By Carol Pipes
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Lifeway Christian Resources trustees approved a 2017 budget, and heard progress reports on Lifeway’s new headquarters during their board meeting Aug. 29-30 at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C.
Lifeway President and CEO Thom S. Rainer told trustees, “I can honestly say Lifeway’s future is brighter than ever.”
“I could not be more proud of Lifeway’s employees and those who make up the leadership team as I watch God work through them to provide ‘biblical solutions for life,’” Rainer said, emphasizing Lifeway’s vision statement. He reminded trustees that with every resource Lifeway produces and sells, they ask three questions rooted in the statement: “Is it trustworthy? Is it effective? Is it transformational?”
Rainer gave a progress report on the entity’s new facility being built in downtown Nashville, showing artist’s renderings of the outside elevations, lobby and cafeteria. “We believe our new location is a place where we can truly build community and demonstrate in word and deed the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Rainer also announced Connia Nelson as the new senior HR director. Nelson has served as senior vice president of Human Resources at Verizon since 2007, where she was responsible for 175,000 employees. She and her husband, Darrell, are members of The Life Christian Church in West Orange, New Jersey.
“To have someone of Connia’s caliber join Lifeway is another example of how God is working in an incredible way,” Rainer said.
A native of Indiana, Nelson earned a Bachelor of Science in Business at Indiana State University, where she also serves on the President’s Board of Advisors. She received her Master of Arts in Organizational Management from Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, Texas.
In 2009, Diversity Journal named Nelson one of the “Most Influential African Americans in Business.” She has received numerous awards and recognition throughout her career.
Lifeway trustees approved a 2017 budget of $501,369,000 million, which reflects a nearly 1 percent increase over 2016 projected revenue.
Jerry Rhyne, CFO and vice president of Finance & Business Services, told trustees 2016 has been a strong year financially for Lifeway. “We have developed next year’s budget with a modest revenue increase,” Rhyne said. “We are ending the year on a strong note and are thankful for God’s provision.”
Trustees approved the nomination of Matthew Crawford, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sebring, Fla., to fill the vacancy of James Wells, a trustee from Florida who resigned his position on the Lifeway Board of Trustees. The board also approved the nomination of H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., to fill the vacancy of Robert Greene, a trustee from Florida who also resigned his position on the Board.
Crawford and Charles will serve as interim trustees until the Southern Baptist Convention elects directors to fill the unexpired terms of Wells and Greene next summer.
Trustees also welcomed new trustees who began their terms with the August meeting. New trustees include Dan Cho, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass.; Yana Conner, women’s ministry director at Oaks Church Raleigh in Raleigh, N.C.; Thomas Hammond, pastor of First Baptist Church, Alpharetta, Ga.; Luther McDaniel, a member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tenn.; Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church, Ft. Worth, Texas; and Clayton Speed, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hartselle, Ala.
Each of Lifeway’s divisional vice presidents reported updates and status of their priority projects and strategies including Executive Vice President Brad Waggoner and Selma Wilson, vice president of Organizational Development. They updated trustees on the ongoing transitions as Lifeway prepares to relocate to its new headquarters next year.
“Every part of Lifeway is changing, not just our headquarters,” Wilson said, “but we’ve seen employees leaning in and adapting well,” said Wilson.
Waggoner, who oversees the new building project, said Lifeway has an excellent relationship with the building’s developer, architect and construction contractor. Lifeway has involved those companies in chapel services and solicited prayer requests from their employees. “They have told me it’s rare to work on a project like this,” he said.
In sharing about Lifeway Christian Stores, Cossy Pachares, vice president of Retail, announced significant changes to local stores. “Over the next 30 days, we are reflowing every book in our stores, so people can more easily find biblical resources on the topics they need.” He also pointed to a nearly $2 million redesign of kids’ areas planned for next year in Lifeway Stores nationwide and said additional changes are being made to better help both individual customers and church staff make the most of their time in a local Lifeway store.
Resources Division Vice President Eric Geiger highlighted several successful resources such as SmallGroup.com, which has seen monthly growth since it was launched a year and a half ago, and The Gospel Project, which has grown to more than 1 million weekly users in only four years. He also directed trustees to the number of people impacted by Lifeway events. In 2016, close to 3 million individuals attended one of Lifeway’s events, including Vacation Bible School, with more than 83,000 making a spiritual decision.
Geiger also noted the expansion of Lifeway outside the borders of the United States. In 2016 Lifeway trained more than 300 Chinese pastors in Experiencing God and hosted two Vacation Bible Schools in India. In addition, he previewed Disciples Path, an intentional one-year discipleship plan for groups or one-on-one discipleship.
Vice President and CIO Tim Hill reported the technology division is leading Lifeway in developing new digital solutions for the organization. “We’re excited to be partnering with the Retail division to update their point of sale and merchandising systems,” Hill said. “The new system will position us to streamline our processes and simplify the work of the employee.”
One of the largest projects facing IT is moving the organization’s 900 computer servers to an off-site data center. Other projects include a new HR applicant tracking system and a partnership with the North American Mission Board to develop a new training platform for church planters.
In addition to presenting the 2016 budget report and 2017 proposed budget, Rhyne reported on the organization’s finances, told trustees Ridgecrest Conference Center and Camps have had a good year, hosting more than 63,000 guests, and noted that Lifeway’s employees have done a good job holding down health care costs for the organization. “We have much to be thankful for,” Rhyne said.
Carol Pipes is a writer for Lifeway Corporate Communications. Aaron Earls contributed to this story.