God challenges each of us every day. We are challenged when the Word is proclaimed. We are challenged by Scripture. We are challenged in prayer. Sometimes the appropriate response is worship, sometimes further study, and often continued prayer. At other times, however, God is calling us to action.

Collectively, we have challenges as well. The overarching challenge for the Board of Pensions is figuring out how to serve more people, more affordably, and with quality. We’ve been talking about these issues for several years now, particularly where the Medical Plan is concerned. And, as you know, we’ve made changes to help sustain the plan. Despite the effort and energy expended, those changes were on the margin and have not fully addressed more fundamental structural questions.

Shifts in congregational hiring patterns and church demographics seem to guarantee that the one-size model of the Benefit Plan’s Traditional Program is going to fit fewer employers. It was designed with clergy in traditional roles in mind. Many of our smaller churches have only one Benefits Plan member: their pastor. And churches without a mandated member and other employing organizations may have no one left in the plan. They’re telling us with their checkbooks that the plan isn’t working for them.

At times, when we’re deeply rooted in one way of doing things, it’s tough to see the obvious and also difficult to imagine doing things any other way. Here at the Board, we’re now asking ourselves not only what is good for plan members, but what might we do to serve the tens of thousands of Presbyterian church workers who are currently excluded from the Benefits Plan. In a changing context, we must look beyond tradition if we are to keep the covenant with our pastors and fulfill the Board’s centuries-old mission of caring for church workers.

So we’re asking: How could we redesign the Benefits Plan so that it continues our commitment to teaching elders and makes it flexible enough for church employers to cover other employees? How can we replace membership decline with membership growth? What plan design and policy will help to build the Church through empowering congregations? Answering those questions is going to be part of a large outreach effort in 2015, when we’ll be asking you to help us out with comments and suggestions and reactions to our thoughts.

So, please, stay alert for opportunities and invitations from the Board to contribute because we can’t do this alone. We need to address these questions as a community. Help us, so that we might respond to God’s challenge with flexibility and faithfulness.

Grace and peace,

Frank C. Spencer

Welcome to Board Connections, the newsletter for The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This publication highlights recent Board news and important updates and information. We hope you find this newsletter useful, and we welcome your feedback at any time.

Roth Option Available Now in the RSP!

Now you can make after-tax contributions to the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (RSP) through the plan’s new Roth option, available as of January 1. This new option expands the tax advantages available through the RSP. You can save the traditional pretax way and defer paying taxes now, and you can contribute after-tax through the Roth option, in exchange for favorable tax treatment on your Roth funds later if you meet certain criteria. Or, you can save both ways.

To learn more, read the article on pensions.org.

Employees working for an employing organization in Puerto Rico are not eligible to make RSP contributions.

Fidelity Statements Move Online

Fidelity is transitioning Retirement Savings Plan (RSP) account statements online, available via NetBenefits. The last paper statement that RSP participants will receive will be this month (activity through December 2014).To learn more, read the article on pensions.org.

A New Year of Call to Health

The new year is a great time to recommit to Call to Health! Check out the final results of the first year of Call to Health participation and the additional health actions you can choose from for completion of Call to Health between October 1, 2014, and September 30, 2015. Decide now to achieve your best health and reduce your deductibles in 2016.

Find out what’s new and what information to watch for! To learn more, read the article on pensions.org.

Always Use the Latest Version of Board Resources

The Board has recently updated important resources for 2015, including

Board resources are updated frequently, so always make sure you’re working from the latest version. You can find the most up-to-date versions in Available Resources on pensions.org.

Give until It Helps!

You’ve heard the expression “give until it hurts”? In a new twist on this old saying, the field of positive psychology has discovered that giving is good for you. In addition to benefiting those who need a helping hand, volunteering and other forms of altruism may improve your health.

On Monday, January 19, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of National Service, hundreds of thousands of Americans will volunteer to make a difference in their local communities. In the process, they will enjoy a boost to their immune systems and, possibly, their life expectancies, several studies show.

Altruism — service to others — is fundamental to church work. It’s no surprise, then, that churches and agencies throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) volunteer in their communities throughout the year.

To learn more, read the article on pensions.org.

Updated Tax Tips Web Module Coming Soon

Tax Tips for Members and Churches will be available at Board University later this month. This annual resource helps active and retired members, treasurers, and churches understand recent tax law changes that affect income tax reporting and filing. The module will contain links to other resources, including the modules Clergy Housing Allowance, Tax Advantages of the 403(b)(9) Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and How to Protect the Tax-Free Status of Death Benefits.

Highlighted E-Learning

View Effective Salary: Why It’s So Important To Get It Right for a helpful refresher on how effective salary is used to calculate benefits and dues for church workers and their families.


Find upcoming seminars and locations

Make Sure Your Personal and Beneficiary Information Is Correct

The beginning of a new year is a great time to make sure your contact, dependent, and beneficiary information is up to date. You can review your information by logging on to Benefits Connect.

With Benefits Connect, you can also view, save, and print a current Statement of Benefits, request a retirement packet, use secure calculators to estimate your pension and death benefits, and more.

If you are not already taking advantage of Benefits Connect, register today!

Follow the Board on Twitter.

If you have comments or feedback on this newsletter, please let us know at communications@pensions.org.

If you have questions, call the Board at 800-773-7752 (800-PRESPLAN) and speak with a member service representative.

We're looking for photos for possible use in future Board of Pensions communications!
We hope you'll share your favorite photos by sending them to photos@pensions.org.
Please note the name of your church, city, and state as well as a contact name in your email.
Keep in mind that submission of a photo to this email box constitutes permission to publish.