By Roy Hayhurst
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–GuideStone Financial Resources remains strong, despite a turbulent period in world financial markets, GuideStone president O.S. Hawkins told messengers meeting June 16 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.
Hawkins noted the challenges faced by the organization the past several years and said additional challenges face the ministry as the full ramifications of healthcare reform signed into law by President Barack H. Obama in March have yet to be felt.
Speaking on GuideStone’s theme for 2010: The Year of Initiative, Hawkins spoke to messengers about the parable of the Good Samaritan.
“We’re challenging our people at GuideStone to feel the need,” Hawkins said, explaining it’s not just enough to see the need. Hawkins has encouraged employees to be like the Samaritan to touch the need and meet the need.
Among the ways GuideStone has sought to meet the needs of participants was the launch of GPS: Guided Planning Services, a new financial advice tool available free to GuideStone participants.
“We are the only financial firm that I know that doesn’t have a minimum account balance to receive free financial advice,” Hawkins said.
GuideStone has made several enhancements to its web-based resources, including providing quarterly account statements with more robust planning information on the participant web portal, MyGuideStone. GuideStone also offers a Spanish-language microsite — www.GuideStone.org/espanol — to accommodate the needs of participants and prospects who are more comfortable using Spanish.
Hawkins also pointed to other product enhancements, including the launch of the Inflation Protected Bond Fund. This fund seeks to provide inflation protection and income by investing in inflation-indexed debt securities such as Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, commonly referred to as TIPS.
The fund is designed for participants who have a long-term investment horizon, want protection from inflation, can accept short-term fluctuations in account value and want to diversify their portfolio with a fixed-income investment option.
Correlating with the market’s rise, as of the end of 2009, most GuideStone 403(b) retirement plan participants who continued to make consistent contributions saw their average account balances recover more than 40% from the low point of the market.
“Those who panicked at the trough … locked in their losses,” Hawkins said. “Those who stayed the course have seen their account values recover. Saving for retirement is like a marathon, not a sprint. The race is won by setting the pace and then running the race.”
Hawkins also emphasized that while GuideStone cannot control financial markets and the global economy, it can control how its funds perform in relation to other funds. According to industry research firm Fi360, GuideStone Funds ranked 39th out of 297 total funds in America as of March 31, 2010.
GuideStone’s healthcare plans already meet some of the new requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Hawkins noted. Part of the act eliminates annual and lifetime maximums, which GuideStone eliminated in 2005. The act also requires insurance companies to cover dependent children up to age 26, which GuideStone began this year.
Hawkins assured messengers that GuideStone is monitoring the situation and has several workgroups determining how to comply with the new law’s requirements.
Hawkins also highlighted Mission:Dignity, GuideStone’s relief service that provides financial assistance to retired ministers and their widows. More than 2,100 men and women receive financial assistance from the ministry. Hawkins noted that more than 1,200 new donors were enlisted in 2009. More than half of Mission:Dignity’s recipients are widows.
Hawkins expressed his assurance to older pastors who may worry about the plight of their wives should they die first. “I want to promise you, we’re going to take care of that lady that has stood by your side,” Hawkins said to applause in the convention hall.
Mission:Dignity is funded solely through the gifts of individuals, churches and Sunday school classes. The ministry receives no direct Cooperative Program funding. Over the past decade, more than $60 million has been given to the ministry, which does not use any gifts for overhead expenses. Among the top-giving churches to Mission:Dignity is the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Church in Marietta, Ga., whose pastor, Bryant Wright was elected to serve as Southern Baptist Convention president at this year’s annual meeting.
Roy Hayhurst is senior marketing communications editor for GuideStone Financial Resources.