December 12, 2008

The Church Library as a Ministry: How to Reach Out and Connect!

Transforming your church library from "more than a room" to an actual ministry challenges those of us dedicated to church library ministry to think more broadly about the role we fill.

Church libraries are full of a variety of resources that can encourage and enrich the members of the congregations we serve. How do church librarians ensure that their church library is an active ministry? Ministry requires going beyond our usual boundaries and requires that we stretch ourselves to meet the needs of those we serve. Creativity and activity are key when it comes to successful outreach.

How do church librarians provide outreach and who are they reaching out to? Church librarians need to know both the ministry areas of the congregation they serve as well as the make up of the congregation. The church library is serving all members, committees, church staff, people using the building and the surrounding community. Serving such a diverse group can be challenging and rewarding.

One groups church libraries can support are church committees.

  • Church librarians are resource people. What are the committees in your church working on? Is there a capital campaign coming up? Is there a social justice committee focusing on a particular region of the world?
  • Actively seek out committee members to see what resources the church library can offer. Perhaps members of these various committees could also participate on the church library committee.
  • Getting people to see the church library as having relevance to their ministry area helps people to see the value in what is often a much underrated resource-the church library.
  • The church librarian as ministry coordinator is a big role to fill. In order for your library to be transformed from being, "a room with books" to an active ministry, a library team is needed to succeed.
  • When your team is in place, start by talking to the ministry and committee leaders already in place. Find out how you can support their efforts and gradually add to your programming.
  • As you expand your focus, members of your congregation are sure to notice that something is new and different in their church library.

How have you reached out to other church committees?

Putting the "fun" in Fundraising

Book sales can offer people hand-selected, new release titles made easily available on a particular Sunday morning. Woodbury Lutheran Church in Woodbury, Minnesota, recently hosted a book sale with over 40 titles available. Books, audio books, Bibles and DVDs were clearly displayed on banquet style tables.

At the beginning of the shopping experience, "shoppers" were handed a check-list of books that included relevant information and prices. When shoppers were finished looking at the books on display and checking off what they wanted to purchase, they handed their list to the sales clerks (aka church librarians) who had the books available behind the counter.

The books were themed around marriage and family issues and the book recommendations came from the pastors of the all the ministry areas at the church. Tanya Smith, lead librarian, said the idea for the book sale surfaced when pastors found they were directing congregants to purchase certain books and then got feedback that the recommended books were hard to find.

Bibles, especially for children and youth, can be hard for people to select due to the overwhelming number available. Displaying the Bibles with Pastor's recommendations provided a valuable service to church members. Books were ordered in advance from Library and Educational Services Berrien Springs, MI .

Library and Educational Services has two distinct programs which can help church libraries raise funds and request new books for the library collection. NCLA contacted Dorothy Carscallen to find out about their programs.

Book Fair Program:
  • The Book Fair Program offers church librarians the opportunity to order books from either the regular catalog or online.
  • All books and media are offered at 30 to 70% off retail prices.
  • Shipping is free.
  • If a pre-paid order of over $1,000.00 is placed up front, an additional 10% discount is applied if unsold books are not returned. The discount is 5% if books are returned. Up to 50% of pre-ordered stock can be returned.
  • The nice thing about this program is that church libraries can offer their books at prices that are slightly less than retail and still make a profit.

Fundraising Program:

For churches that don't have the resources for the Book Fair Program, the traditional Fundraising Program may be just what you are looking for.

  • All purchases are made from a specific catalog.
  • You can still pre-select titles from the fundraising catalog and order samples at a 50% discount plus free shipping.
  • A 50% commission is given for all book orders over $1,000.00;
  • sales under $1,000.00 result in a 40% commission.

If you have additional questions about this fundraising opportunity, Dorothy said she'd welcome the opportunity to customize a fund raising program for interested NCLA members. Dorothy can be reached at 1-219-695-1800 or email Additional fundraising opportunities can be found in the links portion of the NCLA website

Have you had a successful book fair? How did you organize it? Who did you order books from?