2013: That Was The Year That Was

Thanks to everyone who read, commented, and shared this year at The Pietist Schoolman!

By most any reckoning, it was a good year at this blog: readership was up over 40% this year, we started a Facebook page, and Jared Burkholder came on board as our regular guest-blogger. Before we enter 2014, a look back at some of our most popular posts and themes in 2013:

Bethel's new logo• I’ll try not to make it a habit of writing open letters, but the one occasioned by pending faculty cuts at Bethel University (#1) smashed my previous record for most page views and ended up being read about six times more than anything else on this blog — and that after I’d previously written on the financial sustainability of Christian colleges as evaluated by Forbes (#2) and the consultants at Bain & Co. (#16). A postscript to the open letter (#8) and a follow-up on “spiritual” stewardship (#9) were also well-read, as was an earlier post on declining financial support for Bethel from its founding denomination (#19).

• Of course, secular and other religious colleges and universities face their own challenges, and share some of ours, so I dedicated a series earlier in the year to sketching the history, decade-by-decade, of the closures of American colleges and universities (#12).

• Hard as it was to weather this kind of season, it also encouraged me to think about why I value Bethel so much: a post sharing one alumna’s appreciation for the Christian liberal arts (#5) and another singling out a few of my colleagues for their contributions (#23) were particular highlights.

• Other popular posts on Christian higher education covered presidential (#7) and faculty pay (#11), the decline of alcohol bans at Bethel and other evangelical schools (#10), and the challenge of ranking such institutions (#13).

• Not long after we enjoyed InterVarsity’s attempt to identify the “Best Christian Book of All Time” through a March Madness-style tournament (#15), we lost one of the best Christian writers of our time: Dallas Willard (#14).

Rachel Held Evans• While I didn’t especially like how Rachel Held Evans attempted to speak on behalf of an entire generation (#3), I did think she was right to criticize fellow evangelicals for being too quick to claim that the Bible makes issues “abundantly clear(#20). (She certainly seemed popular with my readers — she shows up three times on the “most clicked links” list below.)

• Other popular posts on aspects of Christianity apart from those on education… A local megachurch with Bethel connections attempted to bridge the divide between evangelicalism and Anabaptism (#4), I professed myself “almost a Lutheran(#17), and one mainline pastor critiqued the “Spiritual, but Not Religious” movement (#22).

• While I have a feeling that Pietism will reassert its prominence here next year, as we get closer to the publication of our book on Pietism and higher education, only one post on that particular religious tradition cracked our top 25: the announcement of the Covenant Quarterly issue on Pietism guest-edited by Christian Collins Winn and myself (#25).

• Unlike in 2011 and 2012, historical posts were overshadowed by those on education in 2013. Two based on talks given to disparate groups managed to attract good-sized audiences: my call (at the Evangelical Theological Society) for an international/transnational “turn” in the history of evangelicalism (#18) and a version of the presentation I gave to the chaplains corps of the Minnesota Army National Guard on the experiences of their predecessors in the First World War (#24). But my series listing the most over- and under-rated war movies (#21) produced the only historical post on a topic unrelated to Christianity to make the list.

Which reaffirms for me that while I attracted more traffic this year, the audience narrowed a bit while I lost sight of my goal of engaging in something other than scholarship for scholars. In 2014 I want to get back to writing about histories of all sorts for general audiences, and focus somewhat less on topics of greatest interest to fellow Christian scholars.

But before we close the book on 2013, one more Top 25 list: the most-clicked links of the year.

  1. Best Christian Book bracketCollege Financial Grades (Forbes)
  2. The Best Christian Book of All Time Selection Show (Michael Hickerson)
  3. Is Your College Going Broke? (Matt Schifrin)
  4. Why Progressive Christians Should Care About Abortion (Rachel Held Evans)
  5. Can We Learn History in Groups? (Andrew Hartman)
  6. Why millennials are leaving the church (Rachel Held Evans)
  7. Cuts made [at Bethel] to fight for financial health (Sarah Broadwine and Tori Sundholm)
  8. Why Some Evangelical Colleges and Universities Are Struggling Financially — While Other Schools Are Doing Great (Andy Gustafson)
  9. Which Christians Blogs Are You Reading? (Christian Piatt)
  10. Mark Driscoll vs John MacArthur: The Battle of the Self-Promoting Calvinists (Rob Shryock)
  11. Executive Compensation at Private Colleges (Chronicle of Higher Education)
  12. Does Where We Worship Matter? (Abby Stocker)
  13. A U.S. News & World Report College Ranking for the Soul (Ruth Graham)
  14. The Absurd Legalism of Gender Roles, Exhibit C — “As long as I can’t see her…” (Rachel Held Evans)
  15. What’s in a Space? (Nathan Gilmour)
  16. This April fool’s day, learn from the experts (Philip Carter)
  17. The Struggling Seminaries (Libby A. Nelson)
  18. These aren’t the evangelicals you’re looking for (Dennis Sanders)
  19. Your Annual Reminder to Ignore the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings (John Tierney)
  20. Malcolm Gladwell on his return to faith while writing “David and Goliath” (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)
  21. How to keep Millennials in the church? Let’s keep church un-cool (Brett McCracken)
  22. Seeking a tribe, megachurch weighs its Anabaptist options (Kelli Yoder)
  23. Advantages of being an English major (22 Words)
  24. Profound Submission (Tim Krueger)
  25. End Hymnal Wars (John Turner)

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