Last year, the team at Today's Christian Woman decided to take some risks. They made changes to the magazine itself and set high goals, such as reaching 1.3 million pageviews a month. And those decisions have paid off.
This was TCW's first year as an online weekly publication. "Last year when we evaluated our bimonthly issue, we realized that there was just too much time between our issues," said Natalie Lederhouse, assistant editor. They also found that the issues packed too much material for a reader to handle in a reasonable amount of time. "Our goal was to create smaller issues that women could read on their phone or tablet when they were waiting at the doctor's office, or in the school pick-up lane, or when they only had 20 minutes before bed," Lederhouse explained. The team decided to create a theme for each issue which would contain about four or five short articles.
But don't let the idea of short and less articles trick you into thinking these are fluff pieces. Today's Christian Woman deliberately deals with some tough or "gritty" issues, as Lederhouse says, because they want to look at the things that women are truly grappling with but people aren't discussing. "As a Christian woman, I'm hungry for spiritual dialogue that's gutsy and honest about the hard parts of life and faith—that's not afraid to engage in difficult questions or acknowledge real-life struggles," said editor Kelli B. Trujillo. "I avoid content that seems to reduce a woman's life to a cutesy, churchy stereotype. Instead, I desire conversations that take me and my faith seriously."
And readers agree. According to Lederhouse, the most popular articles this year included "How I Ruined My Marriage," "Why I Stopped Climbing the Corporate Ladder," "Settle, But Don't Be Stupid," "How to Love a Drunk," and "When Your Child Doesn't Like Church." In response to "Sex, Shame, and the Good Christian Girl" in their issue on "Sexy & Spiritual: Can a Good Christian Woman Be Both?" one reader commented, "It takes moral courage to dare venture into an area of discussion that has long been forbidden in typical church circles, when it should not have been forbidden … . You're miles ahead of typical mainstream Christianity."
But it's not just about tackling a taboo. "Zeroing in on a theme each week allows us to explore more deeply how a given topic may impact the many different facets of a woman's life," said Trujillo. "How might a certain theme relate to dating or marriage? How does it weave through our approach as parents? How does it impact one's daily work? How might it call us to action?"
She adds, "From journalistic-style articles to theological reflections, our weekly issues aim to approach each topic from a variety of angles. It's exciting to unpack some of the most critical areas in women's lives and look closely at them through the lens of faith. Ultimately, I think the main benefit is that it beckons us to go deeper—to push far beyond a surface-level discussion and really ask, God, how does this truth impact every aspect of my life?"
The readers' appreciation of the topics is reflected in audience numbers: TCW's original goal was met in October with 1.4 million pageviews. Lederhouse enjoys watching their website attract readers from countries like India, South Africa, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. And while people are enjoying the latest offerings, Trujillo noted that classic articles also receive new attention. In November, people were still commenting on "The List that Saved My Marriage" from September 2008.
But these achievements do not mean that the team is resting. Today's Christian Woman continues to strive for excellence. Lederhouse says they recently worked on updating their regular contributors and advisors. They also hope to create more content to meet the needs of their various readers. As Trujillo points out, TCW provides content on marriage and parenting, and the team wants to continue to "strengthen our offerings for single women, from young singles to single moms to women who've journeyed through divorce." The team wants to add more to the "career + calling" section as well as subjects that interest the millennials. Basically, they want to make Today's Christian Woman truly applicable to every Christian woman. "Women want to engage in faith-conversations that don't shy away from difficult issues and they want a safe place to acknowledge struggles and heartache," Trujillo said.
It's something that Trujillo has known long before she became editor this past summer, before she was a regular contributor to TCW. As a teenager, she took her mother's copies to read. She knows the impact the publication has had on her own life, as well as the lives of others.
"It's pretty amazing to see how, through all the changes, God has continued to use TCW throughout the years to inspire Christian women, draw them into a life of committed discipleship, and mobilize them to make a difference in their community," Trujillo said. "I'm privileged to be part of TCW's vision to help women deeply and personally experience God's love, discover God's unique calling in their lives, and influence their community through a life changed by Jesus."
To see other highlights of Today's Christian Woman, check out their best articles in 2014.
Elissa Cooper is assistant editor of Christianity Today magazine.