It isn’t easy to be in the Christian retail market today. Trusting that you can change someone’s heart and also put food on your table is hard work. But you don’t have to go it alone.

God is glorified when we lift Him up in one mind and one voice, when we accept one another as Christ has accepted each one of us (Romans 15:5-7).

UNITE 2016, CBA’s International Christian Retail Show, June 26-29 in Cincinnati, Ohio, brings the Christian products industry together for encouragement, education, and business. “The ‘UNITE’ theme is a call to action for the industry to come together to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28 while ‘building tents’ to support the work,” says CBA President Curtis Riskey, referring to the book of Acts and the apostle Paul, who worked as a tentmaker to support his missionary activities.

Christian content creation, production, and distribution are undergoing significant changes from the impact of technology, competition, and customer expectations. UNITE 2016 will address these and other issues head on through informative general sessions, top-notch training, and expert speakers. Come together at UNITE 2016 to be refreshed, renewed, and restored in your ministry and business. Here’s a look at some of the key events you can look forward to.

 

AUTHOR BOOTCAMP

Kicking off UNITE 2016, Author Boot Camp begins at 8:00 a.m. June 26 in room 232. Offering tracks for both published and aspiring authors, Author Boot Camp starts with a joint opening session featuring keynote speaker Pam Farrel, author of Men Are Like Waffles— Women Are Like Spaghetti.

“I’ve been a writer and speaker for more than 25 years, and a church leader for 35 years, so I hope to squeeze out the best insights, experiences, and encouragements to inspire authors to write well, write often, and write with truth and power to a world that desperately needs God’s love and wisdom,” she says. Farrel’s goal is to equip writers with practical tools to create a lifestyle where writing and living out their message transforms readers— and themselves. “God has a place for each voice, each pen, and each computer in His kingdom,” she says. “God will call us to speak, to write, to broadcast His message of hope in new, innovative methods and models, but we must keep our hearts aligned with His to hear His heartbeat of hope for the nations.”

The two tracks, which run until 11:30 a.m., will cover topics such as how to get a book published, how to market and promote a book, and what to do after the book releases.

RETAIL ACADEMY

CBA’s Retail Academy, taught in partnership with Jack Scott of Scott Marketing & Training, begins at 8:30 a.m. June 26 in room 237. Offering basic and intermediate teaching in key retail disciplines, the academy features classes on marketing, inventory management, customer service, financial principles and retail accounting, human resources, and displays and merchandising. According to Scott, the most popular class is the marketing module.

“Everyone needs to refresh their skills and knowledge on marketing but are often surprised that it often must start with their reconsidering who are their target customers.”

The most-needed class depends on the retailer’s needs. “For many, it’s the challenge of getting control over their inventory,” says Scott. “For others it’s pulling together some checklists so they can consistently hire and then train their staff and assure excellent service. For many it’s going through the customer service module—though few realize it— defining standards for service and then figuring how everyone on staff can own and practice those standards.”

Individual classes cost $10 each, but you can attend all six for $50 and receive a certification.

WORSHIP HIM!

Unite to honor God through praise, worship, an offering, and prayer at Worship Him!, 6:00-9:00 p.m. June 26 in the Junior Ballroom. Keynoter Chris Hill will speak on the life of David.

“We don’t have as much detail about nearly anyone in the Bible as David,” says Hill, senior pastor at The Potter’s House (Denver, CO). “Why would God in His infinite splendor give us so much detail if we weren’t supposed to learn from his life and extract truth that will instruct and encourage us?” Also taking the podium will be Bob Lenz, founder and president of Life Promotions. “Worship means to adore,” he says. “In our country today, many are moving away from a biblical worldview, and true worshipers are more rare than ever. We will focus on living a life of worship to lift up Christ’s name again in the marketplace as well in everyday life.”

Known for their harmonies, musical guests Karen Peck & New River will blend Southern Gospel and country while modern hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty will deliver rich melodies. “Every Christian is commanded (and privileged) to sing,” says the Gettys. “Being able to provide the language and artistry that fuels this part of the Christian life is both a service and a chance to hear what attendees are doing in their own work within their congregations and communities.”

Adding to the musical worship, Seth & Nirva are excited to be involved in UNITE 2016. “Jesus’ prayer that we believers would be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21-22) is especially important during times like this when the surrounding culture has become increasingly hostile to biblical Christianity. So any event that has unity as its goal is something we want to be involved in,” says the duo.

This year’s Ministry in Action recipient, BLOC (Believing and Living One Christ), will receive the Worship Him! offering. Embedded in Cincinnati’s toughest neighborhoods, BLOC stands against violence, sex trafficking, addiction, gangs, and youth homelessness. If you’d like to donate resources to BLOC such as Bibles, curriculum, educational materials, or family instruction and leadership materials, please contact CBA at info@cbaonline.org.

CHURCH BOOKSTORE CONNECTION

Church store managers and front liners are encouraged to stop by the Church Bookstore Connection Center, located next to the CBA Booth on the exhibit floor. The center will be home to training, information, and idea sharing on operating or opening a church store.

The Church Store Network, an informal national group of church-store managers and staff, will host the Connection Center. Susan Chipman, director of retail services at Granger Community Church (Granger, IN), and Rachel Savage, senior director of bookstore operations at Calvary Chapel Melbourne (Melbourne, FL), will be on hand in the center. They also will conduct two workshops, Integrating Social Media into Your Church Store, 3:00-4:00 p.m. June 27, and Uniting with Ministries in Your Church, 3:00-4:00 p.m. June 28. An exhibit-floor badge is required.

“Our hope is that we can provide some practical tips and conversation,” says Chipman. “Stores should go home with proven techniques that they can implement right away.” Savage hopes attendees will come away with a new understanding of how a church store can be part of the church team as a whole. “When we all work together, we can make a greater impact serving the community and the body of Christ.”

Managers, staff members, and church leaders are encouraged to attend a reception 6:30-8:30 p.m. June 27 in the Connection Center. Jon Weece, “lead follower” at Southland Christian Church (Lexington, KY), will give an inspirational message.

“I will share practical things that all of us can do to express our faith in love,” he says. “I hope those who attend will walk away with simple ideas on how to  express the love of God in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to God.” Admission for the reception is $10; sign up at Registration to attend.

Retailers also are invited to stop by the center 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. June 29 for a brown bag lunch and discussion to address such church bookstore concerns as multi-store operations, staffing with volunteers, cafe operations, and more.

GENERAL SESSION STAND AND ENGAGE

Monday’s general session will address one of the most challenging aspects of ministry and business: engagement with people and the culture. Held 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. in the Junior Ballroom, Stand and Engage will be keynoted by Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis.

Following Ham’s presentation will be a panel discussion on cultural engagement and the future of faith and the industry. Panel speakers include Ham, University of North Texas Sociology Professor George Yancey (InterVarsity Press), Bob Lenz (Life Promotions), and Brenda Harrison, owner of Lighthouse Christian Books and Gifts (Bedford, Ind.). Yancey, author of Hostile Environment, has researched the cultural shift against Christians and offers insights into what to do about it. Lenz’s ministry is engaging young people about bullying, and Harrison’s store is viewed as a local community center that effectively connects with her town.

Lenz hopes attendees will understand that “we must adapt to the changing times so the voice of the Gospel, the truth of the Scriptures, the name of our God won’t be lost, but will be proclaimed again from the mountain tops and the valleys of death as well as the valleys of everyday struggles, in the marketplace and not just in our churches.” Walk away with insights and tips to transform a buzzword into effective action to engage community and customers.

“If you serve them well, going above and beyond, they will continue to want to be in your store,” she says. “I hope [attendees] will have the opportunity to learn some of the key Chick-fil-A principles that have helped us to attract and retain great talent and that they will be able to incorporate some of them into their businesses.”

BEN-HUR

Under special arrangement, UNITE 2016 attendees will be able to view an extended preview of Ben-Hur, a remake of the classic film set to release in movie theaters in August, on Sunday, June 26 following the Worship Him! service. The screening will include the exciting chariot race and key scenes depicting Jesus with Ben-Hur. Also included are interviews with Executive Producer Roma Downey and star Morgan Freeman about the Christian-products industry and the film’s role in changing hearts. Presented by industry veteran Kevin McAfee.

CHRISTIAN PRODUCT TRENDS WORKSHOP

To successfully serve church, online, and brick-and-mortar customers, retailers need to be equipped with the right product mix and a good understanding of how trends will affect them today and months down the line.

Debuting 4:30-6:30 p.m. June 27, The Christian Product Trends Workshop combines trend information, networking opportunities, and product giveaways from the book, children’s, film, and gift markets into one content-loaded, timesaving workshop.

This event will spotlight the strongest new releases from 12 major sponsors interspersed with trends analysis that will survey the entire Christian product landscape. In addition, sponsoring suppliers will be on hand to give insights into their new releases and what is happening in their product lines.

The $49 admission ticket is offset by free product and the Christian Product Trends Buyers Directory, which includes trend information, listings of presented products, supplier contact info, and a listing of other suppliers.

The workshop will be held in the Junior Ballroom, followed by a time of book  signings with participating artists and authors.

GENERAL SESSION LEADERSHIP IN DISRUPTION

The general session on June 28 will bring together suppliers and retail leaders to explore seismic shifts underway in faith, business, and culture.

At Leadership in Disruption, 11:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. in the Junior Ballroom, a panel of retail and supplier CEOs will share their visions for what may be needed to address the important issues facing the industry. Kristen McLean, Nielsen BookScan director of new business development, will keynote the session featuring latest data on Christian consumers and how they’re changing. Panelists include Chuck Wallington, Christian Supply president and head of The Covenant Group; James Barnett, DaySpring president; Terry Hemmings, Provident Music Group president/CEO; Curtis Riskey, CBA president; and Mark Taylor, Tyndale House Publishers president.

The panelists bring different perspectives to the table but all agree that Christian stores have a part to play.

“Christian retail is a valuable network to ensure survival of an entire ecosystem dedicated to the creation, production, and distribution of Christian products and media,” says Riskey. “However, the way the industry does business will need to change dramatically to meet the needs of future customers and the church.”

“The industry is going through a longterm disruption,” says Taylor. “There are fewer stores than five to 10 years ago and along with the emergence of Amazon, publishers are exploring and finding new ways to reach customers, such as those who don’t have a bookstore nearby.”

With more than 30 years of experience, Hemmings believes “differentiating and adding value to customers’ experience is becoming even more important.”

Wallington adds, “The last decade has been the most challenging on the retail side. Stores need to figure out to respond to these changes or they won’t be around two, three, or five years from now.”

Because the general sessions are luncheons, a fee will be charged to cover the cost However, registered attendees may attend without buying lunch.

CBA MARKETSQUARE

Christians come to UNITE 2016 from around the globe for training, business, and ministry inspiration. CBA MarketSquare is the special area set aside for international publishers, acquisition editors, ministry executives and leaders, book and media companies, and product suppliers to gather.

Jack Scott, owner of Scott Marketing & Training, is host of MarketSquare. He has trained for the U.S. State Department, the American Booksellers Association, CBA International, RBTE, CBA Canada, and numerous regional bookseller associations both in North America and overseas.

Scott will lead Global Crossroads: International Business Fellowship, a time of prayer, networking, and fellowship 7:00-8:30 a.m. June 28 in the MarketSquare area.

“I’m hoping that many of my international friends will be able to get to Cincinnati this year,” he says. “This is the one time per year when we can get re-acquainted and find out what triumphs and trials they have experienced since last we met.” The event is $10; preregistration is required.

IN-STORE EVENT PLANNING

DaySprings’ Kim Marquette will lead an insider look at planning and executing a faith-filled, community-building, in-store event customers won’t forget. Retailers will receive free materials to jumpstart their first in-store event. Join this interactive workshop 4:30–5:30 p.m. June 28 in room 238.

SPECIAL EVENTS

UNITE 2016 attendees have the opportunity to participate in two major milestones in a growing movement to lift up Jesus Christ and the relevancy of Christianity to the U.S. and the world.

The Ark Encounter. The Ark Encounter is an $80 million attraction based on a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark created by Answers in Genesis. A special preview tour for CBA members is June 28.

The Museum of the Bible. The Museum of the Bible will bring to UNITE 2016 a special exhibit of select artifacts and archeological finds from the museum’s extensive collections of scroll fragments, cuneiforms, early codices, and more dating back to the time of Abraham. The $400 million, 430,000 square-foot museum opens fall 2017 in Washington D.C. The Museum’s One Million Names campaign seeks to gather 1 million names of people who believe the Bible is great and should be known. Donate any amount and your name will be displayed permanently on a wall in the completed museum.

For more information and complete details on these and other events taking place at UNITE 2016, visit www. UNITE2016.com.