SAN FRANCISCO – O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, reported on the continued growth in the number of the entity’s expanded ministry participants at a meeting of the trustees in San Francisco.
Trustees also were updated on GuideStone’s long-range plan and on health care reform efforts. Expanded ministry participants, Hawkins said, help provide stability and strength to GuideStone’s insurance program.
“Each year, we see value from our efforts to reach out and engage like-minded evangelical organizations,” Hawkins said at the July 29-30 meeting. “Currently, expanded market ministries comprise over 25 percent of our total group medical plan participants and provide more than 10 percent of total new money into the retirement plan.
“Additionally, many of the participants in our expanded ministries insurance base are younger, which enables us to keep our premiums lower for our participants, as well as providing the ability to attain additional economies of scale across all of our product lines,” Hawkins said.
GuideStone’s request for a ministry assignment change was approved by messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in June, allowing GuideStone to serve like-minded investors and individuals with a focus on Southern Baptist and evangelical church members.
Even with a potential new market, Hawkins said GuideStone will continue to serve “the SBC pastor at the crossroads” and “will remain committed to its vision of enhancing [the pastor’s] financial security.”
Citing Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish …,” Hawkins said GuideStone 100, the entity’s long-range strategic plan, provides the ministry with its design, definition, dynamic, direction and dependence.
Hawkins highlighted the more than 50 significant organizational achievements accomplished under GuideStone 95, which – along with GuideStone 90 – was a stepping stone toward the completion of GuideStone 100.
GuideStone 90 was completed in 2008, and GuideStone 95 was completed this year. Hawkins said the accomplishments of GuideStone 95 have helped position the entity for its goal of becoming the premier provider of employee benefit products to the evangelical community.
Hawkins updated trustees on GuideStone’s Mission:Dignity ministry, which raises funds to provide financial support to needy retired Southern Baptist ministers, denominational workers, missionaries and their surviving spouses. Qualifying individuals receive $200 a month in assistance; couples are eligible for $265 a month.
The amounts are doubled for the neediest persons with at least 30 years of ministerial service and lower levels of income. Trustees voted to increase the income guidelines for Tier 2 relief recipients by 12 percent to allow more people to qualify for the higher level of assistance. As of June 30, Mission:Dignity served 1,872 individuals and couples.
A record-breaking 2,400 churches participated in Mission:Dignity Sunday June 23 with more than 450,000 free bulletin inserts shared in worship services. During the first six months of 2013, 3,949 donors made gifts in support of Mission:Dignity and revenues for the program increased 13.7 percent over last year.
Mission:Dignity receives no Cooperative Program allocation and is funded primarily through the direct gifts of individuals, Sunday School classes, groups and churches. One hundred percent of gifts are used to assist aged ministers, workers and their widows in need with nothing taken out for administrative expenses.
Health care reform
Trustees heard a report from Rod Miller, GuideStone’s special counsel, on health care reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Miller noted that PPACA “fails to recognize the special legal nature of church health plans and imposes numerous new plan requirements while not affording the participants in church health care plans equal treatment with those who are in secular plans.”
“A major area of focus for us has been GuideStone’s ongoing commitment to be an advocate for employers and participants in church plans as health care reform becomes more fully applicable in 2014,” Miller said. “GuideStone continues to be actively and diligently engaged in preserving and protecting church health plans designed for those in ministry.”
Miller reiterated that GuideStone is committed to “protecting, persevering and providing fairness for church plan participants.”
In response to the health care reform report, trustees passed a resolution stating their commitment to upholding biblical convictions regarding the sanctity of life, including the lives of the unborn.
Regarding DOMA, Miller said GuideStone is “monitoring federal and state developments flowing from the decision, working with other like-minded church benefits boards to evaluate next steps and determining ways to mitigate the potential impact on church plans.”
John Jones, GuideStone’s chief operating officer, reported on GuideStone’s activities through the first half of the year, which he characterized as a “remarkable period of time across all areas of GuideStone’s ministry.”
“In May, GuideStone’s total assets increased to $11.7 billion from the previous high of $10.7 billion in the fall of 2007,” Jones said. “From an absolute performance perspective, including overall net income and returns, GuideStone Funds continue to achieve superlative results.
“In addition, GuideStone Funds has continued to receive favorable national recognition from industry firms such as Lipper and fi360. For nine straight quarters, GuideStone Funds has ranked in the top 7 percent of all fund families in the fi360 Fund Family Fiduciary Rankings universe,” Jones said.
“This is a particularly meaningful recognition because of the broad scope of criteria used by fi360 in their rankings. Their evaluation includes such factors as regulatory oversight, track record, assets under management, stability of the organization, expense ratio/fees relative to peers, risk-adjusted performance relative to peers and overall investment performance relative to peers.
“And for the second year in a row,” Jones said, “GuideStone was recognized by the Lipper Fund Awards, this time for the Best Fund Over Three Years (Mixed-Asset Target 2025 Funds) for the MyDestination 2025 Fund.”
This has been a banner year for GuideStone in medical insurance enrollment, Jones reported.
“Enrollment in our medical plans increased by over 3,000 lives, and total enrollment exceeded 33,000 lives,” Jones said. “And our group medical plans have continued to see significant gains as over 1,100 new group lives have been added since the beginning of the year.”
Regarding GuideStone’s property and casualty insurance program, Jones noted the alignment in values between GuideStone and Brotherhood Mutual since the two joined efforts to serve churches and ministry organizations, leading to some positive results in the first half of 2013.
“In the first half of the year, Property & Casualty has already surpassed total bound premiums posted in 2012,” Jones said. “In the first half of 2013, we are renewing basically 100 percent of existing accounts. Average new premium has increased nearly 70 percent, from $260,000 per month in 2012 to $440,000 per month in 2013.
“In April, GuideStone acquired the property and casualty account of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and became the first Brotherhood agency to write more than $1 million in one month. And we are proud that members of our sales team are consistently ranked in Brotherhood Mutual’s Top 10 producers nationwide – successfully closing 61 percent of all accounts they submitted this year.”
In closing remarks, Hawkins reminded trustees, “Every decision we make as trustees and staff must be considered in terms of our vision statement which says, ‘We exist to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Head is executive officer for denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources.)