LifeWay Holds Semi-Annual Meeting, Approves $6 Million for Katrina Relief

LifeWay Christian Resources held its semi-annual meeting on Tuesday, during which the company’s trustees, by unanimous vote, authorized $6 million in reserve funds to assist Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts.

LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, held its semi-annual meeting on Tuesday, during which the company’s trustees, by unanimous vote, authorized $6 million in reserve funds to assist Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts.

The funding will begin immediately and continue throughout the 2006 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2005, through Sept. 30, 2006, according to statement released by LifeWay.

LifeWay President James T. Draper, who recommended the action to the trustees’ executive committee, said that the funds will be dispersed, “based on specific identified needs,” with expected recipients including, “[Southern Baptist] conventions in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, to states assisting in handling evacuees, and possibly to the North American Mission Board and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”

In addition to their contributions to the state conventions, the Nashville-based non-profit organization is also aiding individual churches in the affected area by restoring damaged libraries at deep discounts and replacing any dated LifeWay curriculum lost in the storm at no cost.

"We’re partners in ministry with the state conventions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but even more important, we’re their friends," Draper said. "When their churches hurt, we hurt, and with these donations we simply wanted to provide a tangible sign that we are praying for them and standing beside them."

Not the first of LifeWay’s Katrina relief efforts, the same three conventions also received $10,000 donations from the company when the Hurricane first struck at the end of August.

The company’s generous contributions come out of a successful fiscal year for the company, with the outlet projecting a record $441 million in revenue – a $12.5 million increase over 2004 (2.9 percent growth) – by the first of October, LifeWay reported.

Despite the company’s growth, however, the expected revenue figure falls $4.8 million below budget, a deficit attributed to, among other reasons, LifeWay’s Hurricane relief efforts.

Other reasons for the shortfall include growing fuel and shipping costs, employer-paid medical premiums and standard salary increases, and the decline of sales of The Purpose Driven Life, according to Ted Warren, LifeWay’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In spite of the deficit, LifeWay set their budgeted revenue goal for next year at $453 million and projects growth in every division.

However, the company will see a $4.4 million decrease company-wide in funds provided from operations (FPO) due to higher expenses, Warren said.

"We are allowing these expenditures to increase as an investment that will result in higher ’07 revenues," Warren told trustees. "These expenditures will include new stores, product development, filling vacancies and increased advertising."

Capital expenditures of $34.2 million also were approved at the meeting.

LifeWay has several projects planned for completion next year, including a nearly 100,000 square foot expansion of the Lebanon, Tenn., undated distribution center and the implementation of Oracle software as LifeWay’s new financial and order entry business system, according to Jerry Rhyne, finance and business services vice president.

Regarding LifeWay’s mission-oriented divisions, Church resources division vice president John Kramp gave an overview of last year’s church resources-related events and camps, during which he reported a total of 104,034 professions of faith were recorded.

“And those are just the ones that we know about,” he said.

A portion of that number came from nine LifeWay-sponsored mission trips from October 2004 through August 2005, which resulted in 17,343 professions of faith and involved over 120 LifeWay volunteers, Kramp said.

Regarding LifeWay’s evangelistic efforts for next year, corporate affairs vice president Mike Arrington announced that president James T. Draper will be leading a two-year major donor campaign, “A Defining Moment,” aimed at raising $30 million for evangelism, leadership, Bible distribution and abstinence programs.

The campaign will be one of Draper’s last, as the 69-year-old executive will be stepping down from his position, which he has held for 14 years, in February of next year. Draper will be succeeded by Dr. Thomas S. Rainer, who was unanimously approved for the position on Monday by LifeWay trustees.

In his final message to LifeWay trustees, Draper quoted from artist Steve Green’s song “Embrace the Cross” at what was the president’s 30th semi-annual meeting.

"Trustees, vice presidents, managers, employees, Thom …whatever you endeavor to do from this point forward as individuals and as an organization, embrace the cross," said Draper. "LifeWay’s impact in the future is limitless if you will daily embrace the cross."

Draper said that, although a successful company, LifeWay still has “room to grow.”

"LifeWay is an incredible organization," Draper said, "but it has room to grow to accomplish even greater things for God’s glory. With all the fervency and passion I can muster, my prayer for the future of LifeWay is that it will be the choice servant in the field, hand to the plow laboring when the King returns."