Houston’s Encouraging Word welcomes shoppers with focus on ‘ministry and love’
Churchgoers 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.”
“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.”