Being a recognized member in the Christian community can pay dividends.
Understanding that we live in a post-Christian world can help Christian businesspeople comprehend the new challenges they face in the United States. The downsides of this changing environment are evident: Many individuals will avoid a business publically known as “Christian.” While this isn’t a new problem for Christian bookstores, which rarely attract customers who aren’t interested in reading about Christian subjects, for businesses that don’t cater to an explicitly Christian audience, this is a troubling development.
Nevertheless, as Christians have less power, we will see more Christ followers understanding the value and importance of building a strong, internal, Christian community—and Christian businesses have an important role to play in that community. Not only can they be an economic force for a marginalized subculture, but they also allow Christians to spend money supporting other believers. In a Christian subculture, many Christians will develop an enhanced Christian identity that helps Christian businesses succeed.
SERVING THE CHRISTIAN SUBCULTURE
Part of my advice in a post-Christian society is counterintuitive to the reality that many people will avoid explicitly Christian businesses. Christian businesses should embrace their religious identity and use it to serve the Christian subculture. With the onset of online advertising, it has become easier to engage in targeted marketing. Furthermore, getting their businesses reviewed by websites such as Faith Driven Consumer can help them reach Christian customers. Official support of relevant Christian causes can also send a valuable signal to potential clients. Whatever way a business can signal faithfulness to Christians, without being obnoxious to non-Christians, is a path that needs exploring.
APPEALING TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
For smaller businesses, local appeal is going to be an important part of this strategy. It is vital that those businesses work with local churches and Christian organizations. Doing so allows local believers to not only know about the business, but it also provides some protection from attacks by people with Christianophobia. For example, if a photographer wanted to avoid being dragged to a same-sex wedding, he or she would informally look for wedding customers through Christian churches. If possible, the photographer would even work out an exclusive agreement with several churches agreeing to only shoot weddings at those churches.
However, beyond protection from lawsuits, working with local churches and ministries will ingrain the business into the life of the local Christian community. As Christians feel new pressures in a changing society, being a recognized member in that community can pay dividends in gaining reliable customers. Loyalty can help make up for lost business due to increased anti- Christian hostility.
Christian businesses can attract significant non-Christian customers. Large Christian companies such as Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby have succeeded with superior customer service and product. Their achievements show that success is possible despite Christianophobia. Nevertheless, for Christian businesses that haven’t obtained the status of those businesses, embracing their Christian identity and working locally can be the best ways to deal with the current wave of anti-Christian sentiment.
— George Yancey
George Yancey (Professor of Sociology at the University of North Texas) has research expertise in race relations, academic bias, and U. S. anti-Christian attitudes. His latest book, Hostile Environment, examines what Christians should do to address Christianophobia.