There are tons of Christian magazines out there waiting to be digested by Christians. Some are in print and some are in digital format. Some are paid and some are free. But as I check out Christian magazines on the internet I came to across to MORF magazine. MORF is not another graphically beautiful magazine but offers stories and lessons every Christian should read. We got a hold to Jenna De Witt, managing editor of MORF and we talk about the magazine.
Delighting Grace: How does MORF differ from other Christian magazines out there?
Jenna: MORF is a spiritual formation magazine for youth pastors, mentors and parents of teenage Christians published four times a year by Student Life. We are different than other youth ministry and parenting magazines in that we focus on stories of actual life transformation – spiritual formation happening in real life – rather than anecdotal ministry or programming tips. We believe focusing on the spiritual health of leaders will positively impact the students they guide. (We still know how to have fun too; check out our Twitter account @RealBibleTweets or Bizarre Bible Stories at www.MORFmagazine.com for proof!)
Delighting Grace: Please tell us how MORF started and the process of making one issue? How do you choose what goes into print or not?
Jenna: Student Life has organized Christian summer camps for teens for almost 20 years. We saw teens making decisions for Christ and recommitting to their faith over the one week a year they came to camp, but as research proves, it’s really the parents, youth pastors and mentors who influence a teen’s life year-round. We started MORF to connect with and equip those adults for ministry to their teens. We examine how each article could impact our readers and their teenagers. Does it draw them into a deeper relationship with Christ and send a message consistent with our values? Will this article be relevant two, five, 10 years from now? If it’s just the latest trend in ministry, it’s probably not the right fit for MORF. We do publish a weekly blog and a biweekly newsletter for more current topics, but the quarterly magazine is more timeless.
The process starts with mapping out story ideas and where they would fit in relation to one another. As the writers turn in stories, we edit and design. When the issue is complete, we post the stories to the web and send out 10,000 print copies to youth ministry conferences and influencers in the youth ministry field.
Delighting Grace: What do you think are the issues that matter to teens & how do they affect the church?
Jenna: Teens are going through a crucial season of transformation (or, metamorphosis, which is where our name comes from). In addition, we are all being transformed into Christlikeness “by the renewing of our minds” as Romans 12:2 says. Research shows us that only about 8 percent of teens are sticking with their faith into their young adult years. I think the biggest issues affecting these teens have to do with how everything they are taught in church, Sunday School or youth group relates to their everyday lives. That said, teenagers are such a diverse demographic. They struggle with acceptance, depression, gossip, self-harm, comparison, perfectionism, loneliness, apathy, addiction, rejection, anxiety, longing for independence, uncertain futures… everything we hear about in the news (and often experienced ourselves growing up), but Christian teens have the added complication of how their faith fits into all of this.
On a really basic level, these issues affect the Church because teens are the future of the Church. If we lose them, we aren’t just losing a demographic; we are losing the next generation of believers, leaders, parents and pastors. They are the Church itself. Not only that, but these teens are each God’s precious creation. He placed each one here to have a personal relationship with Him, to love Him and know Him. The call to use the gifts and talents He has given us doesn’t start sometime in adulthood. They are able to impact the Kingdom now at 13 or 15 or 18 – and we see examples of children and teens taking big stands for God in Scripture. It’s the call of the Church to equip them for that ministry and help them grow into maturity in Christ so that when they reach those hard times or struggles, they will land on a solid faith foundation.
Delighting Grace: Christians can sway or Christians can be swayed by culture. What do you think Christian teens should do in either situation?
Jenna: We have to keep the end goal in mind: making disciples of all nations, including our own backyard, our own culture. Culture does influence us, no matter how often we say we are “in the world, not of it.” We can’t try to shut it out completely or we won’t be influencing it for the Gospel at all. On the flip side, we are called to be set apart and live contrary to the world’s standards and values. The key is to view each situation in light of our faith. We have to be intentional in asking ourselves how the media we consume, the technology we use, the words we speak, the people we surround ourselves with – and everything else in our “culture” – is influencing us. What message are they sending and does that message line up with God’s Word? That’s the test we have to use in influencing culture as well. What message are we sending the world? Is that message consistent with God’s character and will as revealed to us in the Bible?
Delighting Grace: For youth workers how do we address hard topics like politics etc., to teens?
Jenna: We actually hope to address topics like this in our magazine! The key, I think, is to just keep it consistent with the Gospel, always rooted from a place of love. Keep asking how addressing an issue draws teens into a deeper relationship with God. We can’t ignore the hard topics, but we also can’t get so caught up in the side issues that we miss the heart. Keeping a Kingdom focus can help us approach these topics in a Christ-like way.
Delighting Grace: You started with Navpress publisher and now Student Life. With that background, are you obliged to set standards too since they produce awesome godly materials?
Jenna: Sure. We definitely have some guidelines when we decide what to publish, mainly that everything is spot-on theologically. Just like the questions above, we want to make sure that each issue is sending a message consistent with God’s Word and our mission. We want to produce the highest quality publication we can because God has called us to give our best for His glory. There are a lot of stereotypes about Christian media being lower quality or less creative than the mainstream, so we always aim to break that stereotype as children of the Creator.
Delighting Grace: Your magazine is awesome as I check it out in its digital format. Are you in a way fearful that readers will settle on its free download rather than on its paid print subscription in the future?
Jenna: MORF is a bit different than many publications because we don’t have a paid print subscription in place at this time. All of our content is available as a free resource (yay, free stuff!). We do offer digital subscriptions that deliver MORF straight to your email inbox, including our exclusive subscribers-only newsletter, but they are free as well. We want to equip the church and we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible. We even encourage readers to give free subscriptions to their ministry teams and parents at www.MORFmagazine.com/share.
Delighting Grace: Please tell our readers why we should read MORF magazine and do invite them to come see the magazine.
Jenna: Why read MORF? Did I mention it’s free?! Seriously though, MORF tells the story of how Christians are making the journey through the teen years, whether it’s as parents, youth pastors, mentors or teens themselves. Some of these brothers and sisters in Christ have endured personal tragedies, some are giving their lives on the mission field, some are making an impact on their world in unexpected ways… our hope is that all of them would be encouraging testimonies to our readers, letting them know they are not walking through this metamorphosis alone.