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LifeWay Stores’ top manager exudes passion for ministry


OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–“Thank you for letting me work here. I’m having a great time.”

These 12 words have been e-mailed each week for the past year and a half from Oklahoma City LifeWay Christian Store manager Janet Ledford to regional director David Pigg.

This habit of gratitude and enthusiasm helps explain why Ledford has been selected as LifeWay’s 2005 Store Manager of the Year. With high standards for excellence, a passion for people and a penchant for laughter, Ledford truly loves her job.

“I cannot find a part of her operation that needs improvement,” Pigg said. “When I walk into her store, her staff is engaged with customers; they are fully trained and know their product; and the store is always in great shape.”

Annually, LifeWay Christian Stores selects the store manager of the year based on financial criteria, customer feedback, professional accomplishments and contributions to LifeWay as an organization. A division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, LifeWay Christian Stores operates 126 retail outlets across the nation.

“Janet is always at the top of everything we do,” Pigg said. “Every contest we have, she is either the top seller or she is somewhere near the top of the list. When all of the regional directors see her name over and over again at the top of the list, we began to take notice that something is going on there.”

While Pigg appreciates Ledford’s business skills, he is quick to explain that her managerial style is more than just about the numbers.

“Janet is passionate about what she does,” Pigg said. “She has built relationships with pastors and created a reputation in the market that the Oklahoma City LifeWay Christian Store is the place for church resources.”

Ledford began her career in clothing retail and then became an entrepreneur. Discerning God’s call for a change in her life, Ledford sold her businesses and went to work for LifeWay.

“What you’re doing [at the store] has meaning,” Ledford reflected. “You can impact lives with everything you sell. God’s Word does not return void.”

WORK HARD, HAVE FUN

Ledford sets high standards for work and ministry, but also sees her role mostly as a motivator to the staff.

“You can have fun while working hard,” Ledford said. “You have to get focused and then laugh all the way.”

Talk to any of the Oklahoma City LifeWay Store employees and the first description they offer about Ledford is that “she loves to laugh.” Ledford believes in “getting in the trenches” to get the job done while making sure the staff enjoy the work and ministry they are doing.

Caleb Beavers, a part-time sales associate and student at the local university, describes Ledford as “enthusiastic, motivational, a great work ethic and she invests in people personally.” After working three years with Ledford, Beavers admires her leadership but also appreciates her personal side.

“She often will order pizza for the staff and let me take the rest home,” Beavers said with a grin.

Ledford credits the success of the store to her staff, and Pigg agreed that the quality of the store employees has made a difference.

“Janet has done a great job of recruiting and building a team of people who are fully trained and focused on ministry and business aspects of the store,” Pigg said.

MORE THAN A STORE

Ledford is purposeful in hiring and she places great emphasis on training the staff. However, her greatest investment in the staff could be her passion for ministry.

“Janet isn’t the only one selling and ministering in the store,” Pigg said. “There is an enthusiasm and joy in the store that starts at the top and she transfers that to the staff. It’s not just about sales; it’s about people and ministry and churches. They want to make a difference in people’s lives.”

The LifeWay Christian Store is located near two hospitals, providing many opportunities for ministry to patients and family members who enter the store. Ledford also has taken time to minister outside the store by coordinating a staff outing to the children’s ward of the local hospital to visit with patients.

Her favorite aspect of her work, though, is ministering to those inside the store walls. “I love the interaction with customers. You never know what is going on with them.”

Ledford has helped a local customer select the right Bible to send to his son overseas. She has entertained a distraught 3-year-old while her father shopped at the store.

She is focused on business but puts great emphasis on ministry. She is known to call upon churches not to just share about new products offered through the store, but just to solicit prayer requests for the church staff and their ministries.

“When I took [the discipleship study] ‘Experiencing God,’ I learned to join God where He is already at work. I have tried to put this in practice in my life, doing my part, and being part of something bigger,” Ledford said.

CELEBRATED BY PEERS

At the annual meeting for managers of LifeWay Christian Stores held April 9-13 in Nashville, Tenn., Pigg presented Ledford with the Store Manager of the Year award.

Ledford displayed sincere humility in being honored. “It feels strange to be given this award,” she said. “I’m just doing my job.”

The key to her success, she said, all comes down to one word — “love.”

“We must live out love by respecting the authority of the home office in Nashville,” Ledford said. “We must live out love when training and developing our staff. We must live out love with churches by asking questions and looking for ways to support them. And we must live out love with customers by showing people we really care.”

Ledford described her staff as sweet, humble people who come to work wanting to love others. “I am blessed to work at a bookstore where everyone makes living out love a priority.

“Most of all I am thankful to my God who has shown me all my life how important it is to love people,” she concluded. “If we live out love, we will succeed because 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, ‘Love never fails.’”
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Jenny Rice is a corporate communications specialist in LifeWay’s corporate communications department.

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  • Jenny Rice