By Lisa Cannon Green
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Future shoppers will find fundamental changes when they visit LifeWay Christian Stores, trustees were told at their semiannual meeting Feb. 5-6.
LifeWay leaders shared a vision of stores where people will gather not only to buy biblical solutions for life but also to connect, learn and grow.
“The opportunities to do more are just amazing,” LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer told trustees. “In God’s power we seek to transform lives and serve churches.”
Several LifeWay stores have begun testing the new approach with special events and places to gather. Eric Geiger, LifeWay’s senior vice president and chief business officer, told trustees he is encouraged by the initial results.
“We have to change the way people see a LifeWay store,” Geiger said. “It can no longer be a place you go to buy things, because you don’t need to go to a store to buy things anymore. LifeWay Stores must be a place you go to learn, to experience, to connect to people and to discover resources.”
Recent organizational changes at LifeWay integrated the resources and retail divisions to better serve customers, Geiger told trustees. “We want to do all we can to breathe new life into our stores because of the people we serve through them,” he said.
“Our aim is to help people navigate their faith journey through creating and curating transformational content, while catalyzing and equipping local church ministries in their mission of making disciples.”
Trustees began their two-day meeting with tours of LifeWay’s new headquarters in Nashville, which opened in November 2017. While the new building incorporates the latest in technology, it also highlights LifeWay’s 127-year history with displays of stained glass and other artifacts preserved from the previous campus.
“This new headquarters building has enhanced beyond my imagination what I thought a facility could do,” Rainer told trustees. “For that I am grateful to God.”
The relocation has brought more energy, excitement, enthusiasm and collaboration to LifeWay—and those effects will continue, said Brad Waggoner, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
“We don’t view it as just something that happened back on November 13—we view it as an ongoing evolution of who we are,” Waggoner said.
Tim Hill, senior vice president and chief information officer, praised the commitment of LifeWay’s IT employees who worked around the clock to launch the new building. Multimedia equipment and high-tech meeting rooms make it easy for employees to collaborate and work remotely, he noted.
“We’ve set LifeWay up for the future,” he said.
Major upgrades will roll out this year for LifeWay.com, Hill said. “This is all about helping customers find what they’re looking for. It’s to help them on their faith journey.”
The ability to work from anywhere and at any time positions LifeWay to better serve churches around the globe, noted Selma Wilson, senior vice president and chief people officer. Already LifeWay distributes products in 164 countries around the world.
“We took a giant step forward into the 21st century,” Wilson said.
Wilson also highlighted changes designed to help LifeWay draw in the next generation of employees. “We will always lead with our faith and mission, but we want the most talented employees to help us take this ministry forward,” she said.
In his report to trustees, Rainer emphasized the need for continuous change to stay on pace with a world where disruption is happening more rapidly than ever before.
“We have to pivot, change and see ahead so that when disruption takes place, we are not only anticipating, we are responding and we are being proactive,” Rainer said.
“This is a time for the gospel to be demonstrated in its power. God’s people must wake up to God’s power, to do things God’s way instead of our way.”
In other action, the trustees:
— Elected Joe Walker to be senior vice president of the Finance and Business Services Division and chief financial officer of LifeWay. Walker, 55, has served as acting CFO since the retirement of Jerry Rhyne in July 2017. A certified public accountant, he joined LifeWay in 1986 and was named controller in 2005. Walker is a member of First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
— Heard a financial report from Walker, who noted the new headquarters building was completed on schedule and on budget. “Like you, I pray every day that God will continue to use LifeWay to be a producer and a distributor of biblical solutions for life,” Walker said.
— Learned LifeWay has received a “clean audit” from outside auditor LBMC. The audit covered LifeWay’s operations and benefit plans.
— Approved committee assignments for trustees.
— Recognized seven trustees who are ending their board service in June. They are Travis Best of Caldwell, Idaho; Don Blackmore of Jonesboro, Arkansas; Ken Carter of Lubbock, Texas; George Goudelock of Hartsville, South Carolina; Greg Jackson of Camden, Ohio; Bruce Moseley of Mobile, Alabama; and Gary Richardson of Clinton, Mississippi.
Lisa Cannon Green is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Aaron Earls contributed to this article.