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Record ’06 budget set for LifeWay; solid growth projected

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources approved a record budget for fiscal 2006 Sept. 13 during their semiannual meeting.

In other key developments:

— Thom S. Rainer was unanimously approved to succeed James T. Draper Jr. as LifeWay’s president. Rainer, currently dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., will begin as president-elect Oct. 17 and work with Draper until his retirement Feb. 1, 2006.

Trustees also voted unanimously to rename the Centennial Tower in Nashville the James T. Draper Jr. Centennial Tower in recognition of Draper’s role in LifeWay’s achievements during his 15-year tenure.

— Trustees authorized the company’s executive leadership to utilize $6 million in reserve funds to assist Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The expectation is that assistance will go to the state conventions in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, to states assisting in handling evacuees, and to the North American Mission Board and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

LifeWay set its 2006 budgeted revenue goal at $453 million, projecting growth in every division. However, LifeWay will see a $4.4 million decrease company-wide in funds provided from operations (FPO) due to higher expenses, according to Ted Warren, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

“We are allowing these expenditures to increase as an investment that will result in higher ’07 revenues,” Warren told trustees. “These expenditures will include new stores, product development, filling vacancies and increased advertising.”

Capital expenditures of $34.2 million also were approved.

LifeWay is projected to finish fiscal 2005 with a record $441 million in revenue, a $12.5 million increase over 2004 (2.9 percent growth), but $4.8 million below budget. Warren said Hurricane Katrina is responsible for part of the shortfall, along with higher fuel prices and the decline in sales of “The Purpose-Driven Life” by California pastor Rick Warren.

Divisional reports

Corporate Affairs Vice President Mike Arrington drew attention to the 648 professions of faith, 4,005 rededications and other ministry commitments at Glorieta and Ridgecrest conference centers. The spiritual growth accented several other areas of growth, most notably the revenue growth realized at Glorieta –- the first year of growth in recent history at the New Mexico facility. At Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina, a third consecutive year of revenue growth was realized, due in part to the revenue generated by Mt. Laurel Inn, completed three years ago.

In 2006, each conference center will see the completion of new buildings and renovation projects: a new hotel and an updated multi-use facility at Ridgecrest and a new Hall of States Hotel at Glorieta to complement the numerous completed renovations. Plans for condominiums and town homes at both conference centers also are well underway.

Arrington also announced that Draper is leading a two-year major donor campaign, “A Defining Moment,” aimed at raising $30 million for evangelism, leadership, Bible distribution and abstinence programs.

Finance and Business Services Vice President Jerry Rhyne told trustees about several projects planned for completion next year, including a nearly 100,000-square-foot expansion of the Lebanon, Tenn., undated distribution center and the implementation of Oracle software as LifeWay’s new financial and order entry business system.

Expenses have increased slightly due to growing fuel and shipping costs and employer-paid medical premiums as well as standard salary increases, but improvements in processes will allow for reductions in the workforce, which should occur through expected attrition.

Broadman & Holman division Vice President Ken Stephens said Bibles now comprise 48 percent of the division’s sales. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translation is the fifth most popular translation on the market and has earned a 4.73 percent market share.

Trade book sales were down throughout the industry this year. Judge Roy Moore’s book, “So Help Me God,” did not perform as expected, but Chuck Norris’ biography, “Against All Odds,” continues to sell successfully. Next year, B&H will publish a novel by Norris as well as products by Graham Kerr and Vicki Courtney that Stephens said he expects to sell well.

The Holman Bible Outreach International, formed this year to get low-cost Bibles into the hands of people around the world, is working to produce a simplified Mandarin Chinese Bible translation. An early draft of the New Testament is already complete.

Technology division Vice President Tim Vineyard reported that the division had a “solid year” with about a 35 percent increase in revenue over 2004. LifeWay.com has more than 25 million users and online catalog sales grew from $55 million in 2004 to $63 million in 2005.

E-business and church resources launched VBS Tools, an online VBS management program, this year, which about 800 churches used. The technology division also sent about 13 million e-newsletters in 2005.

Next year, the technology division, in cooperation with other LifeWay divisions, will replace Vista, LifeWay’s current business system, with Oracle. Along with this major project, the division will continue to research and work toward a redesign of LifeWay.com.

LifeWay Christian Stores division Vice President Mark Scott reported that 12 LifeWay Christian Stores were closed, at least briefly, by Hurricane Katrina. While 10 have reopened, the stores in Gulfport, Miss., and on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary remain closed. Both sustained water and wind damage. Scott said LifeWay is continuing to pay the salaries of the 29 employees from the Gulfport and New Orleans stores.

Nationwide, the stores doubled collections for SBC World Hunger to $82,000, including $41,000 for victims of the tsunami in southern Asia. Now the stores have begun receiving money for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In fiscal 2005, LifeWay added three stores, relocated two stores and acquired three others.

Church Resources division Vice President John Kramp gave highlights of church resources-related events and camps. Adding together Crossover events from the SBC, Vacation Bible School for 2004 (most recent results available), Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live, all Centrifuge-related children and youth camps, adult marriage events and senior adult events, 104,034 professions of faith were recorded. “And those are just the ones that we know about,” Kramp said.

Two new curriculum pieces will be available for fall 2006. In response to requests from some churches, church resources will offer a new leader pack exclusively using the King James Version of the Bible to accompany the Life Words Sunday School curriculum. In addition, a new Sunday School curriculum line will be produced to target baby boomers, adults who are “entering the second half of life,” Kramp said.

A price increase of 3.2 percent will be implemented with the spring 2006 curriculum.

Year-to-date, LifeWay’s international department has invested 1,349 man-hours conducting 595 workshops in 28 countries, training 802 pastors and leaders from 6,018 churches in the use of LifeWay products, according to director Luis Aranguren. This brings the totals for the last five years to 6,633 man-hours in conducting 2,552 workshops, training 222,038 pastors and leaders from 22,890 churches in 59 countries.

Through licenses, LifeWay partners have requested to produce 797 different titles in 114 different languages and dialects. There are currently 1,683 active licenses on LifeWay products.

More than 120 LifeWay volunteers participated in nine LifeWay-sponsored mission trips from October 2004 through August 2005, resulting in 17,343 professions of faith.
Reported by LifeWay News Service. For a full story and additional photos on Thom S. Rainer’s selection as president-elect of LifeWay Christian Resources, see story below in Recent News.

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