Why is LifeWay selling Ridgecrest? Hasn’t it been profitable?
It’s true that Ridgecrest Conference Center and Summer Camps is operating at a profit, mostly due to the significant investments LifeWay has made into the boys and girls camps held during the summer months but also impacted by financial progress for the conference center.
Unlike our decision to sell Glorieta Conference Center, which was losing money on an annual basis and had significant deferred maintenance, the decision to sell Ridgecrest is more about our ability to ensure Ridgecrest’s future while investing in other areas of LifeWay’s ministry.
As we’ve been clarifying the focus of LifeWay’s strategic mission, we’ve been asking whether or not owning and maintaining a conference center is the wisest way forward in terms of stewardship. Owning a conference center and adjoining camps with many buildings and 1,200 acres already requires significant operational and financial investment. Furthermore, Ridgecrest will require a significant increase in financial investment over the next 10 years.
We believe our focus must be on the overall sustainability and extension of LifeWay’s core ministry. Owning a conference center will require more financial investment than we can bear. For this reason, LifeWay can no longer serve as an effective steward of Ridgecrest Conference Center and Summer Camps. We must invest in new, future strategies that will sustain the global ministry of LifeWay.
Due to significant investments LifeWay has made over the past six years, we believe Ridgecrest is well-positioned for future success under new ownership.
Was the coronavirus crisis a factor in this decision?
The simple answer is yes, especially as it relates to timing. In mid-March, Buncombe County, N.C., authorities ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Ridgecrest has temporarily ceased hosting groups until local authorities ease restrictions on groups physically gathering. As a matter of fiscal stewardship during such an uncertain season, LifeWay must control costs and manage resources in order to continue serving local churches in the most effective way.
Is it possible to sell a portion of the conference center and keep the part that’s profitable?
We are looking for a buyer for all facilities and operations of Ridgecrest Conference Center, Camp Ridgecrest For Boys, Camp Crestridge For Girls, and all surrounding acreage owned by LifeWay.
Will we offer the property to the SBC or other SBC entities?
LifeWay would welcome ownership interest from other SBC entities, state conventions, and ministries. Knowing the value of Ridgecrest to Southern Baptists, we confidentially informed the SBC Executive Committee President and CEO of our situation and our desired intent, upon Board approval, to make Ridgecrest available for the future to our Southern Baptist family.
What will happen at Ridgecrest until a buyer is found and the sale is finalized?
Due to the coronavirus “shelter at home” orders in North Carolina and across the nation, Ridgecrest has suspended hosting events until the end of May. We will adjust that date as appropriate based on guidance from government and health authorities. We know conferences and events will look different due to COVID-19, both in the short and possibly longer terms. The Ridgecrest team is developing plans and making adjustments to enable us to host guests and events safely and effectively once restrictions are eased.
What about summer camp programming for Camp Ridgecrest for Boys and Camp Crestridge for Girls?
Any decision about Summer 2020 operations at Camp Ridgecrest and Camp Crestridge will likely be related to COVID-19, not the possible upcoming transfer of ownership. Our Ridgecrest Summer Camps team is continuing to monitor COVID-19 developments and plan for various scenarios this summer. The health and safety of our campers and staff is of utmost importance to us.
Beyond 2020, we hope to find a new owner that would continue to offer a Christian conference center environment and the operations of the boys and girls camps.
Doesn’t LifeWay have a ministry assignment from the SBC to operate conference centers and camps?
Yes, and we will continue to operate camps; however, we’ve determined we don’t need to own a hospitality facility in order to provide trustworthy experiences such as those provided through camps and events. Historically, LifeWay (as the Sunday School Board) operated camps and events at Ridgecrest before we owned the facility. We will be recommending to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee a refresh of our ministry assignments that more closely align with our current mission, vision, and strategic initiatives.
What is the future of LifeWay’s camps and events held at Ridgecrest?
Working with the new owner, LifeWay hopes to continue using Ridgecrest for future events including student camps, CentriKid, and the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference.
UPDATE: LifeWay Christian Resources has reached an agreement to sell Ridgecrest Conference Center and Summer Camps to the Ridgecrest Foundation. The two groups plan to complete the transfer of the North Carolina property and ministries by the end of 2020.