This is the second 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 post will explore the considerations that surround book selection.
Which Books Should You Select?
Foundationally, churches should sell only books that are theologically accurate. Of course, other than the Bibles you sell, your stock is not inspired. But, it is important that the books sold not be likely to lead readers into error. At our bookstall, all books are selected by the pastors. This allows the purchaser to have a high level of confidence in the theological accuracy and pastoral benefit of the books.
Second, books should be selected for their broad helpfulness. Maybe someone in your church is incredibly interested in the details of the Montanism . . . but your limited shelf space is better used for a title on cultivating humility or emboldening evangelism.
Third, books should be selected to teach on a range of theological issues and across a range of human experience. Our bookstall is divided into the following sections: Bible Study Aids, Bibles and Hymnals, Biographies, Devotional Aids, Christ and Culture, Christian Living, Church and Worship, Commentaries, History, Marriage and Family, Theology, and books our pastor has written or contributed to. Some of these sections contain only a few titles – others contain more than fifty titles. The important thing, regardless the size of your book ministry, is to understand that not all people struggle to understand or apply the same truths. So, before you add a fifth title on the sovereignty of God, look to see whether you have any help for those struggling with their marriage, parenting, or suffering. Look at the books as you look at your people – pastorally.
Fourth, select some books that are old. Some of my best friends are dead – and I’ve met them at our bookstall. I’ll not have the opportunity in this life to meet Jeremiah Burroughs (d. 1646), but just last evening he was teaching me about contentment. And earlier this year, Thomas Watson (d. 1686) opened Romans 8:28 to me. Not everyone will choose an older book, but provide an opportunity for your people to sit at the knee of faithful departed saints.
Finally, include some books that are challenging. You’ll not want to turn your church book ministry into an academic bookstore, but there is a place for a few works that will challenge those who desire more. You will probably carry and sell these titles in smaller quantity, but it can be helpful to have a few on hand.
J.A. Ingold is Deacon of Bookstall at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. You can see what he’s reading at Bookpress.