It’s been a very busy couple of months. I asked you in this space on June 28 if perhaps you had a few good ideas about using the media to reach out to the next generation—claiming the allegiance of our children, and our children’s children, to this dynamic we call “biblical worldview thinking.”
You filled my mailbox. I wasn’t ready for the mountainous stack of ideas you sent along. I’m still studying my way through them, trying to sort out and prioritize some common threads and fresh perspectives.
Along the way, though, as I’ve read your letters, I’ve been forced to realize that among the many thousands of WORLD’s readers, a huge number are quite unaware of the media link WORLD already enjoys with young children. If that includes you, let me catch you up to date!
Starting 33 years ago, in 1981, the company that now produces WORLD launched a small newsprint magazine for children called It’s God’s World. Aimed at fourth- and fifth-grade elementary students, the eight-page weekly reported on current events. It also made a point of trying to help its young readers interpret those world events from a God-centered perspective.
To say that It’s God’s World was popular is an understatement. Exploring God’s World followed in 1982 for second- and third-graders, and God’s Big World in 1983 for kindergartners and first-graders. Suddenly we found ourselves publishing six different graded editions every week of the school year.
But, we discovered, that still wasn’t enough. More and more, parents of our young readers got in touch with us to say: “We like this. We read it with our kids. When are you going to do one for our age level?”
And that, my friends, is the story of the 1986 birth of WORLD magazine itself. Our magazines for children were, quite literally, the parents of the parents’ magazine. Nor was that a small and incidental matter. If WORLD had been launched apart from such a background, I think it would have been dry, academic, tedious, and destined to die after its first few issues. Publishing for children taught us that even grown-ups like color, photos, maps, charts—and a little bit of fun here and there.
And yes, we’re still doing business with tens of thousands of those kids, with their parents, and with their schools. Candor (and honest journalism) compel me to report that our circulation is down significantly from our best years in the early 1990s, when we went every week to at least a quarter-million children. The internet and the whole digital enterprise have taken their toll with our children’s ministry, just as they have with the whole secular world of publishing.
So can God still use the internet and similar digital efforts with our kids and grandkids? We are confident that He can—and will. With that optimism, we are ready to greet the new school year in a few days with new—and significantly enhanced—products for your kids and teens. That lineup starts with a bimonthly magazine at each of three grade levels: God’s Big WORLD for beginners, WORLDkids for those in the middle, and WORLDteen for adolescents. Beyond the refreshed physical magazines, we have also now added a lively and interactive website for each of the three levels. The websites guarantee that our content is lively and engaging. The physical paper-and-ink magazines will provide broader and deeper background, while the web version will offer more interaction and timeliness. Students, with guidance and permission from their parents, will find themselves going back again and again to both sources.
Am I excited about this 2014 version of what I first envisioned 33 years ago? You’d better believe it! Do I think it is faithful to that original vision? Yes—and almost certainly does it better than we did it in the early years. Is this the final word in communicating with and persuading the boys and girls who are otherwise bombarded with secularism and godless explanations? Not at all—and for that I am thankful as well. Some of the ideas some of you have sent our way need to be incorporated in the new lineup I’ve described above. If you wrote me about that, please be patient. I’ll be responding soon.
In the meantime, I think you’ll want to make sure all the kids and grandkids in your extended family make these new WORLD-related magazines and websites a regular part of their weekly schedules. You can do that best, perhaps, by going to our user-friendly website at gwnews.com. Or you can use regular mail at PO Box 20002, Asheville, NC 28802. Or you can even pick up your phone and call us at 1-800-951-KIDS or 1-800-951-5437. Whichever way you do it, we’ll be looking for your response.