LifeWay cuts 100 jobs
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
August 04, 2008

LifeWay cuts 100 jobs

LifeWay cuts 100 jobs
Steve DeVane, BR Managing Editor
August 04, 2008

File photo

Thom Rainer

LifeWay Christian Resources will cut 5 percent of its workforce by Sept. 30 because revenues are lower than expected, LifeWay officials said.

The cuts represent about 100 jobs. Officials would not say how many workers will be displaced.

LifeWay revenue last year of $458.7 million was higher than expenditures. LifeWay spokesman Rob Phillips said income this year is ahead of last year’s pace, but below projections on which the budget is based.

LifeWay is also cutting expenses in other parts of its operations, said Thom S. Rainer, president and chief executive officer.

“These are hard but necessary steps to ensure the continued effectiveness of LifeWay ministries,” he said in a written statement.

The organization is funded totally through the sale of its resources and does not receive direct financial support from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Ranier said.

Phillips would not release specifics, but said the lower income affects all business areas.

According to SBC Life, a publication of the SBC Executive Committee, LifeWay provides income over its expenses to the SBC. Last year, LifeWay contributed $790,000 to the SBC operating budget, according to a story written by Phillips. Those funds were part of nearly $12 million in financial and “in-kind” contributions to the SBC and its entities.

Phillips said in an interview that there is “a whole lot of in-kind contributions” in that total. In-kind contributions are services or products provided for which no payment is received.

Concluding that SBC contributions mean LifeWay has sufficient income to retain the jobs is comparing “apples and oranges,” Phillips said.

“Those are two totally different ways that funds are being spoken of here,” he said.

The economy is affecting all operations at LifeWay, Phillips said. “Most of what is spent at LifeWay is discretionary spending,” he said.

Loses are felt by the organization when fewer potential customers walk into a bookstore, fewer participants attend events at the national conference centers and fewer retailers stock Broadman and Holman titles.

“The economy is basically hitting consumers in their pocketbooks,” Phillips said. “Discretionary spending is down all over.”

Phillips said the 100 jobs would be lost “mostly in Nashville,” and “across the spectrum,” including administrative, professional and support positions. Some employees losing their jobs are eligible for retirement, but he could not say how many.

Rainer said those whose positions have been deleted will get severance pay, some benefits and outplacement services. He said LifeWay is enduring the economic downturn better than many other Christian ministries.

“LifeWay is debt free and in excellent financial condition,” he said. “Although we are adjusting our priorities and scaling back some operations, we are well positioned to continue our ministry to people and churches across the nation and around the world.”

Phillips said LifeWay officials had implemented “some reallocation of resources” in the past year that resulted in a “fairly small number of staff reductions.” He said LifeWay’s employment has “ebbed and flowed with the economy throughout its history.”

The most dramatic job reduction in recent memory came in 1992, when revenues were not keeping pace with expenses, according to Phillips. Jimmy Draper, who had recently become head of what was then call the Sunday School Board, instituted a voluntary retirement incentive program, which was accepted by 159 employees. Draper says in his book, LifeWay Legacy, that a number of additional employees left on their own or saw their positions eliminated, Phillips said.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — BR Editor Norman Jameson contributed to this report.)