About the Parish Magazine



Starting from scratchIt may well be that there’s no-one else in your community producing any kind of newsletter for circulation in what amounts to a handful of streets, so you're starting with the advantage that people in your parish probably have nothing else as 'local' as your parish magazine.

What's more, if you can put a copy of your magazine through every letterbox in the parish, you may be making the only regular contact with that household - so you need to be sure it's making the best possible impression.

Broadly speaking, you can aim your magazine at regular church members, or additionally at all who feel connected with the church however loosely, or additionally again at the whole community.

If you want to do a good job at whichever one of these options you choose, you need to keep in mind who you're aiming at in order to make sure that's who you're writing for.

- But don't forget that you don't have to have a magazine at all! You may choose to get everything across through a weekly news sheet, or you may combine this with a quarterly magazine - the choice is yours, and your PCC may want to look at the big picture in order to see where a magazine really fits. You may even take the opportunity to have your own section in a community magazine.


  • News is important

Too many magazines are called ‘St Blodwen’s News’ or ‘Newsletter’ - and then push any news to page six or beyond.

The Vicar’s letter might be good enough for the inside front cover (page 2); but the flower rota and the poem by Mrs Whamphray should go after the news, not before it. Page 3 is crucial – as some of our national media realised many years ago.

  • News is all about people

You'll notice that the way into any story in the news is the human interest - whatever is going on, we want to know who is affected and how they feel about it. If someone's climbed a mountain blindfolded and wearing a tutu, we want to know who they are and what are they like! Your best starting point for your parish magazine is to look at interesting stories about church members or people in the community.

  • News is best when it's local

Local to youWe can easily fill our magazine with items from the national news or the church newspapers and programmes - but the one thing we can do that these media can't is reflect what's happening in our own small locality. The BBC knows that at any time, there are more people listening to their local radio stations than are listening to their national stations. Keep it local - tell people what's happening on their own doorstep. The chances are that no-one else in your neighbourhood is doing this.


  • News isn't just about ourselves

Our church may be the only local group with an interest in contacting the entire community. This gives us both a responsibility and an opportunity. Other local groups and organisations may have no other opportunity to publicise themselves, and by offering them a helping hand we're helping to enrich the life of our community.

It's also to our advantage to be able to give a rounded picture of community life with the church's message and events mixed in with everything else. So get out there and see how your magazine can help the Scouts, the sports clubs, the local charities, the community associations and so on - and they will help you too.

On the other hand, if there's a good community magazine already running, don't set up in competition. Just print what the church itself needs - and find out how best to get church news included in the community magazine. Work with what you've got.

  • News isn't just what happens to turn up…

My holiday...Occasionally you'll come across a monthly parish magazine - someone else's, of course - where you'll stumble upon something like "My holiday in Normandy, Part Eight, by E. Flookburgh". This is a sign of an editor who isn't in the driving seat!

If you wait to see what turns up for the magazine, you will have little control over what it finishes up saying about you. It will be dominated by those who acquire a taste for appearing in print, and so might miss whatever the church really wants to be saying to the community or about itself.

Why not plan a few months ahead what you want to go into each issue? What will the church be doing in July? What will the children's groups be doing? What will the house groups be doing? Will there be any major events that month? And who will be the best person to write you something about each of those events? Or should you arrange to spend a few minutes with them going through the details and writing something yourself?

If you aren't hearing about things that are happening, see if you can get onto the circulation list for minutes of meetings - call the Vicar each Monday morning - listen extra-carefully to the church notices - make a point of chasing people after services who can tell you what you need to know.


  • News won't wait - write it yourself…

As suggested above, you'll often find that in order to get the facts you need, written up in the way you want, and (most important!) by the date you want, by writing the piece yourself - it's often less stressful in the long run. Ask the people involved the questions you want answered, and check the draft with them. Remember you're writing as the voice of the magazine or even of the church, so don't let your own identity intrude too much - make sure the story is about the people you want to focus on, and you use as many of their words as you can.

  • News won't need much garnishing

'One night I had that dream... again"If you're making a go of news and views from the church and elsewhere, you should find you have slightly more material each time than you can use.

This means you can choose the odd joke or cartoon to brighten up the layout - but you shouldn't have to resort to using material from other journals, or re-printing 'Footprints in the Sand' yet again! If you're doing all the above but still struggle to fill the space, be bold and cut the number of pages.


  • A few words on style

Thow another prawn on the barby, Blue...Be brief; be straightforward; be cheerful ( when you can be); don’t clog it up with unnecessary detail.

Do say: “There will be a parish barbecue”.

Don’t say: “The social sub-committee of the PCC met in special session at Doris and Jim Scroggs’ house and after due consideration of the wish expressed at last year’s awayday for greater social cohesion within the congregation it was resolved to hold a barbecue at the commencement of the summer season.”

Don’t be afraid to mention God… “Let’s pray for good weather!”




  • We're used to seeing high-quality print

The computer has revolutionised all the print we see - newspapers and magazines, posters, and especially advertising material. More recently, home computers and 'desktop publishing' have made it possible for ordinary people to produce a very polished-looking document in very little time.

Using a small variety of carefully-chosen fonts, with photos, boxes and frames, and a little appropriate clip-art, you too can produce something that will grab the attention more than the old 'scissors and paste to blurry photocopy' product.

This might seem harsh - but we must be realistic. If our magazine looks amateurish, it is simply less likely to be read.

  • If your magazine looks inviting, it reflects well on your church

Why go to all the trouble of producing a magazine if it doesn't look enticing enough to read? We're told not to judge a book by its cover, but we do! The cover mustn't just look nice - it must make the reader want to open it and look inside. Use the cover to flag up items inside: "In this month's issue.". Try not to use the same design for the front each month, or people might assume they've already read it!

  • The Editor's word is final

The EditorYou are the last line of defence before the magazine lands in front of its readers.

This means you have to look at it as if you were one of them - and be prepared to Edit You might need to shorten something that's just too rambling, or doesn't justify the space it's taking up. Ask yourself whether someone who isn't already familiar with the church will understand everything, and be prepared to insert an explanation. For example, if you're reporting that a faculty has been given for re-ordering the church, you should insert "(a Faculty is the church's version of planning permission)", and probably change the phrase "re-ordering" to "changing the internal layout" or something similar.

If push comes to shove, you must have the right not to use something - if it doesn't work as a piece of writing for your parish magazine.

  • Your magazine needs to look clear and uncluttered

It’s so tempting to use a lot of those fonts installed on your computer. But your end result will look better if most of the text in your magazine is in one or maybe two fonts, with another one or two used for headlines and titles. By the time you've used the bold, italic and underlined versions of each, you can achieve a lot of different styles of heading within the small family of fonts you decide to use.

Columns are useful for something that's likely to be read in a hurry - our eyes can follow from the end of one line to the beginning of the next more easily when the lines are short. It gives you more flexibility in the rest of your layout, too.

  • A picture's worth a thousand wordsWorth a thousand words...

If 'news' is primarily about people, we're bound to wonder what they look like.

Again, modern software offers the possibility of inserting pictures to break up and lighten a big chunk of writing too. If you're using a professional printer, all the better - your pictures will reproduce better than on any photocopier. It's worth careful use of clip art and borders or boxes -to help liven up the look of your text too.

  • Help readers to know their way around

Develop a number of regular pieces and give them a recognisable heading. Ideally always keep them in the same order and in the same part of the magazine. This is all part of helping people to feel at home and familiar with your magazine. Flag up some of the key content on the front cover so people have an idea what they’re going to find when they open it.

Take the trouble to make your magazine look appealing - with good design and layout - and you're half way to getting it read.



  • To photocopy, or not to photocopy?

Press your printer for a good deal...If you're producing a magnificent-looking original on your computer, is the parish photocopier doing justice to it? And what about the hard-pressed volunteers who come out to fold and staple it - by the time they've laboured their way through umpteen dozen copies, are they folding straight and stapling in the right place? Pick up one of your finished copies and ask the hard question - does this reflect both the care that went into composing it, and the amount of attention you want your readers to give it?

If the answer is yes, well done to all concerned!

If the answer is no - if the result looks a bit shaggy or the copying is grey and smudgy, perhaps it's time to consider the idea of professional printing.

  • What can a professional printer do for us?

If you decide to go down this route, remember that a professional printer can do a lot more than simple copying. Discuss with them whether there's anything else they can do within your price - extra design features or better reproduction of photographs can help no end.


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