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TRUSTEES: Mandrell shares strategy for next era of Lifeway ministry

Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell shares the organization's strategy for the future with trustees during their August 23-24 meeting in Nashville. Photo by Aaron Earls

NASHVILLE (BP) – In the first in-person trustee meeting since February 2020, Lifeway Christian Resources President and CEO Ben Mandrell shared the three-pronged strategy for the next phase of Lifeway’s ministry.

“God is calling us to embrace a new season,” Mandrell said. “I believe Lifeway has great days ahead as we push forward into the future with confidence.”

Mandrell said the first two years of his presidency were about narrowing the focus of the organization.

“Lifeway must draw closer together, united in one clear mission – serving local churches,” he told trustees during their August 23-24 meeting in Nashville.

As Lifeway steps into the next era, “We must serve the customer more deeply,” Mandrell said. “And to serve our core customers – local churches – more deeply, we need to understand them and their needs.”

Mandrell presented three key themes that will drive Lifeway’s strategy: multiply, value and culture. To multiply the organization’s effectiveness, Mandrell said Lifeway must build stronger inroads to local church leaders. That will require a focus on “where we can be the best and have expertise, where there is a sufficient need that we can meet, and where we have internal synergy.”

He reminded trustees that Lifeway must leverage and grow its competitive advantage of bringing value to the church.

“Church leaders will choose Lifeway when we solve a problem and make their jobs easier,” he said. “The experiences we offer should get better every year as we listen and respond to customer feedback.”

He said church leaders should be saying, “Lifeway gets us. Lifeway knows us and helps us solve our biggest problems.”

Mandrell concluded his presidential address by asserting the need for a stronger organizational culture and clarifying what Lifeway will look like in the future. “We have to be a place where top talent desires to work,” Mandrell said.

As Lifeway adopted a work-from-anywhere model that only expanded during the pandemic, he said it’s essential for the organization to “be intentional about finding ways to engage and collaborate.”

Budget approved

During the meeting, trustees approved a $217 million budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year that includes a net operating loss of $5 million. CFO Joe Walker gave an encouraging report on year-end projections for FY21. Lifeway had budgeted for an $8 million operating loss in 2021, but current projections show the organization ending with only a $1.8 million operating loss.

“We are so grateful for Lifeway’s current position of financial strength,” Walker said, “and for God’s continued blessing during this season.”

Chief Marketing Officer confirmed

New Chief Marketing Officer Kim Massey speaks to trustees, while Lifeway President Ben Mandrell looks on. Photo by Aaron Earls

During Monday night’s plenary session, trustees confirmed Kim Massey to the position of senior vice president and chief marketing officer. As Lifeway’s first CMO, Massey is responsible for the strategic direction, development and execution of Lifeway’s brand and marketing strategy. She comes to Lifeway from Kimberly-Clark in Atlanta where she was a global marketing leader.

“Kim brings a wealth of marketing expertise that will be invaluable to Lifeway in this new season of ministry and as we continue to lift up our new brand,” Mandrell said. “Her proven experience in designing successful digital strategies and in global leadership will be a huge asset to Lifeway.”

Leaders chart what’s next

Trustees also heard reports from Lifeway’s executive leadership team and other leaders.

Bill Craig, senior vice president of Publishing and Ministry Experiences, reported Lifeway camps hosted 87,000 kids and students this summer and saw nearly 1,400 make first-time decisions to follow Christ and more than $435,000 given to missions.

He also reported a turnaround in ongoing curriculum from the impact of COVID-19. “We are projecting a more normal use of ongoing curriculum in churches this fall as they begin to regather.”

Vacation Bible School has also been a bright spot in 2021, he said. “VBS started slowly, but churches have been hosting VBS all summer and continue to do so,” Craig said. “The strength of VBS is an indication of a return to full kids ministry in local churches this fall.”

He also highlighted Bibles, short-term studies and church supplies as other areas of strength throughout the pandemic.

Chief Information Technology Officer Jamie Adams and other Lifeway IT leaders gave trustees a preview of technological advancements that will help customers more easily find resources, such as website enhancements, expansion of digital curriculum and a new streaming app called Lifeway On Demand.

Chief Human Resources Officer Connia Nelson spoke of Lifeway’s leadership in the work-from-anywhere culture, which has enabled the organization to recruit new talent from across the country.

“Competition is stiff in today’s marketplace as more and more job candidates look for remote work environments. They are looking for a place with purpose, community and growth opportunities,” Nelson said. “Our mission and purpose set Lifeway apart in the job market.”

In a special workshop, trustees heard from Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell about an upcoming study on the greatest needs of pastors. In roundtable discussions, trustees shared ideas on how Lifeway can meet those specific needs.