Christian Retailing

4 priorities for church store managers Print Email
Written by Trevor Olesiak   
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 02:30 PM America/New_York

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:

Lead Well

The first and foremost priority we must master as church bookstore managers and staff is leading our teams well. The balance between ministry and business cannot be successfully navigated without first equipping your teams with vision and values.

Vision helps your team know why they are there, whereas values provide them with the foundation from which they work. Too often as leaders, we only focus on what we want our teams to do, which will happen naturally when you focus on why and then how.

The vision for your store’s ministry must follow from the vision of your church. This year we realized we were out of balance in this area, which prompted us to make a shift. We changed our core business model, completely remodeled our store and relaunched our ministry under a freshly updated brand. Most importantly, we aligned our vision and values with that of our church, which, in turn, brought our business and ministry components into balance.

Serve Well

Leading well is predicated on serving well. A church bookstore is so much more than money changing hands in a transaction. Part of the ministry of the church store is how we serve each and every guest. Whether the guest is dropping $350 at our cash wrap or taking a photo of a book cover with his smartphone so he can buy it on Amazon to save $5, he should be served without prejudice. Give your guests your all, and you’ll find the financials have a way of working out in the end.

The same principles apply to our fellow staff at the church. I always coach my teams that church staff members are our customers also. You don’t have to give your product away to any pastor who asks in order to serve the staff, but always go the extra mile. That said, it is important to ensure you have clear and efficient processes in place to help establish boundaries in which staff members operate.

Plan Well

In an effort to prioritize ministry, sometimes we can fall into a trap of ignoring the data. We tell ourselves that it’s all about people not numbers. However, I would argue that when you don’t actively plan, project, review and analyze your financials, you actually neglect to prioritize people.

I love the parable of the lost sheep. People usually focus on the fact that the shepherd went after the one that was lost, but in order for the shepherd to have even realized one was missing, he had to count the sheep regularly to know how many he had. If numbers are important to God, they should be to us as well.

I challenge all bookstore managers I talk to not to rely solely on their accounting departments or church administrators to care about the numbers. At Celebration Church, we project our sales and budget numbers every six months based on historical data, the church calendar and a realistic estimate of growth. This rhythm has been instrumental in helping me understand how we are doing financially. If the Holy Spirit leads me to give away a book or offer a deep discount to a department, I can do so confidently because I have already planned and created margin in our store budget projections for these God-moments.

Learn Well

As a bookstore manager, you are essentially a small-business owner but without the financial liability of an entrepreneur. It’s an amazing opportunity to use our skills to help resource God’s church. When done prayerfully and skillfully, we can use what’s been entrusted to us as a way to fund other ministries. Thinking about our roles in this way gives us permission to improve our character and our leadership. It allows us to learn from mistakes and move forward.

Do everything you can to develop yourself as a leader, a student of God’s Word and a businessperson. Those three must be in balance in order to achieve success in your church store.

Trevor Olesiak is director of the Loft, the café and retail ministry of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida.