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“Some assembly required.”
As long as I’ve been able to read, those were always welcome words. I loved to put things together, whether children’s toys, cheap furniture, or Lego bricks. So, it’s probably natural that I enjoyed working with Fellowship Focus. A magazine requires a lot of assembly. There are no instructions, and parts don’t seem to fit, either by topic or length or mood.
Editors usually try to build a loose template, so when a story comes in, they have an idea where it should go. The back cover, and the pages inside the back cover are what people look at first, so you try to put the good stuff there — good stuff like people stories, heartwarming stories.
A few years before I became editor, the Fellowship adopted the vision statement “We will be a fellowship of churches that equips and inspires one another so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed by every member of every church at every opportunity.” This led to a column called “Catch the Vision” on the back cover of each issue. This was a personal interest story about how a reader found an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. We solicited stories from our readers, they responded, and usually we had a pool of stories to choose from.
The centerfold pages are valuable real estate in a magazine because they display a long story or a lot of photos. Each spring the centerfold promoted the annual Connect meetings and the Connect project.
One of the best centerfold stories to run while I was editor was Terry Schultz’s “Too Busy for Outreach” (Jan/Feb 2016). By using a flow chart and hard questions, Mr. Schultz helped us determine whether we were really too busy to talk about Jesus, or whether we were making poor excuses.
My template also reserved the inside cover page for the president’s commentary (“President’s Perspective,” and part of page 3 for the editor’s commentary (“Mindful”). Other pages were loosely reserved for Youth Ministries (“On the Grow”), Women’s Ministries, or missions promotion (“Harvest Notes”). Stories covered how church youth had found a way to minister in their community or how churches were involved in missions. Several pages were reserved for church news and vital statistics.
But then the hard part of assembly began. A missionary letter might suggest an article, like the benefits of teaching English. Church news might mention a new program that might be of interest to our readers. Special events in the lives of our churches — new buildings, new pastors, church anniversaries — suggested articles. A death of a servant of God who had impacted our churches and God’s kingdom required a eulogy. All these stories required work several months in advance: contacting the missionary or church, explaining the topic, and itemizing things that might be included in the article. The results were usually very interesting. Eulogies were developed from FEBC office files and from commendations that had been written to honor long-serving missionaries.
One of my favorite church stories was “Cooking for Dummies,” a class that Salem Church of Waldheim, Saskatchewan, held to meet people from the community, make friends and open doors for the gospel (Jan/Feb 2017). Thank you, Cindy Loewen, for writing that up.
Many miscellaneous short pieces go into every magazine: announcements, church job openings, poems, fillers, etc. Readers would contribute some items, but the editor could always go fishing as well.
Once the pages were roughly assembled, the layout artist fine-tuned the assembly, adding photos, captions, headings, etc. Sometimes that meant a story often had to be revisited and condensed by a few lines or stretched a few lines with a pull quote.
Then the almost-finished magazine was proofread by four or five sets of sharp eyes and corrected by the editor and layout artist. Finally, it was sent to the printer. That last step is now passé. From now on the magazine will go straight to the cloud to be read at your convenience on your phone or tablet.
You, dear reader, are still needed to suggest or write stories for Fellowship Focus. The goals of the magazine are to connect our churches and members, to build them up in Christ, to spur each other to love and good works, to encourage thankfulness as we see what God is doing. What can you write to further those goals? Can you give other churches ideas for ministry? Can you tell the story of what your youth accomplished this summer?
This story is about 800 words long — or at least it will be when the editor gets done with it and rips out all the weeds like “There are” and “We had.” Surely you can write 800 words! You can have one share in producing the Fellowship Focus, in putting it all together. I’m looking forward to reading your story on my tablet.
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The Fellowship Focus is online publication focused on spreading the Good News and keeping our fellowship informed, connected and encouraged.