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Parish Magazine Guidelines

Parish Magazine Guidelines

Parish magazines are an invaluable opportunity for churches to forge connections with their local area, providing updates and news from the church and the wider community. But although magazine editors may reach a much wider audience than the church minister, the same level of resources are not always available. We hope that these guidelines will be useful for parishes looking to set up magazines or make changes to an existing parish magazine. 

Getting Started 

Building Your Editorial Team 

Whether you’re taking over the editor’s role for your parish magazine or planning to start a new publication for your parish, chances are you’ll want to put your own editorial spin on the magazine. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be the only person involved – a successful magazine tends to be the creation of a team working together.  

So, when taking up the editorial role of a parish magazine, it’s important to build a team around you.  Encourage representatives from organisations within your community to provide you with their news. Ask members of your congregation and local community for articles – be proactive. 

Agreeing Your Aims 

Some church magazines have a written constitution which defines their aims and objectives, though not all editorial teams feel the necessity for such formalities. After all, things can happen suddenly in the community and the editorial function needs to be flexible to capture the news.  

However, the purposes of the magazine should be discussed regularly, even if informally, with the incumbent, senior church members, church leaders, the church council and members of the congregation. They will undoubtedly all have ideas and these need to be brought into your discussions on the purpose of your magazine and its target audience.  

It can be sensible to keep written notes about your defined purposes, in case there are differences of opinion further down the line. Such groundwork will also be relevant as the ambitions for your publication grow and develop. 

When defining your objectives, most church magazines should aim to provide a:   

  • Regular expression of your church’s Christian presence and witness to the neighbourhood  
  • Reflection of the social life of the local Christian community 
  • Reflection of Christian beliefs on various issues  
  • Timetable of events at your church, along with the times and venues 

Building On Your Current Magazine  

If you want to build on your current parish magazine, a good place to start is to take a good look at what you have at present. This involves a simple audit that will help you decide: 

  • Who are your present readers?   
  • Are your readers just the members of your church?  
  • Does your readership include members of the wider local community?  
  • Who would you like your readership to be?    
  • Does your current magazine give your readers what they need?   

The majority of the editorial decisions you make about your magazine will depend on your answers to these questions.   

Audit Your Present Magazine   

What have you got in your current magazine? Take a look at the last few issues and list all the different types of items you find. Then consider how many of the articles are just of interest to your parishioners, and how many items interest your community too. Your findings will help you decide if your current magazine fulfils the role you have in mind for it. 

Conduct a Simple Survey   

Next, it can be helpful to organise an anonymous survey of your current magazine. This will give you an idea of what people really think! Whatever the results, don’t be discouraged. Your findings will be crucial when you come to plan your future issues. 

Producing Your Parish Magazine 

Every printed parish magazine begins with a production schedule – the dates by which everything must be commissioned, sent in, edited, printed and distributed. So, it’s a good idea, at the start of each year, to get out your diary and plan your production schedule.   

For example, if your magazine is printed and distributed in the fourth week of the month, in the first week you’ll need to ask people to write articles for the magazine. By the end of the second week of the month, all copy must be with the editor. Throughout the third week, your magazine editor can prepare the magazine for production. 

Your Church and Community Diary 

It’s essential to keep an eye on your church’s diary for your parish magazine. Find out what meetings and events are being planned, and commission someone to write about them well ahead of time. Give them their deadlines, based on your production schedule. 

You should also keep an eye on local events, such as by visiting your local Tourist Information Office. Try to include a ‘What’s On’ page in your magazine where these events can be given a mention.  

Monthly Magazine Issues 

With any national newspaper, the material on offer will follow a certain format. The front page will have lead stories, and throughout the paper there will be home news, foreign news pages, features, and reviews.  

With this in mind, you may want to do something similar for your magazine. Create a mock-up that you can refer to each month, to help you keep to a certain format and make the magazine feel familiar to its readers. 

What to Include in Your Parish Magazine 

As a parish magazine editor, everything that happens in your church community and many things from your local community can be used. But how should you present this material? It can be useful to separate your content into categories, such as: 

  • Looking at God – articles that help people learn more about God and what the Bible teaches on certain subjects 
  • Looking at Yourself – articles that reflect our experience of daily life   
  • Looking at Your Church – articles related to other Christians and the Church in action   
  • Looking at Your Community – articles that look at what’s happening in the world around us 

Compelling Copy and Quality Images 

To attract readers your magazine needs to be well written and presented. Your copy must grab the attention of your readers, and your images need to catch the eye. It can be useful to look at other magazines and newspapers, considering the way they are laid out and what attracts your attention, or what doesn’t. 

Other Considerations 

Frequency of Publication   

When it comes to how frequently you distribute your parish magazine, this could be weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or perhaps quarterly. If churches in your parish have a weekly pew-sheet, then your magazine could focus on the wider areas of your parish’s ministry and need not be more than monthly. 

Layout and Print 

In terms of printing your magazine, there are some practical considerations. What printer do you need? How many copies do you expect to produce? If it’s a large number, you may need to find a company that offers bulk discounts, while a small local business may be more suitable for smaller print runs. 

You should also think about what software to use. There are several desktop publishing programs on the market. And once you get used to using your chosen program, you will find it easier to create your design each month, perhaps using the same basic template.  

Production Costs  

Many church magazines are produced on a relatively low budget. A few volunteers will create, print and distribute the magazine themselves. But for many parishes, the magazine is an effective means of outreach, and consideration should be given to how much you should spend on the magazine. 

Whatever you do, agree the budget with your parish council. Ask yourselves whether you’ll give your magazine free of charge or charge a subscription. You should also think about whether you’re aiming to make a profit or if at least some of the cost will be part of the cost of outreach. 

Rules and Regulations 

Each issue of your parish magazine must comply as far as practically possible with current lawful publishing guidelines and recognised codes of practice. These include the Government’s Recommended Code of Practice for Local Authority Publication and the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) Code of Practice. 

In terms of the government’s code of practice, the seven guiding principles are: be lawful, be cost effective, be objective, be even handed, be appropriate, have regard to equality and diversity, and proceed with care during times of heightened sensitivity. 

When it comes to the IPSO’s code of practice, the clauses include accuracy, respecting privacy, and avoiding discrimination. Not all the clauses will be applicable for your parish magazine, but it may be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the latest code of practice. 

Along with both these guidelines, it’s also important to adhere to GDPR and all applicable safeguarding regulations and policies.  


There are a few resources are available, when it comes to ideas and content for parish magazines. These include: 

  • Parish Pump: This resource exists to help church magazine editors by offering graphic and editorial resources to download and place into magazines, newsletters, or pew-sheets. It is available on a subscription basis with a free trial. 
  • The Association for Church Editors: This association brings together editors, designers and other church members involved in the production of church magazines. It provides, amongst other things, training workshops and ideas for magazine content.