Category Archives: Church Administration

Open Enrollment for EPC Benefits now underway

 

November is Open Enrollment month for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI), which presents an opportunity for churches to enroll their staff or make changes to employees benefit plan coverages. The 2021 Open Enrollment website provides information on the EPC’s five medical/prescription drug plans; dental, vision, and life insurance benefits; and other health offerings. Comparison charts, individual plan details, and changes—as well as premium rates for all plans—are easily accessed. All enrollment or coverage changes made during Open Enrollment become effective January 1, 2021.

During open enrollment:

  • Churches can enroll in EPC benefit plans for the first time.
  • Currently covered individuals can make changes to their benefit elections for 2021.
  • Churches can add to, or change, their plan offerings for 2021 by completing a Benefits Election Form.
  • If enrollment and plan selections are not being changed for a current participant, then no action is needed. Under this “passive process,” all will automatically retain their current coverages for 2021 unless they actively initiate a change.

Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director, said premium rates for the 2021 medical/prescription drug plans are increasing by an average of 3.6 percent.

“This is the lowest increase in many years, and it follows last year’s low increase of only six percent,” Francescone said. “The BRI Board of Directors and staff have worked hard in partnership with our plan administrators to maintain our high-quality plans at the lowest possible cost. This has enabled us to keep our increases significantly lower than the national weighted average medical cost trend, despite so many uncertainties related to COVID and the national healthcare landscape.”

Premium rates for the dental plans and life insurance are unchanged for 2021. In addition, premium rates for the 2021 vision plan are eight percent lower than the 2020 rate.

“We are replacing EyeMed with National Vision Administrators, which has resulted in lower premiums and added benefits,” Francescone said. “These include reducing the co-pays for many lens options and providing coverage for both contacts and eyeglass lenses. Previously, participants had to choose one or the other.”

He added that NVA has more than 94,000 participating providers nationwide, including major retail eyecare chains, discount providers like Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club vision centers, and thousands of private practitioners. Current vision plan participants will be enrolled with NVA automatically and receive a welcome packet in December.

All EPC benefit plans are available to full-time employees (30 hours or more per week) of EPC churches, as well as World Outreach global workers, chaplains, and EPC ministers serving out-of-bounds or without call.

“Anyone new to the EPC—or interested in enrolling in one of our benefit programs for the first time—should contact the individual who handles benefits at their church or organization,” Francescone said. “And as always, BRI staff members are happy to answer any questions someone may have about our programs.”

For more information about the EPC’s 2021 benefit plans, contact BRI at 407-930-4492 or benefits@epc.org, or see www.epc.org/benefits/2021openenrollment.

EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., and Fidelity present online financial planning workshop for EPC church employees

 

2020FidelityManageUnexpectedEventsWebinarFlierEPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI) has partnered with Fidelity Investments to provide free quarterly interactive financial planning webinars. The next web workshop, titled “Manage Unexpected Events and Expenses” is Tuesday, June 30, at 10:00 a.m. (Eastern). The webinar will cover topics including:

  • How to assess your spending and take control of your budget.
  • Considerations for taking money from your workplace retirement plan.
  • Ways Fidelity can support you.

“With so much change around us this year and its impact on our economic climate, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and wonder if you should take any action with your retirement savings,” said Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director. “This webinar is designed to provide answers to important financial questions when the unexpected occurs.”

Francescone added that the webinar will offer opportunity for interactive Q-and-A on retirement planning topics. Although designed for participants in the EPC’s 403(b)(9) Retirement Plan, anyone interested is welcome to register.

To more information and to register, see www.epc.org/2020fidelitymanageunexpectedeventswebinar.

To learn more about the EPC’s 403(b)(9) Retirement Plan, see www.epc.org/benefits/retirement.

More than $73,000 donated to EPC churches through online giving provided by Office of the General Assembly

 

As churches began to suspend in-person worship services this spring as the coronavirus pandemic took hold, 32 EPC churches inaugurated an online giving option provided by the Office of the General Assembly. As of June 24, parishioners have made 381 donations through the EPC’s platform totaling $73,080.59.

OnlineGiving-JeffersonEllis

Jefferson Ellis

Jefferson Ellis, Pastor of Hanover Presbyterian Church in Clinton, Pa., said the church has received online contributions “almost every week since we put it on our website. We even have some folks giving from other parts of the country who had roots or family in our church. It has been a positive thing for our small congregation.”

Oak Island Presbyterian Church in Oak Island, N.C., reopened for in-person worship services on June 14. David Paxton, Ruling Elder and Finance Committee Chairman, said providing online giving in the months that they were not able to meet was very helpful.

“Many of our congregants are retired,” Paxton said. “During this difficult period, we have been blessed by contributions exceeding our expenses. Thank you for providing this service to us.”

OnlineGiving-GradyDavidson

Grady Davidson

Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been holding drive-in services for several weeks, and the opportunity for people to give online has been “a great success.”

“Each Sunday there are a few people who make an offering which probably would not have been given without it,” said Pastor Grady Davidson. “Thank you so much.”

For many of these churches, the EPC’s platform—provided at no cost to churches—was their first time they offered online giving to their congregation.

“We have considered this in the past, but we were not motivated—primarily due to the size of our congregation,” said Bryan Little, Treasurer and Elder for Evangelical Presbyterian Stone Church in Caledonia, N.Y. “Online giving has allowed us to accept donations that would probably not be received otherwise. Members are pleased to have this option and have said the process is very easy.”

OnlineGiving-BrynMacPhail

Bryn MacPhail

Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas, noted that “the mechanisms for online giving are not as user-friendly” in the Bahamas.

“This extended period of not gathering in person has challenged us in a number of ways,” he said. “Even more challenging is trying to receive contributions in a foreign currency. Once again, the EPC has come through for us with a helpful remedy. We are so grateful for this practical help and the ongoing support we receive from our denominational office.”

Some of the 32 churches had offered online giving previously, but with mixed results.

OnlineGiving-Guinston“Guinston had previously offered online giving through a company specializing in this type of service,” said Arlina Yates, Treasurer for Guinston Presbyterian Church in Airville, Pa. “Setting it up was laborious and communication after setup was difficult, so we decided to discontinue our contract. Because of that experience, I was hesitant to take up the offer of the EPC online giving tool, but I have found working with the EPC to be a delightful experience. The setup was so easy that I thought I must have missed some steps. Since day one, communication has been prompt, helpful, and kind. You’ve made a difference. Give yourselves a pat on the back, you deserve it and much more!”

Pat Coelho, EPC Chief Financial Officer, said the program will continue as long as it is needed.

“I know a big obstacle for many churches is trying to figure out how to choose an online giving solution and deploy it well,” Coelho said. “It feels good to be able to help like this.”

He noted that all donations are forwarded directly to the church each week.

“The Office of the General Assembly has not kept any of these funds,” Coelho added.

Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah noted that many churches faced unprecedented financial pressures as shelter-in-place orders became commonplace.

“When the shutdown started in March, none of us knew how long we would be unable to hold public worship services,” he said. “I recall many thinking we would be back by Easter, but of course that did not happen. I am thankful that we have been able to provide this financial lifeline for our churches, many of which are among our smallest congregations.”

Churches that requested the service received a page on the EPC website that included the form to make a secure donation, said Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications.

“They can add a ‘Donate’ button to their website that links to this page,” he said. “For churches that do not have a website, they can share the address of the page on the EPC site with their congregants in all the usual ways they keep their attendees informed.”

EPC churches interested in more information about using the denomination’s online giving platform are encouraged to contact Smith at brian.smith@epc.org.

Resources for reopening churches available on EPC website

 

ReopeningResourcesWith many jurisdictions around the country loosening shelter-in-place restrictions, the EPC Office of the General Assembly has curated a variety of resources on how and when churches can begin to open their doors for public worship and other ministries. The materials offer guidelines and suggestions for churches seeking to safely welcome worshippers back into their facilities. Sources include EPC partner ministries and other reputable organizations.

“It is very likely that our pre-lockdown church experience will not be what we experience going forward,” said Jeff Jeremiah, Stated Clerk. “I hope our churches and leaders benefit from the guidelines and suggestions as they look to safely welcome worshippers back into their facilities.”

Included are checklists, guidance, and other helps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ChurchLeaders.com, the Family Research Council, The Gospel Coalition, the National Association of Evangelicals, Smart Church Solutions, Vanderbloemen Search Group, and others.

The resources are available at www.epc.org/reopeningchurches.

Two Minute Topics video series continues with child protection policies

 

In the second episode of the EPC’s video series, “Two Minute Topics,” Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri emphasizes the importance of child protection policies and introduces a variety of helpful resources for helping churches protect the children they serve. The resources are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchprotection.

“Two Minute Topics” are short, informative videos that address questions that the Office of the General Assembly frequently receives.

The videos are available at www.epc.org/news/twominutetopics, as well on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

Noted church leadership expert Mike Bonem headlines annual Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gathering

 

XPGatheringAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator workshops, noted church leadership coach and consultant Mike Bonem discussed the topic “Managing change for revitalization.” The event was held October 24-25 in Denver, Colo.

In his presentation, Bonem described the challenges of change, models for change, and some of the unique dynamics of being in a second chair through change in a church.

“Change is kind of like being in a sports car on a two-lane road in the mountains,” he told the group. “It can be incredibly fun to drive, but it can be terrifying to be a passenger. Second-chair leaders have the best—and worst—of both. And the members of your congregation most often feel like they are in the passenger seat. So leading change is hard, that’s all there is to it.”

Regarding the challenge of change, Bonem noted that people desire stability and predictability, but change often equals chaos, threatens comfort and power, and can imply that “we’ve done something wrong.” He added that these factors apply to any organization, not just the church, but change in the church is more difficult because churches are dependent on volunteers and rich in tradition.

“Churches are also often resistant (or unaccustomed) to feedback, and may have weak or informal governance structures,” he said. “We also have history—the past is always present—and many times people will put a theological overlay on that history.”

As a model of change, Bonem described the “Congregational Transformation Model” that formed the basis for his book, Leading Congregational Change.

“As church leaders, we often focus on vision and how we get there, but that’s just one piece of a much larger process,” he said. “We are never going to be done with change in the church, so what we want to do is create and reinforce momentum through alignment.”

He noted that the challenges in change management “are less about the changes we want to make, but more about the pieces around it—things like communication and having the right people involved,” he said, emphasizing that change always produces some kind of conflict.

“Not all conflict is bad,” Bonem said. “It can be life-giving, as we see so many times in Acts. But conflict without spiritual and relational vitality can be life-threatening. When decisions in the church—particularly contentious ones—start to become like the decisions in Washington or whatever your state capitol is, it makes me wonder about its spiritual and relational vitality.”

Regarding the dynamics of the second-chair role in change management, Bonem addressed a variety of factors, including being aligned with the senior pastor, helping manage the pace of change, taking the pulse of the staff and congregation, paying attention to process, and several others.

Bonem earned an MBA from Harvard University, is a longtime business executive, and later served 11 years as Executive Pastor for a large, multi-site church in Houston, Texas. He is author of Leading Congregational Change , Leading from the Second Chair, Thriving in the Second Chair, and In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership.

The gathering, now in its seventh year, is a two-day event for EPC executive pastors and directors, church administrators, and others in senior ministry (but second-chair) leadership positions.

Sixteen EPC church leaders attended the workshop. In addition to discussing recent challenges and opportunities in their ministry settings—particularly related to change—participants shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration and operations, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, outreach efforts, vision and strategy, finance, and more.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable, which also features Bonem and has the same format as the October 24-25 event, takes place November 7-8 in Orlando. For more information, see www.epc.org/xpadmingathering.

BRI Board of Directors examines benefit and retirement plans outlook

 

BRIBoardMeeting201909At its fall meeting, the Board of Directors of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc. (BRI) examined a variety of topics, including the financial performance and growth of the Retirement Plan, enhancements to the Wellness and Care Management programs for 2020, claims and trends in the 2019 Medical Plan. The group also discussed several cost mitigation strategies.

The Board met September 12 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando.

Actions taken by the Board included a 33 percent reduction in the fees charged by Fidelity to participants in the EPC 403(b)(9) Retirement Plan, and holding an increase in the Medical/Prescription Drug Plan rate increase to an average of six percent for 2020.

“Over the past year, we have been aggressive about cutting costs while maintaining high-quality service levels to church administrators and plan participants,” said Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director. “That effort is paying off through reductions in fees charged to retirement plan participants, and a medical plan rate increase for 2020 that will average only six percent. That is actually below national healthcare cost increases, and is our lowest increase in many years.”

Francescone also said that “aggressive negotiations” with providers for the EPC dental, vision, life, and disability insurances has resulted in premiums for 2020 remaining unchanged from 2019 rates.

The Board also received a report from Merrill Lynch—the EPC’s medical reserve fund investment advisor—on U.S. and international economic and investment performance outlooks, as well as recommendations for fund investment asset allocations. In addition, the independent actuarial firm Milliman presented a report with recommendations for premium rate actions and reserve fund asset levels.

Members of the BRI Board of Directors are Ron Horgan (Chairman), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Michael Busch, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies; Robert Draughon, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Jim Lewien from the Presbytery of the West; Michael Moore from Presbytery of the Central South; Erik Ohman, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West; Bill Reisenweaver, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; Randy Shaneyfelt from the Presbytery of the Great Plains; and Sandy Siegfried from the Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable features church communications expert Mark MacDonald

 

XPGatheringAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable workshops held this fall, veteran church communicator Mark MacDonald discussed the importance of strategic, intentional communications to a local church’s efforts in effectively reaching its community as well as its members and attendees.

MacDonald is Executive Director of the Center for Church Communication, and is author of the Amazon best-seller Be Known for Something. He serves as Strategic Communication Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, which serves more than 3,000 Florida Southern Baptist Churches.

The roundtable, now in its sixth year, is a two-day workshop for EPC executive pastors, church administrators, and others in senior ministry operations leadership positions.

Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer, hosts the event each year.

“We believe in the biblical principle that ‘iron sharpens iron,’ and this event is an opportunity for our church leaders to hear from their peers who face many of the same issues as they do in their ministries,” VanValkenburg said. “As we continue to focus on effective biblical leadership as one of our strategic initiatives, by being ‘better together’ we glean from each other’s experience—and our churches receive the benefit.”

Twenty-four EPC church leaders participated in the workshop October 18-19 in Denver, Colo. Participants discussed their specific ministry victories and challenges, shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, culture, vision and strategy, finance, generosity, and many others.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable takes place November 1-2 in Orlando. For last-minute registration possibilities, contact marti.brenner@epc.org.

General Assembly Networking Lunches offer more than mid-day meal

 

2017GAbannerRegOnlineNetworking Lunches at the EPC 37th General Assembly provide opportunity for connecting with others with similar ministry interests on June 21-23 from 12:00-1:30 p.m. at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. For more information, including descriptions and meeting locations, see www.epc.org/ga2017networkinglunches

Wednesday, June 21

  • Church Planting (hosted by the EPC Church Planting Team)
  • For the Church, For the Generations (hosted by Reformed Youth Ministries)
  • How to Build a Contagious Church Culture (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • How to Make Progress on Leadership Challenges (hosted by PastorServe)
  • Joy Together in Ministry and Mission (hosted by Serge)
  • Jump-Starting Church Revitalization (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Presbyterians Pro-Life (hosted by Presbyterians Pro-Life)
  • What Is the Westminster Confession? (hosted by the Westminster Society)
  • Who Is My Neighbor? (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • World Outreach Global Worker Meet-and-Greet (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Young Ministers in the EPC (hosted by the EPC Young Ministers Network)

Thursday, June 22

  • Building a Culture of Generosity (hosted by the EPC Foundation)
  • Conflict Management: What Seminary Never Taught You (hosted by Pastor-In-Residence Ministries)
  • EPC Benefits “Lunch and Learn: Retirement Plan Changes” (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • International Theological Education Network (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Reaching Millennials (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Reaching the Next Generation of College Students for Christ (hosted by the Coalition for Christian Outreach)
  • Understanding Gender Dysphoria and the Transgender Experience (hosted by OnebyOne)
  • Who Will Lead After You? A Guide to Effective Succession Planning (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Women Teaching Elders and Candidates (hosted by the EPC Office of the General Assembly)
  • World Outreach Needs Business Professionals (hosted by EPC World Outreach)

Friday, June 23

  • Clerks of Session (hosted by the EPC Presbytery of the Pacific)
  • Coaching Church Revitalization (hosted by the EPC GO Center)
  • Come to The Well: Women’s Ministries Resources (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • Engaging Muslim Communities for Christ Through Literacy (hosted by Literacy and Evangelism International)
  • EPC Benefits “Lunch and Learn: Retirement Plan Changes” (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • Growing Your Church Through Small Groups (hosted by Hope Church, Richmond, Va.)
  • How to Lead Your Team to Fulfill Your Church’s Vision (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Leaders of Small Churches (hosted by the EPC Z–4:10 Network)
  • Sending Our EPC Sons and Daughters (hosted by EPC World Outreach)

EPC Benefits offers new tools for church administrators

 

BenefitsHandbookCoverIf you help administrate EPC Benefits for your church staff members, you will want to be aware of some new tools to assist you with the administrative duties related to EPC Benefits. There have been many changes in recent years regarding benefits, not only from the EPC but also from the United States government, and these resources are designed to keep you and your staff current on these changes and the administrative work we require from you.

  • Administrator Benefits Video
  • Administrative Quick Reference Guide
  • EPC Benefits Handbook

Each of these can be accessed from the Benefits section of www.epc.org under a new tab called Church Administrator Resources.

Church Administrator Benefits Training Video
This video was created to answer questions for your administrative staff, whether they are new to your church or not, and takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. Administrative individuals can receive an EPC certificate of completion by watching the video in its entirety and answering the questions at the end. Once completed, the video can be reviewed anytime as a refresher.

Administrative Quick Reference Guide
We encourage you and your administrative professional(s) to print this at-a-glance guide of who to call when you need assistance in a particular area.

EPC Benefits Handbook
This document is a valuable resource concerning the administrative duties related to EPC Benefits policies and practices.

If you need more information or have any questions, contact the EPC Benefits Office at 734-838-6942, 734-838-6948, or diane.pray@epc.org.

Annual Statistical-Financial Reporting

 

We regret to announce that the online database of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (www.epc.org) will not be available for 2013 reporting due to technical difficulties which, unfortunately, were not able to be resolved. You may still use the site to get previous years’ reports.

Clerks of Session will receive by mail the week of February 17th directions to download a spreadsheet template along with instructions to fill it in. After completing the spreadsheet it should be returned by mail to the General Assembly Office.

We are looking forward to a different and much improved data collection system next year and regret any inconvenience this may have created for you.

If you have any questions regarding the revised reporting process after you receive the instructions, please feel free to contact the General Assembly Office.

Transformation “Metrics”?

 

It is said, “What you measure is what you value.”

In January, the General Assembly office staff begins work on the 2013 Annual Statistical and Financial Report (ASFR). The numbers that make up the ASFR provide a measure of church health in terms of growth or decline. The 2013 report will be a part of the 2014 General Assembly Commissioner’s Handbook.

I’ve been thinking about possible measures (or “metrics”) that might help us evaluate our commitment to a ministry of transformation.

If transformation is about the supernatural power of God the Holy Spirit poured out so that men, women, boys and girls in our communities come to a saving knowledge of and love for Jesus Christ, then those numbers that tell us we’re engaging those who do not yet possess salvation in Jesus Christ (or who have come to a saving knowledge of Christ) could be those “metrics.”

Here’s my list:

  • Number of adult/believer’s baptisms
  • Number of first time conversions
  • Number of visitors (first time and regular)
    • To worship services
    • To mid-week events (such as small groups)
  • Number of new members

Questions:

  1. Is there value in attempting to measure a ministry of transformation?
  2. Is it possible to measure a ministry of transformation?
  3. Are there other ways we could possibly measure the results of a commitment to transformation?

2013 Annual Statistical/Financial Reporting

 

An overview of the 2013 Annual Statistical and Financial Reporting:

  • Reports are collected on www.epcdata.org.  With your PIN, you may view and print reports from prevous years now.  The site is being prepared for 2013 data entry and you will not be able to enter new data at the present time.
  • A blank worksheet (no individualized, pre-printed data) is available so you may start gathering information now.
  • An individualized Worksheet with detailed instructions and pre-printed data from the previous reporting year for your church is under preparation now with the goal of mailing to Clerks of Session by the end of January.
  • Please use the worksheet to gather the needed information and then enter it on www.epcdata.org when it is open for new data.  Please enter your data by March 31. The site will be closed for new entries on April 1 to give us adequate time to prepare reports for the General Assembly meeting.

Federal Court ruling re: Minister’s Housing Allowance

 

On Saturday, November 23 the Associated Press reported that a federal judge in Wisconsin has struck down the law that gives clergy a housing allowance that is excluded from income tax. An important element of this ruling is that the housing allowances of pastors remain unaffected, because the ruling has been stayed by the judge until the appeals are exhausted. This morning Thom Rainer of Lifeway Resources provided his response to this news. It includes a statement from the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Guidestone Resources. To read Rainer’s response and the statement go to http://thomrainer.com/2013/11/25/thoughts-on-the-court-ruling-on-the-ministers-housing-allowance.  To read the press release from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) see http://www.ecfa.org/Content/Federal-District-Court-Rules-Clergy-Housing-Exclusion-Unconstitutional. EPC leadership will keep a close watch on this issue as it develops.