A small magazine makes it big

Which New Apostolic magazine has the largest circulation? community or maybe the glossy Unsere Familie. Wrong! The bestseller comes from Africa. A portrait on today’s International Print Day.

There certainly is music to it: anyone who leaves through African Joy will be struck by the many reports and photos about musical events and activities. Joyful and lively—that is how our brothers and sisters in Africa live their faith.

If you go by the number of pages of African Joy, usually eight, it looks like the little sister of community or Unsere Familie. If you look at it from the aspect of circulation, however, it is no doubt the bigger sister. With an average of about 600,000 copies, the newsletter reaches about ten times more households than the two other magazines together.

From Our Family to African Joy

The publishing of New Apostolic periodicals is nothing new in Africa: at the end of the 1940s the Our Family magazine was published in South Africa under Assistant Chief Apostle Heinrich Franz Schlaphoff. Bischoff Publishers in Germany later continued its publication. In the course of time, the so-called minis—versions of the Our Family with fewer pages—appeared monthly in a number of languages.

However, Europe was not quite able to meet the demand in Africa: about 80 per cent of all New Apostolic members live on this continent, and the periodicals reached only about five per cent of all households.

The Information Group Africa, a committee comprised of representatives from African District Churches, discussed possible solutions. Their recipe: publish in Africa for Africa. African Joy was launched with a circulation of 394,000 copies, and at its peak reached around 655,000 copies per edition.

A joint international effort

The two District Churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as other regions in the care of Germany and Canada, were later added to the initial foursome: Zambia, East Africa, South-East Africa, and Cape. Currently, the magazine is published in twenty countries and twenty languages. A further expansion is being considered.

The standard four-page section is created in South Africa from the core content of community. The partner District Churches add four—or as many as eight—pages of regional news, have the brochure translated into their country’s official languages, and then see to the printing and distribution in their areas.

Delivery by motorcycle

The biggest challenge is getting printed matter to the congregations. The District Church of Congo-South East, for example, already needs a whole month to get publications from the printer to the large cities. And it takes another half year—if need be, on the luggage rack of a motorcycle—for copies to reach the very last congregation.

Creative solutions are required. In Zambia, for example, the Church administrative offices have started to use the bus service on and off instead of the postal service. The sender simply directs the driver and the receiver per mobile phone to the same location for delivery. Their motto is: if you find joy in serving your neighbour, you will find a way.

Article info


Andreas Rother
Media, International, Congregational life