March 12th marked the sixth birthday of The Religion Teacher. It is hard to believe it has been that long and it’s incredible to think about how far we’ve come.
I remember sitting in the living room of a rented home in South Bend, Indiana six years ago ready to hit the publish button on the first blogpost of The Religion Teacher.
Back then I didn’t really know what a blog was. I knew people had them and marketing podcasts I listened to said it was something everyone should be using. It was free so I thought I would give it a shot.
My wife was seven months pregnant with the first of three daughters. I had A LOT more free time back then so taking on a “blog” didn’t see that far fetched to me.
I had dreams when I hit that publish button.
I wanted to work for a Catholic publisher so I could create better resources for religious educators. When I was a religion teacher, I was fed up with the resources I had available to me. The textbooks had fluff and I felt I had to make everything up myself–using only the student text as our guide. As a volunteer catechist that year, I had that same vision and dream for something better.
I also had dreams of being a speaker and an author. Back then, nobody knew who I was. I had submitted a few articles to Catholic publications, but they weren’t any good and I only got rejection letters. I wanted to speak at Catholic conferences, but I didn’t get much attention there either.
I thought, maybe, that a blog would help me get on the map and maybe land that dream job a few years down the line. Over time, maybe I could even turn the blog into a book. I had no idea what to expect.
So, I started writing blog posts one or two times each week. At first they were bad, I mean real bad. Go back and look at the early stuff. You won’t recognize it. No one was reading it either, except maybe my mom. (Thanks mom!) Post after post and less than ten visits each day.
Over time, though, I started to realize what people really wanted an needed and I shifted my focus to creating practical tools and resources that religious educators grew to love.
Six Years Later. . .
The funny thing about dreams is that you never really expect them to come true. I certainly didn’t and especially not this fast.
Seven months after I started The Religion Teacher, I was hired by a Catholic publisher to work on high school textbooks. I remain with them today as the digital marketing manager.
I’ve been published in all sorts of Catholic publications and magazines.
I regularly give workshops and keynotes at Catholic conferences and events throughout the United States . . . so much so that I’ve had to scale back so I don’t take away too much time from my beloved wife and kids. I still feel strange posing in pictures with people at live events and being asked to sign books.
I’m about to finish my tenth year as an official “religious educator.”
On the fifth birthday of The Religion Teacher, I opened up a membership section of the website that now supports hundreds of catechists, teachers, and groups of parishes and schools.
By the end of this week, the 14,000th person will join The Religion Teacher email list.
In the last year, The Religion Teacher was visited more than 950,000 times by 699,451 people.
To all you dreamers out there:
When God puts a dream in your heart, pay attention. Don’t get upset with failure. Be patient and trust in God’s grace. Act persistently and over time you will have more abundance than you could possibly imagine.
I wake up every morning at 5:00 a.m. to pursue this dream and spend many lunch hours and weekends dedicated to it as well. It is a calling and it requires sacrifices. Thanks be to God that he receives these sacrifices and responds with abundant blessings.
So, what do you do after you achieve above and beyond your personal goals?
You start to think about impact rather than outcomes.
I’ve been blessed with success, but I am certainly not satisfied. Now, it is time to really make an impact on the Church and in the world.
As we begin the seventh year of The Religion Teacher, I’m deepening my focus on connecting people together with tools and training for the new evangelization.
The key words there are “connecting people.” I want to connect with people on a common mission and connect them to one another.
I truly believe that is the only way we are going to make an impact in the world today. That is, by the way, what the Church–the ekklesia–is all about!
I will continue to grow and improve The Religion Teacher membership website. In 2016 my book on evangelization will be released and I will add an additional focus on building a community of people that extends beyond catechetical ministries.
I’m going to personally improve my approach to events, both online and in person, so that I can connect people together in a environment that encourages ideas to be shared.
At the same time, I’m going to continue to dedicate my heart and energy into my vocation as a husband and a father.
A Birthday Giveaway
I’d like to give out six birthday presents to celebrate the sixth birthday of The Religion Teacher. I would like to send out signed copies of my book, 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator, to six people. I will randomly pick the six winners from anyone who completes a brief survey by April 1, 2015.
The contest is closed, but you can still complete the survey!
So, to enter to win a book, fill out The Religion Teacher 2015 survey. (I would love to get your thoughts and feedback!)
(All entries must be in the contiguous United States in order to win a copy of the book. All other entries will receive a different (and digital) resource instead.)
Thanks for sticking with me all these years. I’m looking forward to the many more years ahead!