Heather Lehman thought of producing her own publication for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Singers Glen, Va., she put together one-page newsletters decorated with markers, later expanding to family news bulletins on a typewriter. When she was 15, she produced the first issue of Life in the Light, a girls’ newsletter she mailed to her friends at church.
More than a decade later, its name has become Light magazine, a quarterly geared toward high-school-age girls in conservative Anabaptist churches. It’s one of a few publications begun in recent years by conservative Anabaptist young women that reflect their own lives.
“When we started, we were all quite young, and we didn’t have a lot of spiritual depth,” said Lehman, who now attends a Biblical Mennonite Alliance congregation in Bloomington, Ind., with her husband. “But the content was about the things we were learning and the ways we were growing.
“The vision now is to encourage young ladies, specifically Anabaptist young ladies, to take life seriously, to think about life in more than a shallow way, . . . teaching obedience to Christ and the commands of Scripture and raising awareness about the world as a whole.”
While Light is produced with conservative Anabaptist girls in mind, and they make up the primary readership, Lehman wants the content to be accessible to girls from any background who want to grow in their Christian faith. She wants to avoid stirring up contention over smaller differences in Mennonite churches, and focus on being “Christians, Jesus-followers and Bible-believers.”
“With our conservative Mennonite churches, it is really easy to slip into talking about the same things over and over, specifically those areas where we might feel threatened or have beliefs that are unpopular,” she said. “I do want to defend those, but there’s a lot more than just those things.”
Lehman has a particular interest in encouraging Christians to missionally relate to the broader world.
“I want girls growing up in conservative churches to see how big the world is and that there’s more out there than what we know,” she said. “I want to do that in a way that is not threatening to what they know and understand. . . . I want us to be aware and effective in reaching out to people with the gospel.”
‘A wholehearted faith’
One young magazine editor who has seen more of the world is Monica Miller. At 20, she returned this spring from Thailand to her hometown of Cañon City, Colo., after spending four years with her family as support staff for missionaries there. She began producing Vibrant Girl, for girls ages 12-15, two years ago with a team of people in Thailand and the U.S.
“It started out of a heart for 12- to 15-year-old girls,” Miller said. “Seeing that very vital time in their lives when they’re discovering so much about who God created them to be, even who God himself is — making decisions, forming their belief system that will carry on into womanhood. It felt like there was such a lack of guidance for that age group. I feel like our churches do well with the youth, but there’s a little window just before that that I feel gets ignored.”
Miller said Vibrant Girl has hundreds of readers and addresses topics such as relationships with friends and family but also contains “fun stuff” — tutorials, crafts, short stories. She also includes content about the basics of Christianity, such as who God is and what it means to be a Christian.
“Especially in conservative circles, we can take for granted that people understand those foundational truths,” she said.
Miller believes young people are open to spiritual truth but can lack motivation.
“Our foundational theme is to live a wholehearted faith, showing girls that they can pursue Christ with their whole hearts now as a young person. They don’t have to wait for the future,” she said. “I think there’s a special willingness to learn as you’re coming of age and figuring things out. . . . I think sometimes there’s a lack of motivation, and we just want to step in there and motivate young girls to explore all of what that means.”
Miller said being in Thailand has expanded her perspective for the magazine’s focus.
“When [people] first get out of North America, they see firsthand that the kingdom of God is much bigger. . . . The kingdom of God is here. It’s moving in the world, and it’s alive. God is doing really exciting things. For Vibrant Girl, being part of the kingdom is reaching the hearts of girls across North America.”
Rachel Schrock of South Boston, Va., began producing an online newsletter, Daughters of Promise, in 2010.
“I felt God tangibly impress on my heart the need to use my experiences to encourage other women,” Schrock said.
Her email list grew from a dozen friends to several hundred women, and the publication transformed in 2013 into a bimonthly online magazine. In 2014, Daughters of Promise became a print publication, adopting a quarterly schedule in 2016. There are now more than 750 subscribers in the U.S. and several other nations.
Geared toward conservative Anabaptist young women ages 18-30, the magazine addresses topics such as work, relationships, marriage, parenting and singlehood.
“We want to use Daughters of Promise as a place to nurture the faith of women and help them experience the freedom of God’s kingdom,” she said.
The magazine is an outlet for Schrock to be creative and push some boundaries.
“We keep our content very Anabaptist in nature,” she said. “The photography would fall into more conservative parameters; there’s always some sort of head covering; the girls always wear dresses or something like that. But we try to have fun with the photography, to give people something outside of what conservative Mennonites usually produce.”
Schrock has made Daughters of Promise a place for other women to share their creative skills as well, including writing, photography and illustration.
“I have a heart for seeing conservative Anabaptist women use their talents,” she said. “We want to open up Daughters of Promise as a platform for them to share those gifts.”
Schrock called her family “pioneers in many ways,” moving to Tennessee with their five children to plant a church without knowing anyone there.
“[My parents] encouraged us kids to get out, explore, travel, not be afraid of new things,” she said. “I never felt squelched as a woman with creative talents. I count that as a major blessing because I know that’s not always the case for Mennonite women.”
While her work may stand out visually, Schrock emphasized that she remains faithful to conservative principles.
“We value our Anabaptist heritage as women, we don’t want to speak badly or trample on that,” she said. “We want to take those things and add to them in a healthy way — you can be a woman and own a business and be spunky; you can be a stay-at-home mom. . . . What are the dreams God has put on your heart and how can you implement them in the world, not only as a woman but as a Christ-follower?”