With no experience in journalism, graphic design or marketing, Myra Houser says she isn’t quite qualified to publish a magazine
But the biblical counselor is experienced in guiding people through spirituality and transformation. That job, she said, qualifies her to publish Flourish ( www.flourishliving.com), her new women’s Christian magazine. While working with a women’s focus group, Houser, of Clayton, heard a need for a women’s Christian magazine that would fall in the middle of the magazine industry’s religious spectrum: something with some spiritual content but nothing too overpowering or overwhelming.
“It’s about being your faith and not being in your face,” Houser says.
Houser wants all women to flourish in emotional and practical ways; with Flourish, she thinks they can do so. The magazine discusses topics ranging from health to marriage to finances, while a particular theme threads through each issue. Writers submit personal stories, many as a first-person narrative. The writers’ faith ties everything together.
For instance, in the May-June issue, “Livin’ Large and Lovin’ Life,” Laura Petherbridge wrote about the challenges and rewards of being a stepmother on Mother’s Day. She included feedback she has received from other stepmothers and the husbands of stepmothers to guide any troubled reader through allowing stepchildren to make their own decisions about Mother’s Day honors, and through prayer and acceptance. Another writer Pam Farrel told of transforming her husband’s annoying habit of leaving coffee mugs around the house into a reminder of blessings; she would pray for her husband anytime she saw a coffee mug – in or outside of her house – which became a reminder of her husband’s hard-working disposition.
“It’s not about sharing other people’s advice,” Houser says. “It’s about sharing godly advice.”
The magazine is square, about 8.5 by 8.5 inches, and issues are about 40 pages long. Houser says its size and shape are perfect for fitting in a woman’s purse. All pages are in color and filled with artistic photos and bold graphic shapes, borders and typography.
The first Flourish issue published was January-February 2012; it is scheduled to come out every two months. The magazine is now circulated in 21 states, Houser says.
To produce the magazine, Houser needed funds and teammates. Donations and inheritance money from her late father covered most of the first year’s operating and startup costs, which Houser estimates to be around $50,000. Finding people to help her mission was fairly straightforward, she says.
“The Holy Spirit just put people in front of us who had an interest.”
The only paid staffer of Flourish’s eight-member team is the graphic designer. “We’re just ordinary women following a passion and a calling,” she says.
Houser doesn’t want Flourish to echo some Christian magazines, which she says can be more conservative and negligent of many women’s issues. She said the January-February 2013 Flourish’s planned theme is sex, titled “The Sex Issue.” It will cover topics like adultery, homosexuality and sexual abuse recovery.
Empathy and practicality
“There really aren’t any boundaries,” she says.
Readers say they appreciate the magazine’s openness and honesty. Georgia resident Patricia Durgin, who runs the Christian communication website profitfromyourmessage.com, said the writers’ personal experiences nurture a sense of vulnerability and humanity.
“They’re not looking down on me as the reader,” Durgin says. “They’re getting down in the dirty laundry hamper with me.”
She said the stories don’t just empathize with readers; they also offer practical solutions to problems many women face, like keeping marriages strong and relating to children.
Charlotte resident Millie Newton, whose sister-in-law Lynn Greene is Flourish’s copy editor, said the holistic yet subtle godly aspect was especially appealing.
“The magazine is filled with a range of articles that challenge women to change. They have a gentle emphasis toward God,” she says.
“When you read a real-life situation and how they got through it with their Christian sisters and their faith in God, it’s a helpful tool,” Newton said. “Sometimes, we just don’t know how to take it from the Scriptures and apply it to our life.”
Not only are experiences shared in Flourish. With a standard subscription – $24.95 per year – readers receive two copies of each issue, one for themselves and for a friend they think could benefit from reading. People can also order online subscriptions, gift subscriptions or print and online subscriptions, ranging in price from $12.95 to $30.95.
Funding charitable work
Flourish Living is a nonprofit organization. Once printing costs become more manageable, revenue of subscriptions and advertisements can go toward women readers nominate who need but can’t afford help, such as vocational training or dental care.
“We’ve spent this first year laying the foundation, producing a quality product,” Houser says. “It will have to support itself, just like any ministry.”
She estimates she’ll be able to start using money to fund women’s projects by the beginning of 2013. The Flourish team is working on a video for a kickstarter.com page aimed at raising $25,000 to help cover printing costs for 2013. And there’s a partnership with the movie “Last Ounce of Courage,” in which promotional materials for the magazine will appear in 50,000 DVDs in December.
Newton says the goals of sustainability and helping others are attainable in Houser’s timeframe if God wills it.
“It is feasible if God intends for that,” she says. “If he provides a way and opens up a door, then it will happen.”