Five Minutes with Kevin Kempe
As manager of the Fulfillment Center at Covenant Offices, Kevin Kempe is the resident expert on all printing matters, as well as the latest titles in publishing. We asked him why the denomination needs
a bookstore, and what he’s currently reading.
What is the Fulfillment Center and how does it serve the Covenant Church?
The Covenant Fulfillment Center includes the Covenant Print Shop, where we physically print and/or manage every resource the denomination produces, and the Covenant Bookstore, which houses, manages, and distributes those resources. We used to have a brick and mortar bookstore on the corner of Foster and Kedzie Avenues in Chicago, but ten years ago the decision was made to close the store and to migrate it online. It was a difficult call, but it made financial sense.
Our primary purpose is to provide Covenant identity pieces, congregational campaigns, curriculum, and Covenant publications for our churches and customers.
What brought you to this work?
Eight years ago I was working my way through seminary when the job to manage the Covenant Bookstore was posted. I thought it would be basic retail work—something to do on the side while I prepared for ministry. Little did I realize that my daily interactions would be directly with our pastors and churches, helping them find books and resources they need for their ministries.
When I attended my first Annual Meeting, I realized I was not just doing a job—this is a unique ministry. I fell in love with what I was doing and made the mental shift from going to work every day at a job, to serving in a ministry. After that, I never looked back.
What makes the Covenant Bookstore unique?
Our goal is to take the burden of finding affordable resources off of our pastors so they can focus on their congregations and their ministries. Our only real limitation is the stock of resources available—sometimes churches need more than we are able to obtain, but even then we work with our contacts to reach deals on bulk quantities for our customers. If pastors, churches, or customers can’t find a specific title on our site, we order those titles for them whenever we can get them through our distributors.
We also produce and distribute high quality printed material at low costs, and we pass those savings on to the churches who use our resources. Any net profits we earn go back into the general ECC budget.
In the era of Amazon.com, what’s the future of CovBooks.com?
It’s true that Amazon is growing, and although our unit pricing is often comparable—and occasionally better—we recognize that we can’t compete with entities like Amazon. We stay afloat due to the loyalty of our customer base and our role in distributing Covenant resources.
We are currently undergoing a rebranding/redesign of our website in an effort to make it easier to navigate. We also expect to offer more titles and specialty items in response to customer requests.
What are you currently reading?
With my kids, I am reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The chapters are deceptively long for bedtime reads, but they love every minute of it.
I am almost done rereading one of my favorite books. I never would have guessed the first time I opened C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce years ago, that I would return to reread it countless times. Lewis had a magical way of opening the mind of the reader to the fantastic and offering a new perspective on God and God’s kingdom. Every time I read it I find something new.
Both of these titles—and so many more—are available at CovBooks.com!