Retailer and publisher campaigns focus on ministry, outreach opportunities
With heightened general public attention on God’s Word this year due to the King James Version’s 400th anniversary, retailers and publishers are seeing a good response to initiatives to help get the Bible in as many hands as possible with giveaways and promotions.
Among the efforts is one led by a bookstore manager for the second-largest Christian chain in the country, which has donated thousands of Bibles to military personnel overseas.
Scott Reed, manager of the LifeWay Christian Store in Conyers, Ga., who served in the U.S. Air Force as a staff sergeant in a security team detail 20 years ago, began asking customers in October 2010 if they would like to donate a Bible to “a wounded warrior” recovering at an American military hospital outside of Ramstein Air Base in Landstuhl, Germany.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Reed, a Gulf War veteran, told Christian Retailing. “I had an original vision to provide 200 Bibles from our store, but it has turned into thousands of Bibles.”
The Wounded Warriors Ministry Project (WWMP), an initiative of the store’s Military Chaplain Outreach Program, has grown to include eight other LifeWay stores and a church in Conyers.
Reed’s campaign is separate from CBA’s Operation Worship Bible initiative with Tyndale House Publishers, in which nearly 800,000 units have been sold in the Christian retail channel and sent overseas to American military personnel since it began in 2008. The campaign is expected to reach a million units sold in the next 12-18 months, Tyndale officials said.
Similar in concept to the Operation Worship Bible effort, Tyndale launched the Inspire Life Bible Campaign to coincide with this year’s Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on Jan. 23—a partnership with Care Net Pregnancy Centers and Christian retailers—to provide free Bibles for pregnant women who are pondering an abortion.
Running through May, the initiative invites customers to donate a copy of Tyndale House’s Beautiful Everyday—a softcover edition of the New Living Translation, which retails for $5.99.
“We have had a great response from Christian retail, selling over 200,000 Bibles,” Tyndale House Publishers National Sales Director John Johnson told Christian Retailing. “We had many stores sell 500, 700 and even 1,000 Bibles. … Not only did the customers in Christian retail stores respond wholeheartedly to this outreach, but all of the sales occurred within less than 12 weeks.”
Elsewhere, Thomas Nelson has launched a Christian retail channel promotion to help a Christian humanitarian organization end poverty and preventable deaths among children in the United States and abroad. Through the God’s Word in Action “Buy a Bible, Help a Child” promotion, sales of Nelson Bibles—including children’s and Spanish-language versions—will support World Vision.
Nelson will donate a minimum of $75,000 to World Vision, with the potential for more based on sales from the promotion. When World Vision combines Nelson’s donation with matching grant funds and corporate donations, the donation multiplies four times, company officials said.
“Based on our fiscal plan for the upcoming year and matching grant funds, we have set an overall goal to provide more than $1 million to help children through World Vision,” said Nelson’s vice president and publisher for Bibles, Gary Davidson.
Funds generated by the promotion will provide immunizations, prenatal and ongoing medical care, vitamins and deworming medications, bed nets for malaria prevention and food.
Launched in April, the promotion is part of Nelson’s God’s Word in Action campaign, which is inspired by Ps. 82:3: “Stand up for the poor and the orphan; advocate for the rights of the afflicted and those in need” (The Voice).
Meanwhile, Zondervan made 1 million free online downloads of the entire updated New International Version (NIV) text available in the lead up to the March print arrival. Demand for the new NIV prompted the publisher to increase its original print run of 1.4 million to 1.9 million copies of various products. The print releases followed the debut of the updated NIV eBible, released in December 2010. It has become the fastest-selling e-book in Zondervan’s history, with more than 50,000 units sold to date.
LifeWay’s Reed said that customers donating a $5 Bible for the WWMP has not hurt sales at his store.
“When we ask our customers if they want to donate a Bible, seven out of 10 times they would say, ‘Absolutely,’ ” he said. “It’s helping sales, but it’s certainly not our motivation. If we put ministry first, the sales will naturally follow. We were able to sell far more of the $5 Bibles because there’s a ministry behind it.”
Reed said that more than 2,000 Bibles have been donated and are in the process of being “deployed” to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Landstuhl. “The donated Bibles are absolutely making a difference,” he said.
Bradford Phillips, a U.S. Air Force chaplain in the Wounded Warrior Ministry Center at LRMC, wrote in an email to LifeWay that “we can’t keep enough nice Bibles here.”
Bibles “are always needed,” Phillips said. “When we get to the floors, we always ask each warrior if they need a Bible and a devotional. At least 50% of the time, the answer is ‘yes.’ ”