This is post is to catch you up on the most exciting developments at Equal Rights Institute, where we’re headed next year, and how I’d like you to prayerfully consider partnering with us financially.
Here are some of the highlights from 2017:
We gave 25 speeches to about 4,000 people. That’s more than twice the number of people we spoke to in the previous year, and Tim and I gave these speeches in California, Washington State, Oregon, Arizona, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, and Washington DC! The most encouraging part about giving these talks is the opportunity to meet people who have already benefitted from our work. It’s also great to hear the kinds of things people say who’ve just heard us for the first time. It’s not so much, “you’re a good speaker” but more often comments like “I can’t wait to use that argument with the next pro-choice person I talk to” or “I’ve never thought of nurturing friendships with pro-choice people before, and I’m already thinking of people that I could start doing this with tomorrow!” It’s incredibly meaningful when the impact we have on people is for them to change their lives and become more gracious and persuasive.
This year we made a commitment to become consistent with our blog and podcast publishing, and since then we haven’t missed a deadline. (Well, a single podcast episode went up one day late, but that’s because our team member had a public abortion debate to facilitate on the normal publishing day and a lot of controversy to handle on her campus. That was worth an exception!) We publish our articles every other Friday, our public podcast episodes every Monday, and our longer podcast episodes for the Equipped for Life Course every other Wednesday.
Thanks to a combination of Tim’s excellent writing and our consistency, our blog and podcast numbers continue to grow. Our blog had 35,551 unique readers this year, which is a 69% increase over 2016! This year we have also started influencing the pro-life movement with a new medium: a second podcast, one that is open to the public. We’ve had 11,474 episode downloads between both podcasts this year! While we’ve received good feedback on our “audio blogs” (articles read by the author with some additional commentary) by people who prefer listening to reading, our longer live Q&A sessions have been the most popular. We plan to add more speech audio in the coming months, including the full audio from the amazing conference I did with David Bereit last month!
We’re now seeing great results from the Equipped for Life Course. We currently have 775 people taking the course, including 47 groups of 20 students and six groups of 40 students! But much more important than the numbers is the impact the course is having on the people who take it. Ever since I dreamed up the idea of the course I have said that I don’t want it to merely make pro-life advocates feel more confident, I want it to equip them to actually go talk to pro-choice people more effectively. We very intentionally designed the course toward that end, but we knew there would be no way to know for sure whether we had accomplished our goal until the course had been out for a while.
We now have evidence that the course actually did equip hundreds of people for better conversations. Our first bits of evidence came from club leaders reporting the effect the course was having on their club members. One club leader reported that even their most shy and timid members were begging for weekly outreaches after taking the course!
That was a great sign, but we wanted more They could have felt equipped for outreach without actually being properly equipped for outreach. We only got our best evidence that the course was in fact equipping our students for great conversations in the last few months, when we first sent Jacob Nels to two clubs to do outreach with them. He went to Philadelphia and North Texas to two clubs who had taken the course, and he didn’t do a “refresher” training or Q&A session while he was there. He simply helped them make their outreach display, and then he did outreach with them. He reported that even he was surprised by how well they did. Both clubs were proactive, winsome, and used the material well in conversations. Plus each club saw multiple minds change during the outreach!
The course is already having a wonderful impact in its current form, but we aren’t going to stop there. We are now in preparation to add at least two hours of sidewalk counseling training to the course, based on the many things Jacob Nels has learned every Friday on the sidewalk for the last six years. This module will save lives, because some of what Jacob has learned is unique, and specific sidewalk counseling training is what our course members have asked for the most! So there’s a need and we can fulfill that need in a really helpful way by adding that extension to the course next year. We’re also expanding the course with a more advanced lesson on the philosophical defense of the unborn. Writing, recording, editing and publishing those lessons will be one of our biggest projects of 2018, and I can’t wait to see how God uses them.
We also hit a huge organizational goal in 2017 of becoming roughly income neutral, meaning our monthly donors are being generous enough to cover our monthly fixed costs, a goal we’ve had since the beginning but I wasn’t expecting we’d hit so soon. Praise God!
Lastly, our team is growing. Rachel Crawford is about to finish raising her support and will move to Charlotte in January! We will immediately begin training Rachel in public speaking and she and Tim will begin working on multiple projects within the Philosophy Team that we’re not ready to talk about publicly yet.
We also just hired another philosopher, but we’re not ready to go public with that yet because he’s just beginning to let his close friends and family know, and it’s important for them to hear the news from him and not from our Facebook page or something. (Or else it’s kind of like finding out that your best friend is getting married on Facebook. Not good!)
So our Philosophy Team, led by Tim, will have two additional people in 2018, who will also be working with our new Teaching Fellow, John Ferrer. John has an all-but-dissertation PhD in Philosophy of Religion, an MA in Philosophy of Religion, an MDiv in Apologetics, and a BA in Religion and Communication, and already has a good reputation in the Christian Apologetics community. John’s other commitments preclude him from becoming a full-time staff member, so we’ve created this new category on our team called Teaching Fellows. The ERI Teaching Fellow is a part-time speaker who shares the vision and mission of ERI, and helps expand ERI’s reach and influence by sharing the teaching load. All Teaching Fellows are vetted by our staff to ensure quality, professionalism, and good character. Teaching Fellows also can supplement the expertise of ERI with different skills and specialties (law, counseling, philosophy, science, etc.), further strengthening the depth and ability of ERI to advance the pro-life cause.
I was also able to train multiple new team members to take certain recurring tasks off my plate. Megan Ryser was our very first intern, and she has continued to volunteer several hours a week since her internship ended. She’s primarily doing audio and video editing for us, while another new team member Melody Zimmerman has taken over most of the podcast publishing and distribution tasks. Our newest volunteer Matt Dula is a professional photographer who fell in love with ERI and is volunteering a lot of his time to help us with audio editing, research, and will likely run the recording of the course extension next year. Finally I’m also actively interviewing people for an Executive Assistant job which will really help by getting a lot of administrative tasks off my plate so I can spend more time focusing on what only I can do at ERI.
That brings me to a need that we’ve been putting off for as long as we can, but will need to pull the trigger on in a few months. Because our Charlotte team is growing early next year we’ve outgrown our little home office, so we’re raising the funds for a small office that our team can use to collaborate better. We need to raise $40,000 in new and/or increased donations to pay for it. (As of 12/23, we’re 28% of the way there!)
It’s really exciting to be attracting the level of talent that we’re attracting, but it comes with growing pains. It’s a cool problem to have, but one that we need to get ahead of, so we’re already working with a commercial real estate agent to find a place where our team can flourish.
Your gift will directly help our team to make a greater impact next year. Please take some time to prayerfully consider what you can do with what God has given you to help us train more pro-life advocates to save more lives next year. As always, you can always give at EqualRightsInstitute.com/Donate.
Thank you so much for the prayers and financial support you have already blessed us with. It’s made a real difference, and I truly believe next year will be our best yet. Thanks for taking this journey with us!
Josh Brahm, for the ERI staff