Church “Merchandise” on Display: Turning It into a Ministry

by | Facilities, Leadership, Operations

By Stephanie Lippi

For many years now, there have been different items you can purchase to help you broadcast your faith. Anything from clothing to jewelry to artwork and bible covers, there’s something for just about anyone.

Today, more and more churches are starting to develop their own merchandise for people to purchase. Merchandise can be an effective ministry tool if created and used properly. Here are some things to consider when developing your own line of products to share.

What’s the Goal?

First of all, if your goal is to make a lot of money, then you might need to go back to the drawing board. Yes, bringing in some additional income to the church to help with expenses can be a reason, but it shouldn’t be the main reason. Your reason for selling merchandise needs to have a deeper meaning.

What’s the purpose of developing any ministry in your church? To spread the Gospel and serve people in unique ways, right? 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

People today want to declare the messages that are meaningful to them through what they wear and the items they use, so let’s use this as an opportunity to provide them with powerful messages that praise the God who brings light to the darkness. Your merchandise ministry can be an outreach tool in ways that might reach more people than more traditional ideas.

What’s the Messaging?

Once you’ve determined what the reason behind your merchandise ministry is, then you can decide what the messaging will be. In order to do this, you need to decide how you want people to feel when they engage with the merchandise.

If your church is known for something, then keep the products and messaging geared toward that. For example, if you’re known for revitalizing churches that are struggling, consider selling small potted plants with your church’s tagline on the planter.

You can also consider only using your church’s name and logo. That provides a very simple and clear way to communicate who you are. Plus, it’s easier for some people to remember a church name so they can look you up online later.

The biggest takeaway is to make sure that whatever you choose to do, make sure your messaging is easy to read and understand. Unless you’re known for being a church that’s aggressive in its approach to outreach, don’t be aggressive with the colors or fonts or images. Proverbs 16:24 (ESV) reminds us that “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”

How Will You Offer It?

Not many churches are able to offer an online store (similar to Elevation Church’s store or perhaps an Etsy page), but if you have the resources to do this and maintain it, it’s a great way to offer an easy-to-purchase option.

The key is to make sure you have the people available to run an online store. You’ll need someone to purchase the stock items and track orders that come in, people to prepare the orders and ship them (if you offer shipping) or deliver them, and people to answer customer support inquiries. This could be done with a small team (1 or 2 people) if you don’t have lots of orders coming in every week. However, the more orders you get, the more time commitment it will require and potentially more people you’ll need to keep up with them.

If you don’t have the manpower to do this, then consider creating a kiosk or mini-store in your church’s building. Some churches offer merchandise in their café area, whereas other churches use a corner of the lobby space to create a kiosk. This option requires manpower only during café or church hours. Just make sure people know when someone will be there and make it clear what the prices are.

Consider using social media as a way to let people know about the merchandise for sale. You can also let them know if you offer any sales or when new items are in stock. Again, make sure you have the manpower to do this, or it can become an extra stressor.

How Much Will You Charge?

Okay, you’ve determined the purpose and the messaging, and you’ve figured out how to offer it for sale. Now, you’ll need to determine how much you’ll charge for the products. If you’re hoping to use the profits to aid in other areas of ministry and operations in the church, then be sure to not charge too much. Make sure the price is no more than the average for similar items. “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” (Proverbs 22: 16 ESV)

The best way to do this is determine how much you’re hoping to earn from the merchandise sales. Once you know your goals, you can then determine how much extra you’ll need to mark up the products to reach those goals.

For example, if you’re hoping to make $500 (to help the youth go to their annual conference, let’s say), and your cost price (the amount of money you have to spend to get your stock merchandise) is $5/item (this price includes all taxes and shipping costs that you have to pay), then you could set a goal of selling 100 items at $10 each. You’ll make $5/item in profits.

Here’s a simple formula you can use to determine what your sale price needs to be:

Profits = Sale Price – Cost Price

You can adjust that formula depending on how many items you think you’ll be able to sell, but be aware that if you charge too much, you’ll likely sell fewer items.

However, if you’re not interested in making a profit on the sales, then you could charge the items at the cost you purchased them to cover the cost price, or you can create a line in your annual budget to offer them for free. Some churches give free t-shirts to every new person who attends, and others offer car magnets or stickers. Keep your attendees in mind as you decide what the best way is to offer them for your church. Just make sure that you have a plan for how it will work well.

Final Thoughts

Creating a merchandise ministry gives your congregants a ministry tool to share with those around them about your church. If people are excited to attend your church and be involved, they’ll be excited to show it. And when they’re wearing clothing with your church’s name on it or using a travel mug that has your church’s messaging on it, they’ll have a conversation starter when they’re out and about.

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