As an employer, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, walks the walk.
A dynamic Christian community of 2,300 members, the church is working toward a more whole and just world. Covenant extends that commitment to its staff through generous benefits and a culture of health.
“We believe all of our staff are doing ministry, from the custodian to the senior pastor,” said Covenant Business Administrator Bill Keith. “Personnel, Session ― we all believe we have a responsibility to take care of our folks.”
That’s why Covenant provides benefits coverage through the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), available from the Board of Pensions, for its 21 full-time employees, including three ministers — and plans to provide coverage for an additional 20 employees.
“To many people, benefits can seem like a waste ― until you need them. Then, they’re priceless,” Bill said.
“We believe all of our staff are doing ministry, from the custodian to the senior pastor.”
―Bill Keith, Business Administrator
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Charlotte, NC
As an employer committed to living its values, Covenant Presbyterian Church sees it as its duty to offer a full range of benefit options and help employees understand their choices. Covenant provides generous coverage of the essentials and offers other, self-paid options, such as vision eyewear and dental coverage.
Covenant has been with the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for more than two decades, with a key draw being the plan’s emphasis on financial security. That’s because the church has long committed to its staff’s financial well-being ― an essential element of wholeness.
Covenant especially appreciates the greater flexibility and choice the Board introduced to the Benefits Plan in 2017, when it moved beyond a one-size-fits-all design to serve more people.
“The change in plan design freed us to live our values even more than before,” Bill said. Covenant provides the Board’s Death and Disability coverage to all its full-time employees, at no cost to them.
Bill joined Covenant in 2011, and, in the years since, three Covenant employees have needed those disability benefits — one employee as recently as last year. He said the 2.5 percent of salary Covenant pays for Death and Disability is well worth the financial security it provides.
All three employees have expressed deep gratitude for Covenant’s foresight, telling him they would have “lost their homes” had they not had the coverage. “Those are their words, not mine,” Bill said.
Additionally, the church has long supported its full-time employees’ efforts to save for retirement. Covenant, committed to making all its employees whole, currently contributes to non-ministerial employees’ individual accounts in the Retirement Savings Plan, a 403(b)(9) plan offered by the Board of Pensions and administered by Fidelity Investments. (Its ministers are enrolled in the Pension Plan.)
“You can call them up [at the Board of Pensions] and talk with someone expert about Medicare and retirement. They’re excellent.”
― Bill Keith
Covenant also recognizes the importance of retirement planning — of ministers and employees being able to get useful information with which to make decisions about their futures. “This is one of the things I value most about the Board: You can call them up and talk with someone expert about Medicare and retirement,” Bill said. “They’re excellent.”
Covenant also has a strong culture of health, another critical component of wholeness.
The church pays 70 percent of full-time employees’ medical coverage (not counting pastors, at 100 percent). For 2019, Covenant’s employees had the choice of enrolling in the PPO medical option. For 2020, Covenant will be offering an additional option: the HDHP, the Board’s qualified high deductible health plan.
“The HDHP is a good option for many young people, so we’re glad to be able to offer it,” said Bill. “It can save them — and our church — money while offering key coverage.”
Asked what he values most in the Board of Pensions as Covenant’s benefits provider, Bill answered without hesitating: “It’s the relationship.” He mentioned President Frank Spencer’s coming to Charlotte a few years ago to learn about church employers’ experiences with the Benefits Plan and the Board of Pensions. The conversation helped to inform the Board’s thinking on how to make the plan attractive to more employers.
“His openness to listen and make changes was remarkable,” he said. “This is what you hope for in a business relationship but rarely see.”
“I would encourage other large church employers to explore all the Board of Pensions has to offer,” Bill said. “With the Board, you get a responsive partner who shares your values and looks for ways to meet your needs. You get a partner who cares.”