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LifeWay trustees adopt record budget, approve plan for centers

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–LifeWay trustees on Tuesday adopted a record 2005 operating budget of $446 million and approved a significant investment in the company’s conference centers to fast-track their revitalization efforts.

LifeWay expects record revenues this year of $427.5 million, $13.2 million more than last year but $21 million short of budget, Chief Operating Officer Ted Warren told trustees during their semiannual meeting at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

“The fact that we plan to achieve record revenues is good news,” said Warren, “yet every one of our divisions’ revenues will come in below budget. That means we’ve had less than a successful year.”

Still, he cited major accomplishments in 2004, including the introduction of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which in a few short months has become one of the best-selling Bibles in the United States, and LifeWay’s commitment of $1.6 million to help 13 Baptist state conventions and one association double baptisms in 2005.

For the coming fiscal year, Warren said all LifeWay divisions have plans for revenue growth. But along with that are increased expenses as the LifeWay Christian Stores division plans to add new stores, and the church resources and Broadman & Holman divisions will add staff. These factors will require LifeWay to execute its business plan with precision.

“The 2005 budget is based on what we believe to be an achievable revenue target of $446 million, which assumes a continued recovery in the economy,” said Warren. “The revenue budget reflects an $18.2 million or 4.3 percent increase over 2004 projected revenue.”

In 2004, funds provided from operations — money for reinvestment in ministry expansion after all expenses are paid — are expected to be $13.4 million, or 3.1 percent of revenue, consistent with LifeWay’s goal of financial performance. The same amount is budgeted for 2005.


In a significant move to hasten revitalization efforts at LifeWay’s conference centers, the trustees approved a business plan that includes an investment of $27 million over the next four years that will “enable the centers to be financially viable and continue their ministry into the 21st century as places where God’s people experience spiritual transformation and renewal,” according to Mike Arrington, vice president of the corporate affairs division.

At Ridgecrest, the business plan calls for the construction of a new 120-room hotel, new convention and indoor recreation centers, the renovation of Pritchell Hall and the demolition of seven aging and expensive-to-maintain buildings. At Glorieta, plans are for a new 140-room hotel, a new indoor recreation center, a renovated chapel and the demolition of 24 outdated buildings, significantly reducing the center’s adult capacity but nearly tripling its youth capacity to better fit seasonal demand.

Arrington said the conference centers would break ground some time in 2005 on both the Ridgecrest and Glorieta hotels, targeting their completion for 2006. The remaining work will be completed by 2008.

In addition, LifeWay is studying the merit of pre-selling and building 100 condominiums at Ridgecrest and 120 condos at Glorieta to make the most of undeveloped property and to increase revenues. If feasible, the plan will be presented to the trustees in February.


The complete Holman Christian Standard Bible released in April. The new translation has climbed to No. 6 on the September best-seller list, exceeding expectations. “I’m very grateful for the way God has blessed us in the release of this new translation,” said Vice President Ken Stephens. He further reported that the top-selling B&H products in 2004 include “Praying God’s Word” by Beth Moore, “The Jericho Sanction” by Oliver North, and “A Greater Freedom” by Oliver North and Sara Horn.

New titles include the “Every Day with Jesus Bible,” a one-year reading Bible slated for a November release; “The Minister’s Bible” and “Read to Me Bible for Kids,” both scheduled to release in April 2005. Also scheduled for release during 2005 are books by former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and the first of a three-part fiction series by Chuck Norris.


Interim Vice President John Kramp reported that while the church resources division had a disappointing year, with projected revenues below budget and below the previous year, the division trimmed operating costs and continued to generate strong ministry results:

* More than 100,000 attended LifeWay-sponsored women’s events and more than 82,000 attended student events, resulting in 9,900 decisions for Christ including 1,900 professions of faith.

* More than 400 new churches were trained in FAITH; more than 70,000 people received general leader training; and more than 6,100 churches participated in the Christian Growth Study Plan.

* The network partnerships team held 39 state convention “Leader Meetings” involving 1,219 state leaders, and developed and trained 41 directors of missions in the Associational Smaller Membership Church Growth Plan.

* The division produced 20 ministry e-newsletters that reached 166,000 subscribers with weekly and monthly ministry content.

* About 57,000 women subscribed to the Believing God and Living Beyond Yourself online Bible studies.

* The division introduced new options for Bible study, including MasterWork, Serendipity small-group products, and Fuel for students; and launched new 40-day studies such as Extreme Love, Know Fear, and Empowering Kingdom Growth.

Looking ahead, Kramp said the division has a strong plan to deliver improved results and is introducing new products such as two lines of VBS, a new Beth Moore study, and G-Force for children. In addition, recent changes in the division’s leadership team are designed to meet the needs of churches for evangelism and discipleship training, Sunday school growth, music and creative ministry resources.


Jim Carter, vice president, reported that six of the 10 LifeWay-sponsored mission trips for 2004 are complete, resulting in 1,880 professions of faith and eight church starts. More than 145 employees and others volunteered for this year’s mission trips. Remaining trips are scheduled in India, Niger, Turkey and Uganda. LifeWay sponsored mission trips since 1997 have resulted in 50,538 professions of faith.

The human resources department initiated a wellness program that features a new Web site (www.wellnesswayoflife.org) and YMCA membership discounts for all employees.

Carter reported to trustees that AETNA was selected to provide the employee group insurance plan for long-term health care.

A $19.7 million capital loan agreement was paid off early in June, saving an estimated $25,000 in interest and enabling LifeWay to be debt free.


“The ministry of LifeWay Christian Stores continues to flourish, while we participate in an unstable CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) industry going through an unrelenting storm,” Mark Scott, vice president, told trustees. “We are providing more products to more people than ever, and each product represents a ‘biblical solution’ to someone.” However, he said there are several factors impacting CBA members: some suppliers are failing; remaining suppliers are offering fewer “A” products; and some independent Christian booksellers are going out of business. Scott said the key challenge comes from secular retailers, impacting pricing and profit margins. This has spurred the retail division to “run a tight ship” operationally, he said.

Scott said the division’s strategy is to serve and retain customers through competitive pricing, laying a foundation for long-term growth and enhancing production capabilities through technology. “LifeWay Rewards,” a customer loyalty program, was recently launched and netted 98,000 enrollees the first three weeks.

Over the last year, stores were relocated in Montgomery, Ala., and Monroe, La., and next month a new store will open in Sherman, Texas. Scott said the strategies are “paying off” as sales and customer satisfaction ratings are both on the rise.

LifeWay Christian Stores pre-sold 71,000 copies of “The Passion of Christ DVD” and since the release have sold an additional 11,000 copies.


Tim Vineyard, vice president, said in 2004 the division:

* increased enterprise security, better protecting the company from spam, virus, and other possible intrusions.

* integrated LifeWay Christian Stores’ new gift card initiative with its point-of-sale system.

* introduced a new online survey tool for the corporation.

* created advanced online VBS management tools.

* introduced eMediaLINK, a service for adding streaming audio and video to Web sites.

* launched the Women’s Channel on LifeWay.com.

* will launch this month the “Experiencing God” online study.

Vineyard also reported that through the first 10 months of the current fiscal year:

* LifeWay.com visits grew 33 percent over the same period last year.

* LifeWay.com unique visitors grew 75 percent and are expected to reach 3.5 million.

* Online revenue from LifeWay.com’s catalog grew almost 90 percent and is expected to exceed $4 million.


Director Luis Aranguren told trustees that rebounding economies in South America have improved the department’s financial performance. At the same time, ministry gains have been substantial. The department hosted a three-day training conference in Miami, during which it trained 25 international Spanish-speaking volunteer consultants from seven countries, bringing the department’s total since 1998 to 279 trained international volunteer consultants from 36 countries.

The department’s year-to-date total is 550 leadership workshops, which trained 40,050 participants from 2,932 churches in 31 different countries.

Aranguren said there are now 574 distributors of LifeWay products in 81 countries, representing 661 titles in 102 languages and dialects.

Goals for 2005 include selling Spanish LifeWay Church Resources (both dated and undated) to the Spanish trade audience throughout the United States under the new LifeWay¡Español! brand.

The international department will assume responsibilities for coordinating LifeWay mission trips and Aranguren announced 2005 trips to India, Russia (Moscow), Dominican Republic, Brazil (Amazonas), Brazil (Foz do Iguacu), Bangladesh, Japan, and two trips to Russia (Ufa and Moscow).


In other action, the trustees:

* approved a recommendation that LifeWay Attorney Larry Cannon replace Norm Finney as secretary of the corporation, effective Jan. 1, 2005. Finney is retiring at the end of the year as LifeWay’s chief legal counsel.

* approved a recommendation that LifeWay’s administration be authorized to annually make an ad hoc contribution of up to $1.4 million to LifeWay’s 401(k) and 403(b) plans based on the profitability of the corporation. This will help make up for the reduction in pension-plan benefits that were necessary due to the drop in the value of the plan assets the previous three years.

* approved holding the fall 2005 trustee meeting in Nashville.

* approved the mission, organization, and funding of the LifeWay Bible Society to provide affordable Bibles and Scripture portions for special ministry endeavors. The B&H division will manage the society with oversight by the office of the president and a trustee committee. Trustees approved designating $10 million of the reserve fund to generate earnings and capital gains to fund the society.

“Looking ahead, our biggest challenge is not financial,” said Warren. “It’s how to deliver significant spiritual results. It’s how to achieve 1 million baptisms. It’s how to help grow churches and reach people for Christ like we’ve never done before.”

The next trustee meeting will be in Nashville Feb. 7-8, 2005.