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GENI: Why you need to connect with your peers PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 08:15 AM EDT
A message from Geni Hulsey, president of the Church Bookstore Network:

I have just been reading The Friendship Factor by Brenda Poinsett (New Hope Publishers), one of several books I was given at The Gathering earlier this year, and have been reminded of something that I believe is key for church bookstores.

The book is subtitled "Why Women Need Other Women," but it occurred to me that it could as easily have been subtitled "Why Bookstore Leadership Needs Other Bookstore Leadership," because the points it makes are so applicable.

The first is that talking to others who understand or relate reduces stress and refreshes our spirit. I have been to all of the Church Bookstore Network's annual Gatherings, numerous regional meetings and always see this effect. Managers and workers come in stressed and tired-looking, but as they leave, I hear and see excitement, a more relaxed countenance and a rejuvenated spirit.

The second point is that connecting and talking with others helps us successfully navigate the wanted and unwanted changes that come along in life. In a church bookstore there is constant change-changing space in the church, changing inventory mix because of changes in staff, changing volunteer and paid bookstore staff, and more.

Sometimes the changes are welcomed, sometimes not. By being able to talk with others who have "been there, done that," we realize that we can actually get through it without having a meltdown.

Next is the recognition that talking and comparing notes will help us better understand and encourage each other as we go through the various stages of life. There is no doubt that the idea of sharing information and talking through similar problems is an asset for bookstore managers and workers. Just recently, at a meeting here in Houston, I saw this in action as 15 of our stores shared ideas with each other.

The point that probably most resonates with me is that we increase our power, creativity and joy when we work together. I have seen this proven time and again in the realm of church bookstores. Through our sheer numbers we have seen church bookstores more accepted in the Christian retail industry, our buying ability increase and even acceptance into the general wholesale marketplace.

Creativity and joy are two elements I see each year at The Gathering. I watch as in classes, at mealtimes and at break times, attendees get creative in solving problems, dreaming about what can be, and from that flows a joy that is absolutely contagious.

The final, overarching point is that we broaden and enhance our ability to experience God when we talk in His name. In all that we do through the Network, The Church Bookstore magazine and this newsletter, we seek to glorify God and to be instruments of His disseminating His Word in our part of the world.

At The Gathering and in our regional meetings, we hear stories from those who attend about how their lives have been spiritually uplifted and enriched because they are there.

This is my passion—to facilitate the encouragement, education and edification of those who are called to be a part of the church bookstore ministry.

Do you know of other church bookstores in your area? Make a few phone calls, and have coffee or lunch together. Share ideas, pray for each other—and leave all the richer for having been together.

REGIONAL REPORT: Connecting in California PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 08:07 AM EDT
by Rose Seeley

Connecting with others and networking were, according to attendees, among the highlights of the Southern California Church Bookstore Network Regional Meeting at Cottonwood Church in Los Alamitos, Calif., Oct 4. The importance of meeting face to face was highlighted during the daylong event as many were able to share useful ideas, meet new vendors and connect with others willing to help.

The attendance of well over 100 church bookstore staff from 24 churches and 15 vendors attested to the fact that it's difficult to underestimate the value of meeting and spending time with other industry professionals in person. Attendees gained from hearing about challenges some are facing, and also finding creative solutions to those challenges during opportunities to share in small groups and one on one.

The meeting was called Shop Talk, and in addition to small-group roundtable discussions, it included vendor meetings, workshops, keynote speakers and author appearances. The scripture theme for the day was Gal. 5:13, which says, " ... through love, serve one another."

Coming together to serve each other is foundational to the purpose of regional meetings because, as one of the authors in attendance, Deborah Pegues, once said, "None of us is as smart as all of us together." She spoke on "Confronting Without Offending." Other authors who appeared at the event included evangelist Danette Crawford, founder of Joy Ministries and author of Don't Quit in the Pit, and Jacqueline Priestly, author of His Word Healed Me.

Workshops offered practical instructions and information for selling products on the Web and insights from the book Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill. Revelation Marketing arranged to have publisher Simon & Schuster contribute a complimentary copy for each attendee.

The day concluded with an inspiring message by special guest speaker CBA Chairman George Thomsen, who shared practical ideas on ways to expand our ministries in new directions.

Vendors in attendance included Barbour Publishing, Bob Siemon Designs, Christian Art Gifts, Gregg Gift/GUND, Merch-it!, Noble Marketing, NOTW, Protec, Randolf Productions, Revelation Marketing, Rose Publishing, Say it With Jack, Spring Arbor, STL Distribution North America and Thomas Nelson.

--Rose Seeley is manager of the bookstore at Cottonwood Church in Los Alamitos, Calif.

CHURCH STORE PROFILE: Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 08:01 AM EDT
Few if any church bookstores would report an almost 50-year-old message by a former pastor among its best-selling items, but that is the case for the one managed by Oliver Huff.

The address in question is the late Dr. Martin Luther King's ringing "I Have a Dream" challenge to racism, made available at Ebenezer Gift Shop at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the late Dr. King was on staff.

The modest store provides an opportunity for ministry among the thousands who come each year to pay their respects to the internationally revered champion of the civil rights movement.

"We help people understand what motivated him, and that was his relationship with God," said Huff, who joined Ebenezer as a teenager and knew the slain preacher and activist. "They want to take something back from Ebenezer, and a sermon is really something tangible. They can listen to it over and over and share it with friends."

The church store opened in 1994 and features items with the name or image of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Among the motifs are "Where the Dream Began," "Home of the Dreamer" and "Home of the King."

"There's an opportunity to invite people to improve or increase their relationship with God," Huff said of the visitors. "They understand more what motivated him, and he was motivated by his relationship with God far more than anything else. Hopefully they leave with some of that motivation to live a better life and to live for Jesus."

Read the complete Best Practice profile of Ebenezer Gift Shop in the November issue of The Church Bookstore.

INSIGHTS: Dealing with special requests PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 07:56 AM EDT
by Terri Williams

If you're not careful, what started as a retail outlet can become much more—the church Lost and Found, the information desk for visitors, the place for members to sell whatever they want and the registration table for ministry events.

In other words, your church bookstore can become a dumping ground for the ministries and members of the church.

We discovered this when we opened our church bookstore 19 years ago. After being inundated with all manner of requests, we discovered that the best way to handle them was to set guidelines and boundaries.

First, policies must be developed in writing so that everyone in the store knows how to address specific requests. Then the store manager should review the policies with the staff and volunteers to make sure everyone is on the same page.

For example, several church members decided that the bookstore would be a great location to drop off materials for another member to pick up at a later date or after Sunday services. This would create a nightmare scenario for us when desk and counter space got covered with items that were supposed to be picked up two or three weeks ago.

The answer—create a policy that you do not accept anything from anyone unless it is for the bookstore staff. All store employees should enforce this policy at the door, so customers won't have to discuss it with management every time a request is made.

Another important aspect of setting boundaries is to be consistent with the policy. Showing favoritism can create conflict as well as damage your testimony before your bookstore staff and church members.
If you choose to disregard the policy for certain people, you have defeated the purpose for which the boundaries were set in the first place.

If your store is like ours, you often get requests to borrow materials or give them as donations for door prizes or special events. Remember, it is OK to say no at the time a request is made if you do not have anything to give away.

To avoid saying no all the time, consider keeping some items that are slightly damaged or some overstock merchandise for the purpose of helping ministries in need.

Requests to sell products from church members and non-members alike can become a nuisance for any church bookstore—especially when they come on a weekly, or daily, basis.

Again, the solution is to have a written policy or criteria to decide which products to sell in the bookstore.

Whenever someone makes a request, tell them you would be happy to review their book, listen to their CD or review their product if they leave it with you, and that a follow-up call will be made within two weeks.

Try not to turn down anyone without reviewing the product because, as we have discovered, some of the best talent and creativity may be sitting in your own church pews.

--Terri Williams has managed Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship's bookstore in Dallas for more than 20 years.

--Click here to read the complete article:

PICTURE OF THE WEEK: Baby steps PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 07:54 AM EDT
With an emphasis on families and services at which newborns are baptized or dedicated, churches have a built-in shopper group looking for faith-based baby items. Christ Church Bookstore at Christ Church in Plano, Texas, caters to the need with a department accenting and emphasizing relevant products.
ADVICE: Dear Betty PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 07:50 AM EDT
I'm thinking about bringing in some pen and pencil displays. Any recommendations?

I'm a strong believer in providing study tools in a church bookstore. Most people who come to church use a Bible highlighter, or at least a pen. There are several fine companies who offer everything from large wire racks to countertop displays. They feature highlighters, rulers, colored pencils, magnifying pages, Bible tabs and other study accessories. Start with just a small display, and see what interest there is in such a product.

Got a question for Betty Bookstore? Write to her at

CHURCH LIFE: A faith map of America PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 07:46 AM EDT
The buckle of the Bible belt has been located—in Shreveport, La. It is the most Christian city in the nation, according to a study by the Barna Group.

The Christian research organization found 98% of Shreveport residents describing themselves as Christian, ahead of Birmingham, Ala., and Charlotte, S.C. (both 96%), Nashville (95%) and Greenville, S.C. and Asheville, N.C. (94%).

The results were revealed in two new Barna studies, Markets 2011 and States 2011, based on nearly 40,000 interviews conducted in the last seven years. The lowest shares of self-identified Christians were found in San Francisco (68%), Portland, Ore. (71%), Portland, Maine (72%), and Seattle, Sacramento, Calif., and New York City (each 73%).

Leading areas tending toward skepticism about religion were Seattle and Portland, Maine, where 19% of the population identified themselves as being atheist or agnostic. The markets with the largest share of unchurched adults included San Francisco, 44% of whom had not been to a religious worship service in the last six months, and Portland, Maine (43%).

Weekly church attendance was found to be highest among the residents of Birmingham (67%), followed by Baton Rouge, La. (62%), Salt Lake City (62%) and Huntsville, Ala. (60%). Areas with the highest proportions of Christians attend megachurches—1,000 or more adults—included Las Vegas, Dallas, San Diego, Orlando, Fla., Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., and Houston.

Church volunteers were most frequently reported in Charlotte and Salt Lake City, while the markets with the highest proportion of volunteers for nonprofits, other than churches, were Tucson and Seattle.

David Kinnaman, who directed the research project, said that the study "confirmed many spiritual assumptions about various regions of the country. The South hosts many of the nation's Christians, while the West and Northeast play to more secular stereotypes."

However, "one of the underlying stories is the remarkably resilient and mainstream nature of Christianity in America. Nearly three out of four people call themselves Christians, even among the least ‘Christianized' cities," he added.

"Furthermore, a majority of U.S. residents, regardless of location, engage in a church at some level in a typical six-month period. The real differences spiritually between various regions are not so much what they call themselves; the faith gaps are more likely to be issues of belief, practice, politics and spiritual emphasis--how people think about, prioritize and express their faith."

Source: The Barna Group.

To read the report in full, go to

ANSWERS OF THE WEEK: Perennial sellers PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 07:43 AM EDT
We asked, what are some of your longtime best-sellers?

The following is a list of some backlist titles that are perennial best-sellers in our church store. We do nothing special to continue to promote them. It is mostly word-of-mouth recommendations that bring people to these favorites over and over again:

Experiencing God workbook by Henry T. Blackaby & Claude V. King
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren
Wild At Heart by John Eldredge

Diane Busch, manager
RiverTree Christian Church Bookstore
Massillon, Ohio


These two books have gotten me through many years of struggles, doubts, depression, questions (why). If you don't currently have them, I would highly advise that you buy them for your customers:

God Meant It for Good by R.T. Kendall
The Power of Brokenness by Don Nori

Pat Whiting
Department secretary
University of Southern California
Los Angeles

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Christmas timing PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 07:41 AM EDT
Christmas comes but once a year—but when? Knowing when to launch the holiday season in a church store is a sensitive issue—not starting so soon as to annoy shoppers who dislike the commercialization of Christmas, but not lagging too far behind other retailers either.

When do you start to focus on Christmas, what guides your decision, and what do you do to promote the season?

Share your experiences and ideas with others at

Wednesday, 20 October 2010 07:40 AM EDT
" ... acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever."

1 Chron. 28:9, New International Version

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