​Jim is being offered a full-time position as interim pastor of a 500-member congregation. Jim is 36 years old with 10 years of experience as a pastor. He is married and has two children in elementary school. His wife, Elizabeth, does not work outside the home.

The session has established a salary of $59,100 (the national median for pastors) for the interim position and has asked the chairperson of the Personnel Committee (a member of the interim pastor search committee) and the liaison from the presbytery Committee on Ministry to discuss a benefits package with Jim.

Unless required by presbytery policy, a minister who is not an installed pastor may be enrolled in the Benefits Plan through either Pastor’s Participation or menu options. The presbytery has many small rural congregations served by part-time leaders, either lay pastors or retired ministers who serve as stated supply ministers. The presbytery has no official policy or guidelines regarding the provision of benefits for these church leaders.

What concerns or commitments should shape this conversation among the chairperson of the Personnel Committee, the presbytery’s Committee on Ministry representative, and Jim? What should they recommend to the session?

The conversation with Jim prompts the Committee on Ministry representative to raise with COM the need for guidelines. Do you think guidelines or policy would be helpful? If so, what should be addressed? How strict should the guidelines or policy be?

The Board's perspective

  1. The Board of Pensions recommends, generally, that ministers in church employment be enrolled in Pastor’s Participation. Over the course of a career, a minister may serve in a variety of calls, some requiring enrollment in Pastor’s Participation and some not. Portable benefits, including family medical coverage, a commercially unavailable death and disability program, and long-term participation in the defined benefit pension, will be extremely beneficial.
  2. Dues for Pastor’s Participation would include 25% ($14,775) for family medical coverage, 11% ($6,501) for defined benefit pension, and 1% ($591) for death and disability.
  3. Enrollment in Pastor’s Participation also affords Jim access to the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), supplemental death benefits coverage, educational programs through Board University, and the Assistance Program. Twenty or more years of participation in the pension program qualifies a retiree who meets income and asset requirements for Income and Housing Supplements from the Assistance Program.
  4. It can be beneficial for presbyteries to adopt guidelines that advocate for benefits for ministers like Jim, who are not required by the Book of Order to be enrolled in the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). There may, however, be situations in which the guidelines or policy are not helpful. Examples of such situations might include ministers who serve in part-time or temporary roles after retirement or tentmakers, who have access to benefits through another job.