So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

1 Cor 3:7

This verse has always inspired me. It describes our participation in what God is doing in the world. Our role is to faithfully tend to the necessary daily work while God transforms the seemingly lifeless seed into fruitful abundance.

And so we have seen God’s blessing in our work. For years, we’ve watched active member enrollment in the Benefits Plan shrink 3 to 5 percent annually. But we were called to pursue a new approach. 2017 ended with 1.5 percent more active members than we had at the end of 2016, but that was just the beginning. Our big jump always comes in January, when all of those who enrolled in the fall begin their participation.

January 2018 saw a 19 percent increase in active members, from 11,998 to 14,309!

We’re more than a year ahead of expectations. When we launched the redesign of the 2017 Benefits Plan, we were prepared for enrollment loss to continue in 2017. We hoped for stable numbers in 2018 and modest growth in 2019. While we will lose some members during the year due to natural attrition, the January number is a great place to start!

It all began with discernment in 2014. The one-size-fits-all model of the plan’s traditional program was driving employers to stop providing benefits through the Board. Instead of asking, “Whom do we serve?” we began asking, “Whom might we serve?” In the year that followed, we asked thousands of you to share your thoughts and suggestions with us. We were looking for the right balance of employer and employee needs that would also keep the Church’s commitment to its ministers.

The Benefits Plan that went live January 1, 2017, was the result. It honors the commitment to installed pastors, and makes the plan more flexible through menu options. Menu options allow employers to select which benefits to offer based on their resources and employees to elect benefits based on their needs.

Last year, we prepared 505 proposals for employers to add new benefits for their employees. We implemented over 150 of those opportunities. We have seen increased participation in medical benefits, employee assistance programs, and in the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (RSP).

Transparency of cost and flexibility in design are building blocks of the new Benefits Plan. The plan rests on A Theology of Benefits, which describes the Church’s values — community nature, compassion, justice, and fair compensation. By participating in the plan, congregations and other employers affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) affirm those values — and they are better employers because of it.

We want more employers to be able to cover more people through the Benefits Plan. We want more servants of the Church to benefit from its values. We’re already working on the 2019 plan, looking at ways to make it even more affordable and more inclusive without giving up any of the quality the Board is known for.

We will keep planting and watering and in faith rely on God to give the growth.

Grace and peace,


The Reverend Frank Clark Spencer
President

Welcome to Board Connections, a newsletter from 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.

Ernesto Badillo Award Goes to Benefits Team Member

Benefits team member Lorie Henry has received the Ernesto Badillo Award for Hospitality through Service, the Board’s highest employee honor. Ms. Henry was among 82 employees to be recognized with Celebrating Excellence Awards last month at the Annual Employee Recognition Luncheon. Read more in the pensions.org article.

2017 Investment Review Available

The Board of Pensions 2017 Investment Review is available on pensions.org. The review addresses the investment results for the Board of Pensions Balanced Investment Portfolio for the period ended December 31, 2017.

Updated Tax Resources Now Available!

The Tax Guide for Ministers for 2017 Returns and Federal Reporting Requirements for Churches: What You Need To Know for 2018 are now available through Benefits Connect (see Quick Links on your home page when you log on). The Tax Guide will also be mailed to active and retired ministers of the Word and Sacrament this month.

Included with the Tax Guide is the housing allowance letter, which is available on pensions.org.

Tax Tips for Members & Employers – Tax Year 2017 is now available in the Tax Resource Center at Board University on pensions.org. This annual resource helps plan members and employers (including church treasurers and administrators) understand tax law changes that affect 2017 income tax reporting and filing. The tutorial contains links to other helpful resources, including the Clergy Housing Allowance tutorial.

Well-Being Retreat 2018!

They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. (Psalm 1:3)

Are you thirsting for reflection, rest, and renewal? Searching for opportunities to share fellowship and conversation with colleagues in ministry? Seeking new strategies and practices that will allow you to thrive — and yield your best fruits — in everyday life?

If you found yourself answering yes to any or all of those questions, mark your calendar and plan to join us August 20-22 for Well-Being Retreat 2018 at Montreat Conference Center, Montreat, North Carolina.

Well-Being Retreat is open to all plan members and retirees who want to become more deeply rooted in their lives and ministries through worship, fellowship, learning opportunities, and personal reflections that focus on the spiritual, health, financial, and vocational dimensions of well-being.

Visit the Well-Being Retreat page on pensions.org for more information. Program details will be updated there (and announced here, in Board Connections) as plans are finalized.

Take On New Challenges

Did you start the year with good intentions but find yourself falling into the very habits you’d like to change? Call to Health* can help. Read more on pensions.org or get inspired by member testimonials.

*Call to Health is available to members and their spouses enrolled in the active Medical Plan (the Highmark PPO or EPO); it is not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.

Minister’s Routine CBC Anything But

To Reverend Joseph Phipps’ surprise, his first complete blood count (CBC), a no-cost screening recommended by the Medical Plan’s Preventive Schedule, showed an elevated white blood cell count. This was despite Rev. Phipps’ general good health and having no other signs of illness or infection. Read more on pensions.org.

Financial Well-Being: Get Points for That!

If you are covered by the Medical Plan, and also participate in the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (RSP), you can earn Call to Health points with two new financial challenges that will start soon. Read more on pensions.org.

Fidelity Shares Insight into New Tax Law

Fidelity Investments, record keeper for the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (RSP), sent emails to RSP participants last month, directing them to a summary of the new tax law changes. Read more on pensions.org.

America Saves Week Coming Soon

Get ready for America Saves Week (February 26-March 3, 2018), a national celebration to encourage employees to save money and plan for the future. Look for messages on pensions.org about how boosting your savings by 1 percent — in the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (RSP) or your personal savings account — can help you plan a secure retirement.

Understanding Your Deductible To Help Manage Healthcare Costs

The deductible is the annual amount members pay before the Medical Plan pays its portion for certain covered services. Medical Plan deductibles are reset to zero every January 1. As a result, it’s important to understand how the deductible works so you’ll know how much you may need to pay out of pocket each year.

Your deductible amount varies depending on whether you cover any family members and which medical plan option you’re enrolled in. The deductible for PPO participants, for example, is based on effective salary, while those enrolled in the EPO and the Medicare Supplement Plan pay a flat amount.

If you’re enrolled in the PPO or EPO, it’s also important to know what expenses apply toward your annual deductible. While there’s no deductible to pay for doctor’s office visits, many other types of care require the member to pay out of pocket up to the deductible before the plan pays. For example, you must first pay your deductible before the plan pays for inpatient hospital care, outpatient hospital services, and emergency room visits. With the PPO, other services — such as blood tests and X-rays — are also subject to the deductible.

Planning for the unexpected is another way to better manage your healthcare spending. If you’re enrolled in the PPO or EPO, you can minimize your potential out-of-pocket costs by participating in Call to Health.* When you earn at least 1,000 Call to Health points, your individual and family medical deductibles will be reduced by as much as one-third for 2019. Learn about current challenges; then, get started today!

*Call to Health is available to members and their spouses enrolled in the active Medical Plan (the Highmark PPO or EPO); it is not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan.

Celebrate Heart Health Month

February is American Heart Month, a reminder to be kind to your heart. Give your heart the love it deserves and schedule your annual preventive exam with your primary care doctor. Your loved ones will thank you — and you can earn 400 Call to Health points toward lower deductibles for 2019 and a $100 Amazon gift card when you have your checkup between October 1, 2017, and November 16, 2018.*

In addition to getting recommended preventive care and screenings, you can take care of your heart by exercising regularly, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing stress. Check out related challenges and Ignite Your Life coaching programs at calltohealth.org to help with these aspects of heart health — and more. After all, when it comes to being well, a little love for your heart goes a long way!

*Call to Health is available to members and their spouses enrolled in the active Medical Plan (the Highmark PPO or EPO); it is not available to members enrolled in Triple-S, GeoBlue, or the Medicare Supplement Plan. The time frame for having your preventive checkup is October 1, 2016, through November 16, 2018, if you are under age 50.

Highlighted E-Learning

Members, treasurers, and administrators may now view the Tax Tips for Members & Employers – Tax Year 2017 to understand recent tax law changes affecting income tax reporting and filing.

Seminars

Find upcoming seminars and locations

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