FIRST-PERSON: How Guidestone Shapes My Outlook


FIRST-PERSON: How Guidestone Shapes My Outlook

FIRST-PERSON: How Guidestone Shapes My Outlook

Seeking Significance

For the decades that I worked on church staff, I was (apparently) one of a choice few in all of California who genuinely enjoyed filling out the ACP (Annual Church Profile). Admittedly, I was also the kid who fastidiously wrote my full Christian name, address, and phone number and checked every box on the offering envelope 52 Sundays of the year:

  • Worship attendance? ☑
  • Sunday School Attendance? ☑
  • Brought my Bible? ☑
  • Prayed throughout the week? ☑

For as long as that little munchkin went to church, the powers that be would have a record that she was there – that she went to Big Church, that she prayed during the week, that she brought her Bible and all the rest. (True Story!)

So, the ACP was a no-brainer. For as long as I worked at that church, CSBC would know that my church was here, that we had a Spanish-speaking congregation too, and a choir, and that we baptized 37 people that year and had 121 kids in our VBS/Music Camp, and all the rest.

When I learned that Guidestone offered a biennial compensation survey and published the results as well, what was once my box-checking search for significance became an understanding that those records were really about being a part of something bigger than myself.

Seeking Security

Guidestone Financial Resources has been around for 100+ years with a fascinating history rooted in a mix of vision, prayer, and a cool million in gifts from the Rockefellers. (True Story!)

As the proverbial “retirement arm” of the SBC, the comprehensive set of financial solutions and resources available to church leaders through Guidestone is robust and quite secure. At the shrewd advice of my own former pastor/boss and my lifelong friend/Merrill Lynch financial advisor, I keep my personal retirement account safe and sound at Guidestone. We used to compare rates between the two agencies periodically, but my funds have never moved since that first cent dropped into my ministry account all those years ago because it never made fiscal sense to transfer funds over to the bull. (True Story!)

But I am not here today to tell you how ridiculously smart it would be for SBC faith leaders to open investment accounts this instant if you haven’t already by clicking -> RIGHT HERE <-.

I’d like to bend to the collective ear of our CSBC family.

Seeking Eternity

We are going to be hearing a lot more about the importance of the ACP as it relates to our shared goal of reaching 2% with the Gospel of Christ. Between you and me, I’m not so sure we aren’t already much closer. Imagine if we find out that proper ACP reporting gets us to at least 1% in a fraction of the time. What a hallelujah it would be to have to UP our goal!

But California, can we talk about Guidestone’s Compensation Survey?

I know… Always with the numbers.

Look, Scripture includes so much numerical specificity that it’s incongruent for me to declare numbers have no value in a Gospel-focused worldview.

In 2022, 81 CSBC churches participated in Guidestone’s Compensation survey. This year, engagement grew to 106 CSBC churches. Does that matter? Absolutely!

We can better see how staff salaries in California compare to others across the nation. For example, did you know that, on average, California churches are paying their staff at a lower rate than most other churches across the Bible Belt, where housing and cost of living are less?

Thanks to 106 churches, we have an established, average West Coast baseline, and California leaders can determine the proper steps to steward church resources with clarity and focus. Maybe the plate needs to get passed around again. Maybe not. Perhaps the nation is waiting for us to reinvent a new form of Co-vocational pastoring. Maybe this is the clarion call, reverting us back to a First-Century Church model. And perhaps some of the most seasoned, sacrificially generous pastors need to speak with their finance committees, confessing that years of well-intentioned yet still-forsaken salary increases have set the church up for hardship because the budget no longer makes room for the next generation of church leaders because they will not be able to sustain the young family the established church has been yearning for. (Read Guidestone’s “Increasing Pastor Pay Doesn’t Need to Cost Your Church (But it Will Protect Your Church’s Future).”)

Guidestone’s compensation survey has closed for 2024, and the results will go live in a short while, so be on the lookout for that. I pray that in 2026 and in the “every-other” years that follow, all of our church leaders will understand that these tools matter. They are a marker that you were here, that your church was here. Above all, when our leaders take the time to fill out forms like the ACP and the compensation surveys, you help launch the next generation of church leaders well.

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)

If you have not taken the time to look through Guidestone’s comprehensive portfolio of retirement, insurance, and investment services, then this may be the time to get started. Guidestone stands at the ready in support of churches that intend to grow their ministries for a very long time.

~Then, be sure to watch this Mission:Dignity video. When your church gives through the Cooperative Program, you give back to retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers, and their widows. The 13th Check Initiative is a ministry supported by Guidestone Financial Resources, The Baptist Foundation of California, and The California Southern Baptist Convention.

About the Author

Sarah M. Graham
Communications Team Leader, CSBC

Sarah Graham earned her bachelor's degree from Azusa Pacific University and a Master's in Leadership and Business Management from California Baptist University. She currently serves CSBC as the Team Leader for the Office of Communications. Sarah is a mother of two grown children, Kirsten (26, married to Jake) and Daniel (22) and she serves on the worship team at Clovis Hills Community Church.

More About Sarah M. Graham

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