The Voice: Winter 2002

The Voice

Walhof's publishing experience leads to career in printing and leadership roles in church

Karen Walhof knew already as a student at Dordt that she wanted to go into publishing. She enjoyed her work on the Diamond immensely, and she took as many writing courses as she could since no journalism or communication major was offered at the time. It didn't take long for her to find her niche and start down the path that was to lead to her owning a successful publishing business.

Two weeks after graduating from Dordt, Walhof moved to Minneapolis to work as an editorial assistant for the Lutheran church's Augsburg Publishing House. During her time there, she worked as associate editor, editor, senior editor, audio producer, and video producer. She helped produce the Lutheran Book of Worship used in many Lutheran churches today.

Walhof says her experiences at Dordt prepared her to work on the worship materials. “My liberal arts education was a real asset in my work at Augsburg,” she says. “I had played organ in church and had taken a few music classes at Dordt.” She believes this experience contributed to her being asked to work on the Lutheran Book of Worship.

“Dordt also gave me an overall view that work isn't just something you do to earn a paycheck,” she says, "but that it is part of your calling as a Christian, and therefore it has a different dimension than just putting in your eight hours a day. I learned that from my parents, too, but certainly it was reinforced at Dordt.”

While she worked for Augsburg Publishing, the church's two publishing houses merged and became Augsburg Fortress Publishers. Walhof was asked to move to Chicago and manage the publishing house office that was responsible for printing and distributing all resources to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's 11,000 churches.

Five years later, Augsburg Fortress hired a new CEO whose perspective on its mission and business led the publishing house in a very different direction, so she decided to start her own business in Minneapolis.

“The Lord has certainly led me into new adventures in publishing and printing,” she says. “It seemed like one step prepared me for the next step every time. Going to Chicago was an important step in the learning and training so I could manage this
company.” She currently owns and manages Color Printing Specialists, a business she bought with a partner, Leonard Flachman, who also formerly worked for Augsburg Fortress. They also own Kirk House Publishers, a niche publisher that has put
out forty titles covering a wide variety of topics. One book that has garnered national attention recently is Letters from a Peasant, a book written by a farmer who writes a column for Successful Farming magazine.

Walhof says her business offered a natural opportunity to start a publishing house, because it had all the necessary printing equipment on site. And she enjoys knowing that she is helping people share their ideas with a broader audience.

“All of the publishers_big, medium, church publishers_are very careful about the number of titles they publish, so writers with a limited audience or a small publication quantity don't often get a second look,” she says. “We can help them get their publications produced and distributed.”

The two businesses will split at the end of the year, and Flachman will manage Kirk House full- time while Walhof takes full responsibility for managing Color Printing Specialists.

Walhof enjoys printing because of the almost instantaneous, tangible results. “Two days after starting something, you can hold it in your hand, know it's well done and meets your customer's needs, and be pleased with how it looks.” She says it's a challenge to keep up with changing technology and changing expectations about how fast something can be produced.

While Augsburg Publishing helped Walhof get a start in her present successful business career, it also changed the way she thought about worship and church. During her work there, she decided to join the Lutheran church and is now an active member and leader in the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Minneapolis.

“I was captivated by the liturgy and the heritage of worship,” Walhof said of the Lutheran church. She especially appreciated the lectionary readings every Sunday, because liturgical churches throughout the world were all focusing on the same passage on the same day.

Walhof also appreciated the way she as a woman was able to use her talents in the church. She has been an active member of her large congregation and at various times has held positions on the stewardship, mission, and worship boards. She was also elected president of the congregation, during which time she chaired council and congregational meetings.

Walhof has recently been elected to chair the Board of the Division of Congregational Ministries, which is responsible for giving congregations throughout the country resources to use in worship, evangelism, education, youth ministry, social ministry, and stewardship.

“I hope in the next couple of years we can help congregations know more about what is available to help them in various ministries,” she says. “We need to give people the resources, but also show them how to use them. People are so busy these days that we need to help them work quickly and efficiently."

Looking back, Walhof describes her career and church work as following “a pretty steady path.” She says that between publishing and involvement in her church, her life stays very busy and interesting. “It's amazing how the Lord prepares us for the next set of responsibilities and challenges,” she says.