There’s nothing more tiresome than content creators who believe Christian women are only willing to click on articles promising to improve their self-images or offer self-deprecating devotions. Sure, women, like men, go through different seasons of life and that means fluctuating reading materials. Currently on my nightstand is The Big Book of Birth. I’m learning a lot, but parenting books and mommy blogs aren’t the only topics I’m interested in as an expectant mother.
The audience comprised of young orthodox Christian women today is grittier and intellectually deeper than the stereotypical pastel-themed cookie-cutter Christian lady blogs. Christian women are reading many of the same outlets as our pastors and brother lay leaders, and faith-based content creators would do well to remember so.
The Big Question
Young women are reading. A 2012 Pew Research study found 70 percent of women ages 18-49 read in-depth articles and 33 percent of those check the news daily. And an October 2016 Pew Research study learned that 42 percent of readers 18-29 prefer reading the news compared to watching videos (39 percent) or listening to podcasts (19 percent). My mission became to discover which publications they prefer.
Hence, I quizzed 21 young Christian women I know either personally or professionally, asking them directly, “What publications are you reading regularly?”Specifically, what are these young women’s go-to reading preferences for issues of faith and culture? All but two responded.
All Christians, these women are a mix of single, married, stay-at-home moms, working moms, teachers, policy gurus, and the hands and feet of local parachurch ministries. Mostly Southern Baptists, some Anglicans, Presbyterians, and several non-denominational churchgoers. All 20 and 30-somethings.
My survey is by no means an official study, but the intriguing results do offer an awareness of where (and how) young Christian women are getting their information on faith, current events, and devotionals.
The three most popular blogs cited by the Christian women I approached were The Gospel Coalition, John Piper’s Desiring God, and the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) blog. Though I also received a lot of “the Babylon Bee, of course” feedback, expressing a special love of the Christian satire blog. “Don’t we all!?!,” asked one young professional
The American Conservative was another popular choice. “Especially anything Rod Dreher or Gracy Olmstead,” specified a 20-something professional.
Several of the women preferred faith-based media outlets including Christianity Today, World Magazine, and the Religion News Service (two ladies noted Jonathan Merritt’s “On Faith & Culture” column) as their preferences.
But these ladies weren’t just interested in faith-based sources. As one friend and colleague put it, “It’s worth noting that I think it’s important to believers to have a varied diet of secular news sources as a means of reading about world events and news through a biblical lens. It’s another way to engage the culture.”
Sought-after religion news journalists included The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey and The Atlantic’s Emma Greene.
And one especially sweet friend added, “Your blog posts are about the only blogs I read, Chelsen.” My new best friend.
An intriguing pattern among these women— whether stay-at-home moms or working women— was that they were less likely to intentionally visit a pastor or advocacy organization’s blog daily. Instead, the women rely heavily on those outlet’s email alerts or newsletters for top stories, highlights, and daily devotionals.
“Rick Warren’s and Greg Laurie’s daily devotions are delivered to my inbox daily. I read 3-5 of them each week on my tablet or laptop,” commented one busy working mom.
“Occasionally I will Google articles on hot topics, especially surrounding this last election,” offered another woman. But she admitted she prefers the regular e-newsletters from World Vision and Samaritans Purse to keep up with what’s happening around the world and at home.
Another contact added she reads, Michael Wear’s Reclaiming Hope e-newsletter “intermittently.”
The daily e-newsletter format was certainly a favorite among the young Christian women I know. TheSKIMM, for example, is a Millennial-friendly daily email that delivers popular new stories that several women relied on for news.
“SKIMM coming right to my inbox and being a good aggregate helps keep me abreast of issues outside of my usual scope,” wrote one female colleague. “I am also relieved to find them quite fair. I had fears the authors (two girls if I’m right) would share news from a biased angle, but they are quite good about keeping it neutral, with a bit of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm to keep us interested.”
Social media also plays a major role in what blogs young Christian women are reading. One woman mentioned she’s been reading FaithIt.com more recently, as she notes, “That is because people seem to be sharing articles from them on my Facebook feed.”
“I tend to read articles that friends post on Facebook or share with me. I read books and get suggestions from suggestions shared via our church blog or pastor,” added a young teacher. “I would probably tend to veer toward Christianity Today or First Things if I had more time…but don’t read either with any regularity. Trying to read the Bible regularly is tough enough, unfortunately.”
Three women mentioned radio and podcasts as a convenient and helpful source for information. National Public Radio (NPR) was a classic favorite. Urban Family Talk, Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast, were also mentioned. I would add daily audio clips from “Ask Pastor John [Piper],” Albert Mohler’s “The Briefing,” and Providence Magazine’s “Provcast” to the list of podcasts I consume for highlights on faith and current events.
Young Christian women’s reading preferences on faith and culture don’t differ much at all from that of the young Christian men I know. We love to learn. Depending on our daily schedules, we seek out intellectually thoughtful pieces. When we’re busy, we love taking advantage of technology and new media as a convenient source of knowledge.
If this blog posts achieves anything, I pray it serves as a helpful reminder to Christian content makers: Women read your stuff, too.