Christian Retailing

Chain weighs promotion of TV reality star’s new book Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 05 April 2010 12:43 PM America/New_York

Family Christian Stores asks consumers about their attitudes towards ‘Plus 8’ mom Kate Gosselin

The leading Christian retail chain has canvassed shoppers to decide whether to promote TV reality star Kate Gosselin’s book I Just Want KateGosselinbookYou to Know, when it comes out this month. Family Christian Stores (FCS) asked consumers their opinions about the Zondervan title by the co-author of Multiple Blessings—the 2008 release written with her former huisband and Beth Carson that has sold more than 500,000 copies. Last year the Gosselins, stars of the TV reality series Jon & Kate Plus 8 went through a highly publicized divorce.

In the wake of that and the cancellation of the show, FCS surveyed shoppers about the new book, which features excerpts, prayers and memories from Kate Gosselin’s journal. The chain sent out an e-mail inviting consumers to complete an online survey that included the book’s cover—which features the author sitting in a chair and the subtitle, Letters to My Kids on Love, Faith and Family—and asking their impression of the book’s contents and theme.

Among the response choices were whether the book seemed to be a “mother writing inspirational letters to her children” or a “tell-all book revealing her side of the story of the past year.” Recipients of the communication were also asked to indicate whether they agreed or not that “Christian book stores should not promote any books by Kate Gosselin.”

Those who identified themselves as not being interested in the book were asked to say whether that was because the topic did not interest them, they were not familiar with the author or whether they found her “too controversial” or “do not agree with the author’s moral philosophy.”

The chain declined to comment on the survey, though the book was not available at its Web site by late March, when it could be ordered online at the Parable Group site.

When asked whether LifeWay Christian Stores would be carrying the title, the chain said that its “product strategy” was proprietary information. At Mardel Christian & Education, President Jason Green said that that his chain would not be laying in the title because it was not felt that demand would warrant placement, but would special-order it.

Zondervan Director of Public Relations Karen Campbell told Christian Retailing that response from the trade to the new title—which has a 400,000-copy first printing—had been positive, and stores “generally are excited about the book.”

She added: “We realize the recent events in Kate’s life have been very public and many sources—particularly the tabloids—have exploited her popularity with misinformation. Some people may not agree with our decision to publish this book, but we support Kate as she moves forward into a new chapter in her life.

“It is clear that her faith has been an integral part of her life and the lives of her children during the past year, and we are honored to give her the opportunity to share her heart.”

Gosselin’s new book was described by her publisher as “offering an intimate look at the heart of a mother during the three years her family transitioned from obscurity into the national spotlight.”

Most recently seen on TV in ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, Gosselin said in a statement: “Each day the thought crosses my mind that when they get older, my kids are going to look back and think about how they were raised. I know they will have a lot of questions about things that may not make sense because they were raised so unconventionally.”

 
Publishers ‘build new relationships’ at broadcast show Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 05 April 2010 12:32 PM America/New_York

National Religious Broadcasters convention provides ‘beneficial relationship for all involved’

With the theme “Extend Your Reach Through Media,” the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual convention featured a strong Mavis-Sanderspublishing emphasis.

During the Feb. 27-March 2 event in Nashville, author and radio commentator Chuck Colson— whose books include The Faith and Loving God (both Zondervan) as well as How Now Shall We Live? and Lies That Go Unchallenged in Popular Culture (both Tyndale House Publishers)—was honored with a Hall of Fame Award.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, a son of one of the founders of the terrorist group Hamas, spoke during the gathering of Christian broadcasting professionals to promote his book, Son of Hamas (Tyndale House Publishers), which was released around the time of the convention.

Yousef had been spotlighted by mainstream media for his memoir—which details a six-year-long conversion process that originated with a Bible study in Jerusalem and resulted in his departure from the Palestinian organization.

Joel C. Rosenberg—best-selling author of Tyndale’s Bible prophecy-based books, including Epicenter—was featured during the international luncheon, introducing Yousef as a “brother in Christ.”

Meanwhile, Dave Ramsey, author of the New York Times best-seller The Total Money Makeover (Thomas Nelson), led a “Social Marketing Strategy” workshop, while Phil Cookeauthor of The Last TV Evangelist (Conversant Media Group) and Branding Faith (Regal Books)was one of the featured speakers at the convention.

Among the dozen publishers that exhibited at the event were Baker Publishing Group (BPG), Harvest House Publishers, Strang Communications, Tyndale House, WestBow Press (Thomas Nelson’s self-publishing division), Rose Publishing, Xulon Press and Advantage Books.

Despite the continuing tough economy, Mavis Sanderscorporate publicist for Tyndale Housetold Christian Retailing that the publisher’s presence at NRB was similar to previous years.

“We presented current and upcoming authors, products for interviews and programming ideas, and met with agencies and vendors,” she said. “Our presence at NRB also reinforced our association with many outstanding Tyndale authors who have broadcast ministries.”

Harvest House Broadcast Publicist Christianne Debysingh said the publisher used a smaller booth.

“Our primary purpose is to network, and having a big booth does not enhance that function,” she told Christian Retailing. “Also, given the state of the economy, we, like so many others, looked for ways to save on expenses. … We did not cut back this year (on staff) as we had already done that last year. Last year we only had four attend, which was down by one. We kept that same number of four this year.”

Debysingh added that Harvest House does not traditionally bring authors to NRB.

“The highlight for us is always peoplenot only connecting with people we know, but building new relationships,” she said. “It also allows us to meet and develop new contacts.”

BPG Manager of Special Markets Rod Jantzen told Christian Retailing that the publisher “scaled back somewhat this year” at NRB. “With many ministries a bit more conservative in their approach right now due to the economic conditions, it made sense for us to take a more conservative approach as well,” he said. “A gathering like NRB is always a great way to connect with ministries and media outlets who are attending. Relationships are really at the heart of it all.”

NRB Vice President of Operations David Keith added: “NRB member broadcasters have always had a good working relationship with both the authors and publishers of books over the years. It has been a beneficial relationship for all involved. Recent (economy-related) challenges only mean we need to invest additional energy in finding ways that make sense for all those involved.”

 
Christian retail channel ‘critical’ to Christian gaming Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 05 April 2010 12:28 PM America/New_York

Leading inspirational video game companies say they ‘value the support’ of bookstores, who understand ‘message and value of games’

Industry observers are expressing hope for the future of inspirational video games in light of the merger of two of the nation’s largest Troy-LyndonChristian video game companies. They say that the support from Christian retailers “is critical to the success of Christian gaming.”

Inspired Media Entertainment, the inspirational video game company that makes games based on the “Left Behind” book series, announced in February that it would merge with Digital Praise, the maker of Guitar Praise—a Christian game similar to the popular Guitar Hero.

Troy Lyndon, chairman and CEO of Inspired Media Entertainment—known as Left Behind Games (LBG) to the mainstream market—said the merger had “four key ingredients that will take our company to the next level.”

“Those keys are strong brands and products, multi-channeled distribution, a solid management team and a history of generating millions of dollars in the emerging Christian video game market—a feat no company has matched,” he said.

Digital Praise President and CEO Tom Bean, now president of LBG, added: “This merger gives us access to capital that we anticipate will enable us to produce far more new innovative games than we could hope to develop as a privately held company.”

Michael Patcher, research analyst at financial services and investment firm Wedbush Securities, said the Christian video game market is “a significant market currently underserved by traditional publishers.”

Sales of computer games—the primary platform of Christian games—in the U.S. were $538 million in 2009, while total video game and PC sales game software were $20.2 billion last year, according to market researcher The NPD Group (National Purchase Diary).

“This merger will allow (Inspired Media) to be well-positioned to serve the millions of people of faith that enjoy Christian entertainment,” Patcher said.

Tim Emmerich, director of conferences for the Christian Games Developer Conference/Association of Christian Entertainment, told Christian Retailing that both companies have previously participated in the group’s conference—slated this year for July 15-17 at Concordia University in Portland, Ore.

“Digital Praise is intimately involved in the association,” said Emmerich, who owns GraceWorks Interactive, which develops and distributes games such as The Interactive Parables and Interactive Bible: James. “We are definitely praying that God will bless the merger and bless the people who experience (Christian) games. … I encourage players to reach out to ... their local Christian bookstore as their source for Christian games.”

Ralph Bagley, spokesperson for the nonprofit Association for Family Interactive Media, told Christian Retailing that “the marketplace has always been ready for more high-quality Christian games.”

“The problem is that in order to create a high-quality Christian game that is available on several platforms, it takes a budget of roughly $10 million-$15 million dollars to develop it,” said Bagley, whose N’Lightning Software company produced games such as Catechumen and Ominous Horizons, which are available in Christian bookstores. “On top of that, you need millions more for marketing. The question is when can the Christian game developer community create a game that transcends a small niche market and goes mainstream?”

Based in Murrieta, Calif., Inspired Media publishes six games, including Charlie Church Mouse, Keys of the Kingdom and Left Behind: Tribulation Forces, the sequel to Left Behind: Eternal Forces—regarded as the most widely distributed Christian PC game.

Besides Guitar Praise, Newark, Calif.-based Digital Praise—now a subsidiary of Inspired Media—publishes several games, including Adventures in Odyssey, Dance Praise, Light Rangers, Hermie & Friends, aMazing Bible and two new iPhone game applications. Longtime Christian metal band Stryper recently signed a licensing agreement for the Guitar Praise Stryper Expansion Pack, which was to be released by Digital Praise in stores before Easter.

Bagley said there are currently close to 100 independent Christian game developers worldwide. “The problem is that very few of them have the resources to flourish under these very tough market conditions,” he said. “The support from the Christian retailers is critical to the success of Christian gaming, but the developers must create great games that are fun to play in order for the equation to really work.”

Bean agreed. “The Christian retail stores are a critical channel for the success of the Christian video game industry,” he told Christian Retailing. “We value the support of the large chains as well as all the independent stores that promote and sell our product line. The Christian retail channel provides our customers with knowledgeable staff that understand the Christian message and value of our games.”

Inspired Media recently reported that consumers have shown a desire “to purchase good, wholesome games.” Three PC games—including Charlie Church Mouse, retailing between $19.96 and $29.96by the company formerly known as Left Behind Games were offered last fall in approximately 100 Wal-Mart stores in Dallas and Houston as well as in other Texas markets.

Left Behind: Tribulation Forces and Charlie Church Mouse were “completely sold out” in those stores several days before Christmas, Lyndon said. “Further, the original, 3-year-old Left Behind: Eternal Forces continued to show life as it was distributed in nearly every Target store in America, demonstrating that Christian games have longer lives,” he added.

Lyndon said that the retail test was “significantly successful enough” to attract interest from the country’s largest video-game representative firm, SMP Communications—resulting in an agreement to distribute its products into mainstream retail outlets throughout this year.

“Major Christian retailers appear to be bouncing back from the recession and have begun to place orders,” he said. “Now that the marketplace appears to be ready for more Christian games, our new focus on the Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 for future titles should begin our company’s transformation from a PC game publisher to an all-platform video game producer. … Christian games will become a significant market. The question isn’t ‘if,’ it’s just a matter of ‘when.’ ”

 
ICRS offers free workshops, giveaways for retailers Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 05 April 2010 12:22 PM America/New_York

Officials ‘expect a strong show’ for retailers’ trade association’s annual summer show in new city

CBA is hoping to attract retailers and suppliers to its International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) with special promotions and offerings.

Thomsen_GeorgeMarking its 61st anniversary in St. Louis—a Midwest location for the first time in years—ICRS is set for June 27-30. CBA Chairman-elect George Thomsen told Christian Retailing that this year’s theme—“Real People, Real Impact: It’s Why We Do What We Do”—is “about coming together as an industry.”

“No matter how our businesses are doing, where we’re located, what country we’re from or what competitors we might be facing, our business is about ministry,” he said. “And it’s about making a real impact in the lives of the people we serve.”

ICRS is looking to bounce back after total professional attendance in Denver last summer declined 20% over 2008, while international attendees saw a 28% drop. CBA declined to disclose how many individual stores were at the 2009 show.

Although attendance was significantly down and the exhibit floor shrunk from 2008, positive sales reports and an upbeat mood were the common verdict of suppliers, distributors, publishers and retailers at last summer’s show.

At press time, 175 suppliers were listed on the ICRS Web site for 2010. Just like the past two years, Thomas Nelson will again skip ICRS in St. Louis.

“The number of suppliers is tracking close to last year,” Thomsen said. “All of the major suppliers have once again committed to this year’s ICRS. … Retailer registration just opened and is earlier than last year, so we do not have comparable data. We are expecting that we will have a good showing of strong retailers in St. Louis.”

In terms of promotions, CBA is offering those who register online a chance to win an iPod and association members who sign up another retailer to join the organization will be able attend ICRS for free. Additionally, members who sign up more than five retailers to join CBA will be entered in a drawing for a family vacation for three nights in Orlando, Fla.

“Members of CBA make the best advocates and resource for helping out fellow retailers by sharing the many benefits of membership they have personally experienced,” Thomsen said.

CBA is also offering 13 training workshops—including topics such as using social media and bargain book strategies—for free to members.

“I don’t know what our past workshop fees were, but (they were) not expensive—particularly if the retailer purchased a workshop bundle,” Thomsen said. “CBA recognizes that retailers’ budgets are much tighter this year, yet the need for training remains. That is why we have made the adjustment.”

In additional, the association is offering eight free merchandising demonstrations in product categories such as apparel, fiction, fine art, gifts, jewelry and family entertainment. Just like last year, the demonstrations will be led by suppliers as they engage attendees in hands-on exercises for effective showcasing of the products. Meanwhile, bargain product suppliers will be spotlighted in the Bargain Boulevard section of the exhibit floor of America’s Center.

“Bargain product has been an area of growth in the past year for many retailers finding new avenues of profitability in the recession,” Thomsen said. “By perusing bargain booths conveniently clustered together in the same area, retailers will be able to see all the bargain product available to help them sell more to budget-conscious customers.”

At press time, CBA was still finalizing agreements with speakers for the show, which will again feature the Heart of the Artist Luncheon.

Thomsen said he was optimistic about ICRS.

“While the economy is showing signs of improvement, we still need to get together to strengthen our businesses, and be encouraged to carry out the mission of our ministry,” he said. “We’re looking forward to St. Louis with excitement to be in a new city that’s centrally located within a strong concentration of stores, and expect a strong show with dedicated retailers and suppliers in attendance.”

 
Christian retailers offered publishers’ sales data Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 05 April 2010 12:13 PM America/New_York

Reports designed to ‘raise awareness’ of importance of reporting to information pools

Christian retailers are being given the opportunity to study publishers’ sales data to help them stay on top of the market.

Michael-CovingtonStores that provide information for the PubTrack Christian data service can now obtain quarterly reports that track eight categories—Auto/Biography, Bibles, Biblical Studies & Reference, Christian Life & Inspiration, Christian Fiction, Diet & Health, Pentecostal & Charismatic and Kids.

Operated by bibliographic information specialist R.R. Bowker and marketed by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), PubTrack Christian collects data from more than 500 Christian retail outlets across the country.

The Quarterly Category Analysis Reports detail the market share of publishers, leading suppliers by sales, listings of the top authors, information about average title retail price and “most efficient authors” in terms of sales per title.

Introduced last year, the reports have so far been available only to publishers. PubTrack Christian publisher subscriptions include three free category reports, with the others available for $750 each annually. Non-PubTrack Christian publishers pay $1,000 a year per category.

The response to the reports had been “very positive,” said ECPA Director of Information and Education Michael Covington, with many subscribing publishers signing up to receive additional reports.

Now retailers who provide their sales data to PubTrack Christian will be able to obtain a year of quarterly analysis reports for $49 per category. The fee was to cover administrative costs, Covington said.

“Providing these reports to retailers is not a revenue stream, but instead is meant to raise awareness of the importance of reporting to industry data pools, and the potential benefits for doing so mean that publishers can create more targeted Christian-retail strategies,” he said.

Used to produce the ECPA’s monthly best-seller lists, PubTrack Christian “was built to serve the publishing community as they seek to create better strategies for selling more books through Christian retail,” said Covington. “We are often thanked by Christian retailers who receive the lists,” he added. “We feel that stores who submit their data should also have the opportunity to benefit from the intelligence created from it.”

The PubTrack Christian data is available only to publishers and retailers involved with the Christian retail channel. The monthly ECPA charts are based on trade discounted titles selling in at least 20% of reporting stores. The association also recently launched a multi-channel sales chart, drawn from Christian, general market and Internet retailers.

 
New editor for flagship magazine Print Email
Written by Production   
Monday, 05 April 2010 12:09 PM America/New_York

Marcus Yoars takes over at ‘Charisma,’ which unveils a new-media relaunch

A new editor has been named for Charisma magazine as the publication approaches its 35th anniversary serving the charismatic Marcus-Yoarsmovement with a relaunch and a new-media focus.

Marcus Yoars has replaced J. Lee Grady, who stepped down after 11 years at the helm. Only the third editor in the magazine’s history, at 34 Yoars is the same age Grady was when he joined the publication 17 years ago.

“We see this transition as very strategic,” said Steve Strang, founding editor and founder of publisher Strang Communications. “It comes at the same time we are relaunching Charisma with a renewed focus and some exciting new initiatives.”

Grady departed to become editor of
Experience, the official magazine of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church under which he is ordained, and develop his ministry The Mordecai Project—which focuses on empowering women for leadership and confronting the abuse of women around the world.

Yoars takes over at Charisma after serving as editor of Strang Communications’ Ministry Today for three years. Born and raised on the mission field in Hong Kong, Yoars has been in publishing for more than 15 years, including serving as an editor for Thomas Nelson, LifeWay and Focus on the Family.

“It’s a new day for Charisma,” Yoars said. “We’ve been preaching that around the Strang offices for months, but it’s exciting to finally see things taking shape as we transition into a new Charisma starting in May. Lee (Grady) did a phenomenal job of further establishing the magazine as a hub in the Spirit-filled community, and I plan to continue that ongoing conversation with longtime readers and critics alike. It just might look a little different and take place in some new vehicles.”

Relaunched with the May issue, Charisma features a new design, including shorter articles and new contributors. Editorial content is presented in three new sections that aim to “Inspire, ‘Inform, Empower.” Other changes include a new logo and tagline, “Life in the Spirit.” Dropped from the title is + Christian Life, referring to the name of the magazine Charisma absorbed in 1986.

In addition, the new Charisma offers an interactive digital edition with exclusive additional content, including videos, podcasts, music and photo galleries. Other new media developments include an enhanced Web site, www.charismamag.com, and a breaking news mobile phone application.

“Seasons change,” said Strang, who launched the magazine in August 1975. “While Charisma was born in the midst of a dynamic spiritual movement, the dynamics of that movement have changed and God is doing new things.

“We want to stay in step with the Holy Spirit’s new direction,” Strang added. “That is why we are relaunching our publication to better serve our subscribers, reach younger readers and better serve the global church.”

Strang Communications Co. has also published Christian Retailing magazine since 1986, adding The Church Bookstore and Inspirational Gift Trends supplements in 2005 and 2006, respectively, and organized The Gathering for the past six years.

 
Curtis Riskey named new head of CBA Print Email
Written by Andy Butcher & Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 05 April 2010 12:05 PM America/New_York

Group adopts new management model, drops CEO search

CBA has scrapped its search for a replacement for longtime President and CEO Bill Anderson, instead appointing Curtis Riskey as executive Curtis-Riskeydirector of the retailers’ trade association.

The owner of a Christian bookstore in Oshkosh, Wis., Riskey, 43, has been on the staff of CBA since 2007 and served as its interim executive director since Anderson’s departure last October.

Riskey’s appointment—the first time a retailer has headed the organization—was welcomed widely by other industry leaders and CBA members.

Announcing the move, CBA said that the organization would be “using an executive director management model going forward,” forgoing the need to find a new president/CEO.

CBA Chairman-elect George Thomsen said that Riskey’s leadership in the past few months had “exemplified his knowledge of the many facets of Christian retail, his acumen for connecting with a variety of industry leaders to work together on common goals and his dedication to the success of this industry even amid current global economic challenges.”

It was important that Riskey “not only has a heart for retailers, but is a retailer himself,” Thomsen added.

Evangelical Christian Publishers Association President and CEO Mark Kuyper—a former CBA vice president—called Riskey “an excellent choice,” describing him as “a man of creative vision and great integrity.” He “understands the challenging issues facing Christian retailers, but sees options and opportunities for growth and ministry,” Kuyper added.

Gift company P. Graham Dunn President Peter Dunn, a former CBA board member, told Christian Retailing that Riskey had “shown strong leadership in his past experiences within the Christian bookstore market” and understood “the nuances of our market.” “I feel Curtis is well-poised to provide the leadership that the industry needs to face the challenges of an ever-changing market in the years to come.”

LifeWay Christian Stores Vice President Mark Scott said he was excited about Riskey’s appointment. “Curtis has exhibited a strong understanding of the strategic issues facing our industry,” he said. “He also possesses the relational skills to help industry leaders work together toward common goals. Most importantly, he has a genuine passion for the ministry of Christian retail.”

For Jim Powell, president of Christian Trade Association International, Riskey’s new role was “an exciting development.” He added: “With all the changes in the industry, CBA needs strong staff leadership, which Curtis will give.”

The move would help ensure long-term viability of CBA’s International Christian Retail Show, which is so critical to the industry worldwide and to American and international suppliers who relate to the wider world,” Powell told Christian Retailing.

Jim Kregel, president of Kregel Parable Christian Stores in Grand Rapids, Mich., said that Riskey was “a man with a genuine heart for ministry,” who also “possesses a wide range of business and technological acumen.”

Brenda Harrison, co-owner of Lighthouse Christian Bookstore in Bedford, Ind., said the fact that Riskey “is a retailer himself makes him a good choice.” Having read articles he had written and heard him speak, she said he was “very knowledgeable and an excellent speaker.”

Lorraine Valk, co-owner of Banner Books Parable Christian Store of St. Joseph in St. Joseph, Mich., said Riskey “has great qualifications for the position.” “He has a diverse background that will definately be beneficial,” she said.

Appointing Riskey, CBA said it would be “using an executive-director management model going forward.” Regarding the change in management style, Thomsen said that the board felt it “best fits CBA’s needs for this day and age.”

The model would allow Riskey to lead the organization, while continuing to give personal attention to key programs and member services in which he was already involved. His job responsibilities and level of authority “are very similar” to Anderson’s. “There will be some minor shifting of labor onto the board,” Thomsen added.

Prior to joining CBA staff as strategic solutions executive—while retaining ownership of his BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ) Books and Café in Oshkosh, opened in 2000—Riskey served on the organization’s Independent Retail Advisory Council and taught in its Professional Christian Retailer Certification program. He was also a member of Christian Retailing’s editorial advisory board.

In the CBA statement announcing his appointment, Riskey said he was humbled and excited. “I have a vision for the role CBA is going to play. My heart is with Christian retailers, who are truly missionaries in the communities they serve, and I want to see them succeed.”

With 10 years in the appliance industry before opening his store, Riskey holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He and his wife, Barbara, have three children.

Anderson’s Oct. 30, 2009, resignation—after more than 30 years with CBA, 24 of them as president—took many in the industry by surprise. No reason was given for his departure.

 
Care focus helps to set stores apart Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 05 April 2010 11:59 AM America/New_York

Christian retailers increase emphasis on ‘what you won’t find at Wal-Mart’ by being ‘more intentional’

Forget price, Christian stores are placing a renewed emphasis on one area of service where their big business competitors haven’t got a Prayerphotoprayer of measuring up.

While many Christian retailers have long been ready to offer personal prayer to customers looking for help beyond a purchase, some are now being more intentional about the caring interaction “you won’t get at Wal-Mart.”

Initiatives include stores that promote a public prayer board and another where customers are invited to join in an informal prayer circle each afternoon.

The emphasis is “something that Christian retailers can do to demonstrate a real and tangible difference in the marketplace,” observed Curtis Riskey, executive director of CBA. “I have been in awe of the power of prayer in Christian retail stores and I hope it will continue.”

Customers at Kregel Parable Christian Stores in Grand Rapids, Mich., can pin prayer requests on the wall at both outlets, which introduced the public forum after unveiling a new mission statement last year to mark their centenary, “Sharing Hope for Today... and every tomorrow!”

The prayer centers are located near the checkouts in high traffic areas and notes are kept up for a month, with those taking part encouraged to return to give updates. Recent appeals include “strength and good health” for someone being treated for cancer and “wisdom for Diane as she seeks healing in her relationship with her daughter.”

“Things might look difficult right now, but we know that God answers prayer and we wanted to be more intentional about that,” said Kregel President Jim Kregel. “It’s been one more positive addition to the atmosphere and to the service that we offer.”

Like the Kregel staff and workers at many other Christian stores, management and frontliners at the CLC (Christian Literature Crusade) Christian Bookstore in Chestnut Hill, Pa., pray together before opening for business—but also recently introduced a mid-afternoon prayer time that customers are invited to join in with.

“Anyone that wants to is invited to participate. We just hold hands and pray,” said Manager Frank Falzone. “Some of the customers are very surprised and have told us that they feel blessed that we take the time to pray for others’ needs.”

One of the brief prayer times ended with a customer being led to Christ after the man told staff when they gathered together that he did not know whether he was saved. Members of the team then helped him select a Bible and gave him a free copy of Josh McDowell’s More Than a Conqueror to celebrate his decision.

“It was marvelous, one of those God moments,” said frontliner Yvonne Little, who first suggested the informal prayer times. “The man had been in church for many years but had never really understood who Christ is. I think God led him to our place because He knew what we were up to.”

Riskey said that CBA viewed Christian bookstores as “ministry initiators” in their communities, which “carries with it a responsibility to pray.

“Most of our stores and certainly our best Christian stores are role models for prayer, both internally and with customers, local church leaders and local ministries. ... It’s part and parcel of what Christian stores are all about.”

Inklings Bookstore at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., is “like the local bar—people bear their hearts to the bartenders and sometimes will tell us things they maybe feel they cannot tell a pastor,” said manager Rusty Miller. “People are always very appreciative when we offer to pray for them.”

After one prayer time with a customer that left all those involved “a little teary,” one store worker told the woman, “You wouldn’t get that in Wal-Mart, would you?,” Miller recalled. “It kind of relieved the tension a little bit.”

At The Closer Walk in Fredericksburg, Texas, owner Sheila Sattler Kale has extended her focus on prayer out into the local community, coordinating a regular informal prayer gathering “asking for the presence of God to come in to the community and change what needs to be changed.”

“As a bookstore, we don’t have a vested interest in promoting any specific church,” she said. “I’m sort of a neutral voice and it has been a huge blessing to me to get to be part of it.”

Shoppers at Mardel Christian & Education are invited to leave prayer requests on special forms left at the stores’ free coffee counter, which staff respond to during their daily meeting. In addition, “if a staff person is comfortable praying for a customer and feels led to do so, then that is a wonderful ministry oppprtunbity,” said chain President Jason Green.

Staff at C28 clothing stores—located in malls where many visitors do not necessarily know that the business is Christian-based—”strive to pray with every customer,” said founder and CEO Aurelio Barreto. The California-based chain has prayer boards at some of its outlets, which have recorded more than 14,500 salvations since the first one opened in 2001.

At LifeWay Christian Stores, spokesperson Brooklyn Lowery said that managers in the chain were encouraged to hold a prayer time with staff at the start of each day. “Additionally, store personnel often pray with and for customers as appropriate to the customer’s stated or perceived situation.”

Riskey said that prayer in stores was part of what sets Christian retail apart from other channels.

“Active Christians go to Christian stores to fully engage in their passion for their faith and their passion to reach out and help others who are hurting. ... There is value add here, which has resulted in very loyal customers who visit the stores regularly and generate higher transaction rates than stores in other comparable retail segments,” he said.

“That’s because these people are not only nurturing their personal faith walks, but buying resources for personal evangelism and care of others.”

 
'Maverick' veteran author introduced to new readers Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 08 March 2010 11:18 AM America/New_York

New and revised studies from 'Be' teacher Warren Wiersbe, whose 'words transcend generations'


'Maverick' veteran author introduced to new readersThe words of one of Christian publishing's most celebrated writers are being introduced to new readers, thanks to a variety of new resources from different publishers.

New titles and revised studies from Warren Wiersbe—an internationally known Bible teacher, broadcaster, former pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago and the author of more than 150 books—have been or will be published by David C. Cook, Baker Books and CLC Publications.

In September, Cook released The Transformation Study Bible, comprising commentary from the 50-plus books in the popular "Be" Bible commentaries spanning 30 years. In January, the publisher also began releasing revised editions of the "Be" books such as Be Diligent, Be Authentic, Be Basic and Be Obedient as well as four books in "The Wiersbe Bible Study Series"—new companion pieces for the "Be" series for small groups.

"I believe Dr. Wiersbe is a special and gifted Bible teacher whose words transcend generations," said Dan Rich, senior vice president and publisher for Cook. "He has a gift to make Scripture come alive and make everyday sense to the average Joe. As he says, he puts the cookies on the bottom shelf. Such a gift needs to be preserved and passed on to our children and, in turn, to their children."

Wiersbe, now 81, is also still delivering new material for readers. Two new books, Too Soon to Quit (CLC Publications), about finishing well, and On Earth As It Is In Heaven (Baker Books/Baker Publishing Group)—a look at the Lord's prayer—released in February.

"I'm a maverick," Wiersbe told Christian Retailing. "If I have an idea for a book, I go to work. I don't tell anyone, and when it's finished, I worry about finding a publisher and contracts."

The "Be" series has more than 6 million copies in print. Last summer at the International Christian Retail Show, Wiersbe was honored with a CBA Life Impact Award in recognition of his "devotion to Christ and faithfulness to God's Word," as a result of which "multiplied millions of believers around the globe have discovered the glory of God and have seen Christ come to life in relevant ways."

Wiersbe attributed part of its longevity to its accessibility for the average reader or Bible student.

"I'm a one-gifted person," he said. "I admire those multi-gifted people. All I do is use words, and I've tried very hard to present them where a man, woman, teenager could all read and understand them. One of the greatest compliments I've ever received is when a kid came out of one of my sermons and said, 'I understood every word you said.' "

Wiersbe also expressed amazement at news of a Pentateuch collection of the "BE" books, focusing on the first five books of the Old Testament, which was translated and introduced to Chinese readers.

"It's remarkable," he said. "They're distributing (them) with the permission of the communist government. It's inexplicable. When you hear things like that, it makes you say, 'Hey, God's at work.' "

Wiersbe is again at work on another new book, focusing on the "I am" statements of God from the Bible. Release date, title and publisher have not been announced.

 
Publishers' specials generate 'fantastic response' Print Email
Written by Eric Tiansay   
Monday, 08 March 2010 11:04 AM America/New_York

Promotions that help Christian retailers in 'slumping economy' have been 'incredibly successful'


Publishers' specials generate 'fantastic response'Christian publishers say they have received "a fantastic response" to promotions designed to offer help to bookstores in light of the continuing recession.

NavPress' $5 Book Deal—a Christian retail channel exclusive—has proved "a tremendous success" so far, company officials said. Launched in January and continuing through December, independent Christian stores can purchase the month's pre-selected NavPress title for $2.75 and then sell it for $5. As of the first week of January, more than 11,900 units of the pre-selected titles had sold, NavPress officials said.

"This is a fantastic response at an incredible opportunity for the independent retailer," said NavPress Sales Manager Eric Helus.

The $5 Book Deal lineup—which features NavPress top sellers—includes Becoming a Woman of Excellence by Cynthia Heald (May); Dark Blue: Color Me Lonely by Melody Carlson (July); Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow (September); and Abba's Child by Brennan Manning (December).

"The $5 price has been the magic number over the past year or two in retail," Helus said. "Our yearlong offering helps make a sampling of our best-selling titles available at a price point that will allow the reader who might not be familiar with or interested in buy and read these books. At the same time, retailers can cross-promote the $5 books with the respective author's other titles to increase sales."

Meanwhile, Thomas Nelson Fiction's new line of "first novels," which began selling for $2.99 in November through the Christian retail channel, has been "incredibly successful," said Allen Arnold, the company's senior vice president and publisher for fiction.

The first four in the promotion were Chosen by Ted Dekker, Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter, Without a Trace by Colleen Coble and Plain Perfect by Beth Wiseman. Four more titles were released last month, including Tim Downs' First the Dead and Robert Whitlow's Deeper Water.

"The first four titles … have sold through at a brisk pace," Arnold told Christian Retailing. "Even more exciting is that the readers are coming back to Christian retail for additional novels in these series at full retail price. ... This is a low-cost, low-risk sampling program for fiction lovers to discover their next favorite author and series. A true win for the author, the retailer, the reader and Thomas Nelson.

"We've sold many, many thousands of each title, and could have sold even more except the promotion was limited to upfront orders within a certain window of time, " added Arnold, noting that Nelson will continue the promotion "as long as retailers continue to support it." "The long-term payoff is how many new readers of each series we create, and the initial read on that is very strong."

Elsewhere, Barbour Publishing's Sales Rescue Package initiative for retailers was successful, company officials said. Designed to help stores generate sales and launched during the International Christian Retail Show last summer, the risk-free program featured a special introductory offer to Barbour's new DayMaker Gift Book Program, which included 180-day billing, 29 new gift items and 50% discount as well as free freight, free returns and free corrugate display.

"Many retailers have commented on how much they appreciate Barbour's efforts to help them in this slumping economy," Nola Haney, sales manager at Barbour, told Christian Retailing.

"With the rollout of our new permanent fixture and a new name, DayMaker Inspirational Gifts, the program is continuing."

Barbour has sold the packages to nearly 400 Christian stores, she added.

 
Book: Faith play products reveal 'meaning-making' Print Email
Written by Staff   
Monday, 08 March 2010 11:16 AM America/New_York

Academics dissect Christian games and dolls in considering 'good or ill' of religious toys


Book: Faith play products reveal 'meaning-making'Some of the leading Christian toys and games have come under scrutiny from two academics examining the intersection of faith, play and business.

The likes of Missionary Conquest, Kingdom of Heaven and the Messengers of Faith Bible dolls are "palpable evidence of global commerce, pluralism and shifts in social engagement—signifiers of 21st century meaning-making," according to Nikki Bado-Fralick and Rebecca Sachs Norris.

The pair—associate professor and director of the religious studies program at Iowa State University and associate professor and chair of religious and theological studies at Merrimack College respectively—discuss "the mixture of consumerism with religiosity" in their Toying With God: The World of Religious Games and Dolls.

Released in February by Baylor University Press, the duo's 232-page book asks whether humans have "blended fun with spirituality for good or for ill?" Though the book includes details of Jewish and Muslim play products, most of the emphasis is on Christian materials.

The book came out as one of the Christian suppliers referenced in it—the makers of the "Left Behind" video games—announced that its second offering, Left Behind: Tribulation Forces, had been accepted by Family Christian Stores for the leading chain's computer game selection.

The move "supports our belief that Christian video games will become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the video game business in the next five years," said Troy Lyndon, CEO of maker Inspired Media Entertainment.

In their book, Bado-Fralick and Norris note criticism of the first Left Behind: Eternal Forces game for its violent content and wonder whether Bible character action toys from One2believe's Spirit Warriors and Almighty Heroes—created by G.I. Joe originator Don Levine—are "harmless and wholesome alternatives to more destructive toys or are they helping to prepare children for religiously sanctioned violence?"

Other Christian games the authors look at include Bibleland, The Richest Christian, Journeys of Paul and The Ungame. Toys from evangelical suppliers that are referenced include Resurrection Eggs, the Armor of God play sets and the Train Up a Child Bible figures, which include a Job model with realistic sores.

While tracing the historic place of dolls and figures in religion, the book observes that contemporary versions provide "an interesting intersection of religion with identities of race, gender, sex and politics."

Among the writers' criticisms are that while Journeys of Paul "supports a non-competitive atmosphere ... it contradicts the idea of community itself, since there is no cooperation or meaningful interaction between players."

They are harsher on Missionary Conquest, whose name is "more than suggestive of colonialism" and which "displays stereotyped and arrogant attitudes that are no laughing matter outside of the world of board games and in the real world of global politics." Though the game may be intended as lighthearted, they say, it "displays a frightening ethnocentrism that is quite dangerous given the political climate of the present day."

Considering the ways ritual and play contribute to learning, Bado-Fralick and Norris said that "there are strong suggestions that ritualized play with religious games and toys can indeed perform a formative role in the development of children—but quite possibly not in the manner intended."

Religious video games also came up for evaluation recently at the technology news and analysis Web site, arstechnica.com. It referenced Left Behind: Eternal Forces and other Christian games in an article looking at "when religion and games intersect—and how it often goes badly."

The report judged that "games with heavy religious content are usually fringe projects, independently created and oftentimes sporting dodgy production values." It added: "By including anything that goes even remotely beyond basic concepts or happens to be even a bit controversial, developers risk the ire of a lot of people who could easily be offended enough to boycott the title."