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WRAP-UP: LifeWay trustees elect new VP, allocate $350,000 for Union Univ.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources elected a new vice president of the B&H Publishing Group and approved the disbursement of $350,000 in reserve funds to Union University, which sustained major property damage in a Feb. 5 tornado.

In their semiannual meeting Feb. 11-12 in Nashville, Tenn., LifeWay’s trustees also heard details of strong first-quarter ministry results for the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Brad Waggoner, vice president of research and ministry development for LifeWay, was selected to lead B&H Publishing Group, succeeding Ken Stephens, who retired last month. (See related story on Waggoner’s election.)

In addition, trustees approved a recommendation from their executive committee to provide $350,000 to Union University — $250,000 for immediate budget needs and $100,000 in LifeWay Christian Stores gift cards to help students replace lost textbooks and supplies.

LifeWay’s administration also authorized the formation of employee relief teams to assist Union in disaster relief efforts as Union President David S. Dockery identifies needs.

In a phone call Monday night to Dockery broadcast live to all trustees, LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer said, “We want to walk alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ at Union University. We thank God that lives were spared, and we thank God for your incredible leadership. You have stood tall at a time when the pressure would have crushed other leaders.”

Dockery responded, “I am overwhelmed by your kindness and generosity at this critical moment. There has never been a more pressing challenge in Union’s 180-year history. The opportunity to move forward will only take place as Union’s friends become agents of God’s grace in time of need. I thank you, I thank the board, I thank the LifeWay family for an unbelievably kind and generous gift to us at this particular moment. We thank you from the depths of our hearts.”

Rainer reported to trustees that the challenges LifeWay faces, whether natural, economic, competitive or in ministry, are in fact opportunities to see God’s hand. (See related story on Rainer’s comments.)

LifeWay’s executive leaders updated trustees on the following ministries:

Church Resources — Vice President John Kramp noted that as culture changes, so does the way people worship and study. LifeWay is responding with church resources that feature a new approach to teaching children (hear, know, do), teaching students (know, own, known) and teaching adults (connect, grow, serve and go).

Kramp also reported good progress on the new Baptist Hymnal, set for release Aug. 8. The new hymnal is part of a comprehensive Worship Project that will make worship planning simple and dynamic for worship leaders. A highlight for this summer is Vacation Bible School. This year’s themes are Outrigger Island and Cactus Canyon. Another cause for celebration is the 30th anniversary of Centrifuge camps.

B&H Publishing Group — David Shepherd, interim vice president, reported that the Holman Christian Standard Bible ranks No. 5 on the list of top Bible translations with the Christian Booksellers Association. The Apologetics Study Bible ranks No. 2 in the best-selling study Bible category. The KJV UtraThin reference edition, The Holman Illustrated Study Bible and Simple Church also ranked in the CBA’s best-selling top 10 list.

New releases for 2008 include “American Heroes: In the Fight Against Radical Islam” by Oliver North; “The Shape of Faith to Come” by Brad Waggoner; “Between Us Girls” by Vicki Courtney; “God in the Marketplace” by Henry and Richard Blackaby; and “Essential Church” by Thom Rainer and Sam Rainer. Shepherd also reported strong sales in the Spanish and international Bible market, and he noted that B&H is the largest publisher of Spanish Bibles in the world outside of the Bible societies. On Jan. 30, Holman Bible Outreach International distributed its one-millionth Scripture.

LifeWay Christian Stores — Vice President Mark Scott reported that LifeWay Christian Stores had a solid first quarter in the midst of what has become a challenging retail climate. Higher fuel prices and an overall economic downturn made it more difficult for consumers to buy all the Christian products they would normally purchase. Scott also reported on the ministry aspect of the stores, including an account in the Baltimore store where an associate led 10 children to Christ through a Kid’s Day Bible story reading.

Finance and Business Services — Vice President Jerry Rhyne reported that in 2007 the Lebanon, Tenn., distribution center expanded to 347,000 square feet, accommodating the move of dated product distribution from Nashville to Lebanon and greatly increasing efficiency. The facility now supports dated and undated operations, as well as LifeWay Christian Stores. Plans are underway to further expand the distribution center to support the continued growth of LifeWay Christian Stores.

Rhyne also noted that completion of the Ridgecrest Convention Center is scheduled for the spring of 2009. The 46,000-square-foot facility will feature three guest levels, a banquet room, 20 breakout rooms, executive boardroom and a connector bridge to Mt. Laurel Inn. He also reported that registration for Camp Crestridge for Girls and Camp Ridgecrest for Boys is up significantly over last year, illustrating growth in LifeWay’s camp ministry. Rhyne also noted the conversion to a youth-oriented campus at Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico.

Technology — Vice President Tim Vineyard reported that his division is working with other divisions at LifeWay to develop the online portion of the Worship Project, LifeWay’s new print and digital hymnal project, and Vineyard said good progress is being made. “The Worship Project is going to transform the way worship leaders think about planning worship,” Vineyard said.

The technology division also is developing a new warehouse management system to optimize the way orders are processed at LifeWay’s Lebanon distribution center. While the new system likely will remain unnoticed by customers, Vineyard said they will benefit from the improved speed and accuracy of orders.

Vineyard also reported that LifeWay.com welcomed 765,000 unique visitors last year. He said many of these visitors are looking for biblical content online.

Executive Communications and Relations — Vice President Tom Hellams reported that LifeWay is engaged in a growing number of ministry opportunities in key communities. One example is LifeBox, a partnership effort with churches and associations in which soldiers overseas receive packages with personal items and LifeWay magazines. The “Joy of Christmas” celebration continues to provide a unique ministry opportunity in Nashville. This year, more than 5,000 people attended these LifeWay-led Christmas performances in Nashville. Hellams also said the LifeWay Community Fund is supporting 10 likeminded charitable organizations throughout Middle Tennessee and in 2007 experienced a 60 percent growth in employee giving.

He noted that representatives of LifeWay attended 42 state conventions last fall. In addition, LifeWay hosted the December state workers summit in Nashville, combining it with the state executive directors meeting to bring together many workers from SBC entities and state conventions. Hellams updated trustees on LifeWay’s disaster assistance fund in which LifeWay replaces pastors’ libraries and helps replace lost hymnals and other church resources. And he reported that said LifeWay will participate later this year in the 100th anniversary of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Research and Ministry Development — Vice President Brad Waggoner reported that in 2007 LifeWay Research completed studies on teen views of eternity, church dropouts, trends among SBC messengers and the unchurched in America. Two of the studies — church dropouts and the unchurched — received national media attention. He said relationships both internally and with other SBC entities are being strengthened to provide solutions to needs identified through research.

Waggoner pointed out that the findings of LifeWay Research are available at LifeWayResearch.com and that updated information is available through an e-newsletter.

Waggoner, LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer and associate director Scott McConnell are speaking extensively to assist church leaders in using research to improve their ministries.

Waggoner also reported that LifeWay sent 106 mission volunteers on nine trips during the year that resulted in 5,392 professions of faith.
Rob Phillips is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources.

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