This week marked the six-year anniversary of the launch of Equal Rights Institute!
I failed to make a five-year anniversary post happen last year because it was right around the time of Tim’s transition out of ministry, and there was just too much going on. My apologies! If you want to know our main accomplishments during that time, this PDF covers our main accomplishments of 2018 and this post covers 2019.
I’ve already updated our GuideStar profile this year, earning their platinum rating for the second year in a row, the highest rating a non-profit can attain by being transparent about our goals and metrics.
In the last year we spoke to 2,459 people in 31 speeches and two all-day seminars, representing a 69% decrease in how many people we spoke to in the last year. That’s a big decrease and even surprised me when I saw the numbers, so reviewing the data from the last few years, here are the main factors that I think contributed to that:
- COVID-19 has had a negative effect on our speaking. Several talks were canceled because of that.
- When we lost Tim last year, we went from having three speakers to only two. We got a ton of speaking done last spring when Tim and I were both available to speak in different parts of the country simultaneously.
- Our average audience size spread across the year is roughly the same in the last two years, so it’s not that we’re speaking to smaller audiences. It’s almost entirely that we’re doing fewer speeches and trips than we did before. Our staff agreed last year that I should do fewer speaking trips to help us focus on finishing some of our big projects like the advanced module to the Equipped for Life Course, the Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass, and the Equipped for Life Podcast relaunch. In the last year, I did eight out-of-town speaking trips, while in the previous year I did 10 and Tim four on top of that. So our out-of-town speaking was cut roughly in half, and that’s a combination of losing Tim and me accepting fewer gigs.
- One of our talks in 2018 skew the numbers a bit because it happened at a megachurch.
We also published 19 new articles to our blog which were read by 40,344 people, a 10% decrease from last year, but that’s just because we published five fewer articles this year than we did last year.
In the last year we relaunched the Equipped for Life Podcast, which used to be for Equipped for Life Course members only. This was a huge project, and we ultimately republished 38 previously recorded episodes that are now edited for the public podcast feed, knowing that some listeners won’t already have access to the Equipped for Life Course. Once we’d finished that project in March of this year, we could focus on creating new episodes. We’ve published eight new episodes of that podcast in the last three months. In the last year we also posted five new speech audios and discussions to the separate ERI Podcast Feed. You can subscribe to both podcasts here.
We also have turned a lot more attention to creating videos for our YouTube channel. We’ve published 41 videos in the last year, not counting podcast episodes which we also publish to our YouTube channel now. Those videos have 21,442 views cumulatively.
Here are a few of my favorite memories from the last year:
Speaking in Ireland
It was truly an honor to give several talks across Ireland. This trip reaffirmed something I learned during my speaking trip in Denmark in 2018: ERI’s approach to dialogue skills and pro-life apologetics is particularly needed in countries where the culture has turned against the pro-life movement. Given what the leaders from Denmark, Ireland, and Scotland have said about the benefit of our training materials in their countries, I’m planning on pursuing more international trips, obviously after the COVID-19 situation has improved. I even hope to influence countries where abortion is not yet legal. What if we were able to help prevent abortion from becoming legal in some places?
Doing outreach alongside the St. Olaf Students for Life club
My favorite story from last year was my impromptu visit with a pro-life club at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. I had some extra time before a seminar so we reached out to the club and asked if they’d like me to do outreach and a Q&A with them. They quickly agreed and we made arrangements. As we began the outreach I had a very surreal experience of listening to three simultaneous dialogues around me between the club members and pro-choice students, feeling like I was standing in a hall of mirrors. It felt like I was surrounded by ERI staff because they were using different ERI arguments and talking points, down to the exact vocabulary we use in the Equipped for Life Course!
During lunch that day, Emily, one of the co-presidents, told me how ERI has transformed her club and the campus. It started when a local pregnancy center gifted them the Equipped for Life Course. After completing the training, the club decided to host frequent dialogue-oriented outreaches. Since then their club has grown exponentially and the campus culture has changed. Many pro-choice people have become pro-life, many students who are still pro-choice have begun to defend the pro-life club, and the administration is far more responsive to the club when vandalism happens against their displays.
One pro-choice student “Anna” asked to interview Emily six-weeks after they had a conversation about abortion, saying, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the argument you made.” After more discussion during the interview Anna sat back in her chair and said, “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think I have to become pro-life! I can’t think of a single response to anything you’ve said today.”
The students told me that none of this would have been possible without the ERI’s training. They’ve even created a new role for their co-president Joshua who calls other pro-life college clubs to testify to the power of the Equipped for Life course and tries to convince them to get our training! When asked why, Emily explained, “We want as many people as possible to know about this course and the impact it has had on us because this is a bigger issue than just our campus and we want to make an impact all around the country and all around the world and we really believe that the Equal Rights Institute has the tools to help people do that.”
I got so excited about their club that, thanks to a friendly administrator helping us borrow the necessary equipment, shot a video the next day about their story. You can watch it below:
Shooting the animated Equal Rights Argument with CareNet
Rachel Crawford did a great job of translating the Equal Rights Argument into a script for a PragerU-style video for CareNet. In turn, CareNet did a great job animating the video, and it is definitely the best video yet explaining the argument that we’ve seen change more pro-choice minds than any other! If you haven’t watched it yet, stop reading and watch it below!
Relaunching the Equipped for Life podcast with Rachel
It was a huge project, but after porting 38 of the course podcasts to a public podcast feed, we began producing new episodes. Rachel has been a great co-host, and here are my favorite episodes we’ve produced together since the relaunch:
- Our Take on the “AKA Jane Roe” Documentary
- What New Research Tells Us About Persuasion
- Learn from Mississippi’s Mistakes: How to Prevent Buffer-Zone Laws
Interviewing Isaac Saul from Tangle
While Rachel wasn’t involved in this particular podcast, it’s one of my favorite podcasts we’ve made at ERI. Isaac Saul is fascinating and getting his take on the media and avoiding confirmation bias was a joy.
Clicking render on the final Sidewalk Counseling Masterclass edits
This course was a bigger project that we initially thought when we began it, but I’m so proud of the final result. It was truly a great collaboration between Jacob’s experiences and story-telling, our philosophy team creating content and outlines from Jacob’s stories to make his style of sidewalk counseling more replicable, while I focused on researching what video equipment we needed to purchase to produce the course, as well as how to use it. After I made the final edits on several of the videos and clicked the “render” button on them, I knew that we were finally done creating what I believe to be the best training course on sidewalk counseling in existence.
Filming the philosophy extension for the Equipped for Life Course
After spending a few years working through the philosophical literature on personhood and then adding to it with some original (and really impressive) work, our philosophy team was finally ready to shoot an extension to the Equipped for Life Course that we have been literally planning since we first launched it! This was a huge accomplishment for Rachel who demonstrated her project management skills in getting the project to the finish line. It was also really impressive to see Andrew prove that, while he’s a fairly introverted person, he can still perform on camera. Another great collaboration for our team!
Starting the “Apologist Reacts” series
Making these videos was literally a passion project for me. From gathering clips for the series, to filming the first three episodes, to filming b-roll for the title sequence, to adding more clip ideas from the viewers, this project has been a joy from beginning to end. I’m planning on shooting at least three more episodes next week, including several episodes featuring debates between characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.
If you haven’t seen these yet, I’ve embedded the playlist below:
Our annual staff planning meeting
Once a year our staff spends 2-3 days in a conference room with a markerboard to consider our accomplishments from the last year, what hasn’t been done yet, and setting goals and plans for what we hope to accomplish in the next year.
This last session included a very important discussion about how to better decide when to start new big projects that will help us accomplish our goals better moving forward. I’m so proud of this team, and we wouldn’t be creating so much pro-life training content without them!
Thank you so much for your support that made all of this possible.
Here’s to another great year! I have lots of plans for the next 12 months to help more pro-life advocates to think clearly, reason honestly, and argue persuasively.