DALLAS (BP) — “We continue to witness the hand of God day-to-day in our work,” GuideStone President Hance Dilbeck said. “As we look back on 2023, it is with gratitude for all the Lord is doing through us, and we also lean into 2024 with expectancy for what he is planning to do through us next year.”
During 2023, GuideStone retirement contributions grew by more than 6% year-over-year between 2022 and 2023. Protection benefits, provided to eligible Church Retirement Plan members by GuideStone and state conventions, totaled more than $4 million as of November 20. Almost 97,000 members have been served in GuideStone’s health plans this past year.
In addition to Southern Baptist churches and ministry organizations, GuideStone’s ministry assignment since 2004 has allowed it to serve like-minded evangelical churches and ministry organizations with retirement, investment and insurance products and services. This expansion continues to enable GuideStone to obtain additional economies of scale that allow more efficient service for all members and ministry partners.
“Those ministries have grown through the past 20 years and help improve our service and extend our Kingdom reach,” Dilbeck said. “Southern Baptists are still the great majority of our ministry partners and members, and in fact, our present strategy is focused on strengthening our SBC core.
“We are thankful for all churches, ministries, pastors and others who trust GuideStone with their investment and employee benefit needs. We look forward to continuing to earn that trust as we start 2024.”
New Resources for Ministers
In October, GuideStone launched its free online Ministerial Resources Center, which assists ministers and church decision-makers enhance their financial security and resilience. This new resource center includes seven educational videos, providing guidance on navigating the unique IRS guidelines and benefits applicable to ministers, along with best practices for pastoral salaries, Social Security and insurance.
“We have a vision that seeks to see ‘every servant of Christ finishes well,’ and a Mission that reminds us that we strive to ‘enhance financial security and resilience for those who serve the Lord.’” Chief Retirement Officer Christy Teeter said. “Providing these resources to help a pastor achieve his financial security allows him to focus on the ministry to which he has been called.”
Launch of new Impact Funds
In February, GuideStone Funds launched two impact Funds: the Impact Equity Fund and the Impact Bond Fund. The funds will offer investors a diverse, returns-oriented portfolio based on the biblical values of the sanctity of life, stewardship of God’s creation, and human dignity and advancement.
The two new impact funds highlight the investment strategies first implemented in the January 2021 launch of the Global Impact Fund by segmenting the bond portfolio to the Impact Bond Fund and assigning equity investments to the Impact Equity Fund. The funds offer investors two distinct and diverse portfolios that advance human flourishing and span a variety of industries, including health care, technology and consumer business.
Enhancing SBC Relationships
A former GuideStone trustee with experience in private wealth management joined GuideStone to lead efforts to coordinate GuideStone‘s relationships within all levels of Southern Baptist Life. David S. Puckett joined as Chief Denominational Relationship Officer, providing leadership to the Denominational Relations, Pastoral Wellness, Executive Communications and Mission:Dignity teams.
“David was a valuable, engaged trustee who understands the ministry assignment GuideStone has from Southern Baptists,” Dilbeck said. “I’m pleased to have him on staff to help lead our efforts to leverage our financial and ministry expertise to better serve our Southern Baptist ministry partners.”
GuideStone bids farewell to John R. Jones
Trustees, staff and special guests, including Jones’ wife of 45 years, Ann, their three adult children and their spouses, celebrated retiring Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones during a special dinner during the winter trustee meeting.
Jones worked diligently to ensure GuideStone would remain a ministry, but one guided by best business practices. It was something he exemplified every day, Dilbeck said.
“When I first came to GuideStone, I asked the Lord to give me a great working relationship with John Jones, and he did that and so much more,” Dilbeck said. “John is a Christian gentleman, has an agile business mind and has become a tremendous friend these past 20 months.”
Jones became chief operating officer at the beginning of the tenure of then-new Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins, now GuideStone’s president emeritus and Chancellor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“He is one of the most important men in Southern Baptist life, but few people know his name,” Hawkins said. “He is highly relational. Every employee feels seen and heard by John; he cares deeply for people inside GuideStone, and those that GuideStone is privileged to serve. His heart for Mission:Dignity is contagious. He cares about the ‘pastor at the crossroads,’ who labors in often forgotten places, faithfully laboring out of the spotlight for the Lord. John wants to see these servants finish well and have the financial security they need to serve the Lord however the Lord leads.”
Jones served out 2023 as special assistant to the executive office, providing counsel and insight for the leadership team.
Soh elevated to Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Chu Soh, who joined GuideStone® in June 2020 as chief insurance officer, was unanimously elected chief operating officer by GuideStone trustees during their regular winter meetings, succeeding Jones.
Before coming to GuideStone, Soh served as chief operating officer of Christian Care Ministry, growing it from 23,000 households in 2013 to more than 150,000 in his final year. He is also a retired U.S. Air Force officer.
“Chu Soh brings a commitment to integrity, heart and skill,” Dilbeck said. “He helped infuse this throughout the enterprise, and we are all better for his leadership during these days.”
New Resources for SECURE 2.0 Act
GuideStone launched an online resource, GuideStone.org/SecureAct2, assisting churches and ministry-related organizations and their employees with navigating changes to 403(b) retirement plans in accordance with the SECURE 2.0 Act (SECURE 2.0). This resource will be updated as the IRS issues new guidance to assist organizations in complying with the provisions of SECURE 2.0 over the coming years.
SECURE 2.0 was signed into law on December 29, 2022, with the purpose of improving Americans’ retirement opportunities by reducing barriers that stand in the way of individuals being able to save. SECURE 2.0 provisions include changes such as raising the Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) to 73 in 2023, allowing for Roth employer contributions, increasing the current catch-up contribution limit and permitting student loan matching contributions and emergency savings accounts within individuals’ retirement plans.
Timelines for these and other provisions are available at GuideStone.org/SecureAct2.
Million dollar offerings
Mission:Dignity exceeded $1.5 million in gifts for the Mission:Dignity Sunday offering and Giving Tuesday.
“The generosity of God’s people to care for His servants is a sight to behold,” Dilbeck said. “Since Mission:Dignity receives no Cooperative Program funding for our monthly support, it’s through the free-will offerings of individuals, foundations, Sunday school classes and local churches that we can care for these retired servants. What a blessing it is to give to these dear workers in their retirement years.”
To give to Mission:Dignity, learn more about the ministry, apply for assistance, or to refer someone in need, visit MissionDignity.org.
Various 13th Check States
Throughout 2023, Mission:Dignity joined with state conventions to ensure recipients in their states would receive an extra check. These 13th checks were tremendous blessings to the retired pastors, their wives, or widows served through Mission:Dignity.
State conventions in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Dakotas, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (SBTC), and Virginia (SBCV) provided the benefit to recipients in their states. Additionally, Georgia Mission:Dignity recipients receive an extra blessing thanks to the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation, which reimburses some health expenses incurred by Georgia Mission:Dignity recipients.
O.S. and Susie Hawkins Fund
Trustees recognized Hawkins by renaming a special fund, the O.S. and Susie Hawkins Emergency Grant Fund. The Hawkins fund was established to perpetually provide the emergency needs of the financially poorest Mission:Dignity recipients. Those emergency needs could include hearing aids, eyeglasses, dentures, medical bills and home repairs. Today, Mission:Dignity recipients in this income level earn an average of $1,033 monthly.
“One of the dear pastor widows we serve makes even less,” Aaron Meraz, director of Mission:Dignity, told trustees. “Her monthly income is less than $900, and recently, she needed new eyeglasses that would cost her $550. We were able to come alongside her because of these grants and help ensure she could have the glasses she needs.”
Meraz told trustees the Hawkins Emergency Grant Fund is in addition to gifts given to continue to provide monthly grants to more than 2,800 retired pastors and their widows.