​First Presbyterian Church is a 150-member congregation with relatively limited resources. When the church was preparing to search for a new pastor, the chairperson of the session Finance Committee encouraged the hiring of a stated supply minister, insisting that the church could not afford the salary and benefits for a full-time installed pastor. The session recommended, nonetheless, and the congregation decided to call and install a pastor, challenging itself to cultivate and commit the necessary resources.

The congregation called and installed 25-year-old Sheila, a recent seminary graduate with no prior pastoral experience. She receives a salary of $32,000, which is the minimum required by presbytery policy. She is thrilled to have received this call and a steady income, which will help in the elimination of her educational debt. Six months after arriving at First Church, Sheila and her spouse, Chris, adopted an infant.

The Book of Order (G-2.0804) requires that installed pastors of congregations (pastors, associate pastors, and co-pastors) be enrolled in the Benefits Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). According to this requirement, Sheila is enrolled in Pastor’s Participation. Dues for Pastor’s Participation include

  • 25% of annual effective salary for family medical coverage (the minimum $11,000 applies);
  • 11% ($3,520) for defined benefit pension; and
  • 1% ($320) for death and disability.

What are the benefits of Pastor’s Participation for First Presbyterian Church and for Sheila?

The Board's perspective

  1. Due to the community nature of the plan, First Presbyterian Church is able to provide family medical coverage at less than the actual cost. This illustrates the community nature of Pastor’s Participation, the Church’s commitment to helping smaller churches who call pastors at lower salaries. The $11,000 charged for Sheila and her family is less than half the actual cost of family coverage.
  2. Sheila accrues pension credits at the $59,100 national median salary for pastors. Dues at the median would be $6,501, which is $2,981 more than the church’s contribution. Both Sheila and the church benefit from the community nature of Pastor’s Participation.
  3. The disability benefit — which includes 60% continuation of salary, continuing medical coverage, and continuing accrual of pension credits at Sheila’s effective salary or median, whichever is greater — is unavailable in the commercial market. The lump-sum death benefit is determined by salary and age at death. It is multiplied for younger members with the assumption that it supports family members for a longer period of time. Without pension participation, death and disability coverage is priced at 2.5% of effective salary. In Pastor’s Participation, in this case, it costs $320 per year.
  4. Enrollment in Pastor’s Participation affords Sheila access to the Retirement Savings Plan of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), supplemental death benefits coverage, and such educational programs as Board University and the newly ordained Presbyterian CREDO conference. (Sheila’s continuing education cost for this program is $500 for each of the two-week sessions; the Board covers the balance of the actual cost, for a total of $10,000). The Assistance Program provides Sheila with support, including the Minister Educational Debt Assistance Grant (up to $5,000 per year for up to five years) and Adoption Assistance Grant ($3,000). Twenty or more years of participation in the Pension Plan qualifies a retiree who meets income and asset requirements for Income and Housing Supplements from the Assistance Program.