Last week I sent out my first ever reader survey. I wanted to get a better idea, as I move forward in this weird, beautiful work of blogging, exactly who you are.
I was floored when, a few days later, I opened it up to see that I had 544 responses. You guys are the best.
I’ve spent the past week sifting through your responses, reading everything. Here’s what I found out about you!
More than 90% of you were female…just under 10% guys. I knew I probably had more female readers than male, but I didn’t expect the split to be so enormous. Interesting.
I love the variety of age groups that are represented on this blog. Particularly in the early days of all of my evangelical angst, I was pretty sure it was just the 90s faith culture that screwed people up….but it turns out that where there is faith, there are people who do it wrong, who abuse it, who turn it on one another, who make it weird.
It’s not encouraging news exactly…but it does, I think, force us to widen our perspective a little bit. Church baggage is not an easy fix. It’s not one single program or one denomination that’s to blame. I can’t pin all of Christianity’s ills on Teen Mania (damn it).
The truth is that we’re all to blame – even the very best of us. We are human. We are broken. We scrape and bump and break each other in the process of our failing and becoming. We unintentionally pile one others arms with our expectations…and it turns into baggage. It’s just part of it.
This is the gap between a Kingdom that is already but not yet, here but not here. And in the whistling heartache of this gap, we have to learn to do the hard work of forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, hope.
(OK. Sorry. That was a really long winded response to the simple “Age Group” question)
It’s pretty well split between those of you who found the blog through my book, another website, and through social media.
I figured Google wasn’t doing me any favors, but now I know. I should probably stop bragging about my SEO skills to my freelancing clients…Woops.
I was surprised to see that most of you find new posts through Facebook. Totally fine…but I did want to make sure that you know that thanks to its weird algorithm, you might be missing stuff. Because FB is starting to try to get professionals and businesses to pay cash money to promote posts, they don’t always show you everything.
If you did want to make sure that you don’t miss anything, you can always sign up in the sidebar over there à to receive my posts delivered right to your inbox. As a bonus, I just moved my RSS feed over to mail chimp, so it looks prettier now.
I appreciate that a lot of you have been here for a while. Many of you stuck with me through that long season in 2015 where I barely wrote at all because I was trying really hard to finish writing a book. Thank you. For those of you who have just found this space recently, WELCOME! I’m so glad you’re here!
You sort of people. I just love you. It’s like the It’s Complicated relationship status on Facebook…and really, who hasn’t been there?!
I also asked “If you do go to a church, what denomination is it?” I asked this just out of sheer curiosity (especially since I started this blog with the title How to Talk Evangelical). Way ahead of the pack here was Nondenominational (113 of you) followed by Baptist (42), Evangelical or E-Free (25), Anglican (17), United Methodist (16) and PCUSA (16). Then it just gets crazy. We represent 63 different church denominations. I didn’t even know there were that many. What in the world?
My favorite part of this question was the caveats you added. Here are a few of my favorite.
Baptist (but I’m not one!)
Baptist – but I don’t consider myself a Baptist!
Church of God? Nope, no idea what that means…
Church of God…but I don’t like it anymore…blech
Evangelical Covenant (I LOVE my church because I now know what it is to finally be free of religion that stifles and suffocates)
It’s a “Bible” church
Vaguely Anabaptist, missional, progressive – no official affiliation
This confirms what I figured: I cannot switch my blog to be about up-cycling old furniture. (I don’t really know how to do that anyway…but it sounds much less emotionally exhausting to write about than faith baggage.)
You still come here, mostly, to feel less alone in your own faith journey…so don’t worry. I’ll keep writing about that.
As for the other topics, you were pretty split. Many of you mentioned that it was the mix of topics that kept you coming back. A slightly higher percentage of you wanted to hear more about topics related mental health and depression and self care. Yes. We’ll keep saying all the honest things about the hard places here. We’ll keep calling to each other in the dark.
Lots of you have read at least one of my books…lots have one or both on your list. Thank you! I did provide a “Not interested, thanks” option, and a few of you used it. Not enough to be like a full knife in my heart. Just a pesky little sliver. (DON’T YOU LOVE ME???) Just kidding. Kind of.
Lots of readers here…which doesn’t surprise me that much as this is a blog (and a kind of long-winded one at that.) I am interested in these other learning styles though because I believe that they are all so valuable. I’m trying to consider ways that I can better make space for those of you whose learning styles lean heavily in other directions. I’ll be working on that over the next few months.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to your faith?
You are caught in between deconstructing your faith and rebuilding it. You still have a lot of trigger words and pain. Many of you feel displaced – too liberal in your changing beliefs and too dark in your creeping doubts to fit in the churches you came from. Not liberal/angry/passionate enough for others. You feel a little bit lost. A little unseen.
You are filled, so often with doubt. Your hearts feel heavy with all the baggage. You want to move toward God but you don’t know how. Sometimes, the whole thing bores you. Sometimes it terrifies you. Sometimes you don’t know how to believe in any of it at all.
You feel lonely. You feel alone.
544 survey responses say that you are not.
You, my dear readers, are not crazy. You’re honest. You’re noticing. You’re responding to your own faith shift by leaning into it instead of ignoring it. Instead of either cranking up the Christian radio or tossing it all in the garbage.
This is hard work. This is important, necessary, becoming work.
I am so honored that you are here, doing it in this space with me.
What topics related to faith do you wish people were talking about more?
I suppose this was a bit of a redundant question to the one before. At least I got many overlapping answers. But also – this different phrasing stirred some different responses. Where one of your biggest struggles was feeling like you don’t fit, like you don’t believe the same things as most churches and feeling alone and angry when people don’t understand you…the faith topic you wanted to hear about wasn’t really that. It was about how do we create safe spaces of unity, when we don’t necessarily agree with each other? How do we make room? How do we love and listen and make space at the table?
While one of your major struggles was not connecting at church…no one said that the topic that they most wanted to hear about how much church sucks. Instead, you wanted ideas for how. How do we cultivate faith community? How do we live in radical empathy with one another? How do we listen and love well?
You struggle, many of you, with doubt. And you want to hear more about doubt – its normalcy, its inevitability. You want to know that other people are living with doubt too…but you also wanted to hear about how to live in that tension. How to, as one reader so beautifully said, “move through [your doubts] and into something deeper.”
I love this. I love that, you, dear readers, are authentic about your struggles and willing to admit them, to speak them out loud…but that, somehow, at the same time, your eyes are turned toward healing.
Reading your struggles, I felt so heavy and so sad. I’m sad for the church and for the world and for all of our heavy broken hearts. For the mess we’ve made of this faith life. For the ways we hurt each other, the ways we continue to alienate and bruise one another.
But then, I read your lists of faith topics, and they weren’t necessarily optimistic, but they felt to me like open hands, waiting. They felt like that first moment at the end of winter when you see just a small bit of the earth, cracking open.
Reading them filled me up like a balloon with something light and unnamable. Something a little bit like hope.
What resource would you love to see offered on this blog?
I think this section might have been the most helpful for me. There are projects I’ve been thinking about tackling, and it was interesting and inspiring to see where those ideas aligned with your felt needs.
Many of you wanted a central book and resource list – an easy place to view book and blog recommendations related, particularly, to faith – but also to other things (writing, depression, great fiction, etc.) I can definitely do that and will work on getting that up in the next few weeks.
You are looking for help moving forward. A hand up. Some idea of how to move back toward God. Many of you wanted some kind of workbook/study guide/”Bible study” to work through as you do this work of deconstruction/reconstruction…and I have big ideas about this. Stay tuned.
Lots of you wanted podcasts, and while I make no promises at this point, I have thought about it. Some of you wanted vlogs (gulp). A lot of you wanted a way to connect with one another – a space to discuss and dissect and encourage and invite. It’s a great idea – one I hadn’t considered before, and I will be thinking and praying about ways that I can help make that a reality.
There were a handful of you who wanted info about parenting info. I told this to my Mama Friend and we looked at each other and blinked and then burst into laughter because we have had to say things to our children like, “We don’t pee on our friends!” Because I can’t get either of my kids to try new food. Because my youngest recently suggested that we name the goldfish “bitch.“ (Thanks school bus!)
I get it though. I want resources too. Parenting from the unsteady ground of a shifting faith is daunting, tough work. I know that these conversations are happening though, and I will be on the lookout for helpful links to offer in this space, even when I don’t feel able to tackle those topics myself.
(Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of the blog Unfundamentalist Parenting by Cindy Brandt. It’s a great one.)
One of you wants surprise gifts. Me too, reader friend. Me too. Why don’t more people give us surprise gifts?
Anything else you want me to know?
Your comments here were so generous. I read every single one of them, and then I saved them in a word document that I will, I know, go back to again and again. (It’s the 21st century version of Mary storing all these things up in her heart.)
Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for doing this hard work with me. I cannot tell you how grateful I am.