In her role as Church Consultant for the Board of Pensions, Martha Reisner draws on her past work experiences and service to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to help strengthen individual churches. "If we can help churches be good employers, the staff and their ministries will benefit," she said.
As a Church Consultant for the Board of Pensions, Martha Reisner draws from her previous work experiences as well as the many roles she has held in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — including elder, director of Christian education, deacon, trustee, and presbytery committee member — to best serve congregations.
Before joining the Board of Pensions in 2017, Martha was Executive Director at the Capital Region Theological Center, a not-for-profit ecumenical agency providing education and consulting to pastors and churches. She also has experience in international management consulting, computer sales and marketing, and as a high school biology teacher.
"I constantly apply the communication, educational, and relationship skills from all my work experience to the tasks of this role," said Martha.
Martha, who works in the Baltimore-Washington area and serves a region from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia, talks about how she is helping to strengthen individual churches — and the PC(USA) — in her role with the Board of Pensions.
When you first accepted the role of Church Consultant, what appealed to you about serving the Church with the Board of Pensions?
Martha: The Board of Pensions is seen as a professional and caring organization, providing valuable support to individuals and employers throughout the denomination. This is both an external reputation and my impression as I researched the Board and moved through the application process. My response to those who've asked how I "like" my role is to talk about how rewarding it is to work with good people who are trying to do the right things for the right reasons to serve God and the Church. Who wouldn't like to be a part of that kind of organization?
How do you serve the Church in your role?
Martha: Along with my Church Consultant colleagues, our role is to provide information and education about the many benefits the Board offers, and help churches as employers in strategizing the best ways to use those benefits to support pastors and other church workers. The foundation of our work is developing and maintaining relationships with leaders and decision-makers in our region. We work with presbytery staffs, church staffs, and volunteer leadership — presbytery committees who advise churches and pastors, and church leaders like personnel and finance committees and sessions — who are involved in structuring and administering benefits programs in their respective churches.
We want to ensure decision-makers know what options exist. Our relationships facilitate communication about our plans and programs, and allow for those strategizing conversations. If we can help churches be good employers, the staff and their ministries will benefit. Ideally, churches are examples in their communities of how to care for employees, providing just compensation, which includes benefits, so church workers are free to focus on their work and ministries.
We have good news to share. If we can strengthen churches through communication, education, and provision of good support for church workers, the Church should be strengthened.
What do you like best about your role as a Church Consultant?
Martha: First, I love the people I work with — our Church Consultant team, the Board staff, and those I serve in my region.
Second, I enjoy the variety of activities of this role, time spent both face-to-face with colleagues and constituents, which is fun, challenging, and rewarding, and some "quieter" time to craft communications and presentations, and develop my knowledge and skills.
How has your role as an elder in the PC(USA), as well as the other ways in which you've served the Church in the past, helped you in your work at the Board of Pensions?
Martha: In addition to being an elder, I've also served as a deacon, trustee, presbytery committee member, and director of Christian education. The most significant experience, though, may be as the daughter of a church musician and wife of a pastor — 20 years and counting!
Through all the latter roles, I've lived the rhythms and seasons of the Church, living and working with people like those I now serve, seeing and experiencing challenges and rewards of ministry in an institutional church.