27 December 2023

The year 2023 marks the end of an era: after almost exactly 90 years, Bischoff Publishers is discontinuing the German magazine ‌Unsere Familie‌.

It all began with a bankruptcy way back: Rundfunk-Zeitung was the name of the newspaper that a Hessian publisher had printed by a certain Friedrich Bischoff in Frankfurt (Germany). But the publisher was cash-strapped and could no longer pay his bills. In the end, he paid what he owed by transferring the magazine and its editorial team.

Friedrich Bischoff, son of Chief Apostle Johann Gottfried Bischoff, was already busy producing a series of digest-size magazines on behalf of the New Apostolic Church: Wächterstimme (The New Apostolic Review), ‌Amtsblatt ‌(Word of Life), and ‌Jugendfreund ‌(Youth Guide) with a total circulation of 60,000 copies. With the takeover of the Rundfunk-Zeitung he now had the opportunity to establish his own newspaper.

Recipes, jokes, and advertising

The name of the magazine that was launched on 17 December 1939 with a circulation of almost 33,000 copies was Unsere Familie‌. It was not the serious Church magazine of later years, but an illustrated magazine that offered faith-building content as well as recipes, a jokes corner, and adverts galore.

The magazine was not expected to survive long. Because in the middle of the Second World War, the authorities confiscated all the paper there was—to print ration cards. The production of all Church products had to be stopped in mid 1941.

Worldwide circulation

A new start was made in 1947. And there was a positive development: in 1955, Friedrich Bischoff published an English edition for the first time—as continuation of the ‌Our Family‌ that had been produced in South Africa. Other languages soon followed, especially when Chief Apostle Ernst Streckeisen promoted the internationalisation of the New Apostolic Church.

Under his successor Hans Urwyler, the worldwide editorial work was centralised and professionalised. He had the digest-size magazines integrated into the journal-size ‌Our Family‌. And he synchronised the various language editions: all content was to be published simultaneously in all languages.

Around 1990, the ‌Our Family reached its zenith: the official magazine was published in full or abridged versions in 22 languages and with a total circulation of around 270,000 copies.

Two in one

Over the next one to two decades, the downward trend in membership in Europe left its mark on the subscriber-based magazine: in Germany alone, the circulation was halved.

Another major turning point came in 2015, when the New Apostolic Church International reorganised its communication strategy and launched the member magazine ‌community‌: almost all international editions of the ‌Our Family ‌were discontinued—above all the international English, Spanish, and French.

And now, over the next couple of days, the last German-language edition of the magazine is being sent to its subscribers, because ‌Unsere Familie‌ and its younger sibling ‌spirit‌ will be replaced by a new German-language magazine at the start of 2024.

Saving time and money

Why? “On the one hand, we have increasingly heard that two issues per month are too much for working subscribers,” the publisher explains. “And given a drop in circulation, we also see the need to reduce material and distribution costs.”

The new magazine is to be published twelve times a year with 84 pages and retain its familiar and popular content.The magazine was originally to be called ‌Wir ‌ (“We”). This was the wish of a majority of those who responded to a survey. However, legal problems arose requiring a change in the title, which now is ‌neuapostolisch‌ (“New Apostolic”).

The publisher takes a positive view and says, “What’s written inside is now also reflected on the cover.” Chief Apostle Bischoff had already made a similar comment in the foreword to the very first ‌Our Family: “May it live up to what the title promises.”