DALLAS (BP) — Last January, at the start of GuideStone Financial Resources centennial anniversary, O.S. Hawkins declared 2018 the Year of New Beginnings.
With a new headquarters for the Southern Baptist entity, the launch of new health care options and the successful completion of the GuideStone 100 long-range plan that has guided the board’s work for more than a decade, 2018 indeed became a year of new beginnings for GuideStone.
“We believe that our best years remain in front of us,” Hawkins, GuideStone’s president since 1997, said. “In 2018, we paused to give God thanks for the blessings He has bestowed on us and to look expectantly for what He will do through us in this ministry we have received from Him.”
Among notable changes and new beginnings in 2018:
Relocation to Pinnacle Tower
In August, GuideStone moved from its longtime home in Dallas’ Uptown neighborhood to new leased office space in Dallas’ Midtown neighborhood. GuideStone occupies the top five floors of Pinnacle Tower, one of the most prominent office towers between downtown Dallas and fast-growing suburban Collin County, along the Dallas North Tollway and its intersection with Interstate 635. The sale of the building in Uptown and move to smaller office space will net savings of more than $4 million annually.
GuideStone signage sits atop the north and east sides of the building, visible to commuters in 500,000 vehicles that pass by daily.
“We executed the move with no downtime, no interruption in service to our participants, and we did so under budget,” Hawkins noted. “We’re thankful for our staff and outside team that made this transition as seamless as possible.”
Mission:Dignity receives unprecedented #GivingTuesday support
Thanks in part to $250,000 in matching contributions, GuideStone had a record day of giving, receiving $529,198 in donations to Mission:Dignity, which provides financial support to retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows in financial need. The neediest couples with at least 25 years of paid Southern Baptist service can receive up to $600 each month in aid.
The donations came one week after a Dallas/Fort Worth area-based television ministry gifted Mission:Dignity $100,000 for its work. Mission:Dignity is on track to have one of its best years on record.
“The generosity of God’s people in answering the call to care for these good and godly people is a joy for all of us who work with Mission:Dignity,” Hawkins said. “We are often reminded of the dear pastor’s widow who wrote us once, telling us, ‘Bless you. I have something to eat tonight and it’s not just a piece of toast.'”
Completion of GuideStone 100 long-range strategic plan
GuideStone wrapped up its long-range strategic plan, GuideStone 100, successfully completing each of the milestones laid out in the report. The plan guided the ministry through changing its name from the Annuity Board, registering its investment options, serving likeminded evangelical churches and ministries and making its investment options available to the broader investment community, with an emphasis on faith-based investors.
Today, GuideStone’s work continues to be guided by Vision 20/20, an addendum to GuideStone 100, which focuses on three core objectives: increasing market share, responding to changes in the marketplace and continuing to aggressively manage costs while keeping participant service as the No. 1 focus.
“We have always aimed to be a ministry that adopts and operates with best business practices for the benefit of our participants,” said John R. Jones, GuideStone’s chief operating officer, “and both the recently completed GuideStone 100 and Vision 20/20 long-range plans help us keep our focus on the needs of our participants, especially the Southern Baptist pastors and churches we are privileged to serve.”
Launch of Secure Health 3000 and increased benefits for 2019
Churches and pastors looking for budget-minded health care coverage as well as protection for themselves, their employees and their families have another GuideStone option to consider. Under the new Secure Health plan, eligible participants still have access to the nationwide Blue Cross Blue Shield network. Primary care visits and Teladoc consultations are available at no out-of-pocket charge. Some care — such as out-of-network service — is not covered. Before enrolling in the plan, GuideStone encourages participants to review their health coverage needs to see if GuideStone’s Secure Health is an appropriate coverage choice.
As part of expanded benefits in most GuideStone health plans in 2019, Teladoc consultations are available at no charge for all health plan participants beginning in January. Additional enhancements include a new diabetic management program, elimination of some inpatient co-pays in comprehensive plans and reduced individual maximum out-of-pocket charges. All of these enhancements were implemented while keeping average rate increases below 3 percent for Group Plans. Personal Plans participants will see rate increases related only to participant ages. These are the lowest rate adjustments GuideStone has been able to provide in a number of years, with many groups experiencing no rate change, even with the added benefits.
“Our insurance team worked diligently to add significant value to our health plans while mitigating the impacts of medical inflation,” Hawkins said. “While the impacts of medical inflation due to high utilization and unhealthy lifestyles along with the lingering impacts of federal health care reform are real, our team worked hard to enhance the products at minimal additional costs.”
Increased market volatility in 2018
As GuideStone experts had predicted, volatility in the financial markets increased throughout 2018. GuideStone’s chief strategic investment officer David Spika, a frequent guest on CNBC and other financial media, noted that volatility has been below normal for the two years leading into this year.
“With volatility at historically low levels, even normal volatility going forward will create angst for some investors,” Spika said. “As the impact of the tax cuts fades and the impact of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates — or even considering interest rate hikes — grows, investors should expect volatility to increase.”
While volatility can be unnerving, the best course of action for retirement investors is to stick with their long-term asset allocation plans, Hawkins said.
“The emotions of the headlines of a 24/7 news cycle can be hard on retirement investors, but GuideStone believes it is best to avoid overreacting and for investors to stick with their long-term plans,” Hawkins said.
P&C expands into Louisiana
GuideStone, through its alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, began serving as an insurance agent in the Bayou State this year. While the alliance is nationwide, GuideStone serves as a Brotherhood Mutual agent in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.
“Since 2012, we have found the alliance with Brotherhood Mutual to be beneficial for the churches we are privileged to serve,” Hawkins said. “We are committed to providing a comprehensive solution to churches from an organization committed to their ministry success. We hear regularly from churches that they have struggled to find good insurance solutions from companies committed to their church.
“We hear often about dramatic coverage gaps and high deductibles. Through our alliance, we’re able to offer these benefits to protect churches and ministries well,” Hawkins continued. “As an added bonus, many are finding this better service and benefits at a potentially better price.”
First Baptist Church in Norco became the first Louisiana church served by GuideStone and Brotherhood Mutual.
2019 and beyond
“I believe that if our founder, Dr. William Lunsford, were to look over the portals of heaven at what GuideStone has become, he would be amazed,” Hawkins said. “We are so thankful for the vision the Lord gave to Lunsford and for his obedience in following the Lord’s vision. We believe we remain faithful to his original calling.
“We still have much to do. We continue to advocate with regulators and legislators on behalf of the minister’s housing allowance, to educate churches on church security and background checks to keep predators away from our vulnerable populations. We are as committed as ever to help a generation of pastors reach that place of vocational retirement, ready to be used by the Lord in whatever ways He has planned for them, and we look forward to carrying out the ministry He has for us in 2019 and beyond.”