Part 1: When there’s news about “Mennonites” that is not so good

Recently MennoMedia’s marketing director, Ben Penner noticed a huge spike of visitors on our Google Analytics for Third Way Café website on July 7. My mind immediately sorted back through what was in the news about Mennonites at that time? Um … something about Mennonites, Canada, Manitoba, assaults against children?

GoogleAnalyticsTWCJuly2013Screenshot of July stats,Third Way Cafe, with July 7 surge. Doubleclick for larger view.

Yes. A story about more charges in an assault case broke there July 4—and by July 7 (when folks in the U.S. were finally getting back to their computers from the long U.S. holiday weekend, I surmised) perhaps that was what drove the traffic at Third Way Café to its highest peak in six months: over 3,400 visitors in a single day. The previous huge surge was Nov. 12, 2012, which we attributed (almost without a doubt) to the final episode in the Breaking Amish reality TV show series.

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Poster from an earlier stereotype-busting print campaign by Mennonite churches.

Last fall we noted a weekly mini-spike as each episode aired on Sundays from Sept. 9 to Nov. 11. We saw similar mini-spikes each week for Amish Mafia. Is that good? Please share your thoughts and comments if you can attribute the traffic to other “Mennonite/Amish” news/events. We’re open to other interpretation/guesses!

I’ve been following these spikes for years and have reported on them formally and informally in news releases and in “look at this” e-mails to my co-workers. Instead of being happy, though, they make me sad because so many of the happenings that drive people to find out more about Mennonites are tragedies:

Lesser mini spikes occurred after things like

But the reality TV shows featuring Amish lead very often to regular surges every time an episode airs, which is disturbing, but maybe good in another kind of way. Sad that it took a reality TV show to propel people to seek more information, but good that a site like Third Way Café exists. Obviously there are hundreds of sites including all of the agency/institutional sites for our denominations (Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada) but the agenda for agency sites is more about helping the constituency understand, access and interpret agency resources and people, while Third Way Café is more about giving accessible information to the general public: in content, in language used (no Mennonite alphabet soup on the site, I hope), in issues addressed.


Next time we’ll look more in depth at what content most people access first when they do visit Third Way Café.

Check out the book, Ask Third Way Cafe: 50 Common and Quirky Questions about Mennonites, by Jodi Nisly Hertzler, published by Cascadia, 2009.


Melodie Davis
Managing editor




Take a tour of MennoMedia

When I was a kid, it was a big deal to tour BOTH the Mennonite Publishing House in Scottdale, Pa., and Mennonite Broadcasts Inc. in Harrisonburg, Va., when our family from Indiana vacationed in the east. Hey, there were NO theme parks back then. These were the forerunners of today’s MennoMedia agency, which serves both Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada producing faith-based resources.

Today you can tour our U.S. home base without burning any fossil fuel with this quick virtual tour.

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A pull-up sign near the door reminds staff and visitors of the mission of MennoMedia.

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A bulletin board highlights some of the newer resources and news headlines.

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The cover for Shirley Showalter’s memoir, Blush (forthcoming fall 2013), hovers at one stairway. Showalter is a popular blogger and former Goshen College president

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Comedic actor Ted Swartz’s cover for Laughter Is Sacred Space peeks around another corner.

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The amazing story of Dan Terry, ambushed in Afghanistan in 2010, becomes a legacy for new generations through DVD and biography by storyteller Jonathan Larson.

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An efficient warehouse with thousands of curricular materials, periodicals, DVDs, CDs, books, websites, and more move from shelf to packing area and out the door. Even with the more cutting edge stuff we produce and share, it is always foundational to see Martyrs Mirror from 1660 still being purchased and read (or maybe used as booster chairs?) today.

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Visitors can browse the little store by our front desk weekdays 8-4:30, but virtual visitors can shop our store 24-7!

That’s probably enough for today’s tour and we haven’t even introduced the people waiting to create, share, and send you even more resources, but some people are touchy about pictures so I just went with bricks and mortar today.

We also have offices in Waterloo, Ont., and Newton, Kan., as well as a scattering of staff members throughout both countries. There might just be one living and working in your hometown.

What resources can you help us dream up?


Your friendly guide, Melodie Davis, writer/producer and Another Way columnist.