The online resource lifewayworship.com, which provides church choirs and worship teams access to more than 3,000 songs as well as instrumental arrangements, sheet music, and chord charts, had announced it would shut down at the end of September.
Lifeway, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), made the initial decision citing a desire to “focus its resources on areas where we can faithfully serve more churches in greater breadth and depth.”
However, Lifeway has now reversed course and announced it will pause plans to shutter LifewayWorship.com.
In an interview on the SBC This Week podcast, Lifeway president Ben Mandrell said the provider would instead enter into a time of discussion with worship leaders around the country on the best path forward for churches.
“Our job at Lifeway is to be coupled to the church and to be in tune with the church. And we clearly missed it on this one,” Mandrell said.
He acknowledged Lifeway did not properly communicate the original decision or give worship leaders a chance to provide input. Now the site will remain operational while Lifeway has listening sessions to understand its value and find potential solutions.
“I’m really sorry to all those in the trenches who are trying to pull Sunday off and now are kind of freaking out because they don’t know how they’re going to have their music ready,” Mandrell said.
The previous director, Mike Harland, said the development of lifewayworship.com began with a conversation about the future of the Baptist Hymnal. Harland and his staff wanted to imagine a new, online future for Baptist church music.
Many ministers and music directors expressed dismay when the closure was first announced, as they relied on lifewayworship.com for its high-quality, affordable arrangements.
Now worship leaders will have a chance to provide input on how the site can best serve their needs going forward. Lifeway Worship has no plans to stop producing new music or musical arrangements after August 2023 as originally stated.
While the future of the site remains uncertain, Mandrell’s reversal provides hope that this valuable worship resource may continue serving churches for years to come. Lifeway now aims to have collaborative discussions to determine the best path forward.