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Baptist church raises $70,000 in holiday sale in partnership with artisans

IMG_2879At its 2014 holiday marketplace, First Baptist Church of Dalton, GA, sold $70,000 in predominantly fairly traded goods to support artisans creating products for the global marketplace to sustain their own lives rather than depend solely on churches, agencies and non-profits for charity.

This is the second year that the church ran Lydia’s Market for four days in downtown Dalton, partnering with the city’s Holiday Open House in early November. The partnership helped the congregation reach church-goers and other holiday shoppers with the message that economic empowerment of disenfranchised people is valuable ministry.

IMG_2876Featured artisans were both global and domestic.

“As one member said: ‘This is the biggest mission trip our church has ever been on. And we never left town,’” said Rev. Courtney Allen, First Church’s pastor for community ministry and mission, who worked with a committee of seven to put the market together and to interpret its goals.

Allen has a few ideas that could easily be applied elsewhere, drawing upon the Dalton church’s learnings as the marketplace grows:

Partner with existing community businesses and vendors who already have a successful model in place.

“We were fortunate,” she said, “that our committee could work with downtown vendors businesses that had a history with holiday open houses. Because of the downtown location of the church, we are part of the Downtown Development Authority and we were able to tap into things that were already happening.”

IMG_2875And tap they did — from engaging local news coverage to making lines of people welcome at the doors when they swung open on November

Create a space for the market that is inviting, attractive and easy to find.

Allen said that First Church transformed its vaulted atrium into a space with doors for exit and entry, check-out lines and gorgeous displays of goods from 15 partners hailing from Kenya to Tennessee.

(And Pal Craftaid’s goods essentially sold out two years in a row!!! “People absolutely loved Pal Craftaid,” she said, adding that having items arrive with price tags already on the wares speeds the process and saves time.)

“I just feel like these products sell themselves once you get people to the location,” said Allen, noting that shoppers had easy access to the goods, and, anyone heading to the childrens’ area, the church office suite or the sanctuary had to cut through the atrium, finding themselves surrounded by inviting displays of fabrics, kitchenware, olive wood nativities, bath products, chocolates, you name it.

IMG_2883“When people came into the church, they came into Lydia’s Market. They did not have to find it down a long hallway.”

Each shopper received a burlap bag to carry goods, had access to chocolates and coffees, and, were able to use a credit card for purchases.

Going to another site to sell is also a possibility should the church not be accessible, said Allen.

IMG_2881Educate, educate, educate about ministries of economic empowerment and use intergenerational helpers to do so.

Allen said the artisans lives gave First Church a very personal window to look at the human impact of war, violence, gender discrimination, human trafficking. “This year we looked at the model of economic empowerment as ministry. Not just raise money and send it back to people in need. But to consider that these people are using their God-given gifts to create goods to support themselves and their families economically.”

To make that point, the church enlisted:

A steering committee to determine the size of orders and to catalogue inventory

  • Vendors who sent sample goods early for display before the sale itself
  • Stories about artisans’ lives from long-standing mission outreach, such as Roma women, that members have personally encountered and new stories from people the church is just learning about through the marketplace
  • Children and adults to help tag items for sale, put together displays, promote the sale and assist customers.

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The event mission statement reads: We Are Called to Empower All God’s People Through A Sustainable Source of Income By Offering Their Hand-Crafted Goods At Lydia’s Market, A Ministry of First Baptist Church.

The word about the good work at Dalton is getting out. Allen and her team will lead a workshop at the gathering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship this year about Lydia’s Market and its ministry.