The legacy of several hundred International Mission Board missionary families has become part of the Southern Baptist Foundation, marking its 70th year of ministry in 2017.
Photo by Morris Abernathy
Warren Peek, president of the Southern Baptist Foundation, recaps the legacy planning services it provides during a meeting of the SBC Executive Committee.
The foundation added legacy planning five years ago, serving more than 1,400 families, from missionaries to people in all walks of life intent on using their life’s financial gains to advance the cause of Christ.
“Helping our missionaries develop estate plans has given us an opportunity to build wonderful relationships,” said Warren Peek, the foundation’s president.
“We have been blessed by stories of remote villages opening their hearts to God’s love,” Peek said. “We have been inspired by the tireless devotion our missionaries have as they share the Good News each day to those who are lost. We have been humbled by their generous hearts as they have chosen to give to churches, ministries and faith-based organizations through their own estate plans.”
To date, more than $250 million in future gifts will be generated from the 1,400 families’ estate plans for missions and ministry.
“We help support every cause in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Peek said, noting that the foundation stands ready to help not just missionaries, but anyone who to develop a strategic plan to give to causes they love and care about.
Online at sbfdn.org, the foundation encourages people to “live like today is our last day,” Peek said.
“When you look at a tombstone, there is a birth date, a dash and a date of death,” he said. “That dash represents your life. What will that dash mean to others? What choices are you going to make? Will your choices advance God’s Kingdom? Each of us has the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for others to build on.”
The transfer of wealth during the next 25 years, by many estimates, will reach $40 trillion, yet in a 2012 LifeWay Research survey, 80 percent of pastors said their church provides no legacy planning resources to its members.
In addition to legacy planning, the foundation’s services – since its founding – include long- and short-term investment management of nearly $600 million in funds held by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entities – investments that are screened for social appropriateness.
The foundation began in 1947 with $13,000 in investments and $25,000 for its initial operations from the SBC’s Cooperative Program (CP).
It began operating without CP funding in October 2013 and is now in the process of repaying its 63 years of SBC support by giving 10 percent of its net revenue back to CP each year.
“We want to be an example for others in giving,” Peek said of strengthening CP funding for missions and ministry. “The foundation wants to show our support for the Cooperative Program.”
The foundation’s services have extended to an array of individuals and their chosen causes, including:
- One donor in the mid-1960s who created a scholarship fund for individuals from any mountain region in the U.S. attending a Baptist college or seminary. More than 600 scholarships have been awarded from $1.9 million earned in interest over the years from the initial gift.
- The late Merv Ghoering, a grain and cattle farmer in South Dakota and member of an American Baptist church, whose regard for Southern Baptists grew through the televised preaching of the late Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., and the defense of the faith on CNN’s “Larry King Live” by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) President R. Albert Mohler Jr. Ghoering left $550,000 in his will to SBTS, the Cooperative Program and the Southern Baptist Foundation.
- Two $1 bills sent by a disabled adult who wrote, “Please use money where [it’s] needed most. Please let me know if you got the money.” Peek keeps the 33-year-old’s letter in his desk. “This gift is very significant to me as it reminds me of the widow’s mite found in Luke 21:1-4,” Peek said.
- The late Earl and Vivian Shoemake who created a $500,000 charitable trust during the 1970s that paid them an income of $1.4 million over the course of 30 years and then provided $1.1 million to Baptist causes upon their death.
The foundation’s legacy planning services include:
- Facilitating outright gifts and other charitable giving strategies to support Baptist causes.
- Designing comprehensive estate plans, including wills and various types of family-related and charitable trusts, in which individuals can designate a portion of their estate to be left to family members and a portion to be devoted to Christian causes, along with such matters as custody of children and naming of an executor (personal representative).
- Durable power of attorney designations if a donor becomes incapacitated in handling health care and financial decisions.
- Charitable gift annuities and charitable trusts through which a couple or an individual can receive income for the rest of their lives, with the remainder donated upon their death to their selected causes.
- Donor-advised funds that provide a current charitable tax deduction with the ability to distribute gifts from time-to-time over a number of years to ministries recommended by the donor.
The foundation, a subsidiary of the SBC Executive Committee, also has worked with a number of SBC entities and state Baptist foundations on various planning initiatives. Once the legacy decisions are made, donors are ready to take the documents to an attorney for legal filing.
EC President Frank S. Page, as chairman of the foundation’s board of directors, sees it as a key part of the SBC, saying, “How I wish that all Southern Baptists were aware of the great ministry of the foundation. It can help a family or individual make an impact for all eternity.”
Said Peek, “By partnering with the Southern Baptist Foundation, the world is being changed. Through the services of the foundation, missionaries are being trained and encouraged, students are being educated to share the gospel, churches are being planted, cities are being transformed, lives are being impacted and forever changed across the world.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press. Leigh Anne Bowick, director of communications for the Southern Baptist Foundation, contributed to this article.)