Changes made to ministerial retirement matching program

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Some participants in the ministerial retirement matching program funded by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and administered by Guidestone were surprised when they recently discovered changes to the plan.

Instead of monthly matching contributions, contributions beginning this year are made on a one-time annual basis—a change Guidestone stated it implemented to accommodate state conventions facing financial pressures.

“Unfortunately in some instances, word of these changes did not make it to the folks impacted,” BGCT Executive Director David Hardage wrote in a March 25 email.

In the “Texas Baptists Advisory,” Hardage stated he wanted to “provide a clearer picture of those changes and how they impact” ministers who participate in the program.

  • Effective in 2021, Guidestone no longer is accepting monthly retirement matching contributions. Instead, these contributions must be made on a one-time, annual basis.
  • The BGCT matches $17.50 per month for eligible ministers, an annual contribution of $210. “Given the abruptness of the change, … [the BGCT] will make our annual contribution for 2021 by the end of April. We have been informed that in 2022 and years following, this contribution must be made in December of each year,” Hardage said.
  • “The recent changes allow for each convention to select which ministers will be covered. While other conventions have chosen to only provide retirement matching for the senior pastor, BGCT will continue to make contributions for all eligible ministers and staff, as we have in the past,” Hardage continued.
  • “The recent changes do not impact eligibility and coverage of ministerial life insurance and disability benefits; these remain as they have been,” he clarified. The plan provides up to $500 per month if a covered employee becomes disabled and up to $100,000 in life insurance payable to the surviving spouse or other named beneficiary.

Help financially challenged state conventions

In response to questions from the Baptist Standard, Guidestone stated it made the changes to reduce costs and help state conventions facing financial challenges.

“In order to accommodate state conventions, many of which were facing budget challenges, GuideStone worked with a committee of state convention executive directors on adjustments to the matching and protection benefits, starting in 2019,” a statement from the agency read.

“In February 2020, at their annual meeting, state executive directors unanimously approved the changes. It reduced the cost of the protection benefits and shifted from mandatory monthly matching retirement contributions to discretionary annual contributions.

“The goal was to continue to offer the protection and matching benefits that help eligible pastors and staff while providing financial flexibility to state conventions contending with reduced Cooperative Program giving.”

GuideStone stated the changes in the program “reduced the costs of protection benefits and simplified the work associated with administering the matching contributions for state conventions.”

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Specifically, Guidestone now covers 80 percent of the cost for protection benefits—compared to 70 percent previously—“to mitigate financial concerns state conventions are facing.”

Guidestone began absorbing more costs in mid-2020

“The reduction in costs came during the pandemic when the conventions felt additional financial pressures,” the statement from Guidestone read. “GuideStone sped up absorbing some of the protection costs, set to take effect Jan.1, 2021. We began absorbing the extra costs (freeing up state convention resources) six months earlier, on July 1, 2020.”

Guidestone asserted the “additional flexibility in making discretionary contributions is a tremendous benefit for state conventions that need this flexibility.”

With respect to how the information was provided to program participants, Guidestone asserted it followed “a robust communication plan to inform key stakeholders.”

The agency emailed changes to state convention executive directors and their associates “on two separate occasions in the fall that their approved changes were coming effective January 2021,” Guidestone stated.

In December, GuideStone emailed every church with a participant who received at least one matching retirement contribution in the previous 12 months. The agency also directly emailed program participants in December to describe the changes.

Texas Baptists with additional questions about changes to the ministerial retirement matching program can contact CFO/Treasurer Ward Hayes at (214) 828-5310, Hardage noted.

“We value the work and ministry of each Texas Baptist congregation and staff, and we are honored to contribute our partnership through the ministerial retirement matching program,” he said.

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