October 4, 2007 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 124 Number 235

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GuideStone reports financial strength


 Participants in the GuideStone Financial Resources' annual Wellness Walk and 5k Run June 12 head toward the finish line. The event brought out hundreds of runners and walkers.

BP photo by Kent Harville

Participants in the GuideStone Financial Resources' annual Wellness Walk and 5k Run June 12 head toward the finish line. The event brought out hundreds of runners and walkers.

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SAN ANTONIO (BP)—GuideStone Financial Resources enjoyed a banner year, O.S. Hawkins, president of the SBC entity, reported to Southern Baptist Convention June 12 in San Antonio.

GuideStone Funds marked its fifth anniversary in 2006, with Hawkins noting that it has been named the fourth-largest mutual fund headquartered in Texas and the largest Christian-based socially screened registered mutual fund family in the United States.

Hawkins reported that a new group of funds, launched this year, is the MyDestination Funds, providing participants with more choices and flexibility. The new group of Date Target Funds allows a participant to select an asset allocation fund that changes through the years as the participant approaches retirement.

For medical plan participants, Hawkins said the transition to a single provider network reaped rewards, as more than 57 percent of Personal Plan participants received no rate increase or reduction in premiums for 2006. "We have a retention rate of 98 percent," he said, "and we've had thousands of new participants over these last few years."

Hawkins emphasized the need for wellness initiatives to help contain future medical insurance costs. "Over 70 percent of the people who come to the Wellness Booth [at the SBC annual meeting] are at moderate or high risk for coronary heart disease," he said. "Half of our claims are for preventable illnesses. The No. 1 and No. 2 prescriptions are for stress-related illnesses."

Hawkins also announced new insurance benefits for Southern Baptist seminary students, which was greeted with applause by messengers.

"GuideStone is going to be providing a free $10,000 life benefit to all active fulltime seminary students beginning this year," Hawkins said. Applications will be available at the seminaries, or students may log on to the www.GuideStone.org website to enroll for the Free Life Benefit.

As part of preparations for GuideStone's centennial year in 2018, Hawkins touched on GuideStone 100, the organization's strategic vision and plan. "We know where we're going and we know how we're getting there," Hawkins said about the future for GuideStone.

In news related to GuideStone's 403(b)(9) Retirement Plan for Southern Baptist Churches—the Church Retirement Plan—Hawkins announced new assistance for churches with smaller budgets.

GuideStone's Mission/Church Assistance Fund was expanded early in 2007 when trustees approved new guidelines to allow more churches and ministers to participate. Under the program, Southern Baptist churches and missions with annual budgets of less than $75,000 are eligible to enroll their pastor in the Church Retirement Plan and receive free matching retirement contributions from GuideStone for the pastor for five years. The monthly contribution was doubled from $25 to $50.

On the topic of financial assistance, Hawkins said the Adopt An Annuitant ministry "continues to be the burden of our heart." All Adopt An Annuitant financial gifts go directly to these ministers and their widows. Administrative costs—down to postage—is covered by a separate endowment fund. "This is the passion of my life and the joy of my life, to stand by these precious souls," Hawkins said.

GuideStone trustees approved expanded guidelines for benefits, allowing more people to receive assistance. Those include a 25 percent raise in income guidelines, thus increasing eligibility. Double benefits for annuitants with the greatest financial need will become available in January 2008.

Hawkins reported that effective Sept. 30 of this year, GuideStone will relinquish its Cooperative Program allocation. This decision was announced during the SBC Executive Committee's February meeting.

"Through the faithful gifts from individuals and churches, we are able to sustain our financial assistance program and allow our CP allocation to be used for other ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention," Hawkins said.

At year's end, 2,143 persons received Adopt An Annuitant assistance. The average Adopt An Annuitant is 80 years old with monthly income of $1,033 and monthly expenses of $1,272, resulting in a monthly income deficit of $239.

A $200 Christmas check was sent to 1,807 monthly and expense grant recipients. In 2006, GuideStone's financial assistance department received and processed a total of 1,018 applications, which included 231 new applicants.

"We have a vision at GuideStone that is a lens to everything we do," Hawkins said. "The statement, 'GuideStone Financial Resources exists to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security' - in that, we find our mission, our message and our mandate."