Rick: Hi Steve. Thanks so much for this interview. It sounds to me like you’re the only guy in the world with the ministry role you’re doing. If I understand correctly, you’re helping local churches start a bookstore in the building where their church meets. How would you describe your work, Steve?
Steve: I would describe my work as bringing together all the necessary pieces that a church or church bookstore would need to either get started with a brand new store, or help with their existing store. God has shown me in the last couple of years that He has gifted me with the ability to connect people and processes. And He has also shown me the importance of relationships. I always get enthusiastic when I hear of a need that I can find a source to meet it. I am always on the ready to share who or what I know. I took that ability and am using it to bring NavLink to the church bookstore market and provide a service to them. I basically operate as a counselor, then create a plan for them utilizing the talents of our team of industry veterans to get them functioning up to full capacity.
Rick:How did you end up in a role of this nature?
Steve: It has been quite a journey! Years before I became a Christian, I was drawn to Christian bookstores and thought what a wonderful place! I was interested in all the encouraging books they sold and knew that somehow I wanted to be a part of it. I first entered the book industry back in 2000 working in the warehouse of a major distributor. I knew I would need some better education to get to where I wanted to be so I re-entered college and finished my degree in Marketing. Once that was completed I started looking into to all the Christian publishers that we did business with. I began to meet new people and that eventually led to an offer to go on the road full-time as a sales rep serving CBA stores in the Southeast. I represented several Christian publishers and that allowed me to create close relationships with some key people. I continued to work my territory until unfortunately our division closed. But that led to a position with another prominent Christian publisher, and that led to a buyers position with a major merchandising company and then finally to NavPress where they asked me to launch NavLink for them. That’s the short story, but really, all of my life experiences, in and out of the Christian publishing industry have helped me get to this point.
Rick: What is it that excites you about this work, Steve?
Steve: I probably get the most energetic when I get to work directly with the client, either by phone or on site. I enjoy seeing how they go about running the bookstore and working together on solutions and hearing their stories of ministry taking place in the store. It matters a lot to me that we become partners in a much bigger agenda of reaching people that need to hear about Christ like I once was. I feel like I have accomplished something really great if I earn their trust.
Rick: In years passed, churches had church libraries, a set aside room where people could check out books to read. Why would a church want to turn the room that is presently their library into a church bookstore?
Steve: The reasons can vary. I have seen churches that have both a library and a bookstore. They serve different needs. One reason I can think of is that a church may wish to open a bookstore in place of the library so that they can generate funds for missions work. Every bookstore should decide what their purpose is. The profits earned can go toward hundreds of great ministries within the church.
Rick: How does a church bookstore help the senior pastor in making mature believers?
Steve: The church bookstore is a tool for discipleship. It can help drive the message that the Senior Pastor is teaching by offering resources to aid in deeper study of the Scriptures. And it offers a huge convenience to the members so that they can act quickly on what they have just heard while the message is still fresh.
Rick: Most of the people who read this blog are small group pastors and education ministers. How would a church bookstore aid them in accomplishing their ministries?
Steve: Oh wow! If a small groups pastor or education minister is fortunate enough to be serving in a church that has a bookstore, half of his job is already done! That leader can work with the bookstore manager to coordinate schedules and make sure all of the necessary materials are available in the store. Those people looking for a small group can easily see what is being offered and review the subject matter to help decide if the class is right for them. It is a great way to get more people interested and provide a convenience to them.
Rick: Steve, I’m sure I’ve missed asking you some questions that need to be addressed. What else would you like to say to those reading this blog post about having a church bookstore in their church?
Steve: I believe the church should be leading the way and setting the example of how things should be done. Churches have a captive audience and can determine specific needs best because it is right there in front of them. The bookstore not only can generate needed funds for worthy causes but can become a ministry hub where people can connect with others and receive encouragement. But before you do anything, surround yourself with wise counsel as the Bible instructs us to do and always cover every decision in prayer. Opening a church bookstore can be a huge task, but with the proper preparation your plans will succeed.
Rick: Steve, if a church leader wanted to talk with you about starting a bookstore in their church, how would they make contact with you?