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Moving LISM from hobby to… something more

Topic / Blogging

TransitionFor more than five years now I’ve been blogging here at Life In Student Ministry and have supported the site’s fees with a few ads and affiliate links. Whenever there was extra income, I saved the surplus in it’s own bank account and used those funds to launch things like the youth ministry mentorship and MinistryQuestions.com. Over the course of the past five years I’ve taken less than $1,000 total for personal use. (For you math whizzes, that’s not even $200/year. Not a great pay rate.)

When I launched the sites new design six months ago I decided to remove most of the advertising because it was important to me that the site look clean and uncluttered. I knew it would cut the site’s revenue, but as long as it still covered the hosting fees, email list service, blogtalkradio subscription, domain registrations, etc., I was fine with that. Money was never my motivation for generating content in the first place.

As soon as I removed the ads my site’s traffic went up instantly by almost 1,000 hits per day because people started clicking through more of my content instead of being distracted to click on the ads and leave my site. The higher level of user engagement was worth the minimal revenue.

As positive as that is, I’m now at a crossroads.

1. My site is just barely breaking even financially. There’s no margin for future growth nor projects to better encourage you all.

2. My time is becoming more and more valuable to me as I now have a 1 year old daughter and a 1 month old son. I need to spend my free time with them and my wife, so when I do post content, the time it takes needs to benefit my family more, especially as my son’s hospital bills start coming in!

So, over the next couple weeks I plan to increase the ads you see on the site, in the RSS feed and in the email subscriptions. I just want to be up-front with you all about what’s going on. I also want to do my best to maintain a clean and uncluttered look, so we’ll see how all this works out.

I’m sure most of you will understand and some will call me a sellout, and I guess I’m prepared for that. We all go through transitions in life and having two little kids at home now means the time I invest into doing my best to bless you all through Life In Student Ministry needs to bless my family more than it has.

Advertising and Speaking Opportunities

If your company or organization would like to advertise here and support me, my family, and Life In Student MInistry, check out the Advertising Opportunities page.

I’m also open to more speaking engagements and consulting opportunities. Income from those streams can definitely bless my family, as well. Contact me if I can be of service to you.

Thank you to everyone who actually reads my stuff, interacts in the comments, tweets my links, shares it on Facebook, watches the videos, and continues our discussions on your own blogs! You guys are awesome! Life In Student Ministry wouldn’t even have the potential to start blessing me and my family if it wasn’t for you all.


Posted on November 4, 2010

  • Ben Kraker

    Sellout!

    Just kidding. Tim, any time you make a decision in favor of your family, you win. Biggest lesson I've been learning. Doug Fields gave an outstanding message at NYWC this year that every youth pastor who has a family absolutely NEEDS to hear. 2 quotes stick out to me still, more than a month later: "Every time you say yes to an additional ministry opportunity, you are saying no to your family." and "Hold your kids more than you hold your cell phone." Those two phrases have become my mantra lately, the sort of words that will likely stick with me for the rest of my life.

    Having 4 kids ages 5 and under (today is my youngest's birthday, so we can officially say we have a 2 year old, 3 year old, 4 year old, and 5 year old!) has basically taken my online presence/blogging/etc. to all-time low. It was hard to let go of blogging, but now, I'm OK with it because by not blogging I have had more time to be with my family.

    I sure miss the interaction and idea-sharing, but when I am home, my attention is on my 4 kids and on my beautiful wife who so graciously stays home with them every day while I'm off at church.

    Family is incredibly important. Do whatever you have to do, no matter the cost, to keep your family a priority.

    I will celebrate the presence of ads knowing this will bless your family!

    • haha! Thanks for the encouragement, Ben! I thought about going the same route you did and letting LISM fade, but my wife and I feel like God has entrusted me with this voice online and that I should continue to be a good manager of it while also being a good manager of the family God has entrusted to me. The best way we figured to reconcile those two is to make LISM financially worth my time. However, I'm not a "sit behind a desk and sell ad space" kinda guy, so we'll see how this goes. Gonna give it a shot anyway.

  • hey brother. i hope the changes work out well for you, your family and the work of the gospel among students around the world.

  • Tim thanks for this wonderful post. But as a friend and student ministry blogger you need to do what you need to do. You have an incredible ministry online and you have been giving stuff away for years. I think your true readers know your heart and intentions and would not call you a "sell out". We are all sell outs. That is the beauty about blogging is that we can work out our philosophy of ministry and life online with a community of other youth workers.

    In my opinion (and I am biased), a bad decision would be to close LISM because it is strapping you financially.

    Bottom line: You love and have a heart for youth workers and that shows regardless if you have google ads on your site.

    In a half serious tone: Joker has this wonderful quote in the movie Batman "The Dark Knight" : The Joker says: If you're good at something, never do it for free.

    • Thanks, Jeremy! Obviously I'm not opposed to doing things for free — I think the mentorship is a perfect example of that. But I'm also learning that I can't do everything for free at this point in my life with the limited time I have and the additional (higher) priorities. Curious to see how the business side of LISM works out.

  • I've actually been wondering how you do it all for free…I'm guessing you don't sleep much?

    Personally, this site is a blessing, and I wouldn't mind more ads. Fact is, ministry is different with a young family, especially if you're committed to loving that family. Before I was married I would never miss youth group for anything but not being in town. Last night, I wasn't there because I visited my daughter's AWANA Puggles group to be the volunteer parent. Could my wife have been the volunteer? Yep. But it's important that our kids don't get the short end of the pastor's stick.

    You're making good choices that bless your family, and that honors God.

    • Thanks for the support, Benjer! And for setting the example for other youth workers!

  • haha! Great! Thanks. :)

  • Tim, I totally enjoy your posts and really do enjoy the ymtalk times. I love learning from and encouraging one another. I've been going through some of those same questions of how much money to spend toward the ministry I'm part of. I'm sure many of us have been there. I understand and most of us do that family is before us, though I'm not sure why (jking). I don't have a family and honestly have no idea how you guys do this with a family. I know there are things that would have to be given up or cut back. I'm thankful for your ministry and will continue to pray as you look toward the road ahead.

    • Thanks for the support, Layton! Definitely appreciate it.

  • Hey Tim

    I can't thank you enough for your giving spirit. when I'm having a not so great day, you make me laugh. When I need a great idea, there it is ready to go. I've worked on a regional And state level with our youth in California and it's all been voluntary. it's been 35 years. I can only imagine how much of your finances and time have gone into thus ministry. I applaud you, pray for you and have no doubt you live and breath youth ministry. Ads or no adds, we love what you're doing. God bless you.

  • I read some of the related links and saw some of the statistics you gathered about people who use your site, and one that surprised you was that you had a large audience of people reading who have been in ministry for 6+ years. I really wasn't surprised by that at all to be honest. You're site is a breath of fresh air in the student ministry world. No matter what you're telling us about (games, technology, theology, character, finances, etc.), your heart for people and to truly do God's will shine through. So many times I read things and it's written in such "cookie-cutter" mindset that it's nearly impossible to apply to my situation. Much of your stuff, however, hits me at the heart and reminds me of what I supposedly already know, but need constant reminders of. I write all of that to say, you have a very valid and much needed voice in the youth ministry world. I never, and I mean never, subscribe to newsletters, etc. Usually the last thing I need is more email and "communication". However a youth pastor friend of mine kept suggesting it, and finally I gave in. I don't regret it at all. You have been a huge encouragement to me and many article, whether written by you or guest bloggers, have been thought provoking and challenged my views to line up with God' Word more than before. Thank you so much for what you do, and I hope that you find the right way to provide for this site and your family. Personally, I'd even be willing to set up a monthly automatic thing thru PayPal for a certain amount (maybe you could let people customize it) and donate to you and your ministry here. Blessings!!!!

    • Wow… thank you so much, Curtis! I'm not sure how to respond to that. What a HUGE encouragement for me, though. This is one of those notes I need to print out and hang on the wall as a reminder sometimes. Thank you so much. Totally needed this today.

      • I'm glad to be able to encourage you lol! It needs to be a 2-way street and I really felt like I should write what I did so… I did! Anyways, I meant it and I'm honored that you were actually able to read it. Let me know if anything comes of that PayPal thing (or whatever method you choose)… Can't say I could do much, but I would like to do something.

        • I've had a paypal donation link up in the sidebar of my site's old design, but took it down with this design because it was never used and I wasn't sure what the perception of that was to first-time visitors at the site. For now, just checking out some of the sponsors and posts when you get a chance is helpful. They decide if they'll keep advertising here based on how much traffic it sends and if it leads to sales and such, ya know?

  • TentBlogger

    i'm surprised at the jump… 1,000 more because people aren't clicking on advertisements? highly doubtful. site traffic doesn't jump because change in advertising strategy. pageviews could be impacted, but on a very limited way.

    love to see your figures.

    • Yeah, pageviews is what increased. No huge spike in uniques, but pageviews increased and bounce rate decreased when I removed Adsense.

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