Parish magazines can be fantastic resources that place your church at the heart of the community it serves…or embarrassingly old-fashioned collections of irrelevant articles that confirm people’s preconceptions about church. Many people are likely to read parish magazines without every setting foot inside your church, so it’s a good shop window for you to display the best of what your church gets up to. The book includes lots of advice about finances, aims, content, production and distribution, as well as some sample designs. But the website enables you to see some examples of design in colour.
The Church of the Good Shepherd, Crookhorn serves a council estate, so deliberately went for a tabloid look for its publication. It also decided to produce it only twice a year, getting it printed professionally in red and black and on glossy paper. The content was written specifically with the non-churchgoer in mind (there was a separate newsletter for congregation members), and it was then delivered to every home in that parish. That had more impact than a magazine produced each month that might only have reached a handful of non-churchgoers.
One of the principles discussed in the book is the fact that people love to read stories about other people (not about issues, buildings or abstract subjects). Another principle is that photos of those people should be used as often as possible, as readers like to see what those people look like. And if you can get photos of those people on your front page, as ‘The Hambledonian’ (from St Peter & St Paul, Hambledon) does, so much the better.
Many churches use line drawings of their church buildings on the front page. Line drawings are a little dated, and using images of your building confirms misconceptions that ‘church’ is the building, not the people who worship there.
In many parish magazines, editors seem to lack the confidence to edit articles in order to create well-designed pages. But shorter, punchier articles with larger photos are bound to have more impact. This example, from ‘Empower’, produced by Portsmouth Family Church, shows what can be done with a little imagination.
Then there’s the question of headlines, where editors also seem to lack confidence. If we really believe that Christianity can be life-changing, prayer can work miracles, worship can be inspiring and youth events can be awesome, let’s not be afraid of saying so – in bold, 100-point fonts that can be seen from the other side of the room! Here’s one example from the Pompey Chimes, the newspaper produced by the Anglican Diocese of Portsmouth: