by Justin Lonas
A magazine, like any organization, is alive in the sense that our readership grows and changes with time. As such, it is necessary to periodically take stock of where we are and where we are going.
Many of you received a survey in the mail during November (if you didn't, it's because we only mailed them to a random sample) which asked you to list various demographic facts about yourselves and your churches and gave you the opportunity to have some significant input to our editorial process by telling us what you liked, disliked, or thought could be better about the magazine.
As we've compiled the data from those questionnaires over the past few months, several trends have emerged.
First, we learned that 79 percent of you read the magazine primarily for help with sermon preparation. This lets us know that you understand that the primary purpose of this publication is to help those called to pulpit ministry serve God in that avenue to the best of their ability. We also discovered that 59 percent of you listed "spiritual growth" as one of your top reasons for reading the magazine. We understand that your spiritual growth benefits your congregation as much as (or more than) all of the sermons and illustrations we could provide, and we're very encouraed that the Lord is using Pulpit Helps to help facilitate that.
Second, I'd like to address the issue of advertising. Many of you listed the ads as the part of the publication you like the least or complained that the magazine has too much space devoted to advertising. While we realize that very few people read Pulpit Helps specifically for our ad section, the income from our advertisers is what makes it possible for us to operate. We know you value the words on paper, but each issue represents enormous cost-ink, paper, postage, and labor don't come cheap. Without ad revenue, your subscription costs would be more than double what they are now. It is important to us that you support our sponsors whenever possible (and to let them know you saw their ad in Pulpit Helps)-it's more than just a purchase, it's your "thank you" for their provision of this ministry to you. Even so, nearly 37 percent of you said that you had purchased something from our advertisers at some point in time, and nearly all of you were satisfied with what you bought-keep up the good work!
Third, we were surprised to find that only 34 percent of you have used our website at some point. Let me stress how useful www.pulpithelps.com can be to your ministry - it allows access to all complete issues for the past several years and hundreds of sermon starters and illustrations organized by topic. We think it's an important part of our ministry to you, and we want to make sure you can all take advantage of it!
Fourth, we learned that there are a few columns that are not connecting with you as much as we'd like. As such, we will be phasing out "Time Out," "Helps for the Pastor's Wife," and "Communications Toolbox" (though Terry Wilhite will hopefully contribute periodically still) by the April issue. In doing this, we'll be able to reduce our page count to better steward our funds and free up more column space to introduce topics of interest to you.
Fifth, we learned that only 30 percent of you are familiar with the rest of the ministries of our parent company, AMG International. I cannot stress enough how vital the connection between us is. Pulpit Helps is more than just a service to you; it is the North American mission arm of an organization that operates a variety of outreaches in over 50 countries around the world. We stress the importance of evangelism and missions in the magazine as a matter of course because we firmly believe that the key to spiritual vitality and church growth lies, as always, in the continual commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission of Christ to make disciples. Through Pulpit Helps, you have a connection to an organization with the tools to help your congregation get intimately involved with the church around the world through prayer, sponsorship, and short-term missions. I encourage each of you to take some time in the weeks ahead to look into the ministry of AMG (via www.amginternational.org) and see what your subscription to this publication is working toward. We found out many other interesting things about your churches' missions involvement, but I'll address that in another column.
Finally, many of your survey responses brought out the apparent discrepancy between our claims to be non-denominational and our Baptist-weighted content. It is true that the majority of our contributing writers come from Baptist churches (and that over 46 percent of our readership identify themselves as Baptists), but neither Ted Kyle nor I are Baptists. Simply put, for whatever reason, we tend to get the best-written and most biblically sound articles from Baptist sources. That could change someday, and it in no way reflects any attempt on our part to "black out" submissions from different denominations. No matter what our writers' denomination, however, we strive to keep our content on the plane of what I like to call "bullet theology"-the set of truths all Christians should agree to live by and would be willing to take a bullet for. As our readership represents over two dozen denominational backgrounds, we feel it is our responsibility to promote orthodoxy independent of particular traditions that stem from human distinctions between interpretations of Scripture. We will, as always, encourage article contributions from anyone who is committed to the Lord and the authority of His Word, no matter what denomination he hails from.
Above all, we want to continue to serve you as we all continually strive to glorify God through our lives and ministries. We appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us, and we promise to do all we can to ensure that this resource is provided to you for many years to come. Thank you for reading!
Justin Lonas is Publisher of Pulpit Helps.