GuideStone Financial Resources trustees heard reports from the Southern Baptist entity’s executive leadership team and staff about the ministry’s key lines of business during their July 29–30 meeting in San Francisco.
Trustees also adopted a response to a motion during the SBC annual meeting in June for convention entities to “provide an update related to their efforts to address abuse” for the 2020 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
President O.S. Hawkins, in his address to trustees, referred to GuideStone’s annual theme, the Year of Harvest, to discuss how the ministry is looking outward, inward and ultimately upward to reap the harvest the Lord has prepared for it over the last several years.
Reminding trustees of the completion last year of its long-range plan, GuideStone 100, Hawkins told trustees that the ministry must always know where it is going, who it is and why it is here. To maintain the momentum GuideStone has had, the organization adopted Vision 20/20 to run concurrently with the last years of GuideStone 100 and forward.
Vision 20/20 is a long-range strategic plan guiding the ministry with three strategic goals: increasing market share, responding to changes in the marketplace and aggressively managing costs within GuideStone.
“When William Lunsford, our first president, promised Southern Baptists that we’d care for them in their old age and walk beside them, he was making a commitment that we seek to live out each and every day,” Hawkins said. “It is our prayer that we never lose sight of the vision we have: to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security.”
Chief Operating Officer John R. Jones spoke to key initiatives GuideStone is pursuing, including identifying relationships that have the potential to help GuideStone achieve its vision and mission, evaluating the current service model and identifying future enhancements, focusing on participant outcomes, and a customer experience transformation focused on improving technology to provide better outcomes and experiences.
Jones emphasized that these initiatives aim to enhance GuideStone’s effectiveness in serving its participants. A survey taken earlier in 2019 asked 10,023 GuideStone participants how satisfied they were in their relationship with GuideStone, with 98 percent saying they were somewhat or very satisfied.
When asked for the one word they would use to describe GuideStone, the top five responses, comprising a third of the responses, included “Trustworthy,” “Helpful,” “Reliable,” “Dependable” and “Christian.”
“We do not take these results lightly,” Jones said. “Our intent is to continue listening to our participants, anticipating and exceeding their expectations at every turn.”
Financial results continue to be strong: As of June 30, organizational assets hit another all-time high with $16.4 billion in assets under management, an increase of $1 billion year-over-year. Retirement and investment contributions are up 22 percent for the first half of the year, as compared to the same period in 2018. Institutional plus intermediary channels comprise 40 percent of contributions in 2019, compared to 28 percent in 2018 and 20 percent in 2017. GuideStone continues to reap the benefits of increased brand awareness and enhancements to the investment lineup.
Among the items enhancing GuideStone’s brand awareness were honors received in March. At a dinner in New York on March 7, GuideStone Funds was awarded the Lipper Fund Award from Refinitiv – formerly presented by Thomson Reuters – as the Best Overall Small Fund Family for 2019. The entire GuideStone Funds family won the Lipper Fund Award for 2019 Best Overall Small Company over three years (out of 29 eligible as of Nov. 30, 2018) based on risk-adjusted total return. Of the 222 small fund families, only 29 met the standards to be considered for the Best Overall Small Fund Family prestigious award, with up to $76.8 billion in assets under management. This marks the second time in less than a decade that GuideStone was honored with this top award.
On the insurance front, claims have increased year over year from 2018 to 2019 and medical and prescription drug inflation is running higher than the amount used in pricing. Contract renegotiations have reduced carrier expenses and decreased internal operating expenses have helped offset the increased claims and inflation.
On the property and casualty (P&C) front, revenues continue to grow even as expenses remain consistent. The nationwide program in an alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company grew in 2018, as GuideStone now serves as a Brotherhood Mutual agent in Louisiana. It continues to serve as an agent in Texas and Alabama. GuideStone currently is renewing 98.3 percent of its P&C clients.
Mission:Dignity, GuideStone’s ministry of financial assistance to retired Southern Baptist pastors and their widows near the poverty line, continues to grow in both total gifts and new donors, compared year-to-year. Total gifts were $4.4 million so far this year, compared to $3.5 million last year. So far in 2019, 5,460 donors made gifts to Mission:Dignity, including 714 new contributors – compared to 608 new contributors in the first half of last year.
During business sessions, trustees adopted a resolution affirming the entity’s commitment to partnering with the Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee and other Southern Baptists in fighting sexual abuse that has affected some churches. The resolution was in response to a motion forwarded to all Southern Baptist entities during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Birmingham in June, asking for a response at the 2020 meeting in Orlando, Fla. (The GuideStone resolution follows this article.)
“GuideStone will do all it can do within its ministry assignment to help churches in their efforts to be safe places for vulnerable populations and help churches know how to respond well to reports of abuse in their midst,” Hawkins said.
Trustees of GuideStone Financial Resources responded during their July 29–30 meeting in San Francisco to a motion at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., referred to all SBC entities.
That the Southern Baptist Convention request each of the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention provide an update related to their efforts to address abuse and report back to the 2020 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, covering three subjects:
1. What is their entity doing to foster effective abuse awareness, prevention, and care?
2. What additional steps has their entity taken to address abuse since the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas, Texas?
3. How is their entity partnering with the efforts of the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group to address abuse?”
That the board of trustees of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention (“GuideStone”) report to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 9–10, 2020, that GuideStone stands with all Southern Baptists, our sister entities and the churches against the scourge of sexual abuse visited upon the vulnerable in our churches and ministry organizations. We are fully supportive of the recommendations by SBC President J.D. Greear’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group and others interested in protecting children, youth and other vulnerable populations. GuideStone is committed as well to assisting churches and ministry organizations to develop procedures and policies that would avoid such abuse from ever occurring.
To that end:
1. GuideStone has worked closely with MinistrySafe, a leading entity that already is working with state conventions, churches and other SBC ministries to provide policies, procedures and training. MinistrySafe has trained more than 1 million staff and volunteers in more than 16,000 organizations in preventing abuse and responding to reports of abuse. GuideStone has sponsored seminars and conferences with MinistrySafe in Texas and Alabama, as well as offered a nationally available webcast in conjunction with MinistrySafe and Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, attended by more than 5,000 SBC church and ministry leaders.
2. Internally, GuideStone, which has robust employment policies, has reviewed all of its policies and procedures to ensure that all employees are free to work in an environment free of harassment and abuse. GuideStone contracts with an outside provider to provide a confidential hotline – available by phone, email, fax or web – to report incidents of harassment so that they may be addressed quickly. For our participants, GuideStone has made available articles and resources on our website from MinistrySafe and Strategos International, a recognized faith-based company that helps churches and other organizations create and maintain secure environments.
3. GuideStone’s alliance with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company also helps augment the work of the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group. GuideStone’s commitment is helping churches respond well to reports of abuse, responding quickly to reports and providing appropriate care for victims, and providing resources and access to training to help churches mitigate and – we pray – eliminate the chances for an abuser to access vulnerable populations in Southern Baptist churches. Through GuideStone’s alliance with Brotherhood Mutual, churches can acquire Sexual Acts Liability coverage which extends limited counseling cost coverage for victims of sexual abuse by ministry personnel. This coverage can help churches as they seek to care well for the victims of abuse.
GuideStone offers policy and procedure reviews for churches and ministries in our Property and Casualty Program to aid them in preparing and responding to potential issues, including how to care for victims, and will continue to support the efforts of our sister entities and the churches we are privileged to serve as together we stand to protect vulnerable populations. Southern Baptist churches and others interested in learning more about the resources available can find actionable checklists to help protect against abuse by visiting GuideStonePropertyCasualty.org or find more information about the training from MinistrySafe by visiting MinistrySafe.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy E. Head is the executive officer of denominational and public relations services at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.)