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Mennonite Publishing Network continues forward momentum

   

Mennonite Publishing Network/Mennonite Church Canada Joint Release
For immediate release
May 12, 2006

Waterloo, Ont./Scottdale, Pa.— Reports of new marketing initiatives and progress on stabilizing finances highlighted the May 5-6 annual meeting of the Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN) Board, held in Scottdale, Pa.

In the past year MPN focused on building relationships with congregations in Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. Marketing initiatives included researching curriculum use in congregations, appointing a resource advocate coordinator, holding a “train the trainers” event for the Gather ’Round curriculum, making follow-up phone calls to all congregations, and improving online access to MPN materials. Other efforts included exploring new markets for the Simply in Season cookbook and hosting a successful Anabaptist-focused bookstore at the church-wide assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“A source of encouragement this past year,” commented executive director, Ron Rempel, “was that the MPN mission statement seems to be resonating with our churches and supporters.” He cited responses from the congregational survey and also from phone calls to selected donors. The mission statement calls on MPN “to provide resources that equip the church to experience and share the gospel from an Anabaptist perspective.”

New Faith & Life Resources titles from the past year include: Sing the Journey, a hymnal supplement; Jesus Friends, Vacation Bible School material; Fun Bible Skits. Gather ’Round, a new Sunday school curriculum for children, youth and parents is available for this fall, along with other established curricula and periodicals that are widely used in congregations. In book publishing, Simply in Season topped the sales charts. Herald Press published a total of 19 new books last year on themes such as basic beliefs, marriage and family, peace, and Anabaptism.

“We have shifted from a survival mode to engaging the future,” said Board chair, Phil Bontrager in observing that MPN operated in the black for the last three years. A clean, unqualified audit showed a break-even year on a cash basis. Publishing revenue included $185,000 in donations, which helped to offset $250,000 in curriculum development costs. Total costs included $615,000 in debt payments for principal and interest—financed in large part from on-going operations. Over the past four years, the long-term debt has been reduced from $5.1 to $3 million.

While celebrating the significant progress in debt reduction, the Board focused on strategies to keep MPN relevant and viable for the future. The Board approved an advancement plan to further strengthen the relationship of the publishing ministry with its constituency and to raise funds for curriculum development and other publishing priorities. The Board also endorsed plans to increase publishing revenue from an improved title acquisition process and from additional marketing staff. The new marketing position will include some work in advancement and fundraising.

Outsourcing quotes for order fulfillment and warehousing for the U.S. showed that the most cost-effective option for now is to provide these services from the MPN facility in Scottdale, Pa. The facility will continue as one of the operational centers for MPN, subject to review as circumstances change. The other two centers are Waterloo, Ontario and Newton, Kansas.

The Board continues to review the performance of Provident Bookstores in a challenging retail environment. Two stores were transferred to local ownership in the last 12 months as resources are focused on strengthening the remaining six stores.

In addition, the Board unanimously approved the appointment of Ron Rempel as executive director to an additional three-year term. A recently completed review of his leadership included consultation with the Joint Executive Committee of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada and with MPN management staff. “We received strong affirmation of Ron’s gifts from everyone we spoke with,” said Phil Bontrager, MPN Board chair. “We are extremely grateful for the leadership and vision that Ron provides as the publishing ministry has stabilized and now moves forward developing and providing materials that serve the church.”

Rempel, from Waterloo, Ontario, began as executive director in August 2003. Prior to that, he was editor and manager of Canadian Mennonite—and its predecessor periodical, Mennonite Reporter—for 24 years.

In an opening devotional for the Board, Lorne Peachey of Scottdale reflected on his experiences as a former editor at Mennonite Publishing House. Referring to the text from John 20:31, Peachey said that the foundational purpose of writing and publishing should be to help people believe that Jesus is Lord or Messiah. He urged the Board to apply the “Jesus way” to its ongoing policies and decisions.

MPN is the publishing ministry of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA. Its Board includes three from Mennonite Church Canada (Laverne Brubacher, Abe Bergen, Carry Dueck) and five from Mennonite Church USA (Phil Bontrager, Curtis Berry, June Krehbiel, Joe Lapp, one vacant position).

For further information, contact:
Ron Rempel, executive director, 519-888-7512; rrempel@mph.org
Phil Bontrager, Board chair, 419-446-3480, PhilipEBontrager@sauder.com