Above: A worker at the Lifeway Christian Resources distribution center in Lebanon, Tenn., prepares a box of Bible study material for shipping in this 2019 photo. Lifeway photo.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)—Like many organizations and companies around the world, Lifeway Christian Resources is facing logistic issues surrounding shipping and raw material shortages. To surmount these challenges and meet increased demand, the organization is implementing several measures to better serve churches this fall.
“This is an international crisis impacting every market of manufactured goods,” said Ben Mandrell, Lifeway president and CEO, “but we remain committed to serving local churches and meeting their needs.”
David Chandler, Lifeway’s director of procurement said supply chain concerns are not isolated to Lifeway, adding: “These are unprecedented global issues changing more rapidly than ever before. Addressing them requires a tremendous amount of time, diligence and insight, but Lifeway continues to actively adjust on a regular basis to navigate the changing circumstances.”
Brian Daniel, director and publisher on the adult discipleship team at Lifeway, said 40 percent of ongoing products, including quarterly Bible study materials across all age groups, have been affected.
“Supply chain issues are affecting us most noticeably in our inventory management and ability to keep Bible study resources in stock,” Daniel said. The amount of curriculum printed initially is based on historic knowledge of church purchasing habits as well as analysis of recent trends, said Daniel, but “pandemic-induced volatility” and an increased amount of time required for reprinting has created challenges.
In addition to the global supply chain disruption and lack of materials like paper, many areas of Lifeway have seen an unexpected increase in demand after slower sales during the pandemic. Becky Loyd of Lifeway Women said the stock issues they have faced resulted from an unanticipated increase in demand. Priscilla Shirer’s “Elijah” Bible study, released in January 2021, has climbed back into the “Publisher’s Weekly” top 10 as more small groups are gathering.
In response to these issues, Lifeway leaders said they are trying to be both proactive to prevent future potential problems but also responsive to meet the needs of customers facing issues currently.
Daniel said Lifeway has made the decision to print more resources than the analysis would otherwise indicate.
“While this might create momentary space constraints in our warehouse, it allows us to serve the church more effectively,” he said. “When circumstances warrant, we are making the decision to reprint much sooner than in the past to avoid out-of-stock scenarios.” Daniel also pointed to other behind-the-scenes mitigation measures such as increased inventory check-ins.
Devin Maddox, director and publisher of B&H books, said B&H has backed up its production schedule by one month to give partners more time to fulfill orders and meet customers’ needs.
Andy McLean, director of Bibles and reference at Lifeway, said they are also building in additional time into their schedules and working on additional solutions to offset increased costs in manufacturing and shipping.
“Our team has worked incredibly hard at tracking the situation in real time, executing earlier reprints and absorbing additional costs so we could have inventory for our customers,” McLean said. “We’re incredibly grateful to be in an inventory position where we can provide God’s written Word to churches and individuals across the globe.”
As some churches are currently impacted by these logistics issues, Lifeway leaders say they are working to alleviate the problems as quickly and easily as possible. “Churches most affected by these challenges will be contacted by a Lifeway customer service representative,” Daniel said.
Customers who have ongoing curriculum backorders will receive a redemption code for free 30-days access to digital versions of the curriculum, during which leaders can download needed material for the next three months.
“If the digital solution doesn’t work for their context, we’ll help find a solution that will,” said Ken Braddy, manager of adult ongoing Bible studies. Customers will not be charged for printed material until they are shipped.
For those having placed orders for materials that are currently unavailable or seeking to place a Fall order now, Daniel said customer service representatives will help to direct them to potential alternative solutions, including eBooks, a Ministry Grid subscription for digital curriculum or print products from another line of ongoing curriculum.
In an attempt to prevent such issues in the future, Lifeway is implementing a recurring order option for churches. Participating churches are assured to receive their materials early and will save up to 5 percent. The order will be automatically repeated, but adjustments can be made as needed each quarter.
To ensure materials needed for winter arrive on time, churches should enroll in the recurring order program or place their orders no later than the due date printed on their order form.
“Lifeway is committed to helping fuel the ministries of the local church,” Mandrell said. “We want to do whatever we can to walk alongside and serve congregations in their efforts to make disciples.”
Churches needing additional information should contact the Lifeway customer service team at 1-800-458-2772 or firstname.lastname@example.org.