From left, Vance Pitman, Hance Dilbeck and Kevin Ezell shared with NAMB trustees good news for church planters on insurance and retirement benefits. Photo by Alexandra Toy.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—New Send Network church planting missionaries can take advantage of increased support through the North American Mission Board (NAMB), anchored by a slate of customized benefits from GuideStone Financial Resources.
Church planters assessed and endorsed in 2022 will have the opportunity to enroll themselves and their families in GuideStone®’s Value Health 5000 plan without underwriting beginning this May. NAMB’s church planting arm, Send Network, will cover 100 percent of the premium for an entire family for 12 months, after which, the church plant will be required to take responsibility for the premium.
Moving forward, new planters who have been endorsed by Send Network, completed their assessments and meet eligibility criteria will have access to enroll in coverage. Qualifying church plants must have a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) ID number, and the church planter must receive W-2 income from that church.
Church planters will also be able to participate in a retirement plan designed specifically for SBC churches through GuideStone. To “jump-start” their savings, Send Network will provide a $1,000 one-time contribution to the retirement plan for every church planter who is eligible upon their launch date.
The plan was announced at a meeting of NAMB’s trustees Feb. 15.
“Thanks to GuideStone’s help and the generosity of Southern Baptists, we are able to provide the best services of any church planting network in North America,” NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. “I am grateful for Hance Dilbeck’s commitment to making this happen and for the GuideStone team who worked so diligently with us.”
Dilbeck, GuideStone president-elect, said GuideStone is committed to helping all Southern Baptist pastors.
“We work to see all Christ’s servants free to finish well,” Dilbeck told trustees. “We want to simplify financial solutions to multiply Kingdom impact. At GuideStone, we are called to advocate for pastors; and to advocate to pastors. We strive to see churches take better care of their pastors and to see pastors take better care of themselves.”
O.S. Hawkins, GuideStone president, indicated helping pastors in every church—from church plants to established churches and from the beginning of their careers to and through retirement—is a core part of why GuideStone exists.
“For more than 100 years, our mission is to honor the Lord by being a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security,” Hawkins said. “This partnership allows us to work ever more closely with our partners at NAMB to ensure this next generation of church leaders can prepare well for their financial futures, so that they can continue to serve the Lord effectively.”
The increased benefits are meant to help Send Network-endorsed church planters start a healthy church planting journey by providing practical help, especially in the form of retirement and insurance, GuideStone and NAMB emphasized.
“As a lifelong partner to pastors and churches, GuideStone works to simplify financial solutions, so they can be free to focus on their work and fulfill their ministry,” Dilbeck said.
Ezell said NAMB will set the expectation moving forward that new church plants will cover a health insurance plan for their planter pastor right from the start.
“Church planters—just like most pastors—rarely speak up for their own needs, so we want to speak up for them,” Ezell said. “NAMB is happy to fund this first year of coverage, but we are establishing the clear expectation that after that, each church plant will continue to fund this important coverage.”
The work on how to provide health benefits for Send Network church planters began more than a year ago.
“We knew it was a huge need, but we also knew covering even just the newest church planters would cost more than $5 million annually,” Ezell said. “Still, we made the commitment to do it and then last year Southern Baptists amazed us by giving $5 million more to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® than ever before. What an incredible example of God’s provision.”
Vance Pitman, who begins serving as Send Network’s new president March 1, said the benefits will make a huge difference to church planter families.
“You cannot imagine how much stress and worry this will remove from the lives of church planters and their wives,” Pitman said. “We are addressing a burden that too often distracted from ministry and the well-being of these servants.”
Church planters in the Send Network who are eligible for this new coverage will be contacted by Send Network staff in the weeks ahead.
In addition to the new benefits through GuideStone, NAMB announced a new financial service that will provide accounting, payroll and bookkeeping for church plants. A new online giving service is also available.
These services become part of a host of others including the minimum $56,000 in funding Send Network continues to provide vocational church planters, as well as church plant loans; a two-day, in-person orientation; contextualized training; two years of personal coaching; access to free, confidential counseling; free access to periodic national and local ministry events; and ongoing care for the planting couple and their family.
Details about all Send Network church planter benefits and services can be found at SendNetwork.com/benefits.
“When these new additions are combined with what we already provide through assessment, funding, training, coaching and care, Send Network cares for its planters better than any other church planting network,” Ezell said. “That’s what Southern Baptists expect, and that is what their church planters deserve.”