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Home Life turns 50, gets second wind

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–As magazines go, “Home Life,” at age 50, is considered on up there. But most 50-year-olds could tell you that holding AARP credentials hardly signifies senility.

In fact, Home Life’s new editor Jon Walker argues the family periodical produced by the Baptist Sunday School Board is just getting its second wind.

“Home Life has lasted for 50 years because it continues to make changes,” Walker said of the resilient publication that turns 50 this month (January 1997). “The magazine continually adapts as it deals with family issues.”

Watch for more biblically based, issue-oriented articles as “Home Life” begins its journey into the next 50 years, said Walker, who acknowledges the publication cannot ignore worldly topics that confront today’s family.

Christians live in the same world as non-Christians, facing many of the same issues, according to Walker, who said he wants Home Life to illustrate “not how people are overcoming adversity, but how God is overcoming it in them.

“We (Home Life) might deal with divorce, abortion, teen pregnancy — all of the things families are having to deal with now, but we will deal with them in a way that would talk about what the Bible has to say about the issues,” Walker said. “I want there to be a real spiritual edge to the magazine. I want our articles to literally ooze the spirit of God.”

Walker, who took over the helm of the magazine last fall, believes his biggest challenge is to take a magazine Southern Baptists are familiar with and tweak it enough to bring in new readers.

“That it is well known is one of its greatest strengths, but it is also one of its greatest weaknesses because everybody assumes they know it,” Walker said. “Our subscription rate is 500,000 a month, but there are 16 million Southern Baptists out there. While we are attempting not to lose any of our current readers, we want to expand our base and get more people.”

Doubtless, it is difficult to please everybody, Walker acknowledged.

“We are attempting to be more broad-based (at a time) when
magazines should be niche-oriented,” he said.

Obviously, that’s broad-based in the broadest sense of the word, he said, noting Home Life is a magazine for Christian families.

“Still, Home Life has been focusing on parenting skills and marriage relationships, and I believe we can broaden what Home Life does. I’m a father now and my marriage is more than just being able to communicate with my wife,” Walker said. “It also deals with the culture and how the culture is impacting my family. It deals with passing on values to my child. It deals with the economy and how the economy impacts my family.

“The difference with Home Life and other (secular) magazines is that Home Life will be presenting and reminding people of the Christian worldview on issues,” he said.

For example, Walker said, any controversial article he publishes will run with a clear sidebar that “talks about what the Bible has to say about that.”

“Then if someone wants to argue with what is said,” Walker said, “they will be arguing with what the Word of God says.”

Walker has strong convictions about Home Life’s role in holding together the family.

“We say the family is the backbone of our country, but most of us don’t really respond to that.”

Walker gives as an example family meal time. “We have an article in an upcoming issue about family meal time. The fact that that has all but disappeared is a choice of families. In the pages of Home Life, we want to show that the family is important to God and important to God’s structure and how it functions.”

Walker also wants to emphasize Home Life articles will not be sugar-coated. Describing himself as a recovered backslidden Christian, Walker claimed to be neither naive nor a prude.

“My point is, we are not going to approach Home Life from the standpoint that we put forth the perfect family all the time. I don’t think any father or mother sets off to be a crummy father or a poor mother or an unfaithful wife. Everybody wants to be good. What I hope Home Life is going to be is a magazine that helps people look past the cares of the world and look at the fact that having a good family is sometimes an element of choice.”

“As the new editor of Home Life,” Walker writes in his January editorial, “my heartbeat is to provide a magazine that will help families focus on Christ, to help them see the biblical models necessary for building strong families, and to help those who have failed to rebuild in a redemptive way.”

Articles in the anniversary edition include the following:

— republished editorials from the four previous Home Life editors, Joe W. Burton, George W. Knight, Reuben Herring and Charlie Warren.

— “Teaching Our Children About God,” an article reprinted from the January 1947 premiere issue.

— a brief Home Life history.

— “The Kitchen Stool,” an article written by Kitti Murray, granddaughter of Joe Burton, the first editor of Home Life.

— “Three Letters from Teddy,” an article which first appeared in the March 1976 issue of Home Life and has been one of the most requested articles in the magazine’s 50-year history.

    About the Author

  • Terri Lackey