SBC Life Articles

GuideStone Financial Resources Serving Those Who Serve the Lord


Dr. William Lunsford understood the need was great.

Witnessing many thousands of men returning from World War I and the care the government took for those returning soldiers sparked an idea. Seeing the pension plans of major businesses, government, and the military, Lunsford wanted to see the soldiers of the cross cared for as well.

One fall day in 1916 the Nashville pastor stood at the local Baptist pastors’ conference and issued a challenge:

“Our churches have created the conscience in government and industry to cause them to provide for their disabled and aged workers. Why don’t we practice what we preach?”

His burden was for the tragic situation of worn-out Baptist preachers and their families. Many faced hardship and physical need during their later years. Lunsford’s theme: men who dedicate their lives to the Gospel should have the love and care of their brethren in their retirement years.

His mission was met with agreement throughout the Southern Baptist Convention. Out of that early call, the ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources began. The Baptist Sunday School Board provided a $100,000 gift as seed money. Later the work of what was then called the Relief and Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention was buttressed by gifts totaling almost $1 million by the Rockefeller family.


“Our mission has grown over the years,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. “Today, we are a leading provider of retirement plans, life and health coverage, property and casualty coverage, and investment opportunities to Southern Baptist and evangelical organizations, but we’ve never forgotten nor forsaken our roots as a source to assist the ‘soldiers of the cross,’ for whom Dr. Lunsford so eloquently championed.”

The foundation of GuideStone’s ministry is Mission:Dignity. Currently serving about 2,000 retired Southern Baptist ministers and their widows, the ministry provides recipients with extra money that they use for housing, food, and vital medications. In fact, many who are helped by the ministry say they would have to choose between eating and buying needed medication were it not for the help of the ministry.

One such soldier of the cross was an Alabaman, Dewey Briscoe. After four decades of ministry, poor health forced him into vocational retirement. Because he had pastored smaller churches—many who could not provide him with retirement savings, he turned to Mission:Dignity for assistance.

“I have never been paid very much,” Briscoe noted on his application, “just enough to get by. That’s okay because I was doing the Lord’s work that He called me to do, not knowing I would live to be 80 years old. I hate to ask for help, it’s not my cup of tea, but it would be so nice if you could.”

Because of the faithful gifts of individuals, churches, and Sunday school classes, Mission:Dignity is able to help Briscoe and hundreds more like him in their senior years. In fact, 100% of the gifts given to Mission:Dignity—it receives no Cooperative Program funding—go to help those in need. No overhead expenses are withdrawn from the gifts to the ministry.

“It’s not charity,” Hawkins said. “It’s an opportunity to serve as Christ’s hand extended to those who have come before us. One of the greatest joys in our ministry at GuideStone is to serve those who have so faithfully served as pastors at the crossroads, out in those rural areas where they ‘lived by faith and not by sight.’ They simply followed the Lord’s call and trusted Him to provide.”

Retirement Planning

GuideStone’s ministry not only helps those who are retired today, it also helps ministers and other church staff members, along with employees of many hospitals, colleges and universities, retirement and children’s homes, and seminaries prepare for their retirement years by providing retirement plans.

“We recognize that ministers never retire from their calling,” Hawkins said. “So when we talk about vocational retirement of the minister, it’s with a different spirit than many retirement plan providers.

“We recognize that retirement may be a time where one will have twenty or thirty healthy years to engage in self-funded ministry. That could be time spent preaching in smaller churches, serving as a missionary or on mission trips. It could be a time spent mentoring younger pastors. Whatever it is God would have you do in those later years, we want to be a part of making that happen, to help those ministers prepare for those years by setting aside the financial resources today.”

One way GuideStone makes that possible is by serving as an advocate for ministers. Creating and providing materials like the popular annual Ministers Tax Guide, the Compensation Planning Guide, and popular webinars make it possible for ministers and churches to be good stewards of the finances they have available, while maximizing ministers’ and other employees’ financial compensation.

And, remembering those pastors at the crossroads, GuideStone offers the Wyndolyn Royster Hollifield Mission/Church Assistance Fund. Through a generous gift from the Hollifield family, GuideStone is able to offer pastors of smaller churches — those with budgets of less than $75,000 — up to $3,000 in contributions to their retirement accounts over a five-year period. Even pastors who serve in smaller churches that may not be able to provide large retirement contributions can begin the task of saving for tomorrow.

And GuideStone understands the challenges many who have been called to the ministry have in determining how to prepare financially for the future. In 2009, it launched GPS: Guided Planning Services. The free financial advice service, available to retirement-plan participants online or by telephone appointment with an adviser, is offered through GuideStone Advisors, a controlled-affiliate of GuideStone Financial Resources.

“We heard the calls daily in our Customer Service Center,” Hawkins explained. “Many would tell us, ‘Just tell me where to invest my money.’ Our participants are highly educated – many have master’s and doctoral degrees from seminaries, or are highly educated nurses, doctors, and other professionals. But many lack financial backgrounds to feel comfortable in investing on their own.”

The service provides easy-to-evaluate results and offers a personalized asset allocation recommendation for eligible GuideStone assets. It also provides a retirement income gap analysis based on participants’ projected income and expenses so that participants can make educated decisions about how to improve their chances of attaining retirement security.

Insurance Needs

With more than 200,000 participants worldwide, GuideStone Financial Resources meets many needs in small and big ways. One way it continues to meet needs is through its healthcare plans.

GuideStone provides a broad array of healthcare plans to meet budgets of all sizes for churches and individuals. To help constrain cost increases, GuideStone has placed the focus of its healthcare educational materials on wellness initiatives.

“Obese folks spend $179,000 more, in a lifetime, in healthcare costs than those who aren’t,” Hawkins said. “By making healthier lifestyle choices—watching their weight, exercising, eating right, and making sure they have regular physical check-ups—we can help control healthcare costs, not just for GuideStone, but for individuals as well.”

GuideStone participants can read weight-loss stories and other wellness success strategies by visiting www.GuideStoneInsurance.org/Wellness.aspx

One additional area in which GuideStone serves as an advocate for ministers and church staff is in the area of healthcare reform. GuideStone works with other denominational healthcare providers in making known to Congress the unique needs and benefits of healthcare plans like those offered by GuideStone

“As healthcare reform changes the way Americans are going to receive healthcare, we will be here to prepare our participants as well as it is within our ability and to help them adapt,” Hawkins emphasized. “The financial security of our participants and the ministry they received from the Lord are of utmost importance to us and is the reason we exist.”

Participants interested in how healthcare reform affects GuideStone plans can visit the dedicated Web resource at www.GuideStone.org/healthreform.

The early days of preparing for the ministry can be a financially challenging one. To that end, GuideStone began offering a free $10,000 life benefit for all full-time students attending the six Southern Baptist seminaries—Southern, Southwestern, Golden Gate, New Orleans, Midwestern, and Southeastern. The benefit helps seminary students provide a basic level of protection for their families and is just one more tangible example of GuideStone’s commitment to be a lifelong partner to those it is privileged to serve.

“Our commitment to our participants begins as they enter the ministry through seminary, and we intend to serve them to and through their retirement years,” Hawkins said.

To continue in that commitment to individuals, GuideStone expanded in 2008 to offer property and casualty insurance coverage to churches throughout the United States.

“Through GuideStone Agency Services,* our goal is to help churches be good stewards of their resources so they can focus on their calling and mission,” Hawkins said. “Our insurance is designed specifically for churches and ministries.”

Looking Ahead

Today, GuideStone is only seven years away from its centennial anniversary. To guide its growth over the next few years, trustees adopted a strategic plan, GuideStone 100. The plan helps GuideStone determine where it will grow and what opportunities it hopes to explore. The plan was birthed out of many scores of hours of preparation and prayerful consideration.

“GuideStone’s history has been one of honoring the Lord as we serve those who have served Him,” Hawkins said. “We at GuideStone are blessed to take part in His plan for this ministry. We look forward to the years leading to our centennial and the opportunities to serve our participants today and into the future.”

Roy Hayhurst is a member of Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas, and is editorial services manager for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.


1918-1920             Board of Ministerial Relief and Annuities
1920-1961             Relief and Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention
1961-2004             Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention
2004-Present         GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention

1918-1927            William Lunsford
1927-1947             Thomas J. Watts
1947-1954             Walter R. Alexander
1954-1972             R. Alton Reed
1972-1990             Darold H. Morgan
1990-1997             Paul W. Powell
1997-Present          O.S. Hawkins


•  For the first 30 years, GuideStone’s primary role was to provide for the immediate needs of  pastors and families seeking financial assistance and to assist others in their retirement needs by providing annuities.

• In the mid-1960s, life and health insurance programs were added to the offerings, and the forms of coverage continued to expand.

• In August 2001, GuideStone launched a family of Christian-based, socially screened registered mutual funds, which made IRA and non-retirement investing accounts available to participants and their spouses.*

*  A controlled-affiliate of GuideStone Financial Resources. GuideStone Agency Services, Inc. in GA and KY. GuideStone Insurance Agency Service Co. in AZ, CA and IN. GuideStone Agency Services Co. in VT.


•  Employer-sponsored retirement plans
•  Deferred compensation plans
•  Personal Investment Accounts
•  Individual Retirement Accounts
•  Medical, dental, life, and disability plans
•  Group medical plans for 10 or more employees
•  Health reimbursement arrangements
•  Property and Casualty insurance
•  Actuarial services


Curtis D. Sharp, Executive Officer for Denominational and Public Relations,
GuideStone Financial Resources, SBC.
Contact Mr. Sharp via e-mail, [email protected], or by telephone at (214) 720-2127.

    About the Author

  • Roy Hayhurst

    Roy Hayhurst is director of denominational and public relations services for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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