A new Chattanooga business directory will serve as a referral network for the Christian community here, its founders say.
Staff Photo by Shane McMillan Co-founder and president of the Christian Business Directory Chris Denham stands in front of the group's office on Brainerd Road on Thursday. Mr. Denham, his wife Jenni and other professionals from the Chattanooga area have pooled their ideas and resources to create a directory for Christian organizations, businesses, schools and other groups to advertise together in one directory.
Chris Denham said he wants the new publication, called the Christian Business Directory, to connect Christian-owned businesses with consumers looking for their services.
“With over 700 churches in Chattanooga alone, we thought we’d like to reintroduce this concept to Chattanooga,” Mr. Denham said.
That concept picks up where the Shepherd’s Guide, a national publication, left off. That Christian business directory published in Chattanooga for years but no longer appears here.
Mr. Denham and his wife Jenni plan to launch their directory next spring. The couple, who declined to reveal how much they invested to get the business going, have hired a staff of about eight part-time workers to design the publication and sell ads.
The directory will have the look of a full-color magazine and will take advertisements only from Christian-owned businesses, organizations, schools and other groups.
To ensure the businesses advertising in the directory are owned by Christians, the company will require advertisers to sign a pledge confirming that they are Christians. Additionally, advertisers will provide evidence that they are a member of a church, and Mr. Denham and his staff will confirm the membership.
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“We do not make cold calls, we do not call on just anyone — we only call businesses that have been referred to us,” Mr. Denham said. “That is the best way for us to maintain our integrity.”
Instead, the directory will rely on contacts that develop through their own relationships, whether they be through friends, family or at church. Mr. Denham added that churches and other Christian nonprofit organizations are encouraged to advertise free of charge.
Mr. Denham said he has talked with numerous local churches, from Silverdale Baptist Church to Abba’s House, that are excited about the proposition of a nondenominational, nonsectarian directory.
Some, on the other hand, say a directory comprised only of Christian-owned businesses could be seen as excluding others.
“I think there’s two schools of thought — one would be that it would be nice to have something like that,” said David Apps, minister of administration at Ridgedale Baptist Church.
Some people may like having the option to find a business owned by a fellow Christian, and utilize them to do whatever work they need done, he said.
“I think the danger of that though, from our standpoint, is to make sure we are not so inclusive that we don’t have relationships outside the body of Christ, because those are the ones we need to form relationships with as well,” Mr. Apps said. “I think it can have some good positives to encourage and strengthen believers, but also there can be negatives if we only were to focus on that guide, because we do need to have relationships outside the kingdom.”
Becky Hall of Christ Methodist Church in East Brainerd is concerned the directory could send the wrong message. She said some times the Christian label gets put on a business solely to attract customers and add credibility to a business.
“I’m sure their intent is probably good, but I know that congregants sometimes are burned by people who say they are a Christian business,” Ms. Hall said. “I say, ‘Why do you have to say your Christian?’ If you’re operating under Christian ethics, you shouldn’t have to say it.”
Mr. Denham said he and his staff knew when they started that the directory would have to exclude some people and business, but he said he is comfortable with that, because it is necessary to maintain a business directory comprised of Christians.
“I am the one that is standing behind this publication,” he said.
Nathan Cate works for a Chattanooga financial services firm, but is selling ads for the directory part-time. He said is not working for the directory for the money.
“This is a ministry to me,” he said. “I feel like I can contribute.”