NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The efforts of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention to better understand and meet the needs of churches have been described in a chapter of a new book, One to One B2B: Customer Relationship Management Strategies for the Real Economy by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers.
Other chapters feature Dell computers, Bentley Systems, Convergys and Novartis. All, including LifeWay, have worked with the Peppers and Rogers Consulting Group.
Acknowledging the consulting relationship, Peppers and Rogers wrote, “At the end of the day, however, the credit for transforming LifeWay goes to LifeWay.” They emphasized that LifeWay’s initiative “is still very much a work in progress.”
They noted that in 1998 LifeWay adopted a new vision statement that “would focus on how well it was helping its customers meet their needs and succeed in their ministries.”
The vision states: “As God works through us, we will help people and churches know Jesus Christ and seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.”
During the next year of strategic thinking about implications of the new vision, LifeWay’s Executive Management Group (EMG) considered three value disciplines-product excellence, operational efficiency and customer intimacy. After extensive study, the EMG decided LifeWay must focus on customers if progress were made toward achieving the vision.
“We knew that producing excellent products would always be important to us as an organization and we were committed to continually improving our products,” Ted Warren, executive vice president and chief operating officer, was quoted as saying. “We also believed that operating efficiently by understanding our business processes was essential. Yet none of this would matter unless we focused on meeting the needs of our customers and helped them succeed in their mission.”
Peppers and Rogers noted that LifeWay’s establishment in 1891 as the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was a direct result of the needs of churches for Sunday school literature.
“The historical fact that LifeWay was created at the end of the nineteenth century as a direct response to the unmet needs of a specific group of customers-the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention-foreshadowed LifeWay’s decision at the end of the twentieth century to implement a customer-centric ministry and business strategy,” Peppers and Rogers wrote.
The LifeWay Church Resources Division, responsible for meeting the ministry needs of churches, led the way in developing a one-to-one ministry strategy for working with churches.
John Kramp, director of operations for LifeWay Church Resources, told Peppers and Rogers, “So we began asking ourselves, ‘Are the churches who buy our products reaching more people? Are they having a greater spiritual influence on the people in their communities? Do the families who attend the churches stay together longer? Are the children of these families doing well in school; are they staying off drugs? Are people’s lives being transformed to the point where they are having a positive impact on their communities? We had to answer ‘no’ or at least ‘not enough.’ So we knew something had to change.”
The work to better meet the needs of churches began with a Customer Team of employees charged with determining what information was available about church customers. For example, more than 50 years of data was available through the Annual Church Profile.
Looking at growth patterns of churches, the team analysis showed that “about 17 percent of the churches had experienced very high rates of growth, about 18 percent had experienced very high rates of decline, and about 29 percent had plateaued,” Peppers and Rogers wrote. In addition, about 16 percent were growing but at a slower pace while 20 percent were declining at a slower pace.
Leaders soon realized that better meeting the needs of churches demanded more than knowledge and changes in work processes. Organizational changes were required. The organizational structure to align LifeWay Church Resources to implement one-to-one ministry will be implemented Oct. 1.
“The organization must develop the capacity to know what the customer wants and then provide precisely what the customer wants, when the customer wants it,” Peppers and Rogers wrote.
To test conclusions reached by employee work teams, a Prototype Team was established to work with 560 churches in a 60-mile radius of Nashville. Based on results of the work of the Prototype Team, LifeWay Church Resources will introduce the process nationally, beginning in October.
Gene Mims, president of LifeWay Church Resources, agrees strongly with Peppers and Rogers that one-to-one ministry at LifeWay is a work in progress.
“We are just now at the point of implementing the organization and strategies that we believe will enable us to become a more valued partner in helping churches minister effectively in their communities. This requires two-way dialogue with churches and, too often, we have done too much talking and not enough listening. We have a long way to go and many changes to make, but we are determined to get there.”