On the last day of Synod 2015, Rev. Bob De Moor, retiring editor of The Banner, looked back at some of the changes in his 11-year tenure and looked forward to where The Banner and the denomination might go in the future.
When De Moor took over as editor, The Banner was a subscription magazine with about 20,000 subscribers, a number that had been steadily diminishing for years.
Soon after he became editor, The Banner moved to an every-household magazine, sent without charge to all the members of the Christian Reformed Church. The image used at the time, said De Moor, was everyone sitting around the “kitchen table” talking, including, he added, “Brother Jesus.”
He told how the conversation had shifted from a time when editors of The Banner spoke with great authority to today, when the conversation has many voices. Not everyone agreed with each other or was comfortable with what was being said, he said. The Banner could no longer be the authoritative “voice of the CRC.”
De Moor said that it became increasingly evident that it was necessary “to make it very clear that [not every voice] is the voice of The Banner. He said that he had not always made the right judgments in this regard: “Last year I came to synod and admitted and confessed that I had made some editorial blunders.”
The print Banner has been remarkably successful. Marketing surveys conducted by an outside group reveal that over 90 percent of the people to whom The Banner is sent read some or all of it. It has a more than 70 percent pass-along rate, people passing it along to friends and family.
He mentioned the importance of the jokes, even if, as he admitted, “They are sometimes lame.” He quipped that the joke page online gets four times as many hits as the editorials.
But now, De Moor said, the real Banner is [no longer] the print Banner. “The real Banner is online. [Online] is where The Banner lives.”
De Moor talked about how people have moved to digital media, and The Banner has had to adapt. He noted how the anatomical posture of synod delegates on break had changed over the years, mimicking first someone smoking a cigarette, and then someone holding a cell phone to an ear.
It was, he said, “Adapt or die.” Under his leadership, The Banner established and grew its online presence. But, he added, this is no longer enough. The new leadership needs to enhance the presence of The Banner in the various social media, mentioning Twitter and Facebook. He confessed, “ I do not have a Twitter account. I don't have a Facebook account.” But, he observed, the young of our societies have now moved beyond these.
The shift he had in mind affects not only The Banner but the denomination and, especially, local churches. Local churches he observed, often struggle to effectively reach young people. He said that churches should try new forms: “Maybe the half-hour homily is not the way to keep the young people.” Perhaps, he added, we should sing a few songs and then announce, "Brothers and sisters, let us Twitter."
The point, he said, is not that the message has changed, but that God is always ahead of us. As the missionaries in the book Acts observed, the Holy Spirit had gone ahead. De Moor said, “Jesus is Lord also over the Internet.”
Synod 2015 is meeting at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, from June 12-18. For continuous Banner coverage, please follow The Banner Magazine on Facebook or @crcbanner on Twitter. You can find more tweeting by following hashtag #crcsynod. News stories will be posted atthebanner.org several times daily. For CRC Communications releases, webcast, and live blogging, please visit crcna.org. Unless noted otherwise, all photographs are by Karen Huttenga.