Ignite NextGen Vision!
It all began in 1880 when a Salvation Army meeting filled a large Wesleyan Chapel in Blythe, England. A child stood outside the door. There was no room for her inside. Captain John Roberts’ heart was moved and he told the child to return next Friday and to bring her friends for a special children’s meeting.
That meeting, held on July 30, kickstarted The Salvation Army’s work with young people and it grew rapidly from there. So rapidly, in fact, that the editor of the War Cry, an Army publication for adults, received so much news about what was happening with the children’s ministry that the decision was made to create a publication specifically for the kids. The Little Soldier was born and Captain John Roberts, the officer who felt that nudge from God, would be its editor.
That was only the beginning for youth publications in The Salvation Army.
That was only the beginning for youth publications in The Salvation Army. In 1895, The Young Soldier began in the United States and ran until it was relaunched as Young Salvationist in 1991.
Captain Pam Maynor became the editor of Young Salvationist in 2014 and quickly realized that the nature of publications is a fast paced, deadline driven ministry that doesn’t leave a lot of room for dreaming and reworking. Despite this reality, God began to put a dream into Pam of what the magazine could be.
A Study and a Spark
In 2018, Barna released a study that showed that the number of Gen Zers that identify as atheist was double that of the general population (13% compared to 6%). Only 4% hold a Biblical worldview. With Gen Z making up 25% of the population, the implications of this study are staggering. Around this same time, Pam attended a seminar on redesign at the annual Evangelical Press Association conference. It was here that she met MetaLeap Creative and the pieces all began to fall into place. Pam says, “It felt like this was a divine opportunity provided by the Lord himself.” And so the work began.
Young Salvationist was, by design, an internal publication. Surveys showed that the readership came solely from within the Army structure. As the redesign grew, so did the vision of what a national publication could be. If Gen Z was falling away from faith so rapidly, how could we harness this resource in a way that could bring about real change in this generation? Could a national publication reach outside of its walls to affect real change? In the same way that The Little Soldier ultimately began with a child standing outside of our doors, The Salvation Army could, once again, reach outside to minister to the youth where they are.
A New Name for a New Generation
Gen Z loves to learn from Gen Z.
With this new focus came a new name, Peer. Gen Z loves to learn from Gen Z. Peer to peer is king and so it became obvious that this was the name for our new publication. Peer — your equal, a dependable companion as you journey through high school and college. This embodies what we want our publication to be. By addressing topics related to faith, community and culture, the mission of Peer is to ignite a faith conversation that will deepen biblical perspective, faith and holy living.
Our tagline best describes our content: “Faith. Community. Culture.” Faith is listed first for a reason. Everything in our publication is written through the lens of Christianity. We desire to show those in Gen Z what an amazing “peer” community they can be a part of, not only in The Salvation Army, but in the community of believers.
Peer was launched in January of 2019. Since that launch, we have partnered with college campuses to get Peer into student centers and resource offices. We have sponsored booths at conferences such as Urbana and the National Youth Workers Conference to meet young people and youth leaders in an effort to get Peer outside of The Salvation Army and into the hands of Gen Z.
To be honest, COVID has placed a damper on these efforts. In our two years of existence, one of them has taken place during the global pandemic. Despite that challenge, we have not missed a single edition and our social media presence remains strong. We are so excited to get back out into these events and spaces to share the mission and ministry of Peer.
A Two-Fold Strategy
You may wonder, as I did when I became the editor of Peer in June 2020, if Gen Z values a print magazine. They are, after all, digital natives who spend upwards of 7 hours a day on their devices. Is a print magazine still an effective tool to reach this generation? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is yes. According to a 2019 Reuters study, Gen Z spends at least an hour per week reading magazines.
They place more trust in printed material than digital versions and prefer to read from physical texts to help them focus. So, with this in mind, Peer works from a two-fold strategy of print and digital media. Our strategy is content driven and we have a wonderful team who keeps their finger on the pulse of social media so that content can be utilized for maximum impact.
Gen Z Values Belonging
As we listen to reports on Gen Z, it becomes easy to focus on what we perceive as the negative traits and trends; perhaps that is due to our human nature. However, there are many, many positive things about this generation. Those comprising Gen Z are concerned, passionate, and mobilized for a cause. They value belonging.
They value belonging.
When I think about these things, I see so much potential for this generation’s contribution to the kingdom. These traits are the traits of Jesus followers and go hand in hand with kingdom building. Concern, passion, mobilization for kingdom building which offers a place of belonging? That is what we long for in our churches and congregations. Gen Z has all these tools in its toolbelt and if brought alongside in ministry, can be a powerful change agent in the world. We need them in our missions and ministries.
This is our driving force each month when we create the next edition of Peer or put together content for our digital spaces. Understanding the culture around us and the causes that Gen Z is passionate about, where can we ignite conversations on faith? How can we use this topic to disciple young people in a way that mobilizes them for the kingdom? How can we create content that builds, teaches and disciples a generation that has the passion and drive to change the world?
There’s an old hymn of the church that says, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations, that shall turn their hearts to the right, a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light…. A song to be sung to the nations that shall lift their hearts to the Lord, a song that shall conquer evil…We've a message to give to the nations, that the Lord who reigneth above has sent us His Son to save us, and show us that God is love…that all of the world’s great peoples may come to the truth of God.” Peer has a story to tell to the generation of young people in our world today, a story of a Savior whose love changed the world and still has the power to do so today.
Captain Jamie Satterlee currently serves as the Editor of Peer Magazine at The Salvation Army’s National Headquarters. Having served for seven years as a Camp Director and Divisional Youth Leader for The Salvation Army, Jamie is passionate about youth ministry and the leadership development of young people. She is the proud mom of two amazing daughters and loves serving in ministry alongside her husband, Matt. For more information on Peer, check us out at Peermag.org.
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