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Editor's Top 10 Tips for Producing A Parish Magazine

Editor’s Top 10 Tips for Producing A Parish Magazine

Lynne McNeilFor anyone taking on the editing of a parish magazine – unless you have some professional experience – it can be a daunting prospect.

Life and Work Editor Lynne McNeil shares her top ten tips to help volunteer parish magazine editors with their task.

1 Check your budget

There is no point gathering colour photos and sourcing design if the parish magazine budget only lends itself to a black and white photocopy. Work within your means and consider asking permission to go bi-monthly or quarterly if financial resources are scarce.

2 Consider your audience

Are you simply serving the existing congregation or is the magazine an outreach tool for the wider community? Knowing who you are serving will help to plan both contents and material.

3 Find out how many times you are expected to publish

If you are expected to publish every month, but no one picks up the magazine in July and August, it might be worth concentrating resources on a bumper issue for September. The magazine might already be quarterly, but it might be more appropriate to be bi-monthly if the material isn’t as up to date as it could be.

4 Plan

Every parish magazine generally has a letter from the minister and some key information. If you have room for further material, check the seasons of the church year and map out what could potentially be included, eg in April or May it might be appropriate to have material about Christian Aid Week – national activities and local activities. June might include some reports or key decisions from the General Assembly. Careful planning means there are not unexpected holes in the publication. It is also helpful to draw a grid of the pages in the magazine and detail what is planned for each so you know how much space you have at any time. If you are planning an article that you fear is contentious, speak to your Kirk Session or Congregational Board and ask for their advice and help.

5 Set realistic deadlines

Don’t expect everyone to deliver material on time. If the magazine is constantly delayed by late submissions, set deadlines earlier. If a professional printer is used, it could cost you more to produce the magazine if you fail to hit your print deadline.

6 Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There are thousands of would-be writers and photographers out there, but there are also many people with graphic design, proofreading and IT skills who might be prepared to help with every issue.

7 Use images and ‘pull quotes’

A page of black and white text does not make inviting reading. While resources may be limited, it should be possible to use even a couple of images throughout the publication. When photographs or images can’t be used, use ‘pull quotes’. This is an interesting sentence or quote from an article which is blown up in size (to fill space), but also crucially to break up text.

8 Use social media and publicity channels

To share news and promote the magazine use the social media and publicity channels available to your church. Dropping a copy off at your local newspaper office will let local media know what you do, even if they don’t use anything from the magazine. Social media is an increasingly popular way of reaching your audience – and finding a new one.

9 Be strict with space

Give word counts for articles – and stick to them. Space can be limited and the magazine can be held up going to the printer if articles are persistently overwritten. The deletion of text is probably one of the biggest sources of annoyance for writers, but if they cannot stick to word counts, it is unavoidable.

10 Use Life and Work

We have a monthly press release for parish magazine editors, which can be sent electronically. We also have a weekly newsletter drawing attention to new material on our website
The Church of Scotland website at and the Mission and Discipleship Council’s are also good sources of information if you find yourself with an unexpected hole in your magazine.