Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ottawa's Salem Storehouse creating community

Recently, I attended a talk given by Doug Sprunt, one of the owners of Salem Storehouse, a Christian bookstore in Ottawa.

He had been working part time on staff of a local church, but felt called to return to work at the bookstore full time. Why? Because he and his partners realized that though they were successful in selling books, CDs and so on, they had not accomplished the full vision of ministry for the store.

When they'd started the store years ago, they had hoped to make it a place for people who were broken could come and find healing.

Sprunt said he recognized the growing need for that vision when he saw people coming into the store who didn't have a church. They called themselves Christians and were coming into the store to build relationships.

He's also recognized that the Christian bookstores are not reaching new markets and the market they do reach is getting older. Music used to bring in 25 per cent of the income, but that's dropped because of legal downloading on the Internet. As for books, they can be easily ordered online and Sunday school curriculum can be downloaded.

But one thing he can offer is community. To that aim, they are renovating the bookstore to include meeting rooms for people to hold Bible studies or prayer sessions. They already have a cafe offering free coffee.

Another bookstore owner was in the audience. She said she seemed to be getting the same message from God.

As Sheila Wray Gregoire said in yesterday's post, the new media are changing the way we tell stories. These changes are not only affecting us as writers, but they are affecting the people who sell the books we write. But new media is not the only trend out there we need to contend with. The other is the growing number of people who think they don't need a church home, but are desperately in need of the Body of Christ.

I found Doug's talk inspiring. I can see myself heading down one of these days with my laptop and doing some writing out of his cafe and plugging into the community he's building.

Anyone else see this kind of thing happening in their local Christian bookstore?


N. J. Lindquist said...

I've long felt that Christian bookstores need to do a lot more than just be the conduit for getting books and tapes and so forth to customers. I know Doug has been trying different things over the years, and I'm really encouraged to hear he is going to keep on doing more things for people. I think the bookstores who become ministry points will be the ones that flourish.

N. J.

Sue Dent said...

Oh, this is exciting. Here in the Untited States Christian bookstores are run by the CBA/ECPA or rather the Christian Booksellers Association and Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. An author writing from a Christian worldview(and not the CBA/ECPA Christian worldview) had little to know chance of getting in one of these bookstores. Sadly, CBA/ECPA never makes the distinction that their Christian bookstores are specific to their market leaving everyone else to believe if the work isn't in their stores, in isn't Christian. The truth that the book are simply not written within their restrictive writing guidelines to protect their readers of conservative evangelicals never comes out.

My debut novel has garnished readers from the CBA market with fantatstic reviews from even their authors. Yet, because I don't write for that market and don't have an affiliated publisher to ensure I write within their guidelines, I won't end up in one of their many stores. Since I understand they only carry CBA books, that's fine with me. But others just think, because of what they call themeselves, Christian, that my book simply must not be Christian enough.

Yes, it's time for a change! :)

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