GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–LifeWay Christian Resources reported strong ministry and business results in fiscal 2006, with the retail and church resources divisions leading the way. In addition, the Holman Christian Standard Bible continued to grow in popularity, while more than 5,200 decisions for Christ were recorded at LifeWay’s conference centers at Ridgecrest, N.C., and Glorieta, N.M.
LifeWay trustees, in their semiannual meeting Sept. 11-12 at Glorieta, heard reports from each of the Southern Baptist entity’s divisions and approved a record budget of $471 million for 2007. Among pending major developments are the release of the Holman Illustrated Study Bible and the launch of a new Oracle business system in November.
LifeWay is expected to end the fiscal year Sept. 30 with record revenues of $447.9 million, 1 percent below budget but 3.5 percent ahead of 2005.
“These are not times for the faint of heart,” Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay’s president and CEO, said. “We are in a tough business environment, yet I believe that LifeWay’s greatest days are yet to come. For 2007, we will invest in people, ministry initiatives, research, business development and technology infrastructure that lead us to blue oceans -– those deep waters where significant new ministry and business opportunities lie” (see accompanying BP story).
Trustees heard reports from the leaders of each LifeWay division.
Vice President John Kramp reported that a new Sunday School curriculum for all age groups will debut this fall. Bible Studies for Life will replace the Family Bible Study series. The Explore the Bible series for adults will begin an eight-year cycle to study the entire Bible. (More information is available at www.lifeway.com/sundayschool.)
Sales for “Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy,” Beth Moore’s latest Bible study, have been stronger than anticipated and 50 percent ahead of “The Patriarchs: Encountering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Already more than 250,000 member books and 9,000 leader kits are being used in churches.
More than 3 million people participated in 2005 Vacation Bible School and nearly 90,000 people received Christ as Savior as a result, Kramp told trustees.
Mike Harland, director of LifeWay Worship Music Group, shared plans for a new online worship planning resource to help churches of any size put together complete worship services centered on their needs and preferences.
LifeWay Christian Stores
Vice President Mark Scott reported that 2006 was a strong year of ministry and growth. While LifeWay Christian Stores equipped more people with more products than any previous year, just as notable, Scott noted, were the 110 professions of faith in LifeWay stores as a result of the witness of ministry-minded store employees.
The LifeWay Christian Store at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary reopened in May, the final location restored from the damage of Hurricane Katrina. New stores were opened in Hattiesburg, Miss., and Texarkana, Texas, and relocated stores in Baltimore and in Augusta, Ga. Additional store openings and relocations are planned for this fall.
Kids’ and Spanish resources and gifts were the fastest-growing product lines for fiscal 2006, while Bible and book sales also posted solid gains.
Vice President Mike Arrington reported that 1,273 professions of faith and more than 5,200 spiritual decisions were made this year at Glorieta Conference Center, Ridgecrest Conference Center and LifeWay Camps.
Glorieta and Ridgecrest are projecting revenue growth of 7.9 percent for 2007, attributed to the 100,000-plus visitors who will attend conferences and camps at LifeWay and the expanded facilities at both conference centers. Arrington reported a new ministry model will be employed at Glorieta that will add emphasis to youth and family programming and reduce reliance on year-round adult conferencing.
In June, Glorieta completed the new Hall of States hotel, with 60 modern hotel-style rooms, including four suites. Additional meeting space at Ridgecrest’s new ARC (Auditorium and Recreation Center) facility, which also opened in June, allowed Centrifuge to increase by 800 attendees over the previous year. Ridgecrest’s expansion of the Mountain Laurel Inn -– adding 108 rooms and additional meeting space -– will be completed by the end of the year.
Arrington also reported on LifeWay’s “A Defining Moment” major-donor campaign, designed to help LifeWay expand global ministry outreach opportunities. The campaign, under the leadership of LifeWay President Emeritus James T. Draper Jr., is forming a 12-member President’s Cabinet and a 150-member Circle of Influence and has made substantial steps toward its goal of $29 million.
B&H Publishing Group
Vice President Ken Stephens reported that B&H Publishing Group will release the Holman Illustrated Study Bible this month and told trustees more than 3.2 million copies of the HCSB or Scripture portions have been sold since the publication of the translation.
Stephens projected revenue growth in B&H over last year, despite the 19 percent decline in religious book sales within the general market. The HCSB market share continues to be strong at nearly 5 percent of the general market, with an 8 percent share at LifeWay Christian Stores specifically.
In June, B&H won the Impact Award, the overall exhibitor of the year award at the Christian Bookseller Association, and had three books (out of six categories) nominated for Christian Book Awards. B&H author Vicki Courtney won the Evangelical Christian Publisher Association’s Christian Book Award in the children and youth category for “Teen Virtue: Real Issues, Real Life … A Teen Girl’s Survival Guide” released in 2005.
Holman Bible Outreach International, LifeWay’s initiative to place low-cost Bibles in the hands of people around the world, continues to support the HCSB translation and plans to see the completion of the Chinese Standard Bible New Testament in February.
Finance and business services
Vice President Jerry Rhyne reported that the targeted launch date for the Oracle financial and order entry system is Nov. 1. The division’s 2007 budget includes $311,000 associated with the financial system for amortization, maintenance and training.
Rhyne also reported the completion of the 96,800-square-foot expansion of the Lebanon, Tenn., distribution center, bringing the total square footage to nearly 250,000. Rhyne further commented on plans in 2007 to evaluate warehouse management solutions in order to update an aging order fulfillment system.
Vice President Tim Vineyard updated trustees on implementation of the Oracle business system. LifeWay is installing the new state-of-the-art system to enable the company to grow and adapt to the future needs of customers. One particular feature is that Oracle will enable LifeWay to process the industry mandated 13-digit ISBNs that go into effect in January.
To date, LifeWay employees have devoted more than 129,000 hours to the Oracle project, Vineyard reported. They have completed the project planning, pilot, design, build and conversion phases and are now in the training and transition phases.
Vineyard also updated trustees on a staff reorganization that is leading to better alignment of the division’s resources with LifeWay’s ministry and business needs.
LifeWay International continues to broaden its ministry across the globe, director Luis Aranguren told trustees. Through licenses, LifeWay partners have asked to produce 682 different titles in different languages and dialects. This fiscal year, LifeWay conducted 683 workshops in 28 countries and trained 62,859 pastors and leaders from 5,470 churches in the use of LifeWay products. The five-year totals are 2,877 workshops in which 274,625 pastors and leaders from 26,498 churches in 65 countries were trained.
LifeWay International also coordinates employee-led mission trips. In the six trips from October 2005 to June 2006, 107 LifeWay volunteers saw 16,933 professions of faith and 45 churches planted.
Brad Waggoner, director of LifeWay’s newest initiative, LifeWay Research, said results of its first study -– a survey of Calvinist leanings among Southern Baptist pastors -– will be released Sept. 18. The new organization’s website, www.lifewayresearch.com, will launch Oct. 1.
LifeWay Research was begun for the purpose of assisting and equipping church leaders with knowledge and wisdom that will lead to greater levels of church health and effectiveness, Waggoner said.
In other action, trustees elected H.C. Bauman of Oklahoma and Mark Dance of Arkansas as interim trustees, filling unexpired terms until the next annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.