Fish Hooks: Looking Back and Ahead

It was on Sunday September 13, 2015 that the first printed Fish Hooks article was handed to worshippers at Emmanuel Lutheran, a practice we have continued nearly every Sunday since.  Now, however, it seems the right time for a change.   But before we explain, let’s take a look back.

It all began one evening when a ‘Transition Task Force’ of Emmanuel’s lay members was meeting to discuss Emmanuel’s future.  It was agreed that adult education was one of the major challenges we faced; our worshippers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and cannot be assumed to share a common base of knowledge about the Bible, our Christian faith, our worship practices, or our Lutheran heritage.  One of the members of that task force team had recently retired and thought he might be able to come up with topics and text for short informal articles that could be included in the worship bulletin.  The basic concept was to ‘hook’ the reader with an engaging title/topic and then ‘smuggle in’ some worthwhile knowledge in a bite-sized format.

As people got familiar with reading Fish Hooks, we started to get encouragement to make them available to a wider audience than just our own congregation.  From this came the creation of our website, which each week features on its Home page the same Fish Hooks article that appears in our Sunday bulletin.  The site also includes an Archive of each Sunday’s Fish Hooks since the beginning. and a Listing by Topic.  There is also an About page that briefly describes the project’s background and the people behind it.

Initially visitors to our website were mostly our own members following the weekly link we placed in the eNews, but there were also others (some of whom were probably searching for fishing supplies!)   However, recent years have seen our site traffic increasing in ways that make it clear there is wider interest.   In 2022 we recorded 2017 views by 1493 visitors.  This works out to 4.1 visitors per day, and an average of 1.35 article views per visitor.  Those are certainly not impressive numbers by the standards of ‘popular’ websites, but given that we have made no real effort to optimize site traffic, it is actually quite gratifying.

We don’t have the analytic tools to assess site usage patterns in detail, but it is nonetheless clear that many of our visitors are linking to us from other sites, which we assume are Christian ones.  And it is also gratifying that about 18% of our views originate from outside the United States (61 foreign countries in 2022).  So, Emmanuel’s Fish Hooks are being appreciated by many outside our own congregation. 

We have sometimes asked ourselves: “What kind of content do readers like best?”  The following six accounted for nearly half the views on our website in 2022.  Would you have guessed these?

  1. Fishing with Pickles – 366 views (18% of total)
  2. Sadducees and Pharisees and Scribes (Oh My!) – 156 views (8%)
  3. Holy Cow! (Again) – 137 views (7%)
  4. Top Knot Come Down – 103 views (5%)
  5. Do Jews Read the Same Bible as Christians? – 95 views (5%)
  6. The Priest’s Underpants – 81 views (4%)

Ultimately, 191 Fish Hooks articles have been written and published.  For the first few years, a fresh one was written for each week.  However, as time went on, this pace became unsustainable and previously published Fish Hooks began to be ‘recycled.’   However, by the end of 2022, virtually all our inventory of articles had been published twice.

Looking ahead, a third printing doesn’t seem sensible, so it has been decided to hereafter provide printed copies at Sunday services only when new material is created.  However, weekly featured articles will be continued on the website and links provided in Emmanuel’s eNews.

Our tiny Fish Hooks team has appreciated your readership over the past 7 ¼ years!  And, as always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions.