and more like Jesus.  That’s one of the reasons that we need to make it a regular habit to come to church, attend a Bible study, and read scripture because these things aren’t going to happen by themselves any more than we are likely to lose weight and build muscle without exercising or going to the gym.  If we are going to grow spiritually, then we need to exercise and work out, spiritually.

Many of these things are called spiritual disciplines for that very reason.  It will take persistence, patience, practice, and discipline to accomplish.

That isn’t something that we’re going to accomplish in January by making a resolution or two.

That is something that we need to make a part of our regular lifestyle… today, tomorrow, next month, next year, and every year after that.

It is a life’s calling.

 

 

 

 


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online).  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

A Deeper New Year

As we approach the New Year, many in our culture have a tradition of making resolutions.  We make a list of things that we hope to do better or ways in which we hope to improve ourselves.  We resolve to lose weight, go back to school, read that book we always meant to read, exercise more and host of other things.  As we approach this New Year however, I hope you will consider one thing more.
As we enter this New Year, I hope you will join me in deepening our relationship with Jesus.  That may be a new idea for some, you may not really grasp what I am trying to say, and that’s okay, I’ll explain.  Jesus desires to be friends with us at the deepest levels of our heart, he is said to be the friend that sticks closer than a brother and we are, in fact, adopted as brothers and sisters of Jesus.  Too often, our relationship with Jesus looks more like that of a casual acquaintance.  We know who they are, we recognize them on the street and we nod and wave when we see them.  The problem is that Jesus wants more than that.  Jesus wants us to know him, really know him so that we can be “closer than a brother.” 
How well do you know your best friend?  You spend time with them.  You spend a lot of time with them.  You can finish each other’s sentences.  You know what food they like, what makes them happy, or sad, or angry.  Without calling them to ask, you can often tell others just what they will think about a certain subject or how they will react to a particular situation.  Jesus wants us to know him like that.  He doesn’t just want us to know who he is in the way we know a casual acquaintance, but he wants us to have a real, deep, meaningful relationship with him.
But how do we do that?  Obviously, building a relationship like that isn’t something that happens overnight.  You didn’t get to know all about your best friend in a single day, a month, or even a year but spent time, regularly, building your friendship together.  Building your relationship with Jesus will be the same.  It will take time and it will take some commitment.  This year I hope that you will join me in making a commitment to building and deepening your relationship with Jesus.  Spend time in church but also make time to pray, to read the Bible, or attend a Bible study.  Do any or all of these things, do something more than you have done before, and you will begin to know Jesus better.
Jesus wants to be more than the acquaintance that you wave at in church once a week. 
  
         He wants more.    
                      He wants your relationship to go deeper.   
                                         Will you join me in this grand adventure?