Cokesbury, who is the publishing house and the bookstore for the United Methodist Church, continues to loose market share and to struggle financially. Several years ago they closed all their stores in order to remain viable. They then hired sales reps to cover the territories, although there is no one to cover New Mexico, because I guess we just don't matter. But that is really a secondary issue.
The bigger issue is that the don't seem to understand the reality of most churches. We are working on our stewardship campaign and purchased a program from Cokesbury. As part of this program, they want everyone in the church to use a daily devotional during the four weeks of the campaign. That is great, and my congregation would probably be open to it because I talk with them constantly about doing daily Bible readings and provide them the resources to do so.
But, the devotional they want us to use cost nearly $7 a piece, which is going to run me close to $600 to get one out to our active families. We could subscribe to an email of the same material, but that is $4 per email address, not a dramatic savings. I know sometimes you have to spend money in order to get money, but I honestly cannot justify that expense. And here is the kicker for me.
I get catalogs from lots of different vendors besides for Cokesbury, and I know that I can buy other devotionals for less than a $1 a piece. Are they as "nice" as the ones Cokesbury sells? In quality of printing, paper, etc., no. But in terms of theology and message they are just as good, and for something that will only be used once for a month, they don't have to withstand the test of time.
I like Cokesbury. I want to shop at Cokesbury and I do when I can. But they don't seem to understand the reality of the small to medium sized church and the budgetary constraints we face. I can afford something in the $100 range and slightly above, and would purchase it if available to help my congregation, and I do purchase them from other vendors, but I cannot afford and will not buy a similar item when it's going to cost me 4 to 5 times the same amount.
Until Cokesbury wakes up they are going to continue to lose my business to other vendors.