A Christian bookshop is so much more than just another business, isn’t it? At least, that’s how it seems to me: I think of Christian bookshops as potential chill-out zones where people should be able to meet away from church; mission outposts on the high street (or in the back street, as the case may be), places where people who’d never darken the doorway of a church can wander in and out again without feeling intimidated or threatened; resource centres for local churches; outlets for fair trade products; informal counselling and career centres for people mixed up over life or seeking a new direction…
But I wonder how many Christian bookshops have actually taken the bull by the horns (sorry Deborah – couldn’t resist it!) and teamed up with some trained counsellors to provide visitors with a professional counselling service? That’s what Canaan Bookshop in Staines have done, joining forces with Sue McGee and Deborah Bull, both of whom (amongst other qualifications) have Diplomas in Christian Counselling from London School of Theology/CWR and are members of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy.
They describe their approach as “non-judgemental and open to all, regardless of beliefs or religious background” and are able to help people work through all sorts of different issues ranging from anger, anxiety and panic attacks through bereavement, depression and eating disorders to relational difficulties, with all counselling sessions held in a private room at the bookshop.
With many Christian retailers struggling to survive, could initiatives like this be a viable way forward, offering a broader range of services to our customers? For Canaan the counselling side is nothing new: it was part of the original vision for the shop; but perhaps more of us should consider providing this kind of additional service alongside our retail activities?