​Wilson is a 62-year-old minister with 34 years of experience in churches of various sizes, from fewer than 100 to more than 1,600 members. Feeling the threat of burnout after years of serving congregations with large staffs and demanding programmatic schedules, his zeal for ministry is renewed by the prospect of serving a church with a more relaxed schedule and more focus on pastoral care in one-on-one relationships.

Trinity Presbyterian Church is an 80-member church with modest resources. They cannot afford a full-time pastor, but Wilson feels compelled by the warmth of their fellowship, their love of worship, and a genuine commitment to serving their small town community. He is interested in their 25-hour per week position as stated supply for $25,000 per year, a salary which is a bit of a challenge for the congregation.

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 a general policy that ministers serving in temporary pastoral roles (interim, stated supply) be enrolled in Pastor’s Participation.

Wilson and Mary, the Clerk of Session at Trinity Church, meet with the Executive/Stated Clerk and the chairperson of the Committee on Ministry to talk about the presbytery’s compensation policy. Wilson discloses that his wife, an administrator with the local school system, has employer-provided medical coverage, which can include him at no cost. Wilson and Mary ask if the policy requiring enrollment in Pastor’s Participation can be waived if the church still enrolls him in pension and death and disability.

Assume the perspectives of the presbytery leaders. How would you respond to this request?

The Board's perspective

  1. This is a case in which flexibility of policy or guidelines may well serve the church without compromising Wilson’s well-being.
  2. Trinity Church could use menu options to enroll Wilson for benefits:
    1. medical coverage is waived; provided by spouse’s employer
    2. 11% for defined benefit pension, $2,750; Wilson accrues pension credits at a prorated 71% of the $59,100 national median salary for pastors — or $41,961. (Dues on $41,961 would be $4,616.) The church and Wilson benefit from the community nature of the pension, which augments the pension credits of those who are compensated at less than the median for their classification.
    3. 1% for death and disability, $250
    4. Wilson will also receive access to supplemental death benefits coverage, the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and certain education and Assistance Program offerings. Not being in Pastor’s Participation would make him ineligible for CREDO, Sabbath Sabbatical Support Grants, and Minister Educational Debt Assistance Grants. Not being in medical coverage would make him ineligible for Adoption Assistance and Transition-to-College Assistance Grants.