NASHVILLE, Tenn. — LifeWay
Christian Resources will maintain its biblical fidelity, but its delivery
systems are changing to keep pace with the digital church, President Thom S.
Rainer told trustees at their Feb. 8-9 semiannual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
Casting a vision for the next decade, Rainer said LifeWay will be “the ministry
leader in the digital world,” such that “when people think about digital
Christian resources, they will look to us. A digital strategy is critical to
The type of organization that LifeWay is today must change in view of the
technological advances of the global market, Rainer said. The ministry identity
and biblical commitments will remain the same, he said, but business will look
different as LifeWay moves forward into the digital age.
Rainer told trustees that “LifeWay’s digital strategy is to provide the right
information to the right customer at the right time through the right medium at
the right price.”
Technology, especially mobile devices, provides incredible opportunities and
challenges for LifeWay to deliver its resources to customers in new, relevant
and innovative ways, Rainer said.
More people are coming to LifeWay for digital content, he said, noting that
church and ministry leaders are going online to download resources from
multiple areas of LifeWay.com, such LifeWay Kids, LifeWay Women and others.
“We want to provide the best content and delivery that makes a ministry
difference to our constituents and customers,” Rainer said. “With cutting-edge
ministry resources and a tech-savvy business strategy, we are better positioned
and aware of the opportunities that lay before us.”
LifeWay’s digital publishing and delivery has seen rapid growth in recent
months, particularly through steep gains in B&H Publishing Group eBook
sales as well as LifeWay-produced iPhone apps, some of which appear in the top
25 lists for their respective categories.
Rainer said LifeWay is “prayerful about what God intends to do through us as
the digital age advances. We have entered this climate with aggressiveness and
the sense that God is leading us here.”
Chief Financial Officer Jerry Rhyne, in his report to trustees, discussed how
LifeWay is “navigating the new normal” as the economy is now in the 26th month
of the recession and one-third of the nation’s chief financial officers do not
expect the economy to begin recovery until at least 2011.
Citing recent survey results from LifeWay Research, Rhyne pointed out that many
churches are coping with declining tithes and offerings by paring expenses,
cutting staffs and delaying or cancelling construction projects — all of which
Despite these challenges, Rhyne said LifeWay is adjusting well with a dedicated
workforce, a strong balance sheet, a diverse customer base and other key
factors. “It’s important to remember that LifeWay is a ministry funded by a
business model,” he said, “but that model needs to be adjusted from time to
LifeWay’s executive leaders updated trustees on the following ministries:
LifeWay Church Resources
continues its strategic focus on churches, Vice President John Kramp said. “These
are times of great change in churches,” he said. “Our teams meet with thousands
of pastors and church leaders each year. We hear their hearts and work hard to
provide resources to meet their needs.”
Kramp highlighted initiatives the division has launched in the last five years,
including Worship KidStyle; the KNOWN resources for student ministry; Threads,
to help churches minister to young adults; and The Worship Project, which
includes new print hymnals and LifeWayWorship.com. In addition, the division is
increasingly engaging black churches and Hispanic churches and is offering two
free resources in multiple languages: “Share Jesus Without Fear” and “The Call
to Follow Christ.”
Kramp said the church resources division has expanded its small-group ministry
with Serendipity resources and the new Small Group Life resources and launched
a new women’s ministry event, Deeper Still, with Beth Moore, Kay Arthur and
Priscilla Shirer. At the same time, the division has released additional
resources for Sunday School built on the LifeSpan Spiritual Development
“Our ministry focus is simple,” Kramp said. “We want to know the church, love
the church by being advocates for the church and to help people through
LifeWay Christian Stores
Vice President Mark Scott
reported solid ministry results in the first quarter of the fiscal year in
spite of a challenging economic environment in which customers continue to
Sales of music, Bibles and books continued to grow, and the stores are testing
a number of digital initiatives that make it easy and affordable to purchase
and download books and other resources. “We have solid strategies and sound
operating plans,” Scott said. “We are executing well, and we have strong
relationships with our customers. We are extremely grateful for each one.”
Scott reported that the stores collected more than $16,000 at the check-out
counters in recent weeks to assist in relief efforts in Haiti.
The number of LifeWay Christian Stores now stands at 154, and the number of
store customers continues to grow, Scott said.
Vice President Brad Waggoner
reported a strong first quarter due in part to the continued popularity of “The
Love Dare,” the trade book featured in the movie “Fireproof”; “The Love Dare
Day by Day” devotional, which provides 365 days of fresh content and deeper
studies; improved cost controls; and strength in all product lines. To date, “The
Love Dare” has been translated into 23 languages.
Waggoner said B&H has followed up the success of The Apologetics Study
Bible with the just-released Student Apologetics Study Bible. He also
highlighted the growing popularity of the Holman Christian Standard Bible,
distinguished for its accuracy and readability. This fall, B&H will release
its HCSB Study Bible.
CrossBooks, the new imprint that combines the best of traditional and
self-publishing, already has released 100 titles, and 100 more are in the
works. Looking ahead, Waggoner previewed the release of the trade book “Transformational
Church” by Rainer and LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer, along with several
Waggoner also said he is encouraged by new resources being developed from the
imprints B&H Academic, B&H Women and Fidelis.
Executive Communications and Relations
Vice President Tom Hellams highlighted several ways his division carries the
story of LifeWay ministries further through community relations, ministry
ventures, Holman Bible Outreach International and news and information
services. As an example, he traced the development of “Bible Navigator X” for
Xbox 360 -– the first complete Bible available on a video game console —
developed by B&H Publishing Group. The product’s wide exposure in Christian
and secular media was due to careful planning and detailed execution that
included traditional media, web outlets, multimedia and social networking.
“We no longer search for the news; the news finds us,” Hellams said. “The whole
world of communications has changed, and we are changing with it.”
Vice President Tim Vineyard
reported that the technology division is embracing change to lead LifeWay into
new areas of ministry. This involves more efficient operations and more
environmentally responsible management of technology assets. He said his division
has upgraded LifeWay’s warehouse management system, human resources and billing
systems and e-mail and office software to increase productivity and efficiency.
Leading technology providers like Google, Apple and Microsoft are changing the
process by which published goods reach their audiences, Vineyard noted. In
response, LifeWay is pursuing an ePublishing strategy that delivers content in
virtually any format users demand — from iPhone apps to books on Kindle to
digital curriculum downloads.
Vineyard introduced the LifeWay Digital Church in which LifeWay is bringing the
best digital solutions together in one place for individuals and churches.
These solutions include website hosting through LifeWayLINK, music and worship
planning from LifeWayWorship.com, church management systems from Fellowship
Technologies, and online giving from Service U.
“We are making significant investments with new technology that will enable
LifeWay to better serve our customers,” Vineyard said. “Customer behavior is
changing and incorporating a variety of computer-based and hand-held devices.
LifeWay is making it easy to search for, find, select and purchase LifeWay
Finance and business services
Vice President Jerry Rhyne, LifeWay’s chief operating officer, reported that
the finance and business services division experienced a strong year with
continued cost saving initiatives that will benefit LifeWay in 2010 and beyond.
Rhyne said LifeWay’s conference centers continue to feel the impact of a
sluggish economy yet continue to attract guests with new and renovated
At Ridgecrest, the Johnson Spring Convention Center is well into its first year
of operation, while Spillman Auditorium is undergoing renovations. Ridgecrest
also is accommodating new groups, such as older adults, to offset an
economy-driven softening of bookings by other groups and individuals. At Glorieta,
the new operational model featuring reduced winter operations is complete.
Renovations continue on the Chuck Wagon restaurant and New Mexico Hall
Rhyne also reported that LifeWay camps at Ridgecrest and Glorieta remain
popular, with some sold out well in advance. “I am pleased and thankful for
what we are seeing in the camps,” Rhyne said, noting that updates to camp
facilities continue to attract attendees.
Director Ed Stetzer highlighted the growing number of media through which
LifeWay Research is sharing information, reaching consumers and adding value to
the LifeWay brand. The digital media marketplace enables users to “go straight
to the content they need” and “use our content in ways we would never imagine.”
He cited recent stories on LifeWay Research that appeared in USA Today and
other secular media, as well as Christian magazines and news services, local
news outlets and a variety of social media.
The ever-changing media landscape has facilitated LifeWay Research’s ability to
disseminate its message to broad audiences via “new media” such as blogs and
Twitter as well as traditional media. In a media environment where numerous
Christian research organizations are quoted, Stetzer said LifeWay Research “wants
to be in the story, and sometimes be the story” in order to inform and equip
local churches in ministry.
During their business sessions, trustees:
- elected as chairman Montia Setzler, senior pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist
Church in Riverside, Calif.; vice chairman, Michael Deahl, a Dallas attorney;
and recording secretary, Mark Dance, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in
- approved LifeWay’s response to motions referred to LifeWay at the 2009
Southern Baptist Convention. The responses will be submitted to the SBC for
inclusion in the convention’s 2010 Book of Reports.
- approved the allocation of reserve funds for unbudgeted store acquisitions
during the current fiscal year.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Carter is associate to the vice president of the executive
communications and relations division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the
Southern Baptist Convention. Phillips is LifeWay’s director of communications.)