The Voice: Winter 2002
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.