Crosswind: Voices of a Counter Current

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Interview with Seth Lehman

Seth Lehman, editor of Crosswind Magazine, lives with his wife Heather and their twin boys in a small apartment in New York City, where they love meeting friends from all around the world. In 2018, Seth and Heather launched Crosswind, a quarterly magazine for Christian teenagers. You may find more information and subscribe at www.crosswindmagazine.com.

What is the story behind the founding of Crosswind?

In January 2017, Heather made the decision to stop producing Light magazine because of declining subscriptions, the necessary time investment, and the existence of other magazines reaching the same audience. We had just welcomed twin sons into our family and were preparing for a cross-country move to work in ministry. In the midst of this craziness, the idea for Crosswind was born! In discussion about Light, we realized that we wanted a project we could work on as a couple. We are also passionate about engaging and equipping young people to follow Christ, and we could draw on years of prior experience with Light magazine, Radi-Call, and writing for other publications. Our research revealed very few Christian magazines that target a young mixed audience. All of these factors convinced us that Crosswind would be a worthwhile project for us as a couple, and we haven’t regretted the decision since!

So you’re aiming at a mixed young audience. Who exactly would that be?

Our target audience is conservative Anabaptist youth ages 15-20. We designed Crosswind to be a magazine that entire families can subscribe to, and everyone in the family can find something interesting to read. Although our content is aimed at youth and we feature the work of young artists, photographers, and writers, we have found that parents and grandparents enjoy reading the magazine as well!

Are there any other magazines that have helped you to create Crosswind?

My wife Heather published a girls’ magazine called Light for ten years. We would never have been able to start up Crosswind so smoothly without her years of experience brainstorming content, managing finances and subscriber lists, and creating graphic design. As we began to realize that Crosswind would be a large-scale project, we reached out to the founder of Daughters of Promise, and she shared helpful tips and insight with us as well.

You’ve been in the business for a while. What do you think about the future of print magazines? Magazines in general?

I think print magazines will always be around. We offer Crosswind in digital format, but many subscribers prefer having a hard copy in their hands. Print magazine subscriptions may have declined in recent years, but people who take the time to sign up for a print subscription today are more likely to read and enjoy their magazine. Having said that, every print magazine needs to plan for some sort of digital presence – whether through a blog, social media, or digital subscriptions – to attract and keep an audience.

What’s the hardest part about producing a magazine?

For us, it’s maintaining a consistent social media presence. We are not very media-savvy, we have full lives, and we want to place limits on the control that social media can gain over our time – but we have found that consistent posting on Instagram and Facebook directly correlates to increased subscriptions. People primarily find out about the magazine online, not by word of mouth or by seeing a print copy. We recognize that it is important for the success of the magazine that we maintain a social media presence, but we struggle to engage well.

In general, one of the greatest concerns for new magazines is financial stability. We have been blessed with financial support from donors who believe in the vision of the magazine. Their support allowed us to make a strong start and to promote the magazine, and we are on track toward financial sustainability. Anyone producing a magazine or similar project should take the time to lay out a long-term financial plan, including ideas of what to do if financial goals are not met.   

What keeps you motivated, despite any difficulty?

A few weeks ago, I wrote an editorial for the spring issue of Crosswind to meet a deadline while sprawled out on the couch, sick with a stomach bug. Heather and I are both task-oriented, and sometimes we do the next thing, no matter if it’s difficult, just to check it off our list. However, what keeps us going in the long run is feedback from supporters and subscribers that shows we are meeting a need and that people are appreciating the magazine. When we know that people will read the content and may actually be challenged or motivated to change something in their lives as a result, we are encouraged to keep on.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to start a magazine?

Seek out lots of input before launching! Talk to as many people as you can, both people with experience publishing magazines and potential subscribers. Learn from others’ mistakes. Secondly, find a niche – don’t just imitate what already exists or compete for the same subscribers as other magazines. Look for a gap audience that you are passionate about reaching and design your magazine to fill that gap. Finally, magazines take lots of work and persistence. Your subscriber base will grow slowly, and expenses will be high in the early years. Clearly lay out the goals of your magazine, a sustainable financial plan, and the structure of your team so that your project survives challenges – yet be prepared for surprises along the way.

What is your vision for Crosswind in ten years? Twenty?

Our vision for Crosswind in twenty years is probably that someone younger will be managing the project! One of the best ways to connect with young people is to have a young staff team, so over time we envision training new designers and editors. In addition, we hope to see Crosswind spread beyond the conservative Anabaptist community to reach Christian teenagers in any setting who are serious about their faith. Anabaptists have a valuable perspective to offer the larger Christian community, and our desire is that Crosswind provides a platform for young Anabaptist men and women to inspire, encourage, and challenge both one another and Christ-followers from other backgrounds. Crosswind exists to challenge young men and women to faithfully follow Jesus, boldly pursue wisdom, and actively serve the world around them, so if we see more young people doing those things in twenty years as a result of the magazine, our work will have been a success!

Sheri Sheri Yutzi is a storyteller who believes that words hold unimaginable power. She’s passionate about writing life-changing literature for people of all ages. She edits for Daughters of Promise, an Anabaptist women’s magazine, and is working to get her first two young adult fantasy novels published. In the meantime, she writes short stories and articles for blogs and online magazines. She grew up as a conservative Mennonite and still practices that way of life. She lives with her husband Dan in Huntsville, Arkansas, and attends a small church in town. You can find Stories of the Stars, her short story collection, on Amazon.

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