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Church Bookstores
Church Bookstore: 4 priorities for church store managers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Trevor Olesiak   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 02:30 PM EST

Keep these things top of mind to remain financially viable

TrevorOlesiak-LoftWhen I first began overseeing the bookstores and coffee shops at Celebration Church in 2011, I wrestled with whether I was leading a business or a ministry. To me, the two felt mutually exclusive.

Determining whether your store is a business or a ministry is not a problem to solve but a tension to manage. I believe the ultimate success of a church bookstore is determined by how well this tension is managed.

In the last several years, I have found four main things I need to do well for our store to fulfill its ministry purpose—and remain financially viable. Consider these:

Don’t lose business during your store’s remodel PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rachel Savage   
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 01:44 PM EDT

How to serve your customers well during a major transition

RachelSavage-NoCreditThe large banner across the papered doors announced, “In late November ~ The Chapel Store becomes Watermark Christian Store. Visit our temporary location in the Chapel.”

‘Small store with a big heart’ offers enjoyable customer experience PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 09:28 AM EST

Houston’s Encouraging Word welcomes shoppers with focus on ‘ministry and love’

Encourager-ChatChurchgoers and community members regularly gather at Encouraging Word Bookstore in Houston, not only to shop, socialize and relax, but to benefit from the store’s ministry.

“Members of our church love to come in here, grab a cup of coffee and hang out while they are waiting for the next service, or they meet a friend in here,” said Jodi Jones, store manager. “It’s a connection point a lot of times.”

Complete with a Keurig drink maker in a coffee nook as well as comfortable chairs, the store provides a place to chat.

“Our assistant manager, Anne Marie Herzberg, is very outgoing,” Jones said. “This is something that has evolved and grown naturally. It’s not something we dreamed up or that was part of a business plan. We started in a room about the size of a bedroom, and we have continued to grow. We’ve more than doubled our space, and the church has provided us with a location that is right off of the sanctuary with glass windows and more visibility.”

The store serves Encourager Church where Fernando and Angie Ruata are senior pastors. With about 900 members, there are two services Sunday morning and a prayer-and-worship service Wednesday. The store is open those two days, with sales on a typical Sunday ranging from about $750 to $800.

“If you think about our priorities, it’s about ministry and love,” Jones said. “That’s the vision of the church, too. Visitors come in, and they always make comments about how friendly our church is. We know that we are often the first place they stop, and we’re the first people visitors talk to even before they get to the information desk or to a greeter. We’re a small store with a big heart.”

Herzberg agrees.

“This is a very nonthreatening place to meet people,” she said. “Guests come in and strike up conversations. It’s a good beginning to being part of this church.”

Jones and Herzberg believe the store should be more of a ministry than a retail outlet.

“Everything in our store is discounted 20%,” Jones said. “So, people know when they come in here that they are going to get something that can help them with their walk with the Lord, and we are not trying to make money off of them.”

Herzberg added: “The bottom line isn’t the bottom line for us. It’s not about the sales; it’s about the connection. The sales are a byproduct rather than it being the other way around.”

Volunteers build a strong ministry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rose Seeley   
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 09:26 AM EST

So you want to build a volunteer team? Or perhaps you already have a team but seem to be stalled in the areas of growth or motivation and commitment. Maybe you’re not sold on the benefits of using volunteers but are compelled by church culture or your bottom line to do so.

While there are many challenges to working with volunteers, the benefits are definitely there and worth considering. Besides inventory, staffing can affect your store’s bottom line more than any other item. It’s also a blessing to work with so many brothers and sisters in your church family, see them thrive and grow, and become more connected to their home church.

RoseSeeleyBuilding your team can start with something as simple as just asking for volunteers. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most powerful ways is to ask personally. Many people have not stepped out to serve because they’re undecided where to serve or may be a little timid. Approaching someone in a friendly, no-pressure way and asking them to volunteer is often just the push they need to finally jump in and commit.

You may want to get others to ask on your behalf. Your current volunteer staff is a good source of recruiting new volunteers. There are other ways to ask; just use your imagination!

When asking for volunteers, one thing to keep in mind is that often friends and family prefer to serve together because it’s more convenient and fun.

Once you have identified new team members, get them signed up and started quickly while they are still eager. If their enthusiasm wanes, they may change their minds or be snatched away by another ministry.

Keep your team growing and thriving with ongoing training. Create a positive, fun environment in which people can serve. Make certain to be generous with appreciation. Training is a continual task, and gestures of appreciation will build confidence in your volunteers.

A positive environment keeps them looking forward to serving, and knowing how much they are appreciated keeps them from leaving.

Working with a volunteer team can be limiting but often is necessary. It’s a big job to do right. But the rewards—from the relationships you build to the opportunity to increase profits—can make the challenge well worth it!

Rose Seeley, retail services director, Cottonwood Church, Los Alamitos, California

Denominational store opens mall location PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 09:22 AM EST

Success with kiosk leads to larger shop to broaden community reach

WhiteWing-MallDenominational bookstore White Wing has expanded its presence to a Cleveland, Tennessee, mall. The move came about after first proving its success with a mall kiosk rather than opening a full store right away.

White Wing held a grand opening Aug. 16 for its new Bradley Square Mall store, which  measures about 700 square feet. The store drew traffic with free food and a radio station remote event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“We stayed packed all day long,” said Rachel Cartwright, bookstore manager of the White Wing Christian Bookstore and White Wing mall store.

Gene Browning, director of White Wing Publishing House and retail operations, said the Church of God of Prophecy’s 5,000-square-foot headquarters store has been serving Cleveland since 1968.

“A lot more people from the community were coming in,” Browning said. “But we felt like, because we were at the denominational headquarters, that there were some people that still didn’t feel comfortable coming into our store.

“That’s one of the main reasons we wanted to move into the mall. We felt like we could reach out to the community much better than we could at the headquarters location. We are also able to reach out to our Church of God of Prophecy members who are shopping in the mall. It’s more of a convenience for them.”

The mall store also draws Lee University students and other young people.

“By going into the mall, we’ve exposed ourselves, our witness and these Christian resources to people who don’t normally shop at a Christian bookstore,” Browning said.

The mall store is selling more titles from popular authors and top-10 books than the headquarters store does.

The mall kiosk operated for just under two years but was closed once the permanent mall location opened. Sales success has followed.

“Compared to the kiosk, our new mall store is more than doubling sales each month,” he said. “I think that will continue to grow.”

Gifts are the top-ranking sales category, followed by books and Bibles. Top-selling items include Kerusso T-shirts, books, Bibles, gifts and jewelry. Cards are also selling more with a more expansive DaySpring display.

The store also has a new P. Graham Dunn laser engraver and a wide variety of products to personalize.

“We gave away silicone wristbands that we personalized for free that [grand opening] day,” Cartwright said.

Sagemont Bookstore welcomes new director PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 04:00 PM EDT

Retiring teacher begins new ministry at Houston store

BeckyFrenchSagemont Bookstore welcomed Becky French as the new director of the bookstore and café in June. A retired high-school English teacher, French assumed her new role in June after responding to an advertisement in the church bulletin at Sagemont Church in Houston.

 “I was teaching, and I was about ready to retire, but I didn’t want to just retire,” French told Christian Retailing. “I was looking for something, and this seemed like an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I finished teaching on a Friday and started working at the store on Monday.”

From working at a bookstore in college and serving as a missionary in Japan to teaching, enjoying good books and discussing the truth of God’s Word, French’s background and skills have helped to prepare her for the new post.

“It’s the right fit,” she said. “I really feel like the Lord opened up this opportunity for me and helped me to see it.”

French saw the opening in the bulletin while visiting her daughter’s church.

“When I saw it, it immediately connected with me,” she said. “I felt like it was the Lord nudging me, saying, ‘This is for you.’ I have a confidence that God does know what He wants us to do, and He has a plan for us.”

The store has one full-time employee—the director—and one part-time employee. Additionally, the bookstore and café are staffed by a volunteer team of about 30 to 50. The store is open six days a week, serving a church membership of more than 19,000 as well as surrounding communities. Led by Senior Pastor Dr. John Morgan, with two Sunday services, the church sees an average of 6,000 attend each week.

In French’s new position, she hopes to continue to successfully support the store and its ministry. She brings to the role a desire to learn new things and discuss ideas with the store’s customers.

“I hope to keep the ministry going as strongly as it has in the past and make it even better, but I believe the store is already quite attractive and running well,” she said. “So, I hope to keeping it going as well as it has been.”

In its 10th year, the 2,500-square-foot Sagemont Bookstore stocks a mix of books, Bibles, greeting cards and gift items. The store’s best-sellers include Bibles, church-branded T-shirts and jewelry. The café occupies an additional 500 square feet.

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