Last week, Lifeway Worship posted this message:
July 18, 2023
Dear lifewayworship.com customer,
At Lifeway, we exist to honor God and serve churches by designing trustworthy experiences that fuel ministry. That’s why taking anything out of print or discontinuing any service to the church is not something we take lightly, nor is it a decision made without a great deal of prayer and due diligence. These decisions are made for a number of reasons, but always with the goal of best stewarding our resources to serve Christ’s church even as some needs of the church may change over time.
Accordingly, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue lifewayworship.com effective September 30, 2023.
Lifeway has made the decision to focus its resources on areas where we can faithfully serve more churches in greater breadth and depth. We appreciate the support lifewayworship.com users have given to our platform for the past 15 years.
We are inspired by the work of worship leaders around the world who help lead our hearts and voices to honor Christ as Lord. We are encouraged by ministries like PraiseCharts.com and SongSelect.com, which Lifeway Worship recommends to help support your digital congregational music needs in the future.
When Lifeway announced the closure of LifewayWorship.com, there was a great uproar from worship leaders, pastors, state convention personnel, Baptist educators and more across the country. I honestly have never seen anything quite like it. My phone was blowing up with calls, emails, messaging, etc. with people panicking over the loss of these great resources.
You see, I and my counterparts around the nation see LifewayWorship.com as the absolute best worship resource for many churches we work with. There is no other resource provider that provides the same type and variety of resources they produce. While Lifeway mentioned PraiseCharts and SongSelect as resources that we can turn to, they do not offer all the resources that LifewayWorship.com offers, as outlined below. Both PraiseCharts and SongSelect are excellent resources–I use them both (and they provide all that is needed for many churches), but they don’t offer some areas of resourcing, particularly for the smaller and medium membership churches.
Here are some distinctives of LifewayWorship.com (LWW)
- Can resource churches of all sizes. Not matter what instrumentalists or vocalists you have, or whether or not you have someone to lead worship, you can find resources in their vast offerings at LWW to meet your church’s specific needs. I and other state worship reps find that LWW has resources that can meet the needs of most churches we work with. Without LWW, we will be at a tremendous loss to help smaller and medium-membership churches.
- They offer affordable demo tracks, stereo and split tracks and multi-tracks of their songs correlating exactly to the written arrangement, helping musicians prepare with great audio examples and providing accompaniment for congregational singing. No other source offers these choices.
- This is huge: the arrangements are written for congregations in the way they are designed and the keys they are sung in. Other sources provide arrangements that emulate what you hear from Christian artists, for the most part. These may be in keys that are bad for the congregation or arranged in a way that congregations will not participate well. I believe worship leaders need to strongly engage their congregations to actively participate in congregational song, and LWW is the only resource that makes that a priority.
- The charts (sheet music) are much more attainable by the average church musician than other sources. I hear so often that LWW provides music that is simple enough for the average player, yet sounds incredible. Other sources are often much more difficult to play.
- So many bi-vocational worship leaders and/or pastors find everything they need in the LWW products. These resources are not available from any other source. I hear this time and time again.
- LWW has a strong emphasis on contemporary arrangements of hymns that are very useful in our intergenerational churches. I see so many churches wanting this resource. Hymncharts.com is another great source for contemporary hymn arrangements, and PraiseCharts has some (more difficult).
- LWW offers a la carte purchasing. You can order just what you need for your church situation without paying for lots of unneeded items (packages of resources). One church may need a stereo track, a demo track, a piano part, an alto sax part, and a vocal sheet. Another may need lead sheets, chord charts, rhythm charts, multitracks, etc. Every church can customize the products to their needs.
The guys at LWW are amazing. They have, year after year, produced fantastic resources for our churches. I am so thankful for the work they do!
Thanks to a groundswell of opposition to Lifeway announcing the closure of LWW, Lifeway paused the decision. Read on:
By Carol Pipes
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — In response to expressed concern from ministry leaders, Lifeway Christian Resources is postponing the implementation of the decision made earlier this week to discontinue lifewayworship.com.
“We are delaying the implementation of this decision until we have time to listen, allow for dialogue, and find out how we can best support churches’ digital worship music needs,” said Ben Mandrell, CEO of Lifeway. “We are actively considering alternatives to ensure minimal disruption and keep this essential catalog alive. We have been exploring long-term solutions for keeping this catalog of resources alive and have reason to be optimistic.
The extension of lifewayworship.com will enable worship leaders to continue accessing their digital music files and provide ample time for downloading any essential materials they may require.
“While we originally made the difficult decision to discontinue lifewayworship.com with prayerful consideration, we should have invested more time to listen to church leaders, provide more notice of the impending change, and partner with those who rely on this tool every week,” said Mandrell.
“We appreciate the feedback we’ve received over the last few days. Many church leaders have reached out and expressed how much they appreciated the support we gave to their worship ministries,” said Mandrell.
“We underestimated the value this tool brings to a meaningful portion of our churches,” Mandrell said. “And we certainly didn’t put the turn signal on soon enough for people to be prepared for the changes that were coming.
Given the recent feedback, Lifeway will put the implementation of this decision on hold until we’ve had the chance to engage with worship leaders and find out how we can best work through this transition together. Although the Lifeway Worship team will not continue to add new selections to the library during this time, the delay in shutting down the site will allow more time to work with our valued customers to develop a plan to protect their investment and transition to a new service.”
Mandrell expressed the desire to listen attentively to the concerns and needs of worship leaders and said Lifeway is committed to supporting to those who play a pivotal role in guiding the church in lifting up the name of Jesus.
“We want our customers to know their voices and messages are being heard, and we are committed to incorporating their feedback into our plans moving forward,” said Mandrell.“ We are grateful for churches’ support and understanding. We want to send a loud message to churches that we care about them. Our partnership with church leaders means everything to us, and we remain steadfast in our dedication to serving them and their ministries.”
This is great news. I am so thankful that Lifeway realized their decision was made without consulting with and thinking of the local church worship leaders and pastors. There was no plan to have the resources available without interruption. There was no plan to continue producing these much-needed resources. Ben Mandrell, CEO of Lifeway admitted that the decision was poorly made without first getting feedback and having a long-term solution ready to go.
If Lifeway wants to get out of the business of LWW, it would make much more sense, for the sake of our churches, for them to find a potential buyer to take all the archives and continue producing these types of resources. If another company were to buy LWW these are some of the suggestions I would make:
- If you have existing resources, create a special line (formerly LWW) that can be pulled out from all the other products in a search so the “noise” of existing arrangements does not interfere with finding these resources.
- Keep current LWW employees–Charlie Sinclair is the creative genius behind the site and could keep it going in the vein it is with the ideals that distinguish it from all other resources available. Keeping the distinctives I pointed out earlier related to LWW is imperative. The new owner would need to keep the line as it is now for the resources to be written for congregations and resource even the smallest church. Changing this would be detrimental to what these resources currently offer.
- I realize the production of the various tracks is costly, but they are so crucial to our churches in providing both great demonstrations and backing tracks–whether split track, stereo or multitrack. The variety of tracks must remain.
Lifeway taking time to find a contingency plan is certainly the best thing to do for our churches who rely so heavily on their resources. I would love for Lifeway to consider keeping LWW and taking it to new levels!
In an email I sent to Lifeway this week, I commented, “LWW uniquely meets [the needs of the small and medium membership churches], and shuttering that service may have the largest kingdom impact on SBC churches of anything you could quit doing in your organization.”
Yes, I am passionate about this. I love the local church and am hurting at the great resource deficit that will occur if LWW pulls out of providing resources without a good contingency plan.
LWW uniquely meets the needs of the small and medium membership churches, and shuttering that service may have the largest kingdom impact on SBC churches of anything you could quit doing in your organization.
CONCERN: Upon the closure of LWW, Lifeway will, for the first time in decades, be getting out of the worship music business, no longer having a voice to speak into worship music for SBC churches.
This is concerning to me because worship is something every church does. Worship is the one eternal function of the church. Worship is the fuel that feeds everything we do.
A LITTLE HISTORY
The Church Music Department of the Baptist Sunday School Board (BSSB) (predecessor to Lifeway) was established in 1941 with B.B. McKinney being the first leader. The BSSB began printing music training materials for SBC churches, including graded choir programs under his leadership. The first Baptist Hymnal was published in 1956. In 1944, McKinney led state conventions also to have someone employed to oversee music/worship for their conventions.
Fast-forward to 2008. With the release of the Baptist Hymnal, Lifeway Worship engaged in the Worship Project which provided the resources we have grown to love on LWW for every hymn in the book and supplemental content. LWW was essentially the Baptist Hymnal with no back cover–songs would be continually added to the collection with products available online to continue to resource the church as new songs become available.
Soon LWW stopped producing the children’s choir curriculum. That has been picked up by other resource providers. As a result of COVID and a decline in choirs in churches, LWW left the choral music production business last year. Fortunately, several players in choral music have picked up the pace recently, including the return of Brentwood-Benson to cover the needs of church choirs.
Honestly, those previous closures did not concern me, but LWW closure is another thing altogether. With this, Lifeway, the resource provider for SBC churches, will now be silent in the area of music for worship–a vital part of their influence for over 80 years.
Many have been concerned this was in the plans for Lifeway after the departure of Mike Harland in 2020. Lifeway did not replace him for the first time since B.B. McKinney was at the helm of the music direction for the SBC. For many, this signaled that Lifeway no longer valued this part of their purpose, and expectations grew that, in time, we would see Lifeway move away from resourcing the church in worship.
This past week seemed to confirm this dread so many of us had. The SBC resourcing arm may no longer be speaking into the church music/worship world.
Thankfully, many of our state conventions have someone to help guide our churches–I have the awesome pleasure of resourcing NC Baptist churches. The consultants from other state conventions and I work together to best resource our states–we have a very close relationship. Many states have eliminated their worship consultants in recent years. Just know we are here for you and will strive to insure that resources continue to be provided for our churches.
Please pray that resources we have grown to count on and love for helping our congregations worship will continue to be produced for years to come.
A heartfelt apology
The original article posted here, in describing the uniqueness of Lifeway Worship could have been perceived as an attack on PraiseCharts or SongSelect. There was never that intention. Both of those resource providers do an excellent job of providing resources for worship leaders. Indeed, many churches find all they need at one or both of the providers. I use them both in my ministry and find great value in them. I was trying to note the differences in resources between Lifeway Worship and the two resource providers that Lifeway suggested were already providing the same thing they are. The article sets out to show that there are indeed differences that truly make LWW stand out for smaller and medium-sized churches that need some of these unique resources. This same sentiment has been relayed to me by scores of worship leaders, and I was merely trying to help leadership influential to LWW understand the differences–trying to speak up for our church leaders. I sincerely apologize if my wording seemed harsh towards the excellence of PraiseCharts and SongSelect. I personally know the people instrumental in both companies, and I know they have a great heart for resourcing the local church and are seeking to continually meet the needs of the church. I am incredibly sorry if my words were offensive and hope they will accept this apology.