Disciples News Service

2008 Strong for Chalice Press Book Sales; Board and Management Address Challenges and Next Steps

Christian Board of PublicationST. LOUIS, MO — Christian Board of Publication president and publisher Cyrus N. "Russ" White reported recently to the board of directors that while the publishing house faces significant challenges in the current economic downturn, it remains financially sound, serving more congregations within and beyond North America than ever before, and aggressively developing new products, services, and relationships with authors and customers.

"We are positioned well for the times," White said. "We navigated severe financial crises a decade ago. That forced us to make the difficult decisions and develop the skills necessary for sustainability. We continue to focus on agility and adaptability as core attributes that make it possible for us to thrive. We remain grateful for God’s leadings. Although we are not immune to all that threatens, we are prepared, we are seasoned, and we are not afraid."

In addition to reviewing management’s financial and missional performance, the board considered the threats and opportunities presented by the economic downturn, discussed the implications of the newly revised IRS Form 990, chartered an audit committee, reviewed staffing and author selection processes in terms of anti-racism/pro-reconciliation practices, conducted a performance appraisal with the president and publisher, and elected directors and officers.

Board chair Julie Burch said, "Neither the publishing industry nor the church has seen conditions this difficult in many years. This board is clear about the challenges and our duty to be vigilant and faithful with the resources under our care. We are pleased with the staff’s performance in advancing the mission of the house, their stewardship of resources, and their success in serving more people in more congregations." 

Content Development

Chalice Press book sales saw double-digit growth in 2008. The top-selling titles address congregational evangelism and transformation. The three books in the Unbinding the Gospel Series, by Martha Grace Reese, have reached over 12,000 congregations in nearly 50 denominations, 7 countries, and all 50 states. Reaching People under 40 While Keeping People over 60, by Eddie Hammett and James Pierce, is the top ranked title in the popular Columbia Partnership Leadership Series.

In late 2008, Chalice Press released Chalice Introduction to Disciples Theology, the first comprehensive survey of it kind, featuring contributions from three dozen Disciples theologians.

Early in 2009, Chalice Press launched Faith Leader, a four-module, small group experience in developing spiritual leadership in congregations. Thoroughly field-tested, the material also has professional facilitators available to assist with training and implementation. In June 2009, Chalice Press will release Reflections on My Call to Preach, the memoirs of Fred B. Craddock, perhaps the premier preaching practitioner and mentor of the 20th century.

The board learned that many Chalice Press titles are now available for Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader, and that Chalice has begun developing digital editions of most new content, including formats that customers may read on computers and many cell phones.

Staffing Development

The publishing house began offering flextime options to all staff, allowing individuals to work from home one day per week, as well as the ability to work extended hours for nine days to take off the tenth day. CBP offers these options, which may be used in combination, as a way of reducing the time, expense, and carbon emissions of commuting. The staff remains in contact from any location through telephone and internet communication.

CBP purchased and assigned to each staff member Kindle 2 e-book readers in order to accelerate learning and innovation with digital formats. Employees are free to use the readers for business and personal reading, at the office and away.

Customer Relationships Development

Chalice staff continue to collaborate with two advisory groups on content development, marketing, and social networking. The Women Professionals Advisory Group served as a focus group on a new design for ChalicePress.com and other resources. The Young Adult Advisory Group is launching its own series with young adults writing about theologically significant life issues.

The board learned that Chalice has inked a collaboration agreement with The Young Clergy Women Project, a supportive professional/pastoral community for women under age forty and ordained before age thirty-five. Chalice and the YCWP are exploring a variety of publishing possibilities.

The house will launch a new version of ChalicePress.com in June. The site will make it easier for customers to connect with authors and each other, to purchase print and digital content, and to search and sample material before buying it.

Financial Stewardship

Highlights of the 2008 financial performance included steep declines in sales of products related to church programming and worship materials but double-digit growth in book sales, successful renewal of the line of credit, strongly improved asset and liquidity ratios, positive cash flow for the year, and a net surplus of 5% on sales. CBP ended 2008 in the black for the sixth consecutive year.