Forty years ago, a two-color children’s newspaper rolled off the presses. Its eight pages featured stories of workers’ strikes, references to then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and a fictional tale that unpacked a real-life civics lesson. Six presidents later, the magazine’s page count is higher, its images more colorful, and its stories exist both on paper and in digital (internet) form—but the drive toward “sound journalism grounded in facts and biblical truth” remains the same.
A Big Idea Built on Big Ideas
Christian journalists love God and love people. They want to help God’s image-bearers understand and appreciate truth, which originates in Him. Therefore, Christian journalists are careful about reporting events. They seek more than accuracy: They want readers to see God at work in His world, bringing redemption and restoration to His fallen creation.
Big ideas like these drove two men to pursue a profound goal in 1981. Fueled by the requests of Christian parents, the pair decided to publish a weekly newspaper for young people. The paper would report on world events and issues. But “the important purpose,” says Norm Bomer, “was to teach Christian worldview” to the glory of God.
A Dynamic Duo
Joel Belz and Norm Bomer were familiar with one news publication for elementary school children which had been popular since the late 1920s. There was just one problem: It wasn’t written by or for Christians. So students read reports of world events infused with an agenda that promoted humankind’s goals over God’s goodness—and swallowed error with every reading.
Belz was a respected church leader with years of publishing experience from his parents’ printing business and as managing editor of the Presbyterian Journal. He guided the founding of the new distinctively Christian children’s publication headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina, dubbing the paper It’s God’s World (IGW). The kids’ publication caught on quickly, eclipsing the circulation and volume of its Presbyterian parent magazine.
Bomer was a high school teacher, first in Alberta, Canada, and then in Kansas. As IGW’s first writer and editor, he was known for his quick wit, ready laugh, and eagle eye. He created the magazine’s style sheet (list of grammar rules), wherein he banned “cheap adjectives such as ‘nice’ and ‘beautiful’”—and expressed his stance on pronouns: “To avoid being executed, remember that their is plural.” He would continue as editor for the next 30 years.
The First Issue
The prototype (early sample) of IGW appeared August 10, 1981 (a date coinciding with Belz’s 40th birthday). Bomer wrote every article while Belz drummed up support in the form of prayers and pennies for the fledgling venture.
Bomer keyed copy on a typewriter; someone re-entered it into a computer and then transferred the data to a floppy disk. The internet wouldn’t come along for another year and a half, so the disk traveled by mail to a printing company.
That first pre-issue’s lead article was “Players Return After Striking Out,” a story about a baseball strike. By the first actual mailed issue on September 10, 1981, that story had migrated to page three. The new lead was “Air Controllers Strike Out.” It told of President Reagan firing 12,000 federal employees who broke the law by walking off their jobs. Both guided readers to consider biblical principles surrounding justice and work.
Stories about new Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and the Space Shuttle Columbia also appeared in that inaugural issue. Each reported the facts and infused the topics with biblical worldview. A fictional story, a recipe, a word search, and a Bible reading schedule rounded out the first paper.
One key to the magazine’s early success was news articles written with young people in mind. Adults were reading many of the same topics elsewhere, but IGW explained difficult concepts in government, economics, and environmental and other issues. These articles not only taught facts but also revealed to readers the God behind those facts. Popular features included etymology, puzzles, and a large once-per-year pull-out map—a resource still provided with the September issue all these years later.
Soon adults began asking, “Why don’t you publish a magazine for us?” In 1986, Belz launched WORLD Magazine, offering adult-focused, global news with biblical objectivity.
In 1996, the children’s magazine, by then called God’s World Today, won the Evangelical Press Association’s highest award, the Award of Excellence. Judges labeled GWT’s style as “newsy,” “unique,” “in touch,” “challenging,” and “creative.” The association also recognized the publication’s emphasis on worldview, analysis, understanding, and education.
Whatever the News
In the 2000s, God’s WORLD News experimented with publications for various age groups. At one time, there were as many as six individual children’s magazines, including a three-year run for a teen magazine called Trak. In 2012, God’s WORLD News rebranded as WORLD News Group (WNG). The media organization included all print magazines, the digital content, and podcasts. It now reaches hundreds of thousands of people around the world with its resources and reports.
Today, the children’s arm of WNG delivers three magazines together with three interactive websites based on age range. They are God’s Big World (ages 3-6), WORLDkids (ages 7-10), and WORLDteen (ages 11-14).
On August 10, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, WNG launched “World Watch,” a streaming video current events program. The 10-minute daily program targets mid and older teens with its fast-paced, catchy style. The show’s signature closing resonates around the globe: “Whatever the news, the purpose of the Lord will stand.”
Are you new to God’s WORLD News, or has your family been along for many of the last 40 years? Tell us about your family’s connections across the last four decades. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.