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LifeWay launches new initiative to connect with seminary students

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Students at Southern Baptist seminaries view LifeWay Christian Resources primarily as a seller of books, but that’s an image the organization wants to change.

“We are attempting to connect the seminary students to LifeWay for life,” said Bruce Grubbs, associate to the vice president of corporate affairs at LifeWay. “We want to strengthen our relationships with the schools as institutions and with the students as individuals.”

Discounted textbooks, in-depth seminars and free Bible research software are just a few of the aids LifeWay will provide to Southern Baptist seminary students in coming years. After an 18-month study, LifeWay identified and modified 14 touch points, areas where LifeWay touches the seminaries and students to underscore LifeWay as a valuable resource for their ministries.

Team members developed four additional touch points and plan to implement the changes this fall.

“LifeWay has thoroughly evaluated all of the points at which it has contact with the students,” Grubbs said. “We are now prepared to have a coordinated and effective plan to connect the students to LifeWay.”

Currently, LifeWay’s main links to the seminaries are liaison professors, whose salaries are paid both by LifeWay and the seminaries. Allen Jackson, the liaison professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said he feels that the results of this study will be beneficial to the organization.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” Jackson said. “My sense is that our voice has been heard, and that’s a good thing.”

Hal Pettegrew, the liaison professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., agreed with Jackson. “It’s a very good thing that this study was done,” he said. “LifeWay has put a lot of dollars into trying to relate to the students. It’s good business practice, and it shows that LifeWay wants the connections to be genuine.”

Grubbs and his team collected information from approximately 1,350 seminary students and 100 faculty members who responded to an online evaluation of each touch point. Research also included face-to-face interviews with seminary presidents, academic deans and liaison professors.

“We didn’t know everything that LifeWay was doing with the seminaries,” Grubbs said. “We realized that there were overlaps and gaps in the touch points that the team was able to address.”

One of the biggest changes in LifeWay’s ministry to the seminaries affects Seminary Emphases, which will move from LifeWay presenting products to seminars that focus on students’ needs.

“The Seminary Emphases will now be driven by the student,” Grubbs said. “They will be professional seminars in which we will use practitioners, along with LifeWay employees, to help students understand how our services and products can help them in their ministries.”

The emphases could feature ministry seminars that will be customized to the needs of each seminary. The opening and closing session of each emphasis will generally feature LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. as the keynote speaker.

To make seminary more affordable, LifeWay will offer students a 20 percent discount on textbooks and other course-related materials beginning this fall. Students also will receive a CD-ROM of Bible research software and other resources to aid them in their coursework.

Several other changes in LifeWay’s connections to the seminaries will be put in motion as the fall 2003 semester begins, and there will be an ongoing coordination team to reevaluate the seminary touch points each year.

“We hope that the changes we are making as a result of this study will demonstrate our commitment to the seminaries,” Grubbs said. “We’re deeply committed to helping seminarians succeed in their ministries and their lives.”

Established in Nashville, Tenn., in 1891, LifeWay is engaged in the production and sale of Bibles, church literature, books, music, audio and video recordings, and church supplies. The company also owns and operates 115 LifeWay Christian Stores throughout the United States, as well as two of the largest Christian conference centers in the country. An entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, LifeWay is a religious non-profit 501(c)3 organization that receives no funding from the denomination and reinvests income above operating expenses into LifeWay and SBC ministries worldwide.

    About the Author

  • Leslie Ann Shoemake