Christian Retailing

Getting behind a cause Print Email
Written by Lindsay Williams   
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 09:31 AM America/New_York

Every link in the Christian retail chain is needed to serve a world in need

Christian retailers are realizing more and more that they can be change agents in their communities and beyond. Several have found success in leading movements to evoke change, especially at the local level, as they foster support for community engagement with ministries and charitable initiatives.

LEAD_BeforeIFormedYou-RonDiCianniKey ministry initiatives will be unveiled this year at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) along with exhibits that display how stores are using fair trade and missional resources to expand their ministries and enlarge their roles as tastemakers in their communities. 

“More and more, consumers are making patronage decisions based on what a store or company stands for,” said CBA President Curtis Riskey. “We are honored that our suppliers are understanding that and are willing to create special ministry and outreach opportunities in partnership with Christian retail stores. These projects will enable retailers to be part of their local communities and connect to churches in common service.”

Beyond ICRS, Christian Store Week is a collective step in the right direction, helping to increase foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores and promoting awareness for cause-driven organizations. Last year, Christian Store Week raised $17,775 for World Vision. The campaign also generated significant exposure for Christian retail stores, garnering nearly 23 million advertising impressions. With 436 stores participating, including 138 indies, stores hosted local food drives and sold a special-edition CD with 100% of the royalties from top-selling artists and authors donated.

Every link in the Christian retail chain is playing its own role in reaching out, giving back and engaging others to join in their efforts for a cause. From gift suppliers to publishers to authors and artists to Christian retail stores, the Christian products industry is being inspired by real-world problems and led by the heart of their Christ-like mission to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities.


Inspiring Team Involvement_CottageGardenLogoCottage Garden, a subsidiary of Roman and the leading manufacturer of sentiment-based music boxes and musical frames in North America, began its outreach initiatives thanks to the company’s employees. 

Eight years ago, instead of giving a tangible gift to their boss, the staff decided to adopt a needy family in his honor. The response was so great their efforts have multiplied every year since. This past year, the company raised more than $600 to buy Christmas presents for three local children who wouldn’t have otherwise had gifts waiting for them under their tree Christmas morning.

“In 15 years of running this company, I am not sure anything we have done has bonded our team more than giving back to the community,” said Mark Timm, Cottage Garden president, who believes that giving his employees some skin in charitable work is key.

“I let them pick the cause, and I let them organize the efforts to raise the funds,” he explained. “There is nothing like giving them the freedom to take charge of something that truly makes an impact in real lives.”

Timm contends it’s the role of local businesses to take care of the needs of its customers—especially Christian retail stores, which are an extension of the church. 

“I truly believe it is the responsibility of local business to give back to the local community,” he said. “Cottage Garden would be nothing if not for the hard-working employees that come to work every day to proudly produce and ship out quality gift products. Therefore, we have to do our part to make this community a happy and healthy place for our families to live and our children to grow up. It is not only the future of our community, but this is where out future staff will come from.”

In addition to outreach efforts to local families, planned entirely by the staff, Cottage Garden provides jobs for people in need. Many of the company’s products are assembled by Putnam County Comprehensive Services, an organization that provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities to be a part of a genuine work environment. 

“We have had a team from Comprehensive Services work with us for over 10 years, and the best part is they get to work in a ‘real environment’ where they can learn to function and contribute,” Timm said. “Many of them ‘graduate’ from Cottage Garden and are able to get jobs at other places in town. They take incredible pride in the work they do and bring a joyful attitude to work each day; and it’s contagious.”

The ministry opportunities Timm and his team have seized have enriched their lives every bit as much—maybe even more—than those they help. 

“I believe giving back is critical to sustainable success and overall happiness,” he said. “As an employer, watching my team raise and spend their own hard-earned money so that others might benefit from their efforts and resources is the most humbling part of my job. Every year, I am blown away by their generosity and the creative ways in which they give back.”

Other companies coordinated efforts and supported a pro-life effort that started earlier this year—marking the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

Tapestry Productions formed a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources to present new artwork from Ron DiCianni—Before I Formed You in the Womb—as a significant part of its LifeWay Christian Stores’ pro-life effort. LifeWay is displaying prints and bookmarks featuring the painting, celebrating God’s design in each unborn life. The initial product offering will include signed, numbered, limited edition paper fine-art prints, Open edition paper prints and bookmarks.

Tapestry has committed to donate a significant percentage of the proceeds to the Before I Formed You Foundation, which was established to promote the truth that each life is formed by God for His purposes.

Other parties behind the campaign are eChristian Books, which released Compelling Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe v. Wade by Roger Resler; Vision Video with the Into My Arms documentary co-produced by Julie Woodley, certified trauma counselor; CrossBooks, the self-publishing imprint of B&H Publishing Group that published A Surrendered Life: Finding Freedom, Healing and Hope After Abortion by Patricia K. Layton.


Helping the Less Fortunate_GodsWordInActionLogoCreated by Thomas Nelson in 2010, the ongoing God’s Word in Action campaign invites others to put feet to Scripture. A portion of proceeds from all Thomas Nelson Bible products—text, specialty, children’s and Spanish Bibles—goes to World Vision, specifically toward initiatives that help kids.

 Through a dynamic website and intentional social media marketing, the God’s Word in Action movement shines a light on organizations and individuals that are making a difference. The campaign has highlighted everything from thriving nonprofits to neighborhood lemonade stands created by children with a desire to help others.

The verse Thomas Nelson chose for the program is Ps. 82:3: “Stand up for the poor and the orphan; advocate for the rights of the afflicted and those in need.” 

“We want to honor God and inspire all people,” said Bible Group Marketing Manager Amy Stambaugh. “We want to be sure we’re using our position as a Christian publishing company to help others who are less fortunate.”

Thomas Nelson found that when the company was willing to align its giving with its mission, others were eager to come alongside. 

“We’ve found that many other Christians [have been] encouraged to join us in this mission,” Stambaugh added.

At the launch of the campaign, Thomas Nelson equipped retailers with an array of customized in-store God’s Word in Action merchandise, making it easy for them to implement the program. Last year, the publisher also partnered with World Vision to give away a trip for two to Africa. Consumers could enter to win online or in-store.

Thanks to World Vision’s matching program and retailers and consumers getting behind the movement, Thomas Nelson donated $540,000 to World Vision last year. That equates to caring for 24,000 children. At press time, $375,000 had already been raised since the beginning of 2013.

Using their Platform_EndItLogoUSING THEIR PLATFORM

More than ever before, Christian artists, authors and speakers are using their platforms in ministry initiatives and causes.

This year’s Passion conference, led by some of the foremost speakers and best-selling artists in modern worship (including Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Beth Moore, John Piper, Judah Smith, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill and David Crowder) centered on the issue of modern-day slavery. With 60,000 college students in attendance, more than $3 million was raised for the cause. 

On the last day of the conference, attendees launched the END IT Movement, a worldwide campaign to end modern-day slavery and reach beyond the walls of the Passion movement to engage culture and raise awareness for the 27 million slaves around the world.

The END IT Movement is just one of numerous examples of artists and authors rallying behind a specific cause to evoke change. If they aren’t aligned with a child-sponsorship organization like World Vision, Compassion International or Food for the Hungry, many are founding their own organizations after becoming passionate about a particular injustice or need. 

Christian music veterans Jars of Clay started Blood: Water Mission to combat the HIV/AIDS and water epidemic in Africa. Author Bob Goff heads up efforts for Restore International’s Restore Leadership Academy in Uganda, providing scholarships, textbooks, classrooms, uniforms and medical care for up-and-coming leaders. Recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, began Show Hope, a movement to care for orphans. Young author and activist Katie Davis, author of Kisses for Katie (Howard Books), started Amazima Ministries to feed, educate and encourage orphaned and vulnerable Ugandan children. 

Founded by four-time GMA Dove Award Female Vocalist of the Year Natalie Grant to fight human trafficking, Abolition International is inviting retailers to take part in its 31 Days of Freedom campaign during the month of July. Customizable awareness pieces, exclusively for stores, are available for download at

Sometimes the ministries precede the book deals or recording contracts. Other times, the opposite is true. Whether a mission is born from the art or the art is born from the mission, Christian retailers need look no further than the products on their store shelves when looking for causes to support.

Connecting with Consumers_GiveHopeCONNECTING WITH CONSUMERS

Retailers have a significant opportunity to embrace the work of others or initiate their own creative ways to get their customers involved in contributing to a cause. 

For Berean Christian Stores, charitable giving has become a part of the very culture of its stores. 

“I believe that as a Christian retailer, it is part of our ministry to help the church be the church,” said Denise Chaney, director of marketing for Berean. “I believe people want to be involved in ministry, but even with all the options around today, they don’t often know how to get involved or become connected on a personal level. We offer our guests the opportunity to make it personal.”

Every Berean store is paired with a local or national ministry, ranging from orphanages and homeless shelters to recovery centers and anti-trafficking organizations. Each store collects daily donations for a designated ministry and hosts in-store events to raise awareness and resources for their cause throughout the year. 

Through Berean’s GIVE HOPE program, customers in the store can even write notes, prayers and words of encouragement to those in need. Berean also highlights one ministry in every catalog and leverages its social media platforms to raise awareness for the organizations the chain’s 18 stores support.

“I think guests can tell when your organization is personally invested, and that makes a huge difference because our guests become our partners in ministry,” she added. “I believe you have to follow through as well—show guests they are part of the solution, whether it’s a monetary donation or a clothing or food drive. They make the difference.”

Baker Book House strives to be a gathering place for the Grand Rapids, Mich., community. The store recently partnered with a local ministry that aids inner-city kids by providing food for them to take home to ensure they have something to eat on weekends. Baker asked customers to donate food through the ministry’s collection bins at the store. 

In the past, the store, managed by Sue Smith, supported a local homeless shelter during the holiday season by simply asking customers to round up their final purchase to the nearest dollar amount to help those in need.

“Cause marketing connects your store to the community in quite an intimate manner,” Smith said. “Stores do well when they are seen by the community as a vital, active contribution to their city. Supporting local nonprofits is one way that shows you care and are engaged in the health and welfare of those beyond your walls. That, in turn, motivates people to then be a champion for your store.”

For teen-focused, mall-based specialty Christian apparel and accessory stores C28 (named after Colossians 2:8), giving back is a part of every purchase. With each transaction, customers can choose from one of three ministries, including The Sheepfold, Mercy Ships and Cru, and C28 will donate 10% of every purchase to the organization of the customer’s choosing.

“Our customers want to do good in the name of Jesus, so they love coming to us and having an opportunity to bless a ministry by shopping with us,” said Traci Scare, director of marketing and sponsorships. “Our customers love it; we love it; and the ministries love it, so it’s a win-win for all.”

In addition to donating a portion of every purchase to a ministry, C28 stores also engage consumers in other charitable campaigns throughout the year. The Bless a Soldier campaign has been its longest-running program to date. 

C28 partnered with Operation Worship to send Bibles to soldiers all over the world. When consumers purchase a “prayer flag” T-Shirt, they are given a Bible and invited to write a personal message to a soldier on the inside. The Bible is then shipped to the Operation Worship ministry, which takes care of the logistics of getting it to a soldier. Thousands of Bibles have been donated.

“When the customer is participating in something cause-marketing related, we’re all really doing the cause marketing together, and that builds a great relationship,” Scarce added. “They look to us to provide that outlet, and we look to them to participate. 

“It is a chance to team up with other believers in support of spreading the gospel or bringing awareness to some type of cause that is in need of help,” she said. “It’s really just living out ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Opportunities abound in the community for suppliers, publishers, authors and artists, and retailers to get involved in supporting a cause. More often than not, someone in need is not too far from the doors of your store or company. In fact, the person most in need may even be a Christian retail customer. Owning your cause will mean great responsibility, but the rewards are worth it.

Find your cause

Visit the websites of these organizations to learn more about their work and how you can support their efforts:

Abolition International,

Amazima Ministries,

Blood:Water Mission,

Compassion International,


END IT Movement,

Food for the Hungry,

God’s Word in Action,

Mercy Ships,

Operation Worship,

Restore International,

The Sheepfold,

Show Hope,

World Vision,