Writer’s Guidelines for The Lutheran Witness

Background and Purpose

The Lutheran Witness is the official periodical of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), a 2.5-million-member church body with headquarters in St. Louis, Mo. Published 11 times a year (June/July is a combined issue), the magazine has a circulation of about 185,000. Its purpose is to provide Missouri Synod laypeople with stories and information that complement congregational life, foster personal growth in faith, and help interpret the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.

Kinds of Stories Sought

Feature stories in The Lutheran Witness can take several forms:

  • Stories dealing with current events or trends in society and how they affect the church.
  • Doctrinal, theological, and confessional stories typically, but not necessarily, written by LCMS pastors and theologians.
  • Stories on LCMS foreign missions.
  • Stories on LCMS work in North America.
  • Stories highlighting exceptional ministries of individual LCMS congregations and other officially recognized entities.
  • Stories highlighting LCMS members and how their faith is active in their lives.
  • “How-to” stories on ways Christians can serve Christ.
  • Articles highlighting the Christian’s walk with God.
  • Articles relating to the seasons or to major church festivals.
  • Humorous pieces that have a relevant, substantial point.
  • First-person stories that recount faith-related personal experience (especially in times of adversity).
  • Stories dealing with LCMS history and historical figures.
  • Bible studies involving reader participation.
  • Stories highlighting people’s commitment to faith-sharing and outreach.

Procedures

More important than literary credentials or professional communications experience is knowing and caring about your subject. Your passion for the subject is critical. We can help you polish your story, or even tone down the passion if it’s too high, but we can’t add your passion or insight if it’s missing.

Because of the magazine’s long lead time, and because many features are planned at least six months in advance of the publication date, your story should have a long-term perspective that keeps it relevant several months from the time you submit it.

Unassigned feature stories typically appear in The Lutheran Witness as one-, two- or three-page spreads. In typed, double-spaced manuscript pages, these lengths equate to roughly two, four, and six pages, respectively (or approximately 500, 1,000, or 1,500 words). While we will acquire photos, artwork, and other elements for story layouts, we may ask you, the author, to supply photos or other images where an image of a particular person or event is essential.

The Associated Press [AP] Stylebook and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition) serve as our basic guides to spelling, grammar, punctuation, and usage.

Our staff is small. Sometimes it takes us months to read manuscripts. Because of our size and the volume of mail we receive, it is impossible to respond to every submission or query. We will do our best to respond in the timeliest manner possible. We prefer that you follow up with us via e-mail. No phone calls, please.

When you submit a story via e-mail, please include your full contact information: name, address, and telephone number. On several occasions we have been unable to accept a story because we could not contact the author through the e-mail address from which the submission was sent. Whether you submit by standard mail or e-mail, make sure your complete contact information appears in your submission letter and on the first page of your manuscript. If you have submitted by standard mail and would like your submission returned, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Do not submit your Social Security Number (SSN) until we request it. Especially, do not submit your SSN via e-mail. After we accept a story for publication, we will ask for your SSN so that we can prepare an honorarium. We will also request a one-sentence biographical statement that, if the author is an LCMS member, will include the name of the author’s home congregation.

Rights

The Lutheran Witness purchases first North American rights plus electronic rights for the Synod Web site, and the right to grant limited reprint permission to LCMS congregations strictly for parish use. We do not sell rights or permissions to others, but will refer them to you.

The rights to stories revert to their authors once the story is published.

When work is submitted, unless otherwise noted, it is understood that the work is free of copyright protection or that you are the owner of any copyrights related to the work and that submitting it is not in violation of any intellectual-property laws.

Other Important Points

  • Though preferred, membership in an LCMS congregation is not required of authors.
  • We do not encourage query letters. We prefer finished stories.
  • We do not accept poetry.
  • We seldom publish book or movie reviews.
  • Published articles must have a strong rationale for appearing in The Lutheran Witness rather than in a secular magazine.

Mechanics

Send us your best effort, typed and double-spaced on standard 8-1/2 x 11 paper. Keep in mind our word-count requirements (see “Procedures”). For a magazine such as The Lutheran Witness, a 1,500-word story is a long piece. As a first-time author, your best chance of breaking in is a short first-person item suitable for “Lifeline” or a short, lively feature of approximately 1,000 words.

When quoting Scripture, use the English Standard Version (ESV) unless the specific needs or wording of the story require a different version. If you do not use the ESV, please tell us what version of the Bible you have quoted.

The Lutheran Witness staff will edit manuscripts for clarity, style, and length. Our Synod’s doctrinal-review staff will evaluate manuscripts for theological appropriateness. When possible and appropriate, we will share edited drafts of stories with authors. (We have the final word on editorial changes.)

Common Pitfalls

Do not become discouraged if we decline your submission. Each year we receive many more submissions than we can use, and many are very good. We decline submissions for a variety of reasons, but here are the most common:

  1. The story is not relevant to The Lutheran Witness or its audience.
  2. It is poorly written.
  3. It exhibits incorrect theology.
  4. It is too technical for our audience.
  5. It is too long.
  6. It is too similar to articles recently published.
  7. It is a good story, but there is simply no room for it in a forthcoming issue, and to keep it would deprive you of the opportunity to submit it elsewhere. (In a given year, we may receive 500 unsolicited manuscripts and proposals. Of that number, we may accept no more than three dozen.)

Submit manuscripts to:

Managing Editor
The Lutheran Witness
1333 S. Kirkwood Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-7295
E-mail: lutheran.witness@lcms.org

About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The St. Louis-based Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, founded in 1847, has 2.5 million baptized members in 6,150 congregations served by more than 9,000 pastors. The church, which ranks as one of the 10-largest Christian denominations in the United States, owns and operates the KFUO radio stations, two seminaries, 10 colleges and universities, and the largest Protestant parochial school system in America, which includes some 2,500 early education, elementary, and high schools. The LCMS is in full doctrinal fellowship with 30 other confessional Lutheran church bodies on six continents, supports more than 650 missionaries in 85 countries around the globe, and is a founding partner of Lutheran Services in America, an alliance of two Lutheran church bodies and their more than 300 social ministry organizations that together serve one in every 50 Americans. For more information, visit www.lcms.org.

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