Digital fatigue is real. Just ask a millennial. 

That’s what Rachael Lopez, 33, did. And the answers she got from dozens of peers in phone calls and surveys confirmed what she’d long suspected: time online, whether watching Netflix, meeting on Zoom for work or church, or jumping from blog to websites, was leaving many thoughtful Millennials tired and looking for ways to get off of screens. Lopez says her generation doesn’t want another podcast or blog or video game but rather is genuinely interested in what she calls ‘slow media’, that is, "hold a publication in your hands, take your time reading it and turning the pages". In other words, food for the soul.

Soul Tread

Soul Tread will be a new Australian Christian print magazine aimed at Millennials. PICTURE: 112 Photography.

Enter Soul Tread, a quarterly, eco-friendly, print-only magazine for Australian Christian Millennials and those young at heart, people who Lopez says identify as “book nerds, creative folks and recovering screen addicts”. Even before it officially launches in 2021, support and enthusiasm for Soul Tread has been growing, ironically, through various social media efforts and a Kickstarter fundraising campaign that offers plenty of contemplative and inspiring options for those interested in both. 

The idea for the magazine came to Lopez 13 years ago when she was finishing a photography degree and began studying for a master’s in theology. She was concerned at the number of friends who were leaving the church as well as the lack of vision most Christian magazines had for her generation. So after a stint with her husband at The Community of St Anselm, an international young adult community in London, the Melbourne-based young mother began planning and praying. When the global pandemic hit, the ‘slow media’ mission seemed all the more timely, growing out of both Lopez’s passion to encourage others and address that which broke her heart: seeing people fall away from Christianity.

Rachael Lopez 1

Rachael Lopez. PICTURE: Matthew Young Photography

 

“This group [around ages 24 to 39] really is the first generation to have grown up immersed in digital technology. On the whole they’re educated and tech-savvy and, looking at the Australian Millennial Report, they can’t seem to live without video-on-demand. There’s a growing anxiety around natural disasters, and they’re divided over climate change but want to participate in politics or activism.”

- Rachael Lopez, founder of Soul Tread.

“This group [around ages 24 to 39] really is the first generation to have grown up immersed in digital technology,” Lopez says. “On the whole they’re educated and tech-savvy and, looking at the Australian Millennial Report, they can’t seem to live without video-on-demand. There’s a growing anxiety around natural disasters, and they’re divided over climate change but want to participate in politics or activism.”

Because of such attributes, Lopez and a team of writers, artists and young theologians and pastors began to consider about how best to capture their peers’ attention while also providing a platform for new voices and artists and Biblical perspectives. Soul Tread was born, then, with the intentional mission that reflects its name: Soul being the spiritual part of a human being but also associated with creativity, and Tread referring both to the walk with Jesus and the traction of a tire providing longevity, enabling one to stay on the road. Though a print publication for this tech savvy generation might seem counter-intuitive - as Lopez has been told countless times as she’s applied for grants and assistance - it is exactly this approach that she believes will appeal to Millennials and other creatives. 

“I think they’ll pick it up precisely because it’s not digital,” Lopez says, firm in her commitment to print. “The Millennials we spoke to all want to break free from their dependence on digital devices. They are overwhelmed by the amount of content coming in and unable to keep up with it. What’s we’re doing with Soul Tread is completely different. It’s a bit like a church plant and starting something new; it’s slow media and people really want it.”

The magazine includes original art and photographs, regular columns on faith and work and other topics, and specific articles helping readers think more deeply and practically about engaging the world around them. Lopez believes its design will also become a “beautiful keepsake and source of ongoing inspiration with ideas you’d want to come back to". 

Using a Melbourne-based printing company committed to reducing its environmental impact, each edition of Soul Tread will include around 100 pages on recycled paper and will be available through subscription. Supplemental costs will come from grants, donations, and sponsors for specific issues - the magazine will include no advertising - and The Wandering Bookseller will stock Soul Tread when Christian conferences are up and running again. 

Though Lopez has been advised to invest in marketing strategies like daily email campaigns or offering free e-books to lure in supporters and readers, she refuses to add to the glut of digital content. Though she and her team are grateful for how technology helps them connect with one another and the world, she’s convinced this print publication can encourage Australians and other Christians around the globe in their faith.  

“Our Kickstarter Campaign [which runs until the 1st October] is a great way to pre-order a single edition, or get a one-year subscription or multi-packs with some really amazing rewards with art, books and exclusive Zoom events with authors Mike Bird and Tom WrightKara MartinRich Villodas and Anna McGahan,” Lopez says. “We want this to be a magazine that helps people sustain their faith and bring balance into their lives. In the end, though, it’s up to God how we get funded. It’s never what I think it’ll be, but we always know when it’s God at work.”