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  • Tim Blodgett

Upcoming Board of Pensions Changes

Rev. Jeff Cranton, moderator of Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry, and I attended the Board of Pensions’ Season of Rebuilding Event on April 23-24 in Denver, Colorado. The Board of Pensions released details about the redesigned benefits plan earlier in April. The Season of Rebuilding Event was a chance for mid council representatives to dive into these changes at a deeper level and prepare to assist pastors and congregations as they make benefits selections for 2025. Below are some of my takeaways and thoughts. 

What is driving the changes? Higher healthcare costs have made the current benefits plan unsustainable. The cost of providing coverage to those in plan is simply higher than what is being paid into the plan by dues. In the past, rate increases covered that difference. If the plan continued in its present form, dues to the Board of Pensions would rise beyond 50%.

Flexibility and Choice – The new plan offers flexibility and choice for pastors and congregations. Some congregations will see a decrease in dues costs. Other churches may be able to offer benefits through the Benefits Plan that they were not able to before. Pastors and congregations will be able to negotiate benefits packages that make the most sense for their situations. 

Anxious Changes – This change brings with it a great amount of anxiety, as well. Pastors have not had to negotiate these benefits in their terms of calls before. While the Book of Order mandates these benefits for installed ministers only (G-2.0804), spouses, children, and families have enjoyed the same benefits for more than forty years. Additionally, these plans have remained relatively unchanged in recent years as ministers of other denominations have seen their benefit and pensions plans disappear and other industries have changed their practices. Selecting and negotiating coverages for spouses, children, and families will be a new experience. 

Pastors with Families – Pastors with families will see increases in their Board of Pensions dues for 2025 and beyond. Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery will work with those pastors and churches to minimize the impacts, review options, and find the best solutions. 

Transitional Support – These changes will not come without help and support from the Board of Pensions and Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery. The Board of Pensions will offer a Transitional Pastor’s Participation Plan that continues for three years the current plan for ministers enrolled in the Pastor’s Participation Plan as of December 31, 2024. The Board of Pensions will be offering a series of in-person and online events to familiarize pastors and congregations with the changes to the benefits plans. The Committee on Ministry and General Presbyter Tim Blodgett will be meeting individually with pastors and congregation’s sessions or personnel committees over the next months to discuss the new plan. The Coordinating Council and Committee on Ministry will review guidelines and grant proposals to help support pastors and congregations during this process. 

Important Dates:

  • May 20 at 1:00pm – Kevin Keaton, Church Consultant with the Board of Pensions, will meet with Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. 

  • May 31 at 10:00am – Kevin Keaton, Church Consultant with the Board of Pensions, will host a pre-meeting gathering at the Tri-Presbytery Meeting in Stillwater, Oklahoma for pastors and church leaders detailing the new benefits plan. Registration information for this event is coming soon. 

Beyond the Initial Change – The primary focus of this communication has been those pastors and churches that are currently in Pastor’s Participation through the Board of Pensions.  A secondary impact of this change to the benefit plan will be the way that pastors and churches negotiate future terms of call as they unite in new ministries. Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery will resource pastors and Pastor Nominating Committees as they embark on that task, as well. 

A Final Word – While these changes will be difficult for some and helpful for others, I do believe that they are necessary for all. The Board of Pensions was able to forestall this shift far longer than many of their peer organizations, but we are at a crossroads. Together, in the covenant community of the church, we will find a road forward that supports the continuing ministry of our pastors and congregations together. 

Rev. Tim Blodgett

General Presbyter

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