CLC Christian bookshop ministry has been serving serving churches and Christians in Birmingham for over 45 years. Simon Newbon sits down with manager Sue Allen (pictured) to find out about her and the work currently being done in Birmingham.
So Sue, what does managing a Christian bookshop entail, and how long have you been doing it?
I have been the manager of our ministry centre at Carrs Lane for four years now. We have an amazing opportunity here not only to sell resources, but also to provide ministry support to all those who visit. In my time here I have definitely had to learn to lean on God every moment of the day, because I never know who will walk through the door or how I may need to serve them. I can honestly say that I have felt God’s support and encouragement in every part of my day. I have to find the right balance between running the retail side of the bookshop at the same time as being spiritually sensitive in the ministry as I meet with people, and I can only manage that by God’s grace!
Is there a book that you would recommend everyone read to inspire their faith this year?
I’m not a great theologian or scholar, but the book Unshakeable Hope by Max Lucado has been such an encouragement to me. It’s like having a conversation with a friend. Each chapter explores a promise that God has made to us, and how we can stand on those promises in our daily living. At the end of every chapter there are some questions which help to reflect on what’s been read. I think it’s a fantastic book for people at any stage of their faith and for any age.
So in the 21st century, where more information than ever is available online through blogs, podcasts and videos, are bookshops still relevant?
Absolutely! We stock a wide range of items on hundreds of topics, which enables us to help customers to find and browse titles that might be applicable and encouraging to them. We also have the chance to build relationships with individuals and support them in discovering what they may need to continue their journey with God. We prayerfully serve every customer, and sometimes what they leave with is not quite what they were expecting! I really believe that that personal connection is something you will never find online in the same way.
What impact does the CLC centre have on the community in Birmingham?
This is an area in which we are always striving to grow. We have a sofa space in our centre, where we host a lunchtime prayer meeting, mostly attended by people who work in the city. Also we have individuals and church groups who use it as a space to meet for ministry. And then we often use it ourselves as we talk and pray with those in need, including some local church leaders when they need a little respite and encouragement!
Have you got any stories that you can share of your experiences in the centre?
We love to be available to pray with and support every person who comes through our door, no matter what their situation looks like, so we have lots of stories of answered prayer and of God transforming people’s lives through the resources we supply! If I had to pick just one I would choose the story of a woman who came in about a year ago and who asked for prayer, because she felt she didn’t know the Holy Spirit’s presence and she wanted to grow in her faith. As we prayed, she was also listening to the Stir a Passion album, from Worship Central that we were playing in the shop, and she felt such a weight lift from her. She decided to buy the CD and went away. She came back later and told me how our prayer time and listening to the album at home had encouraged her faith so much. It’s really wonderful to know that God uses our ministry to revolutionise lives like this!
Finally, how can churches and ministries partner with you to see this centre continue this mission?
Two words: use us. We want to serve and help churches and ministries across the city. We run a Partnership Scheme which allows churches and charities to buy from us at a minimum 15% discount, so most ministries could benefit from that. Also we are always happy to supply bookstalls for special services or events, or even a regular bookstall if you have the space and staff for it! We are so grateful for those churches in the region who already use our shop and work alongside us to see the Kingdom of God grow in Birmingham!!
CLC Birmingham can be found at The Church at Carrs Lane, 7 Carrs Lane, B4 7SX. They’re open Monday to Saturday 10am until 6pm (closed Bank Holidays). Drop in and see what they offer!