Ideas flow, relationships flourish at 2019 Benefits Connections

June 12, 2019

Hosting 14 benefits gatherings in locations across the country, the Board of Pensions maintained the momentum it started two years ago when it expanded Benefits Connections to reach more people.

“I greatly appreciated the opportunity to benefit from the collective wisdom of [Board of Pensions] staff and my colleagues from other churches,” a participant in the Board of Pensions’ third annual Benefits Connections said in response to a question about the value of attending.

“There were a lot of great ideas from the podium and the crowd,” said another participant.

Hosting 14 benefits gatherings in locations across the country from late April through the middle of May, the Board of Pensions maintained the momentum it started two years ago when it expanded Benefits Connections to reach more people. Approximately 300 employer representatives attended the 2019 gatherings, including church business administrators, office managers, clerks of session, personnel committee chairs, pastors, and mid council leaders ― people who decide, manage, or support benefits for Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministers or employees.

“Benefits Connections are a way for the Board to get information out about new or recently added programs and offerings, and to answer questions. At the same time, they give us a chance to listen to the needs of churches and their employees ― to have a conversation,” said the Reverend Dr. John G. McFayden, Executive Vice President and Chief of Church Engagement at the Board.

The Board conducts Benefits Connections to help employers understand benefit options before they must make their 2020 benefit decisions and submit an employer agreement. The employer agreement window opens July 15 and runs through October 11, 2019, on Benefits Connect.

During this year’s gatherings, participants showed a keen interest in several recently introduced benefits available through the Board:

  • flexible spending accounts, optional accounts employers can offer their employees, to set aside pretax dollars for qualifying healthcare or dependent care expenses;
  • vision eyewear coverage, which allows employees and their families to save hundreds of dollars on out-of-pocket costs for glasses or contact lenses; and
  • group term life coverage, a low-cost benefit that employers may provide to those employees not offered death and disability coverage.

The benefits gatherings are an important way the Board helps employers be the best they can be. In addition to introducing new benefits and options, Board staff talked about the foundational values of the plan — wholeness, compassion, and justice.

“I especially appreciate how the [Board of Pensions] views their existence as a ministry to the church.”

     ― 2019 Benefits Connections participant

“I love the Board’s adherence to its core theological underpinnings and that the Benefits Plan reinforces our values,” a participant said, referring to A Theology of Benefits in which the Board’s plans and programs are rooted.

“We want to join the Church in creating communities in which innovation and just compensation can co-exist,” said Rev. McFayden. To that end, the Board recently introduced programs to help employers and ministers revitalize ministries.

Pathways to Renewal, an employer incentive program, “makes it easier for churches to call new ministers and provide them with full benefits by reducing dues,” said Andy Browne, Vice President, Church Relations at the Board. “Having access to comprehensive coverage also makes it easier for people to respond to God’s call with a life of ministry.”

In 2019, the Board introduced Healthy Pastors, Healthy Congregations, an innovative financial education program that combines pastor and congregational leader training and awards grants of up to $10,000 to qualifying pastors for debt reduction or retirement savings. And the Board’s new benefits grants for organizing pastors and evangelists help presbyteries plant new churches by providing full benefits for organizing pastors and evangelists.

“The presentations were full of good information. I can’t wait to take it all back to my church,” said another participant, who praised the Board’s programs that seek to lift up ministers and congregations together. “I especially appreciate how the [Board of Pensions] views their existence as a ministry to the church.”

Anyone who missed Benefits Connections is welcome to participate in a webinar recap in July, which will be available through pensions.org. PC(USA) employers with questions about the Benefits Plan or the Board’s programs to revitalize ministries may also contact their Church Consultant.