GuideStone® sought to live out its vision that every servant of Christ finishes well throughout 2022, GuideStone President Hance Dilbeck said. Every team in the ministry continued to work diligently through a year full of transitions and new opportunities.
“This past year has been a year of learning, but also of witnessing the hand of God at work in our day-to-day ministry for pastors and other church and ministry staff who we are called to serve,” Dilbeck said. “We give thanks to the Lord for all he has done in 2022 and look forward, confidently and expectantly, for what he’ll do through us in 2023.”
Dilbeck succeeds Hawkins
Dilbeck officially took the reigns of the Southern Baptist ministry on March 1, succeeding O.S. Hawkins, who moved into the honorary role of president emeritus. Hawkins had served as president and chief executive officer since 1997 and was the longest-serving president in GuideStone’s 104-year history.
Dilbeck, formerly executive director of Oklahoma Baptists, joined GuideStone in July 2021 as president-elect.
Hawkins described the journey for him and his wife Susie as “absolutely amazing” in comments in March. Echoing his own charge received from Ray Taylor, who led the trustee search committee that called Hawkins to GuideStone in 1997, Hawkins gave his charge to Dilbeck.
“You take something great and make it greater,” Hawkins said. “I’ll be your biggest fan and supporter.”
Transition planned for chief operating officer
In October, Dilbeck announced that he would name Chu Soh, the chief insurance officer for GuideStone, as the new chief operating officer. Soh will succeed John R. Jones, who has served at GuideStone for 34 years, 25 of those as chief operating officer.
Soh and Jones will work together through the February 2023 trustee meeting when Soh will officially transition to the chief operating officer role, providing day-to-day leadership to the executive staff in all ministry areas of GuideStone. Jones will transition to serve as Special Assistant to the Executive Office through the end of 2023 when he retires with 35 years of service.
“Chu has demonstrated an ability to lead through tumultuous times with a steady hand and a servant’s heart,” Jones said. “Working alongside him for more than two years now, I have come to know and love him and his commitment to GuideStone and the members we serve; he’ll be a tremendous asset to GuideStone, and I am fully committed to his success as COO.”
Dilbeck said the process of selecting a new chief operating officer was bathed in prayer.
“One of my priorities, when I arrived at GuideStone, was to develop a good relationship with John Jones and to seek the Lord’s will on who would serve as the next chief operating officer,” Dilbeck said. “God has led in this enterprise, granting John and me a wonderful relationship and leading us to establish a strong process for evaluating several qualified leaders. John and I prayed, asking the Lord to unify our hearts and clarify His leadership in this important decision. We can both share testimonies of the Lord’s clear leadership in this timing and this decision.
“Chu loves the Lord Jesus, and his walk with Christ impacts how he lives, works, talks and treats people. He is a man of integrity. He is passionate about our ministry, creative and optimistic, full of faith for our future.”
New strategic plan
One of Dilbeck’s first moves was to work with senior leadership and trustees to forge a new strategic plan for the ministry. GuideStone’s most recent strategic plan, Forward Foundations, guided the ministry through the transition from Hawkins to Dilbeck. The new plan will be unveiled to employees in early 2023. The new strategy will bring focus to the GuideStone team as they pursue the ministry’s mission, Dilbeck said.
“We believe the Lord has worked through our leadership to develop a strategic plan that will guide our work over the coming years for the benefit of our members and ministry partners,” Dilbeck said. “Ultimately, we seek to bring honor to the Lord through all we do.”
Pastoral wellness focus
As part of GuideStone’s mission to enhance financial security and resilience for those who serve the Lord, Dr. Mark Dance joined GuideStone as director of pastoral wellness.
“When I was called to join the ministry of GuideStone, I felt deep in my soul a responsibility to care for pastors, not just in their financial and health lives, but for the whole pastor and pastor’s family, to help them do well and do right by being well, serving well and finishing well,” Dilbeck said. “Mark has made a tremendous impact on GuideStone and our efforts to come alongside state conventions and others serving pastors in their focus on wellness.”
Dance previously served as a senior pastor for 28 years in churches in Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee before joining Lifeway Christian Resources in 2014. He is the co-founder of Care4Pastors. Most recently, he has served as director of pastoral development for Oklahoma Baptists.
“Pastors are having a hard time finishing well,” Dilbeck said. “As we’ve talked through ways to help pastors find the care they need so they can be the husbands and shepherds they’re called to be, this vision around complete wellness — spiritual, physical, financial, mental, health — has more fully taken shape. We believe that we can continue to do the things GuideStone does well, the financial and health wellness focus, and influence these other aspects of wellness.”
Dance’s work will work in concert with pastor wellness programs sponsored by other Southern Baptist entities.
Mission:Dignity 13th checks
Thanks to efforts of several state conventions, Mission:Dignity recipients in 11 states received a 13th check — equal to an additional month’s honorarium — in 2022.
Mission:Dignity recipients in South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Tennessee, Nevada and California received these special checks.
More than 2,800 retirement-aged ministers, denominational workers and their widows were assisted by Mission:Dignity in 2022. The ministry receives no direct Cooperative Program funding — gifts are made by individuals, foundations, churches and Sunday school classes. Due to an endowment established years ago, 100% of gifts given to Mission:Dignity help a retired minister or a widow in need.
“Every retired Southern Baptist pastor, his wife or his widow who served well truly deserves a double honor,” Mission:Dignity Director Aaron Meraz said. “We are thankful that so many conventions and churches have caught the vision to ensure no retired pastor or his widow must endure their declining years without the dignity they are due.”
For the third year in a row, the annual Mission:Dignity Sunday offering exceeded $1 million, setting a record $1.6 million. Thousands of churches, small groups, and individuals continue to show appreciation for the years of service of their retired pastors and widows through this special offering established by the Southern Baptist Convention decades ago.
For the second year in a row, Mission:Dignity gave thanks for donations exceeding $1 million on the annual nationwide Giving Tuesday emphasis.
Almost $1.4 million was raised to provide financial assistance to retirement-age Southern Baptist ministers, workers and their widows struggling to meet basic needs. Gifts on Giving Tuesday were doubled thanks to a few generous donors’ $600,000 in matching contributions.
“The generosity of God’s people never ceases to amaze me,” Dilbeck said. “These gifts help to ensure that a retired minister and his wife or his widow can finish well with dignity in their retirement years.”