100 years after its founding, caring for others is still the heart of Brotherhood Mutual’s identity
Albert Neuenschwander, and his pastor, Rev. Aaron Souder, led their denomination of eight Defenseless Mennonite churches in establishing a protective association to help church members recover when fires or storms destroyed their property. At the church’s annual conference in 1917, denominational leaders formed the Brotherhood Aid Association for its eight churches in Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. From the start, the association insured farms, homes, mercantile properties, and church buildings.
The Brotherhood Aid Association soon expanded beyond the original founding churches. Within 15 years of its founding, the association began to look more like a traditional mutual insurance company. In 1935, the association incorporated in Indiana and was renamed Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, and the state licensed the new mutual company to sell policies in Indiana. Ohio and Illinois soon followed. Today, Brotherhood Mutual conducts business in 47 states and the District of Columbia.
Company leaders continued to pursue growth after incorporation by seeking affiliations with a variety of church groups, especially evangelical churches. The company’s desire to affiliate with other church groups reflected the growing sense of evangelical unity both within the company’s original founding churches and among company leaders. A 1944 board decision formally signaled Brotherhood Mutual’s autonomy from its founding denomination, which had been developing since the 1930s.
When the company began to invest its reserves, company leaders did so cautiously. They first invested primarily in government bonds and mortgages of highly reputable organizations. Later, they added investments in the utilities market and public bond issues for highway and school construction projects. Brotherhood Mutual received its first rating from the AM Best Company, a well-known insurance rating agency, in 1953—an A “Excellent” rating.
The greatest mid-century challenge was the “test of faith” company leaders experienced dealing with the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes in Indiana and Ohio. The storms destroyed many homes, businesses, and churches that the company insured. Brotherhood Mutual paid policyholders more than $1 million in claims to repair their property. At the time, company reserves were only slightly more than the claims total. Most important, however, Klopfenstein and the board resolved to pay each claim promptly and not raise rates.
Company leaders decided to specialize in church insurance in 1972. It was one of the most significant developments in the company’s history. Given the company’s history of insuring the property of churches and their members, it was a natural fit. As Brotherhood Mutual insured more church buildings and the risks associated with church operations, it adopted the tag line, “Insuring America’s Churches and Related Ministries®.” The company still uses the tag line in its marketing materials.
Brotherhood Mutual’s most publicized claim occurred in May 1988, when a drunk driver crashed into a church bus. Twenty-seven of people on the bus died in the crash, sparking a national debate on drunk driving and bus safety. Brotherhood Mutual paid more than $1 million in claims. Company claims adjusters worked with a team of local church and business leaders to develop a unique and fair way to distribute the insurance proceeds among the victims and their heirs.
For many years, Brotherhood Mutual had set aside a portion of its profits for charitable purposes. Those efforts became more public in 2006 when company leaders formed Brotherhood Works, a corporate mission program. The new program, took off with two components, one domestic, and one focused on a foreign mission. The program gave employees and agents opportunities to participate in company-sponsored, short-term mission trips.
As Brotherhood Mutual commemorated 100 years of serving the Church in August 2017, the company did so in the spirit of thankfulness for God’s many blessings. Brotherhood Mutual will continue to heed the call to “share one another’s burdens,” as expressed in Galatians 6:2—the same calling that the company’s founders used in 1917 to mark Brotherhood Mutual’s path to serving the Church.
Thank you for your interest in Brotherhood Mutual. We appreciate the opportunity to provide your church or other ministry with an insurance quote and will reply to your request as soon as possible.
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