TRUSTEES: Recession made LifeWay 'more dependent on God … prepared for the future'

Baptist Press
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Posted: Aug 30, 2013 4:52 PM
RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) -- Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources approved additional property in the sale of Glorieta Conference Center, elected a new technology vice president and received an encouraging report from Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO.

"Significant changes have taken place at LifeWay over the last eight years," Rainer told the trustees at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. "Had we not made these changes, LifeWay would be in serious trouble today."

Rainer described the challenges of coping with an increasingly digital world and the "great economic recession" which brought about permanent changes in many church practices.

"We were not prepared for the fact that some of the changes churches made in response to the recession would continue to impact LifeWay even beyond the downturn," Rainer said. "But the changes made us more dependent on God, more efficient, and a stronger organization prepared for the future."

Rainer cited numerous examples of growth in the sale of LifeWay resources including the reverse of a 29-year decline in sales of ongoing Bible study curriculum.

"Every quarter for nearly three decades, the number of units of ongoing Bible study materials used by churches has declined. But, for the last four quarters, those units have increased," Rainer reported.

"Stop and consider the magnitude of that information. The resources that provide more ministry to more churches and individuals than anything else LifeWay produces declined for nearly 30 years, but have now increased four quarters in a row. That is an incredible blessing of God."

During the Aug. 26-27 meeting, Rainer also highlighted advances in B&H Publishing books, Bibles and supplies, growth of LifeWay Christian Stores, and strategic information provided by LifeWay Research, along with increased effectiveness and efficiency from LifeWay's support areas.

Glorieta

Additionally, Rainer spoke briefly about the sale of Glorieta Conference Center to a Christian camping ministry called Glorieta 2.0.

"Despite the pain, we cannot continue to fund Glorieta and deprive resources to other areas of LifeWay," he said. "That's not the right stewardship. My heart tells me we're doing the right thing."

Trustees voted to add 140 acres to its previously announced sale of Glorieta, located near Santa Fe, N.M., to Glorieta 2.0. Because the tract is not contiguous to the main Glorieta campus, LifeWay was planning to market it separately. However, Lifeway decided to include it in the sale "to provide additional incentive for Glorieta 2.0 to increase compensation to those who have built cabins and made other improvements on leased property on the campus," Jerry Rhyne, Lifeway's vice president of finance, said.

Sixty-five churches, institutions and individuals own structures on lots at Glorieta but do not own the land -- a practice started in 1952 with 25-year non-renewable leases. Most of the current leases expire this fall and, if not renewed, require leaseholders to vacate the properties.

Glorieta 2.0 has given leaseholders several options to expiration:

-- compensation based on the size of each structure, ranging from a minimum of $40,000 to a maximum of $100,000;

-- a new 12-year lease;

-- those who have been involved in ministry, including pastors and missionaries, can become permanent residents of Glorieta and stay on campus as long as they are physically able; or

-- donation of their homes to Glorieta 2.0 as a charitable contribution.

Leaseholders have until Sept. 1 to choose one of the options.

New vice president of technology

Trustees unanimously elected Tim Hill as LifeWay's new vice president of the technology division.

Hill comes to LifeWay after implementing and leading large-scale technology infrastructures for national and international corporations with multi-million-dollar budgets and thousands of employees. Most recently he served as CIO and vice president of information technology for American Residential Services, a network of home service businesses with 5,000 employees and based in Memphis, Tenn.

Hill told the trustees he and his wife Beth feel a strong calling to LifeWay. "We love LifeWay's mission and vision, and I am excited and invigorated about joining a company with such a rich history of Kingdom service and ministry."

He holds a master's degree from George Washington University and a bachelor's degree in management information systems from the University of Iowa.

After expressing his appreciation for their vote, Hill shared with trustees his highest priorities are improving efficiency and reducing technology costs, upgrading outdated software and retaining and recruiting the best IT employees.

Growth of church resources

In his presentation to LifeWay trustees, Eric Geiger, vice president of church resources, attributed much of the turnaround of LifeWay curriculum to the success of The Gospel Project and the recently re-launched Bible Studies for Life.

"We have trustworthy content that fits in multiple environments," Geiger said. He explained that while some churches are using The Gospel Project and Bible Studies for Life for their ongoing Sunday morning Bible studies, others are using the short-term version for weeknight Bible studies. "We want to provide great content no matter when a group meets," Geiger said.

Geiger also reported more than 175,000 children and students attended LifeWay camps this summer resulting in 2,367 professions of faith and 983 students surrendering to ministry. In addition to the success of its camps, LifeWay's conference for men, The Main Event, was sold out with 600 churches participating from 24 states.

Geiger announced the much-anticipated launch of Ministry Grid this November as well as new versions of Explore the Bible for kids, students and small groups in fall 2014.

B&H Publishing grows in mass market

In her report to LifeWay trustees, B&H Publishing vice president Selma Wilson expressed her gratefulness for God's favor in allowing B&H resources to reach not only the Christian market but also the mass market.

"The mass market wants more of '50 Shades of Gray,' vampires, demons and the dark side," Wilson said. Even so, "God is giving us opportunities to put the Gospel right in the middle of the mass market."

Wilson announced B&H has received several Christian publishing awards. "Those awards allow us to go into the broader marketplace with greater credibility so we can advance the Gospel both here and around the world," Wilson said. B&H products are now sold in 70 countries.

In other business, LifeWay trustees:

-- approved a 2014 operating budget of $510.8 million, a 1.2 percent increase over the projected 2013 end of year revenue.

-- welcomed eight new trustees: Weldon Aultman, Indianola, Miss.; Darron Edwards, Kansas City, Mo.; Charles Green, Grand Junction, Colo.; Beth Griffin, Birmingham, Ala.; Blake Lindley, Norman, Okla.; Peter MacMaster, Healy, Ark.; Wayne Morgan, Nansfield, Ga.; and Jerry White, Chesnee, S.C.

Marty King is director of corporate communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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