While the nation’s economic challenges are ongoing, GuideStone® President Hance Dilbeck said the words of 1 Samuel 7:12 are guiding the GuideStone team. In the passage, as the prophet sets up the stone of help — Ebenezer — Samuel says, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
That truth, which requires a look backward, inward, upward and forward, is a comfort as GuideStone celebrates and gives thanks for its history and leans forward into the future.
“When Samuel says ‘thus far the Lord has helped us,’ he is declaring that God has not changed,” Dilbeck said. “The Lord has helped us, and He will help us.”
Dilbeck delivered his comments to the trustees meeting in regular session August 1–2 in Washington, D.C.
During the Monday afternoon plenary session, trustees heard from both Dilbeck and Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones, who provided an update on each line of business within the ministry. Additionally, several senior leaders provided reports on ongoing strategic initiatives in 2022.
Jones noted that markets were volatile during much of 2022. GuideStone has long encouraged retirement plan investors not to try to time the markets or be swayed by the headlines but instead to focus on their long-term objectives.
“Over the long term, as we have a track record that demonstrates, we’re able to generate excess return for the benefit of our investors,” Jones said. He said of the current market environment, especially stock markets, “We go through very difficult periods like this at times. This is the nature of the investment markets.”
Jones discussed several opportunities for Southern Baptist and evangelical churches and ministries that are considering bringing their employees’ retirement accounts to GuideStone.
GuideStone has worked diligently to encourage pastors and churches to set aside money for their future. While no pastor ever intends to retire from his calling to serve the Lord, there may be a time when vocational retirement is necessary. Planning for and saving for retirement throughout their careers will help make that period of vocational retirement — of self-funded ministry — possible. GuideStone makes available its Compensation Planning Guide and other resources to help pastors and churches prepare, including information on how churches can shift from a lump-sum approach to a Salary and Benefits Approach.
GuideStone has seen a 98% retention rate among churches and ministries in its Group Plans, Jones said, pointing to confidence in both rates and service among churches and ministry organizations.
“For our healthier groups, those with good claims experience, we are offering them early renewals, the opportunity to re-up for the next calendar year early, guaranteeing their rates,” Jones said, touting some of the opportunities made available by GuideStone’s insurance team.
GuideStone will launch a slew of new insurance products that the ministry will unveil for launch in 2023, which will offer lower pricing in exchange for slightly reduced benefits.
Jones said that he and Dilbeck are excited that some of these plans will offer true medical coverage at prices that rival health care sharing ministries while providing more benefits for pastors and their families.
Similarly, 96% of churches in GuideStone’s Property and Casualty program choose to remain in the program through its alliance with Brotherhood Mutual® Insurance Company.
To come alongside Baptist state conventions in pastoral wellness efforts, Dilbeck said that he and Mark Dance, director of pastoral wellness at GuideStone, will host state convention executive directors and other guests at a meeting in Dallas in early 2023. Dilbeck said he and Dance would work to come alongside and augment what others are already doing in this space to help pastors start well, be well, do well and finish well.
Dilbeck gave thanks to Southern Baptists for the opportunity to serve and reaffirmed his commitment to the Convention’s churches and pastors.
“Our relationship with Southern Baptists is very important,” he said. “We’re a Southern Baptist entity. Southern Baptists birthed us. Our ministry assignment comes from the Southern Baptist Convention. You (our trustees) come from the Southern Baptist Convention. Our relationship with Southern Baptists is important, and it is strong.”
Mission:Dignity — which honors retirement-age Southern Baptist ministers, workers and widows struggling to meet basic needs through advocacy and financial assistance — is in the middle of an incredible year, Jones said. Mission:Dignity is the heart of GuideStone and has been the center of the ministry’s work since its founding in 1918.
So far, Mission:Dignity has raised $4.4 million, including more than $1 million on Mission:Dignity Sunday, with 100% of gifts going to help a retired pastor or his widow in need.
“It has been a banner year,” Jones said. “The Lord continues to bless us. Right now, giving on the part of individuals exceeds that which we receive from churches, corporations and various entities. We’ve got incredible grassroots giving.”
To learn more about Mission:Dignity, to give a gift or to refer a retirement-age Southern Baptist pastor or his widow in need, visit MissionDignity.org.
Roy Hayhurst is the director of denominational and public relations at GuideStone.