Part of a series on how the church works
The United Methodist Publishing House published almost 2,000 new books, Bibles and church resources in the past year and, as a self-funded agency, finished over $1 million in the black in 2016.
In addition, the church’s publishing arm was tasked by General Conference 2016 with creating a new version of The United Methodist Hymnal — the first since 1989.
In response to questions from United Methodist News Service, executive staff of the commission discussed the agency’s role and accomplishments in the past year.
What were the top three to five goals of your agency in 2016?
In the last fiscal year (August to July), the publishing house served The United Methodist Church and beyond with hundreds of new products and a range of services. The agency supported the work of the General Conference by producing the Advance Daily Christian Advocate and Daily Christian Advocate and was present online, by phone and in person at annual and jurisdictional conferences and General Conference 2016.
The publishing house was present in in thousands of local churches delivering help for pastors and ministry leaders and joining with Discipleship Ministries in winning approval by General Conference 2016 for a new United Methodist Hymnal. The agency remained fully financially self-sustaining by meeting all of its responsibilities and achieving net operating revenue to fund future work.
Were you able to fully or partly accomplish these goals? How was that done?
In Fiscal Year 2016, 1,871 new books, bibles and church resources were published and thousands of products from other publishers and vendors made available through Cokesbury. The Publishing House provided the Advance Daily Christian Advocate in four languages prior to General Conference and the Daily Christian Advocate during General Conference on time and on budget. The Publishing House was in direct contact with hundreds of thousands of customers through Cokesbury.com and our toll-free call center; and met thousands of customers face-to-face at 75 annual, jurisdictional, general conferences and other events. Agency staff visited and offered counsel to hundreds of pastors and leaders in their own churches, shipped 477,718 orders around the world, and was authorized to partner with others to develop a new hymnal. The denomination’s official publishing and distribution agency accomplished this while exceeding an ambitious goal for net operating revenue.
What was your budget for 2016? How much of that budget was put toward each of these goals?
The Publishing House is fully self-funded through sales. Total sales for the fiscal year were $61,828,000, which was $350,000 short of budget but balanced by control of expenses to produce a net operating revenue of $1,311,332.
Please give a specific example of how one of your programs benefited a United Methodist, a church, or a specific community.
A teacher of Adult Bible Studies in one of our churches wrote: “I want to personally thank you for an excellent and challenging [quarter]. You ruffled some feathers in our class. Reading scripture and finding a better understanding and applying for our time is not easy. I commend you for helping make this relevant for our historical review and our present time. The Old Testament prophets shook up the Israelites through their history and they have a message for us today! Jesus shook us up in the first century and shakes us up today as well. The resurrected Lord, the Holy Spirit, and the Words from Scripture both Old Testament and New are challenging to our lives, so thank you for helping us ‘hear’ the ongoing message!”
What particular challenges did the agency face in accomplishing these goals?
As a self-financing non-profit organization competing with many for-profit businesses, the Publishing House faces multiple challenges. These include declines in church membership, worship and Sunday school attendance in the U.S.; decentralized decision-making among annual conferences and local congregations spanning an array of vastly different contexts andchanges in technology that affect how church leaders and members shop and buy as well as how they intend to use different products. Other challenges include the task of bridging language and cultural requirements in order to provide resources useful in a score of Central Conferences; debates and preferences related to scriptural interpretation and theological emphases; and the requirement to meet disparate needs as the agency responsible for the publishing and distribution interests of The United Methodist Church in the digital age.
If the goals are ongoing, what do you plan to accomplish in 2017?
The Publishing House provides help through products and services that reach more people in more places with quality services and resources so they will come to know and deepen their knowledge of God through Jesus Christ, learn to love God, and choose to serve God and neighbor. The agency strives to provide responsive, resonant help for the ongoing work of tens of thousands of congregations and individuals on the Christian journey; and to assure a vibrant and sustainable self-funded ministry.