Retirement years are hard for many Americans. Trying to survive entirely on less than a $1,000 Social Security check is not the way many envision their Golden Years.
That reality is well-known among retired Southern Baptist pastors and their spouses as they near the end of their ministry careers.
Many of those have served small churches, sometimes as bivocational pastors serving two churches and working a part-time job. Some retirees have mentioned how they never made more than $300 a month from the small pastorates, making it difficult to save for retirement. But they continued to be faithful to their calling.
Georgia Baptists have come to realize the plight of such individuals and have joined with Guidestone Financial Resources to identify and support those in the state and nationally. The ministry, known as Mission:Dignity, stands in the gap between retirees and their escalating daily living expenses.
While the needs are overwhelming, the good news is that $650,463 was paid to 135 Georgia recipients in 2016. Of that, $508,363 was provided in assistance grants averaging $600 a month, with $142,100 additional from the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation ($100,000 provided in 2016 with the balance held over from previous year Foundation grants).
$651,894 given in 2016
A record 829 Georgia donors gave $651,894 through Mission:Dignity in the same year. Of that, $255,805 came from individuals, $396,089 from churches and organizations such as Sunday School classes and Woman’s Missionary Union groups. There were 349 first-time new donors, noted Georgia Baptist Mission Board State Missionary Keith Hamilton.
The 2016 donations reflected a $100,385 increase from the previous year and an increase of 228 more individual donors and 49 new churches and organizations.
In addition, Georgia Baptist Mission Board state missionaries underwrote the support of six Georgia couples, as well as providing extra gifts at Christmas.
John Ambra, director of development at Guidestone, said that 60 percent of recipients nationwide are widows with one fourth of those over the age of 85. A surprising 8 recipients are over the age of 100.
“It’s very easy to become a Mission:Dignity donor,” Ambra explained. “You don’t have to wait until you have a large dollar amount to contribute. A simple $10 gift provides an assistance grant for one day; anyone giving that amount each month for a year will discover how easy it is to make a big difference in the life of these individuals.”
Nearly 1,800 retired ministers, spouses, being helped
Nationally, Mission:Dignity assists almost 1,800 retired Southern Baptist ministers, workers or their widows in need. Individuals who meet guidelines for income, assets and years of paid Southern Baptist service are eligible for $225 per month; couples receive $300. The amounts are $450 and $600 for the neediest persons with at least 25 years of SBC ministry.
Thanks to an established endowment that pays for administrative costs, 100 percent of money given to Mission:Dignity benefits a retired pastor, worker or his widow in need.
For some recipients, it means being able to stay in the familiar surroundings of their own home. For others, it covers the cost of groceries, utilities, prescriptions and other necessities. But for each of them, it’s an expression of the love and care of their Southern Baptist family.
To share a tax-deductible gift or for more information, visit MissionDignity.org.