As the predawn light creeps around the buildings in Dallas' central business district, a few early-bird joggers wind through the sidewalks and trails, getting ready to start the day.
It's 6 a.m., and many Texans stare in disbelief or distress at alarm clocks that summon them to a morning of commutes, careers, and chores. While some have barely awoken, a steady stream of cars pulls into the underground parking garage at GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
While some GuideStone staffers are the early birds, some are the night owls: GuideStone's building still is buzzing with activity well after the sun sets.
More than four hundred people work within GuideStone. All have a common purpose and goal in their work lives: to serve those who serve the Lord.
On each person's desk at GuideStone sits a small reminder of GuideStone's motto, "to serve the Lord with the integrity of our hearts and the skillfulness of our hands." This commission currently appears in collateral materials and advertisements as Do well. Do right.SM
"Those terms aren't just clever advertising jargon," said O.S. Hawkins, president and chief executive officer of GuideStone Financial Resources. "They speak to the very heart of who GuideStone is. We want our participants to have peace of mind today and confidence about tomorrow. That is part of how we do well. We strive to be a people of integrity, who believe acting on our beliefs is essential as we develop financial services and investment choices."
That mandate shows from the well-kept GuideStone office building, to the professional attitudes and appearance of each of GuideStone's employees, to the breadth of products and services offered. It is also demonstrated in the very heritage that is GuideStone.
The heart to Do well and Do right exists deep within GuideStone's DNA. Ninety years ago, at a meeting of the Nashville Baptist Pastor's Conference, a local pastor stood with a singular clarion call.
"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?"
The challenge had come from Dr. William Lunsford in the fall of 1917. The pastor of Nashville's Edgefield Baptist Church, Lunsford witnessed the pension plans of major businesses, government, and the military. Seeing far too many aged or disabled pastors and their widows suffer in extreme poverty, Lunsford brought the idea to the local pastors' meeting. His call was met with support. Out of humble beginnings, what would become GuideStone began with a $100,000 gift from the Baptist Sunday School Board. That work would later be bolstered by a $1 million gift from industrialist John D. Rockefeller.
"Our mission has grown over these last ninety years," Hawkins said, "but we've never strayed from William Lunsford's original intent."
While today, GuideStone Financial Resources and its related entities have close to $10 billion in assets and offer a wide range of products and services to more than 185,000 ministers, pastors, seminary students, hospital and university employees, and others, its heart is never far from the ministry on which it was founded.
In 1981, GuideStone launched the ministry that is now Mission:Dignity (formerly Adopt An Annuitant). Through this outreach, ministers or their widows could receive assistance to help with their basic needs. Many of them served small churches that were unable to provide them with retirement benefits. While in its beginning, Mission:Dignity recipients received $50 per month, now the most needy recipients receive up to $530 per month. Today, the average Mission:Dignity recipient has a monthly shortfall of about $200. GuideStone receives no Cooperative Program funds for any of its programs.
"We are privileged and honored to serve as Christ's hand extended to so many faithful ministers and their widows," Hawkins said. "So many of these men and women served churches out at the crossroads of rural America. Their trust and faith was that God would provide for them and their families in their retirement years. Through the faithful giving of hundreds of churches and individuals, we have the opportunity to be used by God to be a blessing to these 'soldiers of the cross.'"
While providing for the needs of retired ministers, GuideStone does not neglect pastors and denominational servants today. GuideStone offers 403(b) retirement plans to employees of Southern Baptist churches and other ministry organizations. Personal investing and individual retirement accounts are also available from GuideStone (see sidebar below), as is a full suite of insurance products.
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.
"We want our ministers to prepare financially for the day when they are no longer in vocational ministry," Hawkins said. "And we want to come alongside them as they prepare for retirement, for whatever goals they may have, whether it's new ministry opportunities or a chance to spend more time with family." GuideStone also offers a free $10,000 life benefit for all full-time students attending the six Southern Baptist seminaries. This benefit helps seminary students provide a basic level of protection for their families, and is a concrete example of GuideStone's commitment to be a lifelong partner to seminary students.
GuideStone's commitment to the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention continues in the launch of a new Property and Casualty insurance product. Available beginning in the fall of 2008, the service will be available through GuideStone to churches and ministry organizations.
"With this new service, GuideStone will be able to provide churches and ministry organizations affordable risk-management coverage and comprehensive educational materials," Hawkins said.
An additional service to be launched in 2009 was recently announced by GuideStone. Soon its participants will be able to receive specific financial advice regarding GuideStone's proprietary investment funds that are available through retirement plans sponsored by GuideStone. This service will be available at no cost to participants.
In addition to its retirement and investment products and services, GuideStone also provides a broad range of life and health plans to assist participants in protecting their financial security.
"Over the past few years, GuideStone's health plan participants have benefited from our commitment to continue to provide affordable and flexible healthcare products while maintaining our ministry focus. Since 2003, health plan premiums nationwide have increased by an average of 52 percent. During this same period, net enrollment in GuideStone's medical plans has increased by over 5,400, a 21.7 percent increase. By maximizing PPO network discounts, improved pharmacy pricing, and offering a variety of lower premium plans, average premiums paid by GuideStone participants decreased by 13.6 percent during this same period, from $600 in 2003 to $518 in 2008," Hawkins said.
The staff and leadership continue to pour their hearts and souls into the ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources. That is in part evidenced by the organization's nearly $10 billion in assets. It is evidenced, too, by the improved user experience on GuideStone's participant Web site, allowing participants to customize their account views and giving them the ability to open new accounts and make investment changes online.
Looking forward to tomorrow, the strategic plan guiding the organization is GuideStone 100. The plan leads GuideStone to its centennial in 2018.
"The next decade may be one of the most exciting for GuideStone Financial Resources," Hawkins said. "Our Lord has provided an exciting history of serving our Convention over these last ninety years, and as we continue to serve Southern Baptists into the future, we're excited to see what He has in store."
• For the first thirty 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.*
• Employer-sponsored retirement plans
• Deferred compensation plans
• Personal Investment Accounts*
• Individual Retirement Accounts*
• Medical, dental, life, and disability plans
• Group medical plans
• Health reimbursement arrangements
• Property and Casualty insurance
• Executive benefit services
• Actuarial services
* Personal Investment Accounts and IRAs are made available through GuideStone Financial Services and GuideStone Funds, which are controlled affiliates of GuideStone Financial Resources.
Roy Hayhurst is a member of Walnut Ridge Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas, and is senior marketing communications editor for GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.