A year after launching Peanut Butter & Grace, we reached out to our readers to help us plan for the coming year. Here’s a summary of what they said.
by Jerry Windley-Daoust
It’s been about a year since we launched Gracewatch Media and Peanut Butter & Grace, which seemed like a good time to re-assess how we pursue our mission to help parents raise their kids in the Catholic faith. Besides doing a lot of number crunching (ugh!) of our financials, we wanted to reach out to the 500 people receiving The Bread every week and the 1,500 people following our Facebook page. We wanted to know how you’re using our resources, and what you wanted to see going forward.
We’ve received 40+ responses so far, and although we will keep the survey open for a while longer, we wanted to thank those of you who participated by sharing some of the results. Here’s what we’re hearing.
How do you use The Bread?
The Bread, our free weekly family faith formation resource, takes a substantial chunk of our time to produce, especially when you add in the website articles that go with it. We wanted to know: Does it make sense for us to continue investing so much of our time in these resources? Do people actually use them? Is there any way to streamline these resources?
In the first question, we simply asked how you use The Bread, if at all. About 75% of our respondents said they get The Bread. Of those, about 58 percent skim the e-mail summary, while about 45 percent look at the PDF and/or the web version.
What parts of The Bread do you use?
Next we asked what parts of The Bread respondents use on a regular basis, with a view to streamlining the newsletter to focus on what is most useful. About 60 percent said they use the calendar of saints feast days and Church events; 50 percent said they use the Sunday Scripture preview; about 50 percent also do some of the simple faith-based activity suggestions.
About 50 percent click through to the week’s featured articles, and a surprising (in a good way) 40 percent print out the coloring page. (Teen artist Carly Lobenbofer has been on break but will resume her work later this month.)
Far fewer use the other resources in The Bread, meaning that we will be looking at either dropping or changing features such as Stump the Parents, the point system, Read, Reflect, and Respond, and Our Prayer This Week.
What kinds of articles would you like to see on Peanut Butter & Grace?
The answer to our third question was pretty plain: Are readers are mainly here for simple, straightforward strategies for raising your kids in the faith. We asked them to rank six different kinds of resources; here’s the weighted results:
- Ways to celebrate Church feast days and events (4.35)
- Catholic parenting strategies (4.05)
- Resources for explaining the faith to kids in terms they can understand (3.64)
- Media reviews geared toward Catholic families (3.35)
- Personal essays about Catholic parenting (3.23)
- Inspirational true stories of faith (2.79)
So, over the course of the next year, we’ll try to adjust our editorial focus on the website accordingly.
What kinds of books would you like Peanut Butter & Grace to publish?
Although we’ve got a number of books in process at different stages, we wanted to hear what our readers feel would be most helpful. We had them rank the following choices; here’s where they ended up, when the responses were weighted:
- Quick and easy strategies for practicing the Catholic faith with kids (5.81)
- Catholic children’s picture books (5.5)
- Kids’ fiction with a strong faith dimension (5.35)
- Guides to approaching family issues in the light of faith (4.97)
- Prayer books especially for kids (4.62)
- Inspirational true stories of faith (4.33)
- Catholic themed coloring books (4.11)
- Spirituality for moms and dads (3.59)
If we focus on what readers are most passionate about—that is, if we rank order these options according to the number of first, second, or third place votes—then it looks a little different:
- Catholic children’s picture books
- Quick and easy strategies for practicing the Catholic faith with kids
- Kids’ fiction with a strong faith dimension
- Guides to approaching family issues in the light of faith
- Inspirational true stories of faith
- Catholic themed coloring books
- Prayer books especially for kids
- Spirituality books for moms and dads
Moving forward, we will offer all of these types of books, with the exception of Catholic spirituality books for moms and dads, of which there are already many good titles. We’ll focus on the top four results, though, because those had the strongest responses.
Catholic children’s picture books are a special challenge, however. Illustration and printing costs make picture books very expensive to do…which is why most big houses produce only general interest titles with a wide appeal. The Catholic market is comparatively quite small, which makes the likelihood of recouping up-front expenses difficult. So…we’re trying to find a model to make this work. We have several good manuscripts in hand, but we need to find a way to finance the illustrations.
Would you keep The Bread in a family faith formation binder?
You might have noticed that the PDF version of The Bread includes gray hole punch guides, to make it easier to store them in a binder. None of our respondents actually use The Bread in this way, but 70 percent would consider doing so. We do have ideas about providing a “starter pack” that would go into a binder, and will continue to think about the best way to do this over the coming year.
How can The Bread be changed or improved to help families find simple ways to practice the faith at home?
This question invited a written response. Here’s just a sampling of some of the comments we received:
- “My kids enjoy watching videos about the faith that are engaging more than than sitting and writing or coloring.”
- “More links to reputable sites regarding the faith.”
- Several respondents requested that The Bread go out earlier…like Wednesday. We’ll see whether we can make that happen.
- “Stories of how busy families make time for family faith formation.”
- “Have an app.” (Great idea, if we could pull it off…maybe with a grant.)
- “I think it could be a little shorter with fewer ideas more in depth- there are a lot of features and we maybe only use 2-3 on a given week.” We’re working on redesigning it to be more focused.
What are the ages of your kids?
Two-thirds of you have kids ages 0-6; 59% have kids ages 7-12, and 28 percent have teens. Accordingly, we’re going to try to focus more of our activity suggestions on younger kids.
Do you have any other feedback for us?
We received many generally positive comments (thanks for the words of encouragement!); we won’t reprint all of the praise, but here are some of the more concrete comments and suggestions:
- “I love the look of the PDF version (I look at it online but don’t print it out). I’d love to have more help or links to resources to help ME learn so I can pass down to my kids”
- “We use our printer A LOT, thus, I’ve avoided printing PB&G stuff out. We are also drowning in papers & clutter.”
- “I print out and hang The Bread in a sheet protector at kids’ eye level. I am currently reviewing the readings and saints in passing through the days, and they check it, too. I’d love to talk through the other parts, but meals and gathering times are pretty chaotic.”
- “More ideas for parents of teens.”
- “Of all the stuff out there being published for “Catholic parents” to use, what I have seen of yours is so much closer to my lived experience (doesn’t talk down about the very poor living in North America, doesn’t marginalize them). You seem to be very reflective about your choices.”
- “I love the idea of helping us reintroduce traditional Catholic family practices that we lost (thanks to the Baby Boomers). I used PB&G as a resource to help us make Christmas and Advent special for this year. I refer to the reflections on the Sunday readings to share with my family.”
- “I am betting you guys could do a fantastic job doing a book on Saint stories. Most seem to cover just dates and accomplishments. You guys seem to pick out lovely and important details that highlight something special.”
- “I preferred the old format where all the links where in the body of the email. I’ve had trouble linking to articles in the new format. New format is prettier but I don’t find it as user friendly.”
- “The Binder idea I’m sure is great for some people but I feel I’m drowning in paper & stuff.”
- “Parents need quick tips and things that are easy with little to no prep work.”
- “I’ve had really positive feedback from several people I have shared the Bread with and my kids enjoy checking in with it. I’ve been inconsistent about printing out the sheet versus just checking it online and we are much more consistent with using it when I do print it”
- “I am devouring the Bread! I would love to help in this work of there is ever a need.” There is always a need…if you have a talent for writing, illustrating, or marketing and want to help out, drop us a line!
- “Thank you for the resources you provide! I especially love the St Therese book and the mystery books! Keep it up!!”
We did receive one slightly critical comment:
I was a little disappointed with the Migration Week activities. Are you planning to have children write pro-life letters to President Obama and their Congressional representatives?
The answer to that question is yes, we do talk about abortion as well as other Catholic social teaching issues. Living the Gospel and participating in the Church has social, and therefore political, implications, as the Church clearly teaches. Part of raising kids in the faith is exposing them to those implications and encouraging them to put their faith in action, both one on one and in the wider context of our society. In order to facilitate this, we try to present the whole spectrum of Catholic practice, and the whole spectrum of Catholic social teaching, with the understanding that different families will focus on different areas, depending on their particular circumstances. We rely heavily on the Catechism, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and the policy statements of Pope Francis, the Vatican, and the U.S. Catholic bishops to guide what we present. The suggestion to take action on the migration issue, for instance, came straight from the U.S. Catholic bishops’ action suggestions.
Want to offer your own feedback?
We’ll keep the survey open for the rest of January 2016; you can participate here: Take the survey.
If the survey is closed, please feel free to drop us a line. We read and appreciate every comment!