GuideStone® trustees heard reports on its strategy to expand Kingdom Reach by strengthening the SBC core ministry partnerships in retirement, investments and insurance coverage among the Convention’s churches and ministries.
The strategy — known as REACH — continues to develop and is enthusiastically embraced by employees across the organization, President Hance Dilbeck told trustees.
“The team at GuideStone is reaching in this season of life,” Dilbeck said. “I want you to know the senior leaders at GuideStone and the whole team have been working hard. They’re already very busy but stretching and doing extra work to execute this strategy.”
Upon arrival at GuideStone, Dilbeck worked with trustees and senior GuideStone staff to unveil a new mission statement, “We enhance financial security and resilience for those who serve the Lord.”
“Financial security is what we do; resilience is why we do it,” Dilbeck said. “Financial security is about building into your life the capacity to bounce back. We know through solid research that one of the primary reasons pastors, missionaries, and ministry leaders do not finish well or have resilience is that they are living under financial pressure. Financial insecurity takes away resilience far too often.”
Dilbeck said financial security means freedom for anybody, especially for pastors. That includes freedom from anxiety and freedom for service in new ways during vocational retirement.
Headwinds and tailwinds mark 2023 so far
During his report to trustees, Chief Operating Officer Chu Soh said that higher inflation and increased claims, especially around the rising costs of prescription drugs, have served as a significant headwind.
The headwinds are being felt throughout the health care industry, Chief Financial Officer Mark Borchgardt said.
“Inflation, usage, and the severity of claims, all are driving claims costs,” Borchgardt told trustees. “We saw this trend emerge at the beginning of the second quarter. About 80% of the rise in claims for medical services is driven by cancer-related diagnoses manifesting in both severity and usage increases.”
Borchgardt and Soh indicated the increase in cancer claims is something noted by health insurers nationwide. While it is not proven entirely why cancer claims have increased in the past year, one widely accepted explanation is deferred preventive medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Borchgardt indicated claims would likely increase through the end of 2023 as more people meet their deductibles and as lagging inflationary impact is forecast to hit the medical industry more fully in the third and fourth quarters of this year.
GuideStone encourages members to do regular preventive health screenings and make healthy decisions, including reducing stress, eating healthfully and getting proper exercise and rest. Utilizing in-network providers and shopping around for services when time permits can help save members money as they seek care.
Additionally, GuideStone also offers new plans that may provide reduced coverage for healthy individuals, saving churches and pastors significantly.
GuideStone receives no Cooperative Program support to offset the cost of health coverage.
Soh indicated it was not all headwinds, though. Retirement plan contributions have increased at a compound growth rate of 5% since 2018, and GuideStone’s health plans have seen an increase of 2,366 lives year-over-year with a retention rate of 98.5%.
“We’ve had some good tailwinds as we focus on insurance claims cost mitigation and advocacy efforts for our members,” he said. “Property and casualty continues its growth trajectory, experiencing a 20% compound growth rate since 2018.”
Soh said that churches and ministry organizations continue to stick with GuideStone’s property and casualty solutions, with 96% retention so far this year.
Both the Retirement and Investments areas are impacted by market volatility, Soh said, but both continue to grow, and more ministry organizations continue to look at GuideStone for opportunities.
“Our vision is to see every servant of Christ finishing well,” Soh said.
To that end, Soh reported on three key priorities that will continue through 2023 and into 2024.
“Our strategy statement is very clear, ‘We will strengthen our core SBC ministry partnerships, leveraging our expertise and faith alignment, through full-service relationships that enhance financial security and resilience to expand our Kingdom reach,’” Soh said. “Southern Baptists are relational people, and we’re going to work through our existing relationships with the state conventions, associations, local churches and other SBC entities so that we can better serve each of them and grow service to those we may not serve yet.”
“It’s really about providing a kingdom-class experience, not just a world-class experience,” Soh continued. “We want to be your faith-aligned advocate and your expert guide to serve you as a ministry partner.”
Soh said that a pilot program with the North American Mission Board had garnered positive results for church planters, streamlining enrollment in the retirement plans, providing insurance coverage, and simplifying the online onboarding process.
Serving members at the finish line of their vocational careers is a long-standing priority. A dedicated team of cross-trained call center representatives revolves around Guide, Advocate and Provide principles.
“Our staff has really enjoyed this,” Soh told trustees. “We’re encouraging them to take time and pray with our members in these calls as they reach the finish line in their vocational ministry and consider what the Lord has for them to do in the future.”
So far in 2023, Mission:Dignity has served more than 2,000 households, Soh said, garnering $4.6 million in gifts so far this year.
Mission:Dignity provides financial assistance to retirement-aged Southern Baptist pastors or their widows who are near the poverty line. 100% of gifts to Mission:Dignity goes to recipients; all administrative costs are paid through an endowment established many years ago.
“This past June was the second strongest June on record,” he said, praising the Mission:Dignity team led by Director Aaron Meraz. “Despite the economic headwinds that may impact small gift donors and stock donations, we continue to see the generosity of God’s people in caring for the retired pastors and their wives and the ministers’ widows we are privileged to serve.”
To give to Mission:Dignity, to apply for assistance or refer a retirement-aged pastor and his wife or minister’s widow, visit MissionDignity.org.
New executive officer appointed
David S. Puckett, a former senior vice president at Regions Bank Private Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama, was appointed Chief Denominational Relationship Officer. Puckett succeeds Timothy E. Head, who will retire at the end of 2023.
Before joining GuideStone in June 2023, Puckett was a GuideStone trustee from 2014 to 2022. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from The University of Alabama. Additionally, he has studied at the Southern Trust School at Spring Hill College and the National Graduate Trust School through the American Bankers Association. He is a certified public accountant, a certified investment management analyst and a certified wealth strategist.
In his new role, he will lead efforts to coordinate all GuideStone relationships within all levels of Southern Baptist life. He will lead the Denominational Relations, Pastoral Wellness and Mission:Dignity teams.
A Christ-centered strategy
Trustees paused during the plenary session to pray in small groups for GuideStone, the members, churches and ministry partners served by the ministry, and the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.
“When people ask what you do in these trustee meetings, I hope you’ll tell them that we made a priority of prayer because we need the Lord’s wisdom and guidance,” Dilbeck said.
In closing comments, Dilbeck reiterated the focus of the strategy remains Christ and his church.
“The first time the word ‘reach’ is used in the English Bible is in Genesis 11,” Dilbeck said. “’Come let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name….’ We know that ‘reach’ can describe a very man-centered vision. Genesis chapter 11 teaches us to remember that God gives us a name; we don’t make one for ourselves. God has built this house. This isn’t a man-centered reach, but a Christ-centered REACH to honor his name as we serve him by enhancing financial security and resilience for those who serve the Lord.”
Roy Hayhurst is the director of enterprise communicationss at GuideStone.
Director of Enterprise Communications
Roy.Hayhurst@GuideStone.org | (214) 720-2141