Tell us what you think

August 24, 2023 | Editorial | Volume 27 Issue 17
Tobi Thiessen | Publisher
(Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay)

Have you completed our opinion survey? If not, here is your invitation to do so. We need your help to re-think how Canadian Mennonite (CM) can best serve the church. Please use the link below.

CM is actively researching new ways to gather and deliver news. We are looking at various options to engage our community in conversations about faith.

Like every other newspaper or magazine, we see subscription numbers decline year after year. Statistics Canada reports that magazine circulation in Canada fell by an average of four per cent per year since 2013. One in five Canadian magazines closed between 2015 and 2019. Just in the last couple of years, many community newspapers closed or moved to digital-only production. CM is still here, but our print numbers match the national trend.

Meanwhile, when we look at the digital audience, we see readers of all ages coming from every province to our website. It seems that the problem of declining subscription numbers is not that CM content is irrelevant. The problem is that a magazine is not the place many people go to get news anymore.

How, then, do we serve the faith community in 2023? We want to engage newcomer churches and ensure their voices are represented. We want to engage young people and affirm their involvement. We want to offer people on the fringes a way to stay connected to the church. And we want to honour the faithful members who value CM in its present form. In all of this we want to provide the regional and nationwide churches of Mennonite Church Canada with respected news coverage in print and online.

We currently print 22 issues per year, a higher frequency than most magazines. Should we go to a reduced frequency and use the savings in postage to print on better quality paper? Photos would look better on higher grade paper and there would be higher contrast between the black text and the white paper, making it easier to read. Would such a change make the magazine better for readers or not?

It’s obvious that we need to meet people where they are, and that means engaging with the church using digital media. But how? Would podcasts be helpful? More online events? These are technical questions about how we use media to inform and engage people, and we are curious to hear what you think.

We also ask larger questions about what value there is in a Mennonite-connected news source, and where our focus should be. Do we want articles that inspire and foster spiritual well-being? Should articles affirm what we believe and encourage unity? Is it important to foster dialogue on matters affecting faith today? How important is it to connect with other people in the church across the country? Are we building a sense of identity across the church as we report news?

Survey respondents are giving us good feedback so far. One person wrote: “I think we sometimes get too stuck in our insular understanding of what being a Mennonite means. Hearing other people’s opinions and stories [keeps] us from simply confirming our own biases. I think it also fosters hope in the good things the church is doing. Sometimes it is hard not to get bogged down by the failures of the church. CM is able to share about the good without shying away from the bad that needs to be talked about.”

Another person wrote: “I think there is great value in providing a connection point between congregations around the country. . . . I love hearing stories of what congregations are doing for social justice, activism and climate action. I would love to hear more positive stories and have the magazine be a source that connects people and provides ideas for faithful living.”

When it comes to specifics about how CM can do better, respondents are frank. “Don’t ignore the established, ‘older’ congregations and MC Canada members, while still challenging their views with more current issues,” said one person. Another respondent said that “greater diversity amongst staff, generationally, ethnically and theologically is key.”

Someone told us we are too “hyper” and we need to relax. More than one person said we worry too much trying to be all things to all people. Thank you for these comments. We welcome more input.

CM is evolving. Help shape our next chapter. Take the survey

(Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay)

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