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Living by the Gospel

Living by the Gospel is a guide to structuring ministers' terms of call. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) regards benefits as a matter of justice, and vows to justly compensate those who do kingdom work. Living by the Gospel includes data that shows how breaking that promise risks the long-term vitality of ministry.

The guide lays out the ways in which the Church supports the well-being of ministers through the Board of Pensions. It details the benefits, programs, and assistance that are available through Pastor's Participation, and shows how they work together to support ministers and their families.

Data has been refreshed in the updated Living by the Gospel, and it provides additional gender breakdowns for salary, ordination, and benefits participation (see Appendices 3 and 4).

Benefits Continuity

Living by the Gospel positions the Church to provide the full coverage of Pastor's Participation to all ministers, not just installed pastors. Ministers move in and out of installed positions, so benefits continuity is important. And the Pension Plan, included in full coverage, contributes greatly to their retirement.

Data suggests that benefits are important to sustaining ministerial leadership. Living by the Gospel shows, through one lens, that 36 percent of those who did not participate in the Benefits Plan left ministry, compared with a 24 percent drop-out rate for ministers who had been plan members.

Living by the Gospel details Pathways to Renewal and provides related data. This program was designed by the Board to build ministerial leadership for the future of the Church. To support small churches and innovative ministries, it reduces Pastor's Participation dues, from 37 percent of effective salary to 19.75 percent. Through Pastor's Participation, ministers have access to Presbyterian CREDO and may be eligible for Minister Educational Debt Assistance Grants, totaling $5,000 a year for up to five years.

Inspiration for Conversation

The reports included in Living by the Gospel help to inspire meaningful conversation as the Church undergoes reform.

A graph shows the trends of ordination and newly ordained plan enrollment since 2008. And elsewhere, breakdowns of data by gender, age, position, and congregation size provide call-outs:

  • A clear distinction exists between average salaries for men and women across all pastoral positions and congregation sizes.
  •  Most PC(USA) churches have fewer than 150 members, and are more likely than larger congregations not to have an installed pastor.

The Church lives out its identity as a just and caring community when it supports its ministers with benefits. Such support enables them to devote their best gifts to leading God's people.

More Information

The Church Consultants, who are geographically assigned, also serve as a resource for congregations and mid councils. Contact your Church Consultant for more information.

Watch Hope in a Time of Change

Watch the Reverend Frank Clark Spencer, President of the Board of Pensions, discuss challenges — and hopes ­— faced by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), especially calling, and keeping, new congregational ministers, at the Dinner for Commissioners and Advisory Delegates at the 223rd General Assembly (2018). He shared some surprising trends and encouraging news about how the Board is providing tools, such as Living by the Gospel, to help congregations thrive.