Sunday, Jul 12, 2020

VBS, Sunday School Sales Drop Sparks Cuts at Lifeway

The Southern Baptist publisher plans to restrict its budget by at least $25 million through reducing staff and salaries.

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LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, has announced it will cut roughly 10 percent of its operating budget through staff reductions, a hiring freeze, and salary cuts.

The move comes after five consecutive weeks of steep revenue decline in the wake of the coronavirus and the expectation that sales may not rebound anytime soon.

The Nashville-based Christian publisher said revenue is down 24 percent compared with the same period last year, largely due to a sharp drop in bulk orders from churches for resources such as Sunday school curricula, Bible study materials, and Vacation Bible School curricula.

It’s not clear yet if SBC churches or other churches that buy LifeWay materials will hold VBS or camp programming this year.

LifeWay’s budget for this fiscal year is $281.3 million. It said it planned to cut between $25 million and $30 million from its budget.

The announcement is just the first indication of the financial blow many US churches and denominational agencies are facing as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns—a blow that could reshape the religious landscape for decades to come.

LifeWay stands to lose tens of millions of dollars of revenue that the organization would normally generate over the summer months from camps, events, VBS, and ongoing curriculum sales,” said Ben Mandrell, LifeWay’s CEO, in a news release. “LifeWay is mitigating these losses as much as possible through various expense reduction plans, including staff reductions and cuts in non-employee expenses.”

LifeWay said members of its executive leadership team will give up one month’s salary beginning in May. It did not say how it would achieve a staff reduction, …

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