We often say we embrace change, and some people truly do; but what most of us truly want is for things to remain the same but get better. Some change is radical and game changing, some change is incremental, and some change is easily ignored.
I’d like to highlight some upcoming changes in health insurance, clergy pension plans, and the annual conference budget. Most of these changes are incremental, but none of them should be ignored because they will make a difference for your pastor, your staff, and your church.
In August, each church received several important mailings from the annual conference. These notices will help churches comply with the law and keep church leaders and staff informed about items relevant to their ministry and their personal health and financial well-being.
Affordable Care Act changes
Health care reform is difficult to ignore—the news media has produced many articles and commentaries about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Minnesota’s health insurance exchange will begin enrolling people in October. The Minnesota Conference is taking a wait-and-see approach to the exchange so that we can gain an understanding of what it might mean for churches and plan participants before we make any decisions about it.
However, there is a provision of the ACA that requires action this year. Employers, including churches, must provide written notice of available health care options to employees no later than Oct. 1. Churches recently received the ACA Exchange Notice Toolkit in the mail. The toolkit provides instructions and templates to help them comply with this provision of the ACA.
Church plans differ from other health insurance plans, and the ACA is a complicated law. Fortunately, the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) is a leader in researching and informing conferences and churches about the ACA’s requirements. GBPHB’s website (www.gbophb.org) is an excellent source of information for churches. The items in the Exchange Notice Toolkit are also available on that website.
Clergy Retirement Security Program
Another change will occur in the Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP) in 2014. The modified CRSP will result in lower bills for most churches—and will result in an estimated $300,000 reduction for Minnesota churches collectively in 2014. That includes a reduction in clergy pension benefits in the future. (Retirement benefits already earned or accrued will not change.) In order to strengthen individual savings for retirement, clergy are strongly encouraged to contribute to the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP). In order to provide an incentive to make a personal contribution, the modified CRSP provides for a matching contribution of up to 1 percent. In 2014, the 1 percent match will be paid by the annual conference using benefit reserve funds. This will be reviewed and could change with the 2015 budget.
Updated budget format
You might have noticed a change in the annual conference budget format when you received the 2014 apportionment calculation for your church: Programmable funds included in the apportioned budget are organized around the conference’s strategic imperatives: developing missional leaders, equipping missional congregations, extending our missional impact, generating missional resources, and aligning our work through leadership and support.
We feel the revised format better illustrates how apportioned and other funds are focused on our Gospel imperatives to reach new people, cultivate spiritual vitality, and heal a broken world. The remittance form that you complete and return with your apportionment payments and the monthly statement will reflect the new budget format. Please discard old remittance forms in 2014 and begin using the new form with your 2014 apportionment payments.
Also, be sure to take a look at the mailing that all pastors recently received that contains a four-page guide to help you interpret the apportioned funds for your leaders and members.
We know that your church staff and leaders are busy this time of year preparing for rally day and the start of new fall programs. Please watch for the mailings from the conference (or look through the stack on your desk), and read each one carefully and share the information with those who need to know. The Exchange Notice Toolkit is sent to the lead pastor, staff-parish relations chair, and church administrator. The 2014 apportionment calculation is sent to the lead pastor, treasurer, and finance committee chair.
Barbara Carroll is director of finance and administration for the Minnesota Annual Conference.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church