PHILADELPHIA (April 11, 2023) — The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is embarking on the next generation of Benefits Plan redesign — an exploration focused on flexibility, choice, and cost control for local churches. Over the next two years, the Board, one of six agencies of the PC(USA), will carry out a season of rebuilding — a transformative effort taken in collaboration with the Church to assess and redesign the current Benefits Plan structure to better meet the needs of local congregations.
“Shifting demographics, dwindling church memberships, rising healthcare costs, and a dues structure that hasn’t changed in nearly 40 years have resulted in many congregations not being able to afford to enroll their pastoral leadership in the Church’s Benefits Plan,’’ said the Reverend Dr. Frank Clark Spencer, President of the Board of Pensions. “This is especially true for congregations with limited resources. We are committed to working with the Church to find solutions and offer tools that focus on flexibility, choice, and cost control, and that allow congregations to create benefits packages that are right for them and their pastoral leadership. We want all ministers ordained in the PC(USA) to be plan members.”
The Board’s work is driven, in part, by stark numbers that shed light on access inequity issues. For example, approximately 30 percent of ministers ordained since 2007, the very people the Benefits Plan is meant to embrace, are not enrolled. Of those excluded, 63 percent are women. Only 30 percent of churches with fewer than 150 members have installed pastoral leadership. Small congregations, where resources are scarce, clearly are most affected, with this being particularly true for Black churches, only 20 percent of which have an installed pastor.
As part of the season of rebuilding initiative, the Board plans to host a series of national conversations with agency heads, mid council presbytery leaders, and plan members to discuss the challenges and to begin to evaluate the Benefits Plan and dues structure within the context of the diverse and evolving needs of the Church.
“The faith community must be a partner with us over the next two years as we work toward a revised approach to offer medical and financial well-being support for pastoral leaders and as we experiment with new administrative structures to enable small congregations to call a pastor,’’ said Pat Haines, Executive Vice President and Chief Benefits Officer for the Board. “While holistic solutions are beyond the Board’s sole control, we play an important role in sharing the advantages of having more pastoral leaders covered through the Church’s Benefits Plan with access to the programs offered through the Board of Pensions.”
The Board of Pensions has a longstanding commitment to providing benefits in ways that serve the needs of more churches and more ministers. In January 2017, it rolled out a redesigned Benefits Plan with options that allowed employers to choose benefits menu-style, based on their resources and employee needs. The redesign made the Benefits Plan more commercially competitive and offered price transparency for the first time by providing medical benefits in dollar amounts, not percentage of salary, and by following the standard industry approach to pricing. The redesign resulted in more than 4,000 employees of churches and PC(USA)-affiliated organizations being added to the plan.
“We’ve long understood that the Benefits Plan is not one-size-fits-all and that it must evolve to meet the diverse needs of the Church,” Dr. Spencer said. “Our latest effort is the next step in that evolution. By providing congregations with the appropriate tools to include design flexibility and pricing options, we believe they will be better positioned to address Benefits Plan affordability issues.”
The Board’s work to assess and restructure the Church’s Benefits Plan is also guided by its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As a national agency of the PC(USA), the Board shares the denomination's commitment to DEI; to dismantling structural racism; and to taking tangible, intentional steps to expand benefits access for historically underrepresented communities. “We have heard the concerns expressed so urgently at the last General Assembly,” Dr. Spencer said. “This recognition is the start of a conversation with the Church that marks a season of rebuilding as we strive to bring more and better services and programs to all we serve through income-sensitive options that reflect our ongoing commitment to community nature.”
For more information about the season of rebuilding initiative or to share feedback, visit https://seasonofrebuilding.pensions.org/. If you’re interested in attending one of our virtual public town halls, register your interest here.
About the Board of Pensions
The Board of Pensions is a nonprofit agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We partner with PC(USA) churches, agencies, and affiliated employers — including educational institutions, camps and conference centers, retirement and senior housing communities, and human service organizations — to offer robust benefits and services to more than 65,000 individuals. As a nonprofit defined by faith, we support mutual care and wholeness. We have joined a sustainable and churchwide commitment to address racism and systemic injustice.