By Aaron Earls
PHOENIX — Beginning the new year, Lifeway President and CEO Ben Mandrell presented the organization’s trustees with the direction that will guide Lifeway into the next decade.
“At Lifeway, we want everyone to catch the vision for where we’re going and to clearly see how they fit into that vision,” Mandrell said.
During the Jan. 29-30 meeting, trustees also heard a positive financial update and information on current and upcoming ministries. Chief Financial Officer Joe Walker reported that through the first quarter of the 2024 fiscal year, Lifeway is well ahead of the previous year’s first-quarter revenue. Walker highlighted growth trends in Bibles, ongoing curriculum, short-term Bible studies, VBS, books and church supplies.
Lifeway 2030 vision
In his address, Mandrell told trustees that he feels the responsibility to share with them not only where Lifeway is but also where Lifeway is headed. To make clear what the organization hopes to accomplish in the next five to 10 years, Mandrell revealed the new guiding statement: “To empower 300,000 church leaders with research and resources to reach the nations.”
Mandrell explained Lifeway wants to empower church leaders, so the organization aims to “build tools that add confidence and strength to those leading in the trenches of the local churches.” He said, “This is what we hope those serving in leadership positions say about Lifeway: ‘With the help of the team at Lifeway, our church grew in strength, and we grew in confidence that God was using us to make a dent in the lostness of the world.’”
In fleshing out to trustees how this will drive Lifeway’s decisions moving forward, Mandrell said, “The key question at the start of every project we launch here should be: ‘On what occasion would a local church leader use this resource?’ If the answer is unclear, the project should be reconsidered.”
Mandrell said the organization is currently serving around 100,000 church leaders, but because of the implementation of new technology and a realignment within the organization, Lifeway should be able to triple the number of leaders it serves by 2030. He said this will be the leading indicator, stressing that revenue, while important, is not the most important metric to determine success for the organization. “I firmly believe that if we focus on serving that many church leaders, the Lord will provide exactly what we need when we need it,” he said. “We want to undergird those spreading the name of Jesus and growing disciples in their communities.”
To help track progress on this goal, Mandrell presented six directional statements that focused on increased adoption of the Christian Standard Bible translation, growth in Bible studies, reaching the next generation, a healthy business plan that allows the organization to give back to churches in need, developing deeper relationships with senior pastors, and a healthy employee culture.
During the two-day meeting, trustees approved an organizational restructuring designed to support the Lifeway 2030 vision and better position the organization to serve church leaders.
North Phoenix Church visit
On Sunday night, Jan. 28, before the business meetings, Lifeway trustees and staff visited North Phoenix Church to hear from senior pastor and Lifeway author Noe Garcia and his wife, Clancey. Mandrell and his wife, Lynley, interviewed the Garcias about their ministry, the challenges they faced in turning around a declining church, and how God carried them through that season.
Mandrell also spoke to trustees about developing a culture of personal evangelism and discipleship at Lifeway. “At the end of the day, God didn’t give us the Great Organization; He gave us the Great Commission,” he said. “One of the things I love about Lifeway is that we don’t just make Christian products; we try to lead Christian lives.”
Additionally, Mandrell said those resources we create are intended to help church leaders fulfill their ministry. “We get to make tools that help church leaders in their ministry of making disciples,” he said. “We can make their jobs easier and give them back time to spend building relationships.”
During the meeting, trustees elected new board officers including Greg Kannady of Kingfisher, Oklahoma, as chair; Brad Graber of Fishers, Indiana, as vice chair; and Lana Gragert of Choctaw, Oklahoma, as recording secretary.
Trustees also heard updates from specific ministry areas of Lifeway, including positive trends for Hyfi, the new next-gen curriculum line, encouraging early registration for summer camps, a deepening relationship between B&H Publishing and the local church, how Lifeway is responding to needs of worship leaders, and a new design for the Lifeway exhibit at the Southern Baptist annual meeting in Indianapolis.
Trustees also heard from Bill Craig, senior vice president of publishing and ministry experiences, who is retiring from Lifeway in May, and Connia Nelson, chief human resources officer. In sharing what he’s learned from his time with the organization, Craig said, “Lifeway is better when we are close to the church.” Mandrell noted that in Craig’s 35 years at Lifeway he has always been open to new ideas. Craig said he wants to find the best ways to reach people. “Christ calls us to a gospel that never changes but in a culture that’s ever-changing,” he said.
Nelson, who is moving into her next season of purpose in May, said she’s proud of the work she and the human resources team at Lifeway has accomplished in shaping the culture of the organization. “People come to Lifeway because of the power of purpose. They believe in our mission, vision and strategy,” she said. “People want to be a part of something greater, and there’s nothing greater than the kingdom of God and helping the church in her mission to create more disciples that change the world.”
The board also recognized five trustees who are ending their board service in June: Dan Cho, Belmont, Massachusetts; Luther McDaniel, Hendersonville, Tennessee; Bob Pearle, Aledo, Texas; José Ruiz, Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Clayton Speed, Hartselle, Alabama.
The next Lifeway trustee meeting is scheduled for August 26-27, 2024, in Brentwood, Tennessee.
Aaron Earls is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.
About Lifeway Christian Resources
In operation since 1891, Lifeway Christian Resources is one of the leading providers of Christian resources, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, Christian music and movies, Vacation Bible School and church supplies, as well as camps and events for all ages. Lifeway is the world’s largest provider of Spanish Bibles. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Lifeway operates as a self-supporting nonprofit. For more information, visit Lifeway.com.