Group Helps Churches & Ministries Receive Benefits, Products & Services - Now Their Most Important Ministry:  Urban Restoration

Eighteen years ago, a dozen businessmen with an incredible desire to serve our Lord met in Madison, Wisconsin to pray and ask God to lead them to some exciting new ministry.  "We knew we couldn't pastor churches," said Bill Gailbreath, the founding member and now Chief Executive Officer/Chairman, "but we felt God had given us gifts that we prayed He could use."  Well, not only did God use their talents, but He led them to places beyond anything they had envisioned.  From their humble beginning, their ministry has grown and developed in exciting ways into what it is today . . . The Heartland Christian Companies, a nationally known Christian business organization with an amazing history. 

The development of the Partnership for Church Planting, a not for profit 501(c)(3), was the first venture for these businessmen, helping plant over 43 churches throughout Wisconsin and Northern Michigan.  Seeking unique ways to raise money for fledgling ministries, the Born Again Clothes for Kids resale stores were established, soon followed by the Christian Community Childcare Centers.  From there, other projects soon followed.

Heartland realized that one of the many obstacles to a new church was that the pastors were spending so much of their "ministry" time doing the "business" of the church.  Heartland always felt that one of its missions was to free up time for pastors to do what God called them to do ... pastor their flocks ... and let Heartland help with the business side of the church.

"Little did we know when we started how important our ministry would become and that God had a plan for us all along."

The huge problem of health insurance for our pastors was one of, if not, the biggest budget obstacles for many of our churches, especially the young church plants.  Most of them were one-man churches and no group insurance company would touch them.  In 2001 Heartland developed a Professional Employer Organization to be able to bring even their smallest churches into a large group to make available to them the same "buying power" as a large company when it came to health insurance and other benefits.  Cindy Klug, President of Heartland Christian LLC, stated that, "This was purely a faith-based project ... and it worked!  Now even a small church can provide benefits similar to those of a Fortune 500 company," comments Klug.  "Not only were we able to give our churches, schools, and camps badly needed insurance relief, but we could help them with all of their human resource problems.  With the PEO services we actually do everything from payroll and benefits management to even preparing their entire employee manual," Klug said.  The PEO became a wonderful addition to the Heartland portfolio, but it still didn't solve the problems for all of their churches due to financial and size constraints.  "We spent many long hours in our board meetings asking God to lead us to the solution we so badly needed, and He did!"

After helping over 250 churches with financing their building and remodeling projects, building eight new churches, helping more than 200 inner-city churches grow and develop in Milwaukee and Chicago, and developing their own real estate group to help buy and sell church properties, God had no interest in letting the Heartland group rest on its history.

With the help of Brian Ogne, a board member, and then President Emeritus of Timber-lee Christian Center in southeast Wisconsin, a research project was initiated to find ways to offer health and other insurance products to all of our churches, not just the ministries that could afford it.  "Like everything else we've done, God led us to the creation of Heartland Christian"  By bringing in other ministry partners, just as we did with the PEO project, Heartland began to blossom into a national ministry. 

By joining with TouchPoint Marketing Group out of Boca Raton, FL, Gailbreath formed an alliance with other Christian businessmen.  Heartland realized that if they could sell advertising on their website to the companies, and if their churches, schools, camps, and other ministries would purchase these products - products they use every day anyway -  then these advertising dollars could be used to help their church planting efforts and sponsor other ministries.  "The most exciting thing to me with our national website is that we are able to offer products and services that everyone regularly needs and uses, only now, a portion of the advertising dollars goes right back into ministry."  One of the many areas where Heartland is able to assist churches and help them is their property and casualty insurance needs.  Heartland is helping them realize that there are other options available to them and, in many cases, a savings from what they may be currently paying.  That translates to more dollars that can be directed towards ministry rather than premiums.

One of The Heartland Christian Companies' long-time goals was to develop a Christian student loan program for our Christian schools and colleges.  After being contacted by a company in Boston who represented the Sallie Mae student loan program, Heartland partnered with Perry O'Grady and the Sallie Mae organization to do just that.  "I literally went to the office one morning and there was an e-mail from Silver Sword asking us about our ministry and if we would be interested in a Christian student loan program," quoted Klug.  "That's how things have always happened here at Heartland.  We visualize the projects and God provides the people to get them done." 

Even the PEO program, which has been so successful for Heartland, has developed into even more than it was.   Cindy Klug stated, "One of the drawbacks, if you will, with our PEO program was that some churches didn't need all of the services that a co-employment relationship offered and yet, had to have the group health insurance - it was basically all or nothing."  Well, God sent Heartland a company out of Mishawaka, IN called TruPay that enabled The Heartland Christian Companies to set up its own ASO (Administrative Services Only) ministry.  Now churches, schools, camps, etc., can pick and choose the services they need - whether it's payroll outsourcing, benefits administration, etc. or simply doing background checks for new hires.  The ASO program brings Heartland's other ministry partners to the table to provide the much needed health insurance products.  "It's been a great marriage."

This has been an amazing eighteen years for Heartland ... and to be blessed by so many other like-minded businessmen and women is almost enough ... almost! God has now brought The Heartland Christian Companies to their most exciting and challenging ministry yet - Urban Restoration. Currently Heartland is partnering with churches to rehab many blighted neighborhoods in the inner city. They also have been called to Racine County and Tampa, where they will be rehabbing many foreclosed and blighted houses, with the next steps being St. Louis and Atlanta . . . literally any city in America. Their journey has been remarkable ... and where God takes them from here, only He knows!