(BOARD OF PENSIONS – Press release) The results are in: The inaugural Benefits Connections events received high marks from participants for contributing to their on-the-job effectiveness.
Benefits Connections is part of a two-stage strategy of the Board of Pensions to engage the Church that replaces the Regional Benefits Consultations of past years. The second stage will be the Mid Council Leaders Gathering, scheduled October 15-17, 2017, in St. Louis in collaboration with the Office of the General Assembly.
The Board sponsored the one-day benefits-focused gatherings in 10 cities nationwide this spring. Participating were business administrators, office managers, clerks of session, personnel committee chairs, pastors, Committee on Ministry (COM) and Committee on Preparation for Ministry (CPM) members, and others holding benefits responsibilities for churches and other Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-affiliated employers. Attendance totaled approximately 340, 80 percent of whom represented congregations.
“I thought the team did an excellent job in providing thorough details on all benefits,” one participant wrote in an evaluation. “I learned a lot regarding benefits and opportunity for the lay staff, if we would include them on the plan.”
In addition to delivering benefits information, the Benefits Connections were designed to
- increase engagement with congregations and other employers, compared with Regional Benefits Consultations of previous years;
- establish relationships with employers;
- facilitate peer relationships among participants;
- deliver benefits information;
- support COMs and CPMs; and
- receive feedback.
“Caring for others, tending to those in need, laboring for wholeness in others, this is living out the Gospel call,” said the Reverend Dr. John G. McFayden, Executive Vice President and Chief of Church Engagement at the Board. “Providing benefits and programs that support wholeness and sustain ministry is just. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has not wavered in its commitment to supporting church workers in this way. It allows them to devote their finest gifts to God.”
Rev. McFayden and others at the Board recognize that setting up benefits offerings for different types of employees can be challenging. One workshop at the event focused on technical aspects of selecting benefits and another, oriented primarily to mid council leaders and COM/CPM members, on meeting the benefits needs of diverse and emerging ministries.
The Board developed and introduced a series of case studies designed to assist employers in considering benefits selections for a variety of teaching elder and other employee positions, such as interim pastors, emerging ministry leaders, and Christian educators.
Benefits Connections also offered an opportunity to foster peer relationships. To encourage such supportive, collegial relationships, each gathering set aside time for a panel of business administrators and personnel committee leaders to share their experiences in offering benefits.
“Good to hear what others are doing regarding 403(b) incentives to employees,” one participant wrote. “Also learned some of the benefit offerings other churches have implemented, so I can model some of those to present to the decision making body.”
Benefits Connections also proved valuable to Board staff, who listened as participants listed their needs, including
- resources for advocating benefits;
- timely information about costs;
- financial planning for members;
- administrative proxy for enrollment;
- lower-cost medical options; and
- sharing of employer practice patterns.
“We came away with a better understanding of what the Board can do to help churches and other employers provide benefits to their employees,” said Andy Browne, Vice President, Church Relations. “The small size of the gatherings allowed for more face-to-face time.”
One participant’s comments echoed Mr. Browne: “This event was very valuable to the members of congregations who have not had events like this available to them.”
“The Benefits Connections are part of the Board’s mission to support the Church as it stands as a witness to the world,” Rev. McFayden said. “When the Church provides just compensation to its workers, it lives out its identity as a just and caring community. We need to work together as we follow Jesus’ charge in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, a passage pondered in worship at all the events, to go and do likewise.”
Story provided by Board of Pensions agency communications