In their book, Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church (Baker Books), authors Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin discuss the significance of leaders embracing the need for change and inviting younger people to help usher it in. For stores, that means giving younger staff freedom and responsibility, as Kevin Ferguson has done at Willamette Valley Christian Supply in Corvallis, Oregon.

“You have to put people in places who understand the next generation and what colors, what design, what fits, what’s going on,” he says, having just made a 23-year-old staffer the store’s gift buyer. “She has 100 percent authority to make the orders, because I believe that she connects with the next generation far better than I do.”

Mulder and Barna Group Editor in Chief Roxanne Stone advocate stores look at developing their “third space” identity, striving to become the place—after home and work or school—where Next Gens congregate. That could mean small groups of presentations on Next Gen concerns—work and relationships—from a Christian perspective, says Stone.

She and Mulder also recommend stores do some informal study of their own by checking out the kind of places Next Gens congregate and asking some to come into your store and comment on what they see and feel as they walk through it with you. It’s likely to be a different perspective, they say.

At Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, “We have invited a few church youth groups to have their small group meetings here in our cafe, introducing them to the store overall,” says manager and CBA chair Sue Smith. “The idea is to get them comfortable in our store.”

Keith and Brenda Harrison, whose staff at their Lighthouse Christian Books & Gifts in Bedford, Indiana, includes younger adults and a teen, “begin when the children are young and coming in with their parents.” The store also hosts many kids’ events, with games, snacks, and prizes.

Next Gens can sniff out insincerity in an instant, warns Inspired Christian Storehouse owner Derek Ouellette, noting that even how you use social media reveals how much you really know about younger people. Example: Next Gens have mostly abandoned Facebook to their parents and grandparents, turning instead to other platforms. “Instagram for my bookstore may be the No. 1 way teens and young adults have stumbled upon and come into my store,” says Ouellette.

— Andy Butcher

Read more about how to bridge the generational divide at cbaonline.org/bridge-generational-divide.

Other related stories of interest:
Rethink Next Gen Customer Service
Create an Experience in Your Store for Young Parents