Where is the U.S. Church Headed? Watch the Bookstores–And this June’s Natl. Meeting of Christian Bookstores
Michael Conrad 214-616-0320
ATLANTA – June 9 – Is church in the US still growing by ABCs–attendance, buildings, cash? The answer is no. Digitized and relationally driven, the Millennial generation is changing how and wherechurch happens, and increasingly it’s not in a church building.
Enter one of the activist Christian bookstores–or into the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS), the annual meeting of Christian booksellers, June 22-25 in Atlanta–and you pick up that the store experience, is increasingly, well, “churchy.”
“For the same things their parents went to church to find, Millennials are going to Christian bookstores,” Curtis Riskey, President of The Association for Christian Retail (CBA) said. “Think fellowship, guidance, talks, events, mission trips . . . Retail can never replace church, of course, but increasingly stores are an entire experience.”
This year’s ICRS will host not one but three events to spotlight the changing church:
1) Keynote: Church & Retail. In the ICRS keynote address, eclectic author Thom Schultz is known for his incisive comparisons of churchgoing and retail trends. Founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café, Schultz’s blog topics range from why congregations have stopped singing to standard responses to church decline.
2) General session: Where US Christianity is headed. The ICRS general session includes Ravi Zacharias, bestselling author/scholar/speaker and observer; legendary author/asker Philip Yancey; radio gadfly Ryan Dobson; and will be moderated by Craig Cable of Lifetree Café. All weigh in on where Christianity is headed.
3) Wednesday panel: Especially for church leaders, “Capturing the Millennial Mind,” features Roxanne Stone (Barna Group VP, Relevant magazine editorial director, she’s covered and researched the Millennials); Palmer Chinchen (author of the upcoming “The Barefoot Tribe” manifesto is organizing a Millennials service-and-expertise network); Brad Lomenick (president of Catalyst, the premiere, dynamic leadership conference for young church leaders); and Dennis Moles (the popular RBC Ministries bible teacher who researches Millennials).
At the crossroads of a culture in flux and the changing church, CBA stores are the conversation, Riskey said. “As technology and new generations upend old practices, the stores able to survive and thrive extend customer values,” he said. “They go beyond retail to community involvement–supporting local services and ministries–and examples are out there.”
Riskey summed it up. “Technology will never replace human connection.”
To talk to specific store owners about the blurring lines between church and the Christian bookstore experience, here are four of many examples:
Family Christian Stores in Grand Rapids MI
Christian Supply in Spartanburg SC
The Parable Store in San Luis Obispo CA
Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI
About CBA CBAonline.org