Struggling Christian Bookstores Need to Track with Culture, Tech to be Relevant, Says Retail Leader

Christian bookstores need to adapt to new cultural and technological changes in the same way some churches are doing in order to stay relevant, says Curtis Riskey, president of The Association for Christian Retail.

Riskey considers churches and Christian bookstores to be on a parallel track since stores have recently undergone a transition following the digital music and e-book revolutions, which he says is similar to the changes the church is enduring in order to meet the needs of people who see church differently.

"Christian stores are like the community that happens within church, separate from the pulpit monologue. It's more about the free flow of ideas and the conversations that help people engage Christian teachings in a personally relevant way," said Riskey.

Although bookstores are struggling, Riskey notes that they will continue to be around but they need to be ready to meet the needs of a changing culture and generation, especially for millennials.

In the same manner, he notes that churches should become engaging since many young people tend to want to see church demonstrated by what they do throughout the week, not just on Sundays.

"It's not that sermons aren't important or the church isn't, but Christian stores are there to support the church, the ideas and teaching from church, and to give a place for people to go deeper in their faith with the many resources available … Stores offer a place of community," said Riskey.

Although the concept of a bookstore and church seem unrelated, there is a correlation between the two, explains Riskey. He says that both offer Christians the ability to connect to like-minded individuals through sermons, social events fellowship and guidance.

And while millennials are becoming less religious, they are finding support in Christian retail locations.

"Christian stores also offer broad resources where young people can discover more about their faith and bring their questions without judgment or condemnation. Divergent faith issues can be discussed in open dialogue," said Riskey.

He added, "Stores more and more are open to helping people test their faith and to help guide them to an authentic and true understanding of the Gospel … At the end of the day, the Bible stands strong in all of it. People can have ideas and thoughts, but leading people to the Bible is the compass and path to truth, and that is where Christian stores come alongside the church."

Riskey will discuss topics relevant to the church and its relation to Christian retailing in further detail during the International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta June 22-23.

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