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Joel BelzVoices Joel Belz

Expanding the family

WORLD Watch builds on GWN’s 40-year history

WORLD readers (and listeners!) are typically surprised when I tell them that the idea for such a magazine was originally born out of a ministry to children. It’s a story worth retelling.

It was the mid-1980s. They tended to be buoyant years for theologically and politically conservative Christians. Ronald Reagan was moving into his second term as president. The Christian school movement was growing, and homeschooling was beginning to take off. Conservatives were claiming leadership roles in Southern Baptist circles, and the fledgling Presbyterian Church in America was gaining ground.

All that created a climate in which a group of us launched a new publication for children designed to help them look at world news and current events from a God-centered point of view. 

We started with It’s God’s World for middle-school children in 1981, and added Exploring God’s World and Sharing God’s World in 1983. Then came God’s Big World for kindergartners and God’s World Today for junior highers. Altogether, the five magazines gained a weekly paid circulation of over a quarter of a million children—most of it in bulk subscriptions from Christian schools.

We were busy people. We had as an overall model the hugely popular Weekly Reader, which for a generation had wormed its way into the reading habits of some 6 million children. But Weekly Reader’s journalistic and editorial slant was blatantly humanistic. Christian kids needed something better—but it was hard work. We were pioneering, and it was a challenging assignment. 

Most challenging, however, was the oft-repeated question we were hearing from our young subscribers’ parents: “When,” they asked, “are you going to start an edition for us adults?”

That was an assignment we hadn’t included in our early job description. Our hands were full, just trying to discern what it meant to think Biblically about current events—and then to pass those skills and gifts of discernment on to youthful readers. And we had watched other folks launch “Christian news periodicals,” only to see them close shop after short runs.

But if the assignment was daunting, it was also compelling. So I was glad when our board of directors agreed to spend $20,000 to hire the Gallup organization to see whether a Christian newsmagazine, published under our auspices and related to our children’s publications, had a chance. 

“Go for it!” the Gallup people said.

And we did. And over the next few years, we discovered some of the unexpected ways God’s providence would use our experience with the children’s papers to equip us to do a better job with WORLD. Personnel, news photos from AP, printing connections, mailing lists, marketing, postal relations—all these and many more were easier than they might have been without our experience with the younger set. In a real sense, WORLD was the child of the children’s magazines.

In fact, the discovery of that reality brought new meaning to a bit of wisdom I heard more than once from my father: “Speak the truth thoughtfully to a 12-year-old, and you’ll be surprised how many adults are listening in.”

But now, relationships are changing again.

WORLD, partly because of the brevity of that title, has assumed a sort of flagship role for our organization. We are officially WORLD News Group, and there is a sense in which WORLD does lead the way—especially with WORLD’s bold moves into today’s digital culture.

But don’t forget World Journalism Institute, which since 1999 has sent over 500 young men and women (and a few not so young!) into various media roles—both at WORLD and elsewhere, both Christian and secular, both in the U.S. and internationally.

But God’s World News for kids isn’t finished creating offspring! The really big change these days here at WNG is how GWN has expanded its family. WORLD Watch is our new daily 10-minute news video, designed for teens. WORLD Watch works well in school classrooms, but it’s a good fit too in homeschool settings.

WORLD Watch’s creators, of course, had lots of help from all three of WNG’s divisions, providing resources, experience, and expertise. And they’re diligent to maintain our 40-year commitment to anchor all their journalistic savvy in God’s Word, refuting the humanism that so much shapes today’s culture.

WORLD Watch kicked off its daily schedule on Aug. 10. You’ll want to take a look at worldwatch.news.