The Parish Magazine|
Reaching out to our local community in a Parish Paper
As a young married couple, my wife and I moved to our first home in Epping, a northern suburb of Sydney, Australia. We were not church attenders in those years, but a lady came to our door and welcomed us to the district and asked whether we would like to receive the local Anglican church magazine. Of course, we said yes, and so each month we received their little publication. I don't know to what extent it contributed to my conversion, but I am sure it was part of the process. We always read their magazine, and although we never attended the church, we somehow felt we belonged to it. It's strange isn't it how something so menial can have such a impact?
Sadly, the "parish pump publication" is not what it was. In the 1950's most churches produced a magazine, today few publish something for wide distribution. Most publications are produced for in-house consumption. It is true that Western society is no longer what Winston Churchill once described as "a Christian civilization." It is also true that the age of print-media is fading in the face of an electronic revolution. Yet, despite these changes, there is still a place for the church magazine. People are inquisitive by nature and love to scan local publications for names, faces, events...., that may intersect with their lives. The vast majority will give it a read to find out what mysteries lie within their local church building. They may never visit it, but they may call it their own.
A local Parish Magazine serves to demystify the church. The activities of the church, the programme, services, organization, etc. are on display for everyone to see. The belief of the church is opened to the local community. As a means of communicating the gospel, there is probably no easier way to get the message into the homes of our local community. A simple short message, easily read, is well able to set a seeker free. We don't have to drag people into a pseudo church service to effectively evangelize them. The gospel is a simple message, empowered by God, and well able to achieve its intended results without us resorting to marketing methodology to get "better" results. People are highly suspicious of special services and door-to-door evangelism. As for gospel tracts, where they may throw away a tract they will give a local church publication a read.
Although the logistics of a monthly publication is now probably beyond a small local congregation, a yearly publication is certainly not. In my last Parish there were 10,000 homes within the parish boundaries. A 16 page A5 black and white publication cost 10 cents per copy to produce, and 5 cents per copy to letterbox drop. It was well worth the $1,500 yearly cost to the church and well within our budget. I can't think of a better way of opening the church to its local community.
The revival of the local church magazine is well overdue. The following pages seek to set out the steps required for a church to "publish or perish."
Producing a Parish PaperIntroduction
A church that wants to get into the marketplace and display its wares will set aims and objectives, assess budget capabilities, form a management and editorial team, opt for a publication format, set the content requirements, source material, assemble the equipment, produce a master, publish and distribute.
Aims and objectives
Management by objectives is one of those business methodologies that moves in and out of favour at the whim of this year's business guru. Still, there is no better way to undertake any project than to determine the ultimate purpose and direction of the project (the aims) and the practical goals necessary to move the project forward (the objectives).
A church will often come up with a number of aims ordered according to importance. For example, the prime aim may be to communicate the gospel. This aim would be met by making sure the gospel is outlined in the publication in different ways. A secondary aim may be to promote the church in the local community. This aim would be met by seeing that the life of the church is well presented in the magazine.
It's important to know where we are going before we set out on the journey.
A publication for wide distribution becomes uneconomical when reproduced on a photocopier. Offset is best for long runs and as few churches own an offset printer it will be necessary to go to a commercial printing house. The advantage is that they will fold and cut to size. Costs can be kept to a minimum by sticking with a black and white publication of minimal size. For printing efficiency a 32 page A5 is best, but a half sheet 16 page A5 is probably a better compromise. With this size stitching is not necessary and this greatly reduces cost. Check with your printer on sheet size as most commercial printers use a paper size that doesn't quite cut to A5. There is waste in the height, but you will lose 8cm on the width. In Australia the cost is about 10 cents per copy. Distribution costs are reduced when church members volunteer to deliver in their area. Areas not covered can be sourced out at a fee. The going rate is about 4 cents per copy.
Whatever form of government a church takes, the ultimate responsibility for the production of the church magazine should remain in the hands of those in authority. They in turn appoint an editorial team that handles the business of production. If the production is yearly it is easy for a draft to be presented to the church wardens/elders/decons... for their approval.
A number of churches have experimented with a newspaper broadsheet format. The trouble is this is not cheep to print and requires multiple pages to look and feel substantial. Remember, newspapers are used line the bottom of the parrot cage the next morning.
The small A5 magazine format is used by many organizations, both religious and secular. People feel comfortable with this style of publication and keep it on their bits and pieces reading table for many days. Although the monograph/tract format is quite traditional, there is really nothing much to better it. Certainly a full size American Letter (AQ) magazine format would be beyond the budget of most churches and difficult to put into people's letter boxes.
The content of a Parish Paper is determined by the aims of the publication. The following are just some possibilities from which to select:
Hopefully, the Minister or the Editor can put a sentence together. For articles, go for quality. Don't hesitate sourcing articles from the internet or print media. If appropriate give due recognition, but at the same time edit, alter or rewrite. I can't see the problem with using material from a brother for eternal purposes. For example, anything from this site can be used to that end anyway you wish. Make it yours and put your own name on it.
The chances are that if you are reading this article on the internet you have all the equipment you need to set up a professional Parish Magazine. A computer capable of working with a reasonable pagination programme, a postscript printer (a laser printer for the master copy, minimum 300dpi), is all that is required.
The text of the selected articles must now be laid out to fit the chosen format, eg. A5. This can only be done effectively with a pagination program such as Page Maker. These are quite expensive programs and it is often worthwhile searching out an alternative. I still use Ready,Set,Go! 4.5, a pagination program now over 10 years old, but it still works well on my iMac under system 9. Get a duplicate from someone, since it is no longer in production. Once text blocks are set for each page of the magazine (eg. 16 pages) with margins, defined fonts, closing lines, page numbers.... you then have a format for the church magazine for subsequent years. It is best to dedicate each page, or double page spread, to a particular topic. Edit articles that are too long rather than carry them over to a page in the back of the magazine.
There are important rules in publication regarding the use of fonts, text blocks, illustrations, and white space. Note the sample A5 magazine page above "...... And now the good news." It seeks to be pleasing to the eye with its use of, balance, page numbers, fonts, illustration..... A magazine can look like a packapoo ticket when too many fonts are used, text rules are abused, illustrations aren't balanced (or even worse, aren't square to the text line) and there is little or too much white space. Publications produced on the early Macintosh computers were noted for using every font in the system, often on just one page. They were just all too busy. Check out articles on this art form. Some manuals for pagination programs give useful pointers. Copy a layout in a commercial magazines which is pleasing to your eye. That's what I did with the sample above. Remember, other than for the "Register" or "Yearly Church Program" which can go down to 6 points, for comfortable reading the font size should be no less than 10 points. Also, a serif style font is easier to read than a sans-serif, so the longer articles should be in a serif style font.
Use good illustrations. Often it is better to stay with the old cut and paste method rather than computer generated images. Just create the space with the page formation programme and stick the illustration in with peelable glue. Photographs need to be scanned print ready. The print house will tell you what resolution they require, e.g. 110dpi. Newsprint usually requires something between 60 and 80 dots per inch. It all depends on the quality of both the paper and the printing press. The printer will arrange this for you. Line drawing illustrations don't need to be screened.
It usually takes a few weeks of solid work putting together and printing off a 16 page A5 magazine. Then comes the checking process. Find someone with a good understanding of english, both grammar and spelling. Computer grammar and spelling checkers don't pick up every mistake. Keep asking, "does it communicate?" This usually takes another week. Then produce the master with a quality laser printer at no less than 300dpi.
As noted above, for a long run it is best to use a commercial printing house. Get to know your local printer and his requirements. It will usually take him well over a week to get onto a long print run. Note that instant print businesses don't always have offset presses. They will often use large photocopiers. This method of printing is not economical for long runs. Get some quotes and compare.
I found the best time to work on the magazine was after Christmas. I usually had it finished late in January and published early in February. It would probably be better if it could be distributed by late January before the church program got underway, but I was never than efficient.
Again, as noted above, it is best to use members of the congregation to cover their street, and surrounding streets. They don't have to deliver them to the householder, rather just pop them into the letterbox. When a new person moves into the street, that's when a personal visit is very effective. A simple welcome and a copy of the Parish Paper is a great way for a church to impact on its local community.
A total house-by-house distribution is the best way to go, unless there is some denominational tension. I was always up-front with the local minister's fraternal about my intention to deliver the Parish Magazine to every house in the Parish, and invited the other clergy to do the same. The more the merrier.
There is debate over whether a Parish Magazine is "Junk Mail". I have always taken the view that it's not, and most people who receive it seem to agree. If there is a complaint, note the person's address and make sure you miss their letter box in years to come.
The church magazine is probably one of the easiest and more effective tools we have of presenting our church to the wider community. It is a tool we should use.
The following sample articles are designed to fit on two A5 pages with 10pt text and space for an illustration.
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