From a war hero to Dolly Parton: How Guideposts has continued to inspire millions for almost 80 years

Launch issues don’t come much more inspirational than the first ever Guideposts magazine. Created in 1945 by noted clergyman and author Norman Vincent Peale, the title’s inaugural edition featured an article by Eddie Rickenbacker – the renowned World War II hero and ace pilot, a race car driver and business leader. Titled “I Believe in Prayer” the piece has acted as a template for Guideposts’ uplifting content ever since.

John Temple, President and CEO, Guideposts

“The article beautifully encapsulated the essence and vision of Guideposts,” says John Temple, the President and CEO of Guideposts, the spiritual non-profit organisation that, in addition to Guideposts magazine, brings out inspirational publications Abide and Devoutly.

“Rickenbacker shared several experiences where he nearly died, including the 21 days he and his crew were lost at sea in the South Pacific. Through all of these ordeals, he credited his success and ability to survive not to his own bravery or brilliance but rather: ‘I knew there was a Power. I believe in calling upon It for help’.

“By sharing this deeply personal story, Rickenbacker helped set the stage for Guideposts to become the destination for people from various walks of life to share their personal experiences, struggles, and triumphs, all woven together by the common thread of faith.”

The remarkable Eddie Rickenbacker was good friends with Norman Vincent Peale – famous for his book The Power of Positive Thinking – and encouraged him to find to start Guideposts magazine. Peale’s innovative approach of combining faith with psychology has been the cornerstone of Guideposts, offering a unique blend of spiritual upliftment and practical advice in daily living.

Since 1945, the brand has blossomed into an organisation that produces books and online material based around faith. With the magazine and website including stories on ways to make friends, beat depression and prayers to keep you healthy, Guideposts acts as a beacon of hope for a lot of people.

“We highlight life’s joys and challenges and help provide a sense of comfort secure in the knowledge that you are never alone and are loved,” says Temple. “Through everything we create, we foster an environment where hope can grow and offer not just solace but also the courage to face and overcome life’s greatest challenges.”

Pointing the way

One of the biggest challenges for Guideposts producing content based around faith is the deeply personal nature of the topic.

“In a world where we are increasingly stuck in our own echo chambers, delving into faith formation can be particularly divisive,” Temple points out. “It sometimes feels like there are unspoken litmus tests used to gauge an organisation’s credibility, often based on their adherence to specific doctrinal views or political stances.

“However, Christian faith, at its core, is fundamentally about love. We focus on the principal of a loving and gracious God who calls us to love one another and embrace the fact that each person is on their own unique spiritual journey. Our goal is to be there for them wherever they may be on that path.”

Allowing every Guideposts reader to walk their own path is crucial. The organisation’s approach to spiritual growth is always inclusive and non-judgmental.

“We understand that everyone is at a different point in their spiritual journey, and we seek to help people take that next step. Like a guidepost on a trail, we are here to offer direction and support, not to judge the path travelled,” adds Temple.

“We focus on habit formation and start small. Much like training for a marathon, you don’t start on a 26.2-mile run without training. It starts with shorter distances, gradually building endurance and strength over time. We believe that spiritual strength and resilience are similarly not built overnight. They are cultivated through consistent, small acts of faith, daily reflections, and an ongoing dialogue with God.

“This incremental approach is crucial, especially when life presents its marathons – be it a cancer diagnosis, the heartbreak of a divorce or the grief of losing a loved one. These are the moments when the foundations of faith are most needed, providing the strength to endure and the hope to persevere.”

Hello Dolly

Since Guideposts deals with such strong emotions, there is a lot of pressure to get the content across its platforms just right. Sometimes it seeks out the help of famous names, with the likes Dolly Parton appearing on the cover and talking about her faith.

“Having well-known figures share their experiences of faith is undoubtedly significant,” says Temple. “It’s not just about the prominence of their names, but more so about the authenticity and relatability of their stories.

“When someone like Dolly Parton opens up about her faith, it creates a ripple effect. It encourages others to reflect on their own spiritual journey.”

It’s not just legendary country singers who get to share their thoughts on faith. Guidepost readers are a rich source of stories themselves and share experiences from their own lives, many of which find a home in the magazine or other platforms.

“This direct line of communication not only enriches our content but also strengthens the trust between us and our readers,” explains Temple.

Guideposts also has a dedicated network of people who are constantly on the lookout for compelling, true stories. “These stories can often come from unexpected places, but they always carry a sense of hope that resonates with our readers,” adds Temple.

“Ensuring our content is consistently inspirational is a responsibility our team feels deeply. We are committed to providing stories that evoke a sense of closeness and warmth, those that can bring a tear to the eye and a shiver down the spine. This emotional connection is crucial but, equally importantly, they are all true.

“Our editorial teams do an incredible job of taking this raw material and turning it into a Guideposts experience. Many of our contributors, whether they are regular readers or well-known personalities, are sharing their spiritual journeys for the first time. This is a deeply personal, often vulnerable experience. Our team excels in providing a supportive environment where these individuals can express their experiences in a comfortable way.”

A devoted following

Guideposts magazine underwent a redesign in 2021, reducing its print issues from 10 to six per year, with each edition getting 30 added pages while being printed on higher quality paper. The change was embraced by its millions of readers, a loyalty underlined by its subscription success and low churn rates.

“Our founders planted the seeds of our success with a simple yet profound saying: ‘Find a need and fill it’. This wisdom was imparted to us about 50 years ago, long before ‘customer-centricity’, became a term in the business lexicon,” says Temple. “Yet, it is core to everything we do. By placing the needs and spiritual journeys of our subscribers at the heart of our mission, we’ve been able to create a connection that is truly a partnership.

“Faith development is incredibly personal and requires not just understanding but deep empathy and trust. We strive to comprehend the spiritual needs of our subscribers, offering solutions that resonate with their hearts and minds. Our colleagues take our responsibility very seriously and understand that we must approach our work with integrity to earn and sustain the trust of those we serve.

“Our community responds to our values that is not just reflected in positive testimonials and reviews, but also in our extremely high retention rates and percentage of subscribers that gift to others and donate to our organisation.”

Ask Temple about the inspirational advice he himself has received in his life and he mentions a common theme to the words that have moved him.

“I would say that the common thread that cuts across the best advice I’ve received is to lead with kindness and humility. Whether we recognise it or not, our interactions with others hold the power to uplift, to heal, and to inspire – or not. Every part of our lives is an opportunity to lead with a heart of service and compassion.”


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