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SBC BRIEFS: GuideStone expands term life amounts; … LifeWay touts offering envelopes

GUIDESTONE EXPANDS TERM LIFE AMOUNTS — GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention will offer enhancements to its term life insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1.

GuideStone’s term life plans — available exclusively to fulltime salaried ministers and staff of Southern Baptist Convention churches and entities, their families and students of SBC seminaries and Bible colleges — will be available in amounts up to $750,000 for employees, $250,000 for spouses and $100,000 for seminary students. Previous amounts were $500,000 for employees, $100,000 for spouses and $50,000 for seminary students.

“We see this as a step forward in our mission to ‘enhance the financial security of our participants,'” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said. “And we’ve been able to do this without increasing rates for more than a decade.”

Life insurance, as noted in a GuideStone news release, “is a key source for ensuring a family’s well-being in the event of a primary wage-earner’s death.” How much life insurance a family needs depends on their financial circumstances. According to the GuideStone release, key questions are: “Does a family depend primarily on one income? What is their current debt amount? How much savings do they have?” Future factors such funeral costs and college tuition also should be considered in determining individual life insurance needs, the news release stated. Term life rates are based on the participant’s age.

GuideStone provides an online life insurance calculator that can help a family project future financial needs. To access the calculator, visit www.GuideStone.org. To get a quote for coverage or more information about enrolling in a term life plan or one of GuideStone’s medical, dental, disability or accident plans, visit www.GuideStone.org or call 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433).

The GuideStone news release noted that LIMRA, a life insurance industry research firm, reports that 22 percent of families with dependent children say they will have immediate trouble meeting everyday living expenses if a primary wage earner dies. Another 26 percent will only be able to cover expenses for a few months if faced with this situation. In addition, 15 percent of husbands and 28 percent of wives have no life insurance at all.

OFFERING ENVELOPES TOUTED -– The offering envelope, though sometimes overlooked, can be an effective way to encouraging faithful giving, according to a LifeWay Christian Resources news release.

In the past, churches have traditionally sent church members one large box of offering envelopes in January to last throughout the entire year. Ben Stroup, who coordinates LifeWay’s envelope service, recommends implementing a mailing program instead — monthly, bimonthly or quarterly — as an effective method to increase per capita giving by reminding church members to be faithful givers.

“Now you can customize the design on the envelope, print in color or even order colored envelopes,” Stroup added. “There is so much churches can do now to encourage increased stewardship in their congregations.”

Jim Baker, associate pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church near Nashville, Tenn., said his church has seen an average annual increase of more than 20 percent in giving since opting to send members envelopes monthly rather than annually.

Additionally, when Brentwood Baptist began raising funds for a capital campaign, a colored envelope was used to distinguish the capital campaign envelope from the typical tithe envelope, a step Stroup recommends.

“It is much easier to remember to place the ‘pink’ capital campaign envelope in the offering plate rather than designate funds on a specific line on your standard envelope,” Stroup said. “Also, everyone will notice the colored envelopes placed in the offering plate during the worship service. The use of a colored envelope serves as a silent reminder to those present that the capital campaign funds are just as important as the general fund.”

Baker also decided to leave Brentwood’s capital campaign envelopes in the offering envelope mix beyond the three-year campaign timeline. The result? An extra $500,000 was raised. The church also uses a different color envelope for its missions campaign in the winter.

Other tips for creative offering envelope implementation include:

–utilizing the postage already paid to include a small communication piece with the monthly envelope mailing with information about stewardship, updates on campaigns or a personal note from the pastor.

–It’s never too early to teach stewardship: Generic or custom-made children’s offering envelopes are available through LifeWay. Have children’s Sunday School classes compete in designing a children’s offering envelope and use the winning design among the youngest churchgoers.

— LifeWay also offers bilingual envelopes.

Churches can learn more about LifeWay’s offering envelope service and mail programs at www.lifewaystores.com/envelopes or by calling 1-800-874-6319. Additional information on current issues on stewardship and giving is available at LifeWay’s Do More Ministry blog at www.lifewaystores.com/domoreministry.

WOMEN’S MINISTRY LEADERS MEET — More than 800 local church women’s ministry leaders attended the Women’s Ministry National Leadership Forum Nov. 13-15 at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn.

Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer, author of “When God Speaks” and “Discerning the Voice of God,” reminded the women that God knows exactly where they are in their stage of life. As a mother of two small boys, she said an hour-long quiet time sometimes is just not possible. But, she suggested, “Put a verse or two on pieces of paper and tape one on your mirror, put one in your purse, put one in your laundry room.

“Put that Scripture where you will see it constantly throughout your day or week,” she said. “Meditate on that verse and ask God to put that verse in your heart and show you everything He wants you to learn. Ask Him to speak to you through that verse. Very often you may find that you get more depth from that than you will from reading one or two chapters more quickly.”

Author and Bible teacher Kay Arthur, speaking on prayer, reminded, “You, the created, are communicating with God, the Creator.” And prayer is a relationship. “God wants you to draw near to Him,” Arthur said. “He is waiting for you.”

Reflecting on prayer as dependence on God, Arthur said, “When we recognize and accept this dependence, we learn to trust and stand firm. …

“I’ve done this a long time, but what has helped me most is learning that God is sovereign. That doesn’t change,” Arthur said.

Rhonda Kelley, director of women’s ministry programs at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking from 1 Thessalonians 5:12, told the women, “I want you to know that our Lord Jesus Christ thinks you are highly esteemed.”

The Apostle Paul’s writings conferred esteem to those who do the work of the Lord, she said. Paul also exhorted leaders of the faith to live a life worthy of the calling.

“Along with the esteem comes exhortation,” Kelley said. “As leaders in women’s ministry we must examine all our actions and live a set-apart life.”

Shaunti Feldhahn, author of “For Women Only,” led a session on “Connecting with Men.” “The primary need for women is to feel loved,” she said. “The primary need for a man is to feel respected. A man’s worst feeling is to not feel respected.”

Feldhahn then offered examples of “respect language” such as telling one’s husband, “I am proud of you” and “Thank you for what you do in this family.” Such language, she said, builds well-being in men and helps them to feel confident in other areas of their lives.

The language of appreciation and respect also applies to sons and male leaders in the workplace, said Feldhahn, who also coauthored “For Parents Only” with Lisa Rice and “For Men Only” with her husband Jeff.

David Landrith, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., spoke from a pastor’s perspective, giving counsel on various matters, including:

— Do not let public ministry substitute for private devotion. “What is most important is who you are on the inside,” Landrith said. “Don’t get so busy doing for God that you neglect being in the presence of God.”

— Have accountability. People in ministry are not immune to crashing and burning, Landrith said. “It’s pride if you think you will ‘never do that’ or ‘that will never happen to me.’ Have someone in your life who can speak boldly to you.”

— Do not lack flexibility. “God delights in pushing us out of our comfort zones so we learn to trust Him and be flexible,” Landrith said. “The real challenge is to maintain the posture of ‘God, You tell us where to go and we will follow You.'”

— Don’t give up too soon. Speaking to those who may be on the verge of abandoning their leadership roles, Landrith said, “Anything worth doing is going to have costs. Keep pushing forward and follow God until He releases you from what you are doing.”
Compiled by Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press.

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