When I am asked to describe LifeWay in a phrase, I encapsulate it in this way: “We are a ministry built on a business model.”
These two components—ministry and business—are essential to what we do. The business aspect of LifeWay helps us provide ministry resources to churches and individuals around the world. Our vision statement captures this idea well: 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.
LifeWay operates as a 501(c)(3) religious nonprofit organization, which means that whatever revenue the company makes is utilized for Kingdom growth and ministry development. Since we are a self-sustaining business, we do not receive Cooperative Program dollars or any other financial support from our denomination. Instead, LifeWay reinvests income into national and state partners, and other ministries around the world.
Business is important, yes. But ministry is our heart and passion and mission.
I’ve had the privilege and responsibility of serving as president and CEO of LifeWay since February 2006. In these five years, like other ministries and churches, LifeWay has navigated uncertain and difficult times as the world has changed before our eyes.
We’ve faced tremendous economic uncertainties. Much has happened in the last five years to create a “new normal” economy which affects ministry choices and business practices for us all. As a result, our position and commitment has been to be a good steward of that which we’ve been entrusted, which is a direct benefit for the churches we serve.
In addition, the digital world has developed more rapidly than most people could predict. LifeWay’s history has been to provide primarily printed resources and products, but the world has changed and we now find ourselves in the midst of a digital revolution. The path forward is not always clear in this digital shift, but LifeWay is already engaged and providing digital solutions to benefit individuals and churches in this new day.
Our strategy and commitment is to provide the right information to the right customer at the right time through the right medium at the right price. Printed resources are not going away, but digital will be growing exponentially.
We’ve also seen denominational uncertainties. There is no shortage of opinion and debate within our Southern Baptist family, and it is often a challenge to provide and respond to the desires of such a diverse collection of ideas. LifeWay understands the theological, philosophical, political, and cultural issues across the evangelical landscape. It is our joy to listen to our constituents and our vision to serve the most people in the best way possible.
Today, LifeWay cannot count on anyone—Southern Baptist or otherwise—to seek resources from us simply because we are LifeWay, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a healthy challenge for us, because it drives us to provide the best resources in the marketplace.
In the midst of these uncertainties and more, we have a great God and a great hope for the future. The first question we ask ourselves is not “Is this the best business decision?” but rather “Is this what God wants us to do?” We are daily asking Him to give us wisdom and blessing as we help people and churches know Jesus Christ and seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.
LifeWay is a Kingdom-building enterprise and an important ministry partner to Southern Baptists and Christians of all denominations. Here’s how:
LifeWay directs its ministries through six divisions:
Church Resources works closely with churches to provide a wide range of ministries and age-group resources encompassing Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, leadership development, evangelism, discipleship, music, worship, marriage and parenting, training and enrichment events, and many other resources for churches.
LifeWay Christian Stores operates 163 stores in twenty-seven states, serving Southern Baptists and the wider evangelical market. The division also serves customers online through LifeWay.com, and through LifeWay Special Services that include everything from offering envelopes to church buses.
B&H Publishing Group produces Bibles, books, audio and video products, and church supplies, selling to bookstores and other retailers. In October 2010, B&H released the much-anticipated HCSB Study Bible, an outstanding resource for those seeking depth in their study of God’s Word.
The Technology division provides five key technology services in support of LifeWay ministries: strategic; retail; business; enterprise; and Internet technologies. The division oversees the content and functionality of LifeWay.com and its affiliated pages. In all, LifeWay.com houses more than 12,000 articles in addition to countless other resources and products.
Finance and Business Services, responsible for LifeWay’s financial policies and general accounting, directs many key LifeWay business services including logistics, legal, investments, purchasing, real estate, strategic planning, corporate services and human resources. In addition, the division operates conference centers at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, and Glorieta, New Mexico, which minister to more than 100,000 visitors each year.
The Executive Communications and Relations division produces LifeWay’s news and information services, directs corporate events, builds corporate relations and supports the office of the president in maintaining good relationships with other SBC entities, state conventions and other evangelical organizations.
Research and Ministry Development is focused on becoming the industry and ministry leader in knowledge-based resourcing, primarily through the mechanism of LifeWay Research. To date, LifeWay Research has released the results of dozens of key surveys addressing the views of the churched and unchurched on relevant cultural issues.
LifeWay’s Core Values
LifeWay has adopted and embraced the following six core values:
Core Value 1: The Bible
We believe the Bible is the eternal, infallible, inerrant Word of God and is the plumb line for everything we say and do.
Core Value 2: Employees
Our employees are our most important resource and are our means of building customer relationships to meet needs with biblical solutions which spiritually transform individuals and cultures.
Core Value 3: Customers
Our customers are our reason for existence. Knowing our customers, not just knowing about them, and meeting their expressed, unexpressed and unknown needs is essential to achieving our vision.
Core Value 4: Character
Character is the expression of the person of Christ in our life. We will live consistent, Christian lifestyles, conducting our ministry and business with the highest standards of honesty, integrity and Christian ethics.
Core Value 5: Leadership
We will be kingdom leaders in providing biblical solutions that transform lives. As God leads us, we will seek to be prophetic catalysts for change.
Core Value 6: Stewardship
We will be faithful stewards of all God has entrusted to us.
LifeWay’s SBC Ministry Assignments
LifeWay’s first task was the publication of Sunday school literature. More than a century later LifeWay continues to provide this service, along with ten other SBC ministry assignments, assisting churches in:
1. The development of church ministries
2. Ministries to college and university students
3. Christian schools and home school ministries
4. Ministries to men and women
5. The operation of conference centers and camps
6. The publication of books and Bibles
7. The operation of LifeWay Christian Stores
8. Church architecture consultation and services
9. Capital fundraising
10. Conducting research and compiling statistics
These are exciting days at LifeWay. One of the great joys I have as president is hearing the tremendous testimonies from people all across our organization who are focused on equipping the church and presenting the Gospel in transformational ways.
As an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, LifeWay shares the desire to be a Gospel-centered people committed more than ever to seeing families restored, individuals transformed, churches empowered, and the lost reached.
LifeWay at a Glance
�� In 1891, Dr. J.M. Frost had a desk, a corner of a newspaper office and a little money he borrowed from his wife. More importantly, he had the blessing of the Southern Baptist Convention, which, at its 1891 annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., affirmed Frost�s recommendation to establish The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
�� The vote gave Frost the approval he needed, but no funds were allocated to him. Undaunted, Frost put his vision and his work space in the office of Tennessee�s Baptist newspaper�the Baptist and Reflector�to good use. Frost laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most influential entities in Southern Baptist life.
�� The organization�s first assignment was the publication of Sunday school literature. Over the years, however, as The Sunday School Board expanded its range of resources, the name no longer encompassed the wide array of products and services that the company offered. Nor did it reflect the broadening scope of the organization�s mission.
�� Beginning as early as 1971, the LifeWay name was used in limited applications. Since then, it has been used both as an imprint for LifeWay resources and as a retail store identity in the 163 LifeWay Christian Stores located in 27 states. In 1997 the organization was officially renamed LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, reflecting a commitment to the centrality of the Gospel seen in John 14:6� �Jesus told him, �I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me�� (HCSB).
�The ministry of LifeWay is far-reaching, important, and effective.� I personally commend the ministry of LifeWay as one Southern Baptists and even other evangelicals can trust as honoring the Word of God, exalting the church, and desiring to minister to both the lost and saved.� Under the effective leadership of Dr. Thom Rainer, LifeWay continues to provide quality materials, programs, and leadership resources in a day and time when many other similar agencies are struggling to survive, much less thrive.� Our prayers continue for the leadership of LifeWay as they continue to seek even more effective ways to minister to the body of Christ and to reach the lost in the days ahead.�
Frank S. Page
President and CEO,
Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
Thom Rainer is a member of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, and is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.