What We Do
We are the communications team for the Free Methodist Church – USA. We lead communication and brand strategy for the national church, including our web and print channels. We also implement and support technology for the denomination. We produce a monthly magazine, manage websites, tell stories, and more.
Our 124-year history is full of communication innovation and solid service to the denomination.
The Free Methodist Church was organized by a convention of pastors and laymen in 1860. Early leaders, T.B. Arnold and B.T. Roberts, aware of the need for the church to publish its own literature, privately financed and produced several publications.
The official publishing institution was established by the church at the 1886 general conference. The business — started and built by Arnold — was purchased for $8,000. He was named publisher and Roberts elected editor of The Free Methodist (precursor to Light & Life magazine).
The denomination’s new publishing business grew from its humble beginnings as a single publication venture — owning only a few pieces of office furniture … and scanty mechanical equipment — into a fully-equipped operation housed in three separate Chicago locations. The publishing house was at one time estimated to be worth several hundred thousand dollars and it contributed thousands of dollars, from its growing profits, to the mission and ministries of the church. The FM publishing house embodied the vision, courage and executive ability of those who took part in its initial development.
The Early Years
Few realize the tremendous and powerful ministry FM Communications (known for a time as Light and Life Press) has carried on quietly and effectively over the years. Our magazine, Light & Life, spreads its message globally … to Free Methodists and beyond. The printed page finds its way even where pastors and missionaries cannot go, and repeats its message of encouragement and discipleship again and again.
Through the years, people everywhere have used Sunday school materials prepared and disseminated by our department, along with special assistance for new Sunday schools and outreach efforts. Also, Sunday school curricula, books and hymnbooks produced in the denomination’s publishing house long made an inestimable contribution to denominational unity and strength.
As former publisher Lloyd Knox wisely noted, “The … ministry of publishing must be Christ-centered, biblically based and denominationally oriented. The creative, production, distribution, and accounting functions must contribute to the overall objective. [The] alertness and [knowledge] … needed here are more than in industry or commercial activities because our goals are higher. Our goal is not profit, though profit may contribute to the realization of more useful, relevant and potent products. We must produce a persuasive literature — persuasive in content, packaging, to mind and eye.”
Lofty goals such as these led to the printing of Arnold’s Commentary from 1894-1980, the pioneering of fully graded church school materials in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, the development of the Aldersgate Biblical Series (the only inductive curriculum of its day), and the widest circulation up to that time of Train Up A Child (still in use today).
A New Focus
Economic, political and social change resulted in a decision at the 1989 general conference to move the denomination’s publishing arm and World Ministries Center from Winona Lake to Indianapolis. Beginning in 1990, Sunday school curriculum was no longer produced by our own publishing house, but instead in a cooperative venture with other holiness denominations that continues to this day.
The mission of the FM Communications remained the same: teaching and developing earnest Christians through Light & Life magazine, creating for denominational use various study materials, the Book of Discipline, Yearbook, and curriculum pieces — all of which clarify the Free Methodist message and articulate a Wesleyan/holiness doctrine.
Areas of Change
During our 124-year history we have entered the retail market through the Light and Life Bookshop (1977-2005, Indianapolis) and the creation and sale of Christian Life Club (CLC) and other FM-generated products. We have also evaluated and marketed FM products through a wide variety of sources.
We have initiated the process, and continue to cooperate with other denominations of similar theology, of promoting, selecting and publishing products that meet Free Methodist doctrinal criteria. The Holiness Publishers Alliance has served as a forum for ideas, a clearinghouse for materials, and a foundation for cooperation on various projects.
Wesleyan Publishing House currently serves the product distribution and customer service needs of FM Communications through a partnership established in 2008.
In recent years FM Communications has expanded its offering of foreign language publications and developed a major piece on the history of our denomination. We produce a wide range of promotional pieces for our churches and pastors including pastoral helps, a brochure series outlining doctrinal distinctives and lifestyle issues — all relating to our distinct mission and vision.
Although in recent years FM Communications has become a service publication enterprise instead of a publishing house, our ministry to the church has not changed. And as our media-crazed culture and a frenzied electronic (computer) age continue to fuel process changes, we are committed — as our faithful heritage attests — to staying ahead of the curve on all fronts. Please follow us as we embrace the future.
Note: Information taken from “From Age to Age a Living Witness,” Leslie Marston; “Snapshots,” Donald Demaray; and the writings of former publishers B.H. Gaddis, Lloyd H. Knox and John E. Van Valin.