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GuideStone’s retirement & relief benefits top $443M

DALLAS (BP)–Retirement and relief benefits paid by GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention rose 9.5 percent in 2004, to reach more than $443 million.

In 2004 retirement benefits, GuideStone distributed more than $437 million to 30,114 persons receiving benefits on Dec. 31, 2004. The amounts paid out included annuity option payments, installment payments, withdrawals and rollovers. A total of 2,305 new benefits were established during the year.

Relief benefits of $5.5 million, meanwhile, were paid to 2,472 individuals or couples in 2004, with most of the money going to retired ministers or their widows who receive inadequate retirement benefits. GuideStone received approximately $1.4 million from the SBC’s Cooperative Program during 2004, all of which was spent on relief ministry. Individuals and churches provided an additional $4.1 million to fund the relief ministry.

“GuideStone was established as the Commission on Ministerial Relief and Annuity in 1918 with the goal to provide monetary relief for Southern Baptist ministers, their widows and orphans and to encourage investments leading to retirement benefits,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. The numbers, he said, “represent lives touched.”

“The heartbeat of our ministry remains with the pastor at the crossroads and we strive every day to enhance the financial security of Southern Baptist pastors and church staff members,” Hawkins added.

In addition to benefits paid through retirement plans and the relief ministry, GuideStone paid more than $8.5 million in protection benefits to 908 participants or their families. The protection benefits are provided at no cost to the participant or the church and are a value-added feature of the Church Annuity Plan available to eligible Southern Baptist ministers and church employees.

These benefits are the Disability Income Benefit and the Survivor Protection Benefit. The Disability Income Benefit provides an income of up to $500 per month if a participant becomes disabled plus $35 is contributed to the participant’s retirement account each month of the disability.

The Survivor Protection Benefit is paid to a participant’s beneficiary if the participant dies prior to retirement. The benefit amount depends upon a participant’s age at death, but can be as much as $100,000. These benefits are paid in addition to all the money in the retirement account and in addition to any other disability or life insurance program the participant may have.

Robert Henry, director of GuideStone’s church retirement marketing department said GuideStone works closely with each Baptist state convention to provide these protection benefits as a safety net for ministers and church employees. “Every year hundreds of our participants and their families who face a financial crisis discover that these benefits become an answer to their prayer for financial help in a time of real need,” Henry said.

In 2004, GuideStone distributed more than $4 million in disability benefits to 750 participants and more than $4.5 million in survivor benefits to 158 participants’ families.

Richard Skidmore, church ministry support specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, noted, “The historic relationship between GuideStone and the Baptist state conventions of providing protection benefits to ministers and church employees is as crucial today as it was when it was first offered in the 1970s.

“Recently, a pastor in our state died in an accident. I will long remember meeting with his wife and being able to tell her she would be receiving a $75,000 survivor benefit, in addition to her husband’s retirement accumulations, just because of her husband’s participation in the Church Annuity Plan,” Skidmore recounted.

“From my experience,” he said, “these benefits are invaluable to many families and often become the major part of income needed during difficult circumstances.”

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