Blessed to be a Blessing


The Christian Church Foundation Board of Directors celebrated the growing strength of the Foundation’s services to the members and ministries across the life of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) during its recent three-day meeting in St. Louis.

The Board reviewed and celebrated growth in the number of investment partnerships with Disciples ministries, growth in ministries made possible by distributions from investments held at the Foundation, and growth in total dollars managed on behalf of Foundation ministry partners. Since 2003, the number of ministries that invest their long-term assets through the Foundation’s Investment Services program grew 20%. During the same period, partner-owned dollars under management provided vital funds to support and expand ministry and more than doubled, growing 144%.

“Driving the growth was a dramatic increase in the number of large investor accounts,” said Foundation President Gary Kidwell. In 10 years, the invested dollars held by investors with more than $1 million has grown 240%.

Investment partners of all sizes have shared in the savings created by the total growth of the Foundation’s Joint Investment Trust as a result of the economies produced by more than $500 million in pooled investments. Outside manager costs have been reduced by almost 25% in the past 10 years, Kidwell said, increasing the net return for all accounts.

The Board voted to increase the Foundation’s support to Disciples Mission Fund, providing 100% of the income from donor-designated gifts to the “Area of Greatest Need.” In recent years, 75% of the income from these funds supported DMF and 25% supported Foundation operations.

Foundation staff reported the elimination of a service charge on the Foundation’s donor-advised program – called the Steward’s Bank. This program lets donors make tax-deductible gifts now and at a later time “advise” the Foundation on how those funds should be distributed. This popular giving tool for those wishing to maximize their charitable income tax deduction in the current year, while supporting ministries of the donors’ choice in later years, has helped Disciples donors increase their gifts to their beloved ministries.

The Board also received an update on the Foundation’s efforts to help ministry partners change the culture in their ministries from one where testamentary gifts are a surprise to where such gifts are both planned for and expected. This “Mentoring Model” encourages ministry leaders to put their own estate gifts in place and then mentor others on the benefits of leaving a legacy. More than 40 congregations and ministries have adopted this model and are seeing impressive results.

Randy Johnson, vice president of the Foundation’s Southeast Zone, shared the story of one congregation that over the past two years has grown from having five donors who had included the church in their estate plans to 46 donors that now have plans in place to support that congregation with a legacy gift. Another congregation has moved from no known gifts to now having 34 individuals who have planned to make testamentary gifts to expand that congregation’s ministry.

“These gift intentions show that these donors have a deep love for their churches and want to support that ministry with a legacy gift. Can you imagine the difference these gifts are going to make in the future ministries of these congregations?” Johnson said.

“All of these steps,” Kidwell said, “reflect the Foundation’s ongoing mission to find ways to bless the church and its many ministries through ongoing cost efficiencies and programs to encourage future planned gifts.”

The Foundation Board also:

  • Elected Board officers for 2014: Linda Hernandez Williams, board chair, a CPA and business owner from Highland, CA; the Rev. Suzanne Webb, vice chair, senior minister of Union Avenue Christian Church, St. Louis, MO; and Todd Reed, secretary, a CPA and business executive from Walton, KY. Bob Williams, an investment professional from Dallas, TX, will chair the Foundation’s Budget & Program Committee, Debra Clayton, an investment advisor and business owner from Topeka, KS, will chair the Investment Committee, and Elizabeth Topliffe, a lawyer from Grand Rapids, MI, will chair the Audit Committee.
  • Welcomed incoming board members M. Dean Buffington, a principal of Buffington Mohr McNeal, an investment advisory firm in Boise, ID, and a member of Red Rock Christian Church in Boise; the Rev. Teresa Dulyea-Parker, regional minister and president of the Christian Church in Illinois and Wisconsin, based in Bloomington, IL; Rick T. Ikeda, corporate vice president of Western Tool Supply in Salem, OR, and a member of First Christian Church in Salem; and the Rev. Joanne VerBurg, recently retired senior minister of Covenant Christian Church in Cary, NC.
  • Honored retiring board members Grace Caress, an actuary, of Carmel, IN; the Rev. Thad Allen, regional minister of the Christian Church in West Virginia; Joel Santos, an educator from Villa Hills, KY; and the Rev. Susan Diamond, senior minister of First Christian Church, Montgomery, AL.

The Christian Church Foundation, based in Indianapolis, is a general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) devoted to helping Disciples undergird the witness of the church through prudent institutional investing and planned gifts that benefit donor-selected Disciples ministries. At the start of 2013, the Foundation was responsible for $501.6 million of the church’s money. The Board of Directors’ next meeting will be April 27-29 in Indianapolis.

(Release date: Nov. 22, 2013)