Monday, October 01, 2007

Selling Books in the Church: Why Sell Books at Church?

This is the first post in a six part series on establishing and maintaining a church book table, stall, or store. Many of the ideas and experiences are based on the bookstall at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC where I have been blessed to serve as Deacon of Bookstall for over two and a half years. This introductory post will make a case for a book ministry in a church.

In the next section, Selecting Books, we’ll cover just that. Third, in Business or Ministry?, we’ll think about different models for books sales at church and the implications of those models. In the fourth and fifth installments, Selling it Old Skool and Welcome to the 80s, I’ll explain two different ways we’ve handled the practical details at CHBC. I’ll wrap up in Joy in Exhaustion ­– a personal testimony to God’s goodness to me as I’ve served as Deacon of Bookstall.

This series is not meant to be prescriptive. You’ll find not everything will work as well in your setting as it does in ours. Still, I hope it will help some churches and church leaders think through the benefits that might be had by having good books at hand.

Why Sell Books at Church?

I’m not sure what the motivations were when the CHBC Bookstall was started (long before my wife and I arrived). But, over the past four years, I’ve seen at least three benefits of a book ministry in a local church.

First, having books on hand allows a pastor to exercise discernment for the benefit of the congregation. For a variety of reasons, not all believers are able to well discern which books and authors are reliable guides. Pastors should be better situated to make such judgments, and to make such judgments across a wider range of topics.

Second, having books available for purchase in the church increases their accessibility. Many people, including church members and visitors, think more of spiritual matters when they are in the church than when they are about their daily business. Placing in the church something they can take with them to spur continued meditation on spiritual matters can be a great aid. In addition, not everyone lives near a bookstore that carries a good stock of theologically reliable books. Not everyone is adept in using the internet for such purchases. Finally, the availability of books in the church is particularly beneficial to pastors as they counsel others at the church. Our pastors frequently recommend or even give books from our bookstall for the benefit of others.

Third, a bookstall is a great location for fellowship. In our church, the bookstall is located at the back of our auditorium. At the end of the service, we offer coffee and cookies and encourage people to stay around and talk. The bookstall provides a less intimidating location for visitors and less thoroughly relationshipped members to meet others and, hopefully, begin the process of becoming known by others. It’s easier to ask the person standing next to you if they know of a good book on stewardship than it is to tell that same person that you are struggling with greed. But the question may naturally lead to the admission as the relationship develops.

J.A. Ingold is Deacon of Bookstall at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. You can see what he’s reading at Bookpress.

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