Editor’s note: This story was updated to remove incorrect information about the price of a Lifeway Worship product.
NASHVILLE (BP) – The announcement by Lifeway Christian Resources of the upcoming shuttering of its worship tools website has brought a flurry of responses from Southern Baptists and state ministry leaders, where the discussions touch on stewardship versus the dismissal of a resource many churches consider a staple.
Kevin Uhrich, worship pastor at Concord Baptist Church in Anderson, S.C., has used his lifewayworship.com membership “almost daily” for more than 10 years to find new music as well as search for hymns, contemporary hymns, new worship songs and others by theme, key and Scripture.
He said one of the biggest draws – if not the biggest – to the site was the availability of musical arrangements that promote congregational singing in a key that is comfortable for all participants.
“The a la cart feature to just purchase the parts you need in different keys is perfect for any size worship ministry,” Uhrich said. “Other sites only give you all-or-nothing for getting orchestrations.”
Church music leaders will have until Sept. 30 to download all their content from lifewayworship.com. The final day for new purchases of worship resources is Aug. 31.
“The stewardship responsibility we have at Lifeway is to focus our resources to serve as many churches as possible in the greatest breadth and depth that we can,” said Brian Brown, director of Lifeway Worship. “Sometimes this means we have to pull back from areas of ministry where the majority of churches have chosen other providers and focus our energy and resources on areas where we are best equipped to have a kingdom impact.”
Trends indicated that a majority of churches were going to similar platforms like PraiseCharts and SongSelect, he added.
“We realized LifewayWorship.com was not effectively meeting the needs of the majority of churches,” Brown said.
Launched in 2008, The Worship Project was described as “an online digital music project [allowing] worship leaders to customize worship and special music through downloadable files.”
Then-Lifeway Worship director Mike Harland called lifewayworship.com “the central component” to The Worship Project.
Brown said that Lifeway is working to make lifewayworship.com’s digital music files as well as other resources available at Lifeway.com in the future.
“Making this content available on another platform will take some time, but we are working toward that solution,” he said.
Lifeway Worship will continue to provide worship supplies for churches, including communion supplies, hymnals, trade music, bulletins and digital graphics.
Rhon Carter, Worship and Music catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, fielded numerous calls from others around the state over the announcement. He responded with a letter that acknowledged the news as “disheartening” yet “present[ing] opportunities for growth and adaptation.”
Carter, whose 36 years in worship ministry includes the last two with Georgia Baptists, offered five suggested for churches.
- Explore other digital platforms. Compare the range of worship tracks, lead sheets, orchestrations, multimedia elements, prices and licensing terms.
- Leverage local talent and resources. “Consider tapping into the talent and resources available within your church community,” he said, including collaboration with local musicians, songwriters and worship leaders.
- Foster creativity within your worship team. Maximize existing resources, such as developing original music, “which eliminates the need for purchasing expensive copyrighted material.”
- Seek out free or low-cost resources. Independent artists and worship leaders often provide chord charts and other resources for their music for free or minimal cost online.
- Evaluate your music budget. Such a step, obviously, becomes more crucial with the end of a resource like lifewayworship.com.
“Keep in mind that the cost of creating music resources has increased over the past 15 years, while the demand for music in churches has intensified,” Carter said in a nod to when lifewayworship.com was launched.
The site’s functionality in providing exactly what churches on a tight budget need cannot be overstated, Uhrich said.
“Praise Charts arranges things exactly to the recording, and that’s fine,” he said. “But many churches can’t match that. They can’t sing in the same key as Chris Tomlin or Phil Wickham.
“[Lifewayworship.com] made those songs accessible to churches and worshippers by offering them in different keys. The average guy could sing it.”
Lifewayworship.com’s closure will “leave a major void of where to purchase good charts for worship,” Uhrich said.