ORLANDO, Fla. – In their first meeting of 2023, the Lifeway Christian Resources Board of Trustees heard how the organization plans to leverage recent growth momentum and better serve the church in coming years.
During the Jan. 30-31 meeting, key leaders at Lifeway shared encouraging financial news and updates on new and upcoming ministry initiatives.
Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber participated in the biannual meeting and expressed gratitude to the organization for its commitment to serving congregations.
“Every Southern Baptist church and leader knows Lifeway because we interact with them in our local church ministry,” he said, “but it’s an extra blessing to see the people, the vision, and the processes behind all these products we depend on.”
In his address to trustees, Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell unpacked areas of strategic focus the organization will concentrate on for the remainder of 2023, including continued growth in ongoing curriculum, implementation of a management system to deepen customer relations, and improvements to Lifeway.com.
After noting ongoing curriculum was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mandrell reported ongoing Bible study curriculum shows strong growth over last year, and last year’s sales showed growth over the prior year. He said sales have “rebounded significantly, and the trend lines are encouraging, but we want to pour as much gas as possible on growing our ongoing Bible study business.
“Continued growth in ongoing is critical for Lifeway’s financial health, so we’re very grateful to see this trend continue,” Mandrell said, adding that Lifeway is “fiercely committed” to growing its three main curriculum lines: Explore the Bible, Bible Studies for Life and The Gospel Project. In addition, Lifeway recently unveiled a new, next-gen curriculum line called Hyfi, which is scheduled to be released this summer. Sharing quotes from church leaders who tested Hyfi, Mandrell expressed excitement at a new opportunity to equip congregations that are passionate about building relationships with previously unreached kids and students.
He told trustees that Lifeway is in the beginning stages of implementing a customer relationship management system that will “allow leaders across the organization to collaborate and personalize the marketing messages that are sent to the customer. As a customer interacts with Lifeway, we can keep track of what they are interested in and reach out with relevant material.” The goal, Mandrell said, is to provide customers with only the type of information and resources that are of interest to them.
Additionally, Mandrell spoke of continuing improvements to Lifeway.com. While the site was recently once again named to Newsweek’s “Best Online Shops” list, he said Lifeway leaders are continuing to find ways to upgrade the site. Mandrell highlighted multiple new features and enhancements coming to the site, including additional functionality and search optimization to make shopping at Lifeway.com a better experience.
During the plenary session, Mandrell gave trustees a financial update. He reported that through the first quarter, Lifeway is tracking right at its revenue budget, but well ahead of the bottom-line budget as a result of good expense management. He also noted several recent ministry highlights including the 10th anniversary of The Gospel Project, strong sales of the “Telugu Study Bible” in India and the “CSB Explorer Bible for Kids” charting on the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s bestseller list.
“We have so much to be thankful for,” Mandrell said, “and we look forward to seeing how God continues to bless these great resources designed for local churches.”
Mandrell also noted the priority the organization is placing on hiring and retaining the best employees. “I want Lifeway to grow in prominence as one of the premier places to work for God’s kingdom,” he said. In 2022, Lifeway had close to 15,000 new candidates exploring career opportunities with the organization, up 40 percent over 2021. Additionally, while the annualized turnover rate for resignations across all industries last year was more than 30 percent, Lifeway’s rate was less than 13 percent.
Other business and activities
On Monday morning, worship leader Doug Pierce led trustees in a time of worship, and Mandrell shared a message on leading with strength through weakness. Exploring 2 Corinthians 12, Mandrell discussed how a thorn in the flesh can counterintuitively serve as a blessing and presented three reasons why God grants suffering:
- To grow our witness
- To shrink pride and make us fit for ministry
- To create a deeper connection with God and others
Trustees also heard from several Lifeway leaders during their two-day meeting.
Devin Maddox, director of the books ministry area, discussed how “with every Christian testimony, there’s a bibliography attached.” A sea of raised hands covered the room when Maddox asked who had personally experienced a book playing a key role in their journey to become a Christian.
“Books are a ministry multiplier that can accomplish something authors cannot do,” Maddox said. “Books can go places where others cannot. As a publisher, we can deploy books into homes all over the world.”
Chuck Peters, director of Lifeway Kids, introduced trustees to Hyfi – Lifeway’s new, next-gen Bible study curriculum. Peters called Hyfi a needed resource that will help “flip the script” for churches seeking to reach kids and students in an increasingly secularized society.
“The curriculum teaches 12 biblical truths that help kids know who they are because of who God is and who He says they are,” Peters said. Hyfi is grounded in Scripture and driven by relational activities that connect newcomers to church and pave the way for the Gospel message.
Brad Barnett, senior manager of student ministry operations, shared a recap of Lifeway’s 2022 summer camps. “We had an incredible summer serving 106,000 campers from 4,000 churches and saw over 1,800 kids and students give their lives to Christ,” Barnett said.
He relayed ministry stories from camp, illustrating how God works through student leaders and unique activities – like a silent disco – to reach kids and bring them into relationship with Him and others.
Trustees approved the establishment of a sales division within Lifeway to be managed by a new senior vice president at the Executive Leadership Team level. With the new position approved, Mandrell said the team would begin looking for a candidate to fill that role.
The board also recognized five trustees who are ending their board service in June: Marie Clark, Overland Park, Kan.; Tony McAlexander, Las Vegas, Nev.; Amy Mielock, Cary, N.C; Katherine Pope, Martinsburg, W.Va,; and Terenda Wyant, Belleville, Ill.
The next Lifeway trustee meeting is scheduled for Aug. 28-29, 2023.