Category Archives: Resources

June 10 webinar to explore biblical, congregational response to racial injustice

 

June10WebinarPanelistsOn Wednesday, June 10, at 4:00 p.m. EDT, a racially diverse panel of EPC Teaching Elders and other leaders will present a 60-minute webinar, “Leading EPC Sessions and Congregations in Issues of Race and Justice: An Online Seminar on These Times and a Biblical Response.”

The webinar will be hosted by Case Thorp, Moderator of the EPC 39th General Assembly and Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

“Several EPC Teaching Elders of color and the Co-Chairmen of the EPC’s Revelation 7:9 Task Force will discuss racial injustices, congregational leadership, and a Reformed and biblical response,” Thorp said. “Our panelists will discuss these timely topics, and there will opportunity for question-and-answer.”

Panelists include:

For more information and to register, go to www.epc.org/june10webinar.

Resources available on EPC website for June 8 Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer

 

June8DayOfLamentFastingPrayerA message from Tom Werner, Moderator of the 38th General Assembly, calling for June 8, 2020, as a Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer:

Recent events surrounding the wrongful deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minnesota demonstrate the persistence of severe racial injustices in the United States. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church laments the turmoil our nation is suffering as a result of these and other injustices, and the hurt—property loss, injury, and death—that is visited on those who are responsible by their actions and those who are not responsible but who are hurt as a consequence of sin. In times of national crisis and tragedy, the EPC turns to God and His Word for direction and encouragement.

Genesis 1:27 declares God created man in His own image. As bearers of God’s image, all people share in divine dignity and are equal before Him. Racism is an abomination to God. It distorts, diminishes, defames, and destroys those whom God in His goodness created in His image.

The idea or ideology that one race is superior to another is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s love in Jesus Christ casts out the fear that generates hatred (1 John 4:18). Christ’s work on the cross has torn down the dividing wall of hostility and hatred so that we are no longer enemies of God and no longer enemies of one another (Ephesians 2:14-18). A key calling of the church of Jesus Christ is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-20). The church looks forward to the day when believers “from every nation, tribe, people, and language” will join as one and celebrate the redeeming work of Jesus Christ together (Revelation 7:9-10).

Because of the clear testimony of God’s Word, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church unambiguously declares that racism in any form is an abomination to the God who created all races and is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church condemns racism and calls to repentance all individuals, groups, and structures that advocate it.

In response, the National Leadership Team has called all members of our churches to a Day of Lament, Fasting, and Prayer on Monday, June 8, 2020.

A proposed list of Laments and Prayers to lift to the Lord on June 8 is available at www.epc.org/june8lamentfastingprayer.

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.

EPC Smaller Church Network to present series of live webinars for the “ordinary” church practitioner

 

SmallChurchWorkshopOn four consecutive Thursdays beginning May 21, the EPC Smaller Church Network will present “The Ordinary Church in Extraordinary Times” in a series of 90-minute webinars. The webinars begin at 7:00 p.m. EDT, and there is no cost to register.

“More than 80 percent of churches in America today have an average worship attendance of fewer than 200 people,” said Roy Yanke, who is coordinating the webinars. He serves as Executive Director of PIR Ministries and is a Ruling Elder for Grace Chapel EPC in Farmington Hills, Mich. “When this year’s Leadership Institute had to be canceled, we thought it could be useful to explore and share what many of us in small—what I call ‘ordinary’—churches are learning about ourselves and our churches during this unprecedented time.”

Other speakers are Zack Eswine, Lead Pastor of Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Mo.; Josh Modrzynski, Pastor of Riceville Community Church in Asheville, N.C.; and Doug Walker, Pastor of River City Church in DeBary, Fla.

Yanke said the content of the series will address the significance of the small church.

“Each of the 90-minute webinars will focus on a key challenge faced by leaders of smaller churches, and how each could become an opportunity for greater ministry impact,” he said.

Topics include:

  • A Pastoral Approach to Re-connecting (May 21)
  • The Life of the Church—Inside and Out! (May 28)
  • Facing the Financial Impact (June 4)
  • The Tech Challenge—Its Use, Purpose, and Value for the Future (June 11)

“We will examine the spiritual, emotional, and financial impact of the pandemic on our people, on us as leaders, and the teaching opportunities this presents,” Yanke noted. “We also will address such questions as ‘Has the value of meeting physically become more apparent?’ ‘Where have we seen opportunities beyond our walls to impact our communities?’ and ‘Has our sense of doing important and significant work increased?’”

Each of the four sessions will conclude with a time for Q&A.

For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/smallchurchworkshop.

SmallChurchWorkshopSpeakers

Small Business Administration clarifies participation of faith-based organizations in Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

 

SBA-FaithBasedFAQ20200403On April 4, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) clarified that all faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL) without restrictions based on their religious identity or activities. These organizations must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.

Click here to download this information in printable, PDF format as provided by the SBA.

1. Are faith-based organizations, including houses of worship, eligible to receive SBA loans under the PPP and EIDL programs?

Yes, and we additionally clarify that faith-based organizations are eligible to receive SBA loans regardless of whether they provide secular social services. That is, no otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization. The requirements in certain SBA regulations—13 C.F.R. §§ 120.110(k) and 123.301(g)—impermissibly exclude some religious entities. Because those regulations bar the participation of a class of potential recipients based solely on their religious status, SBA will decline to enforce these subsections and will propose amendments to conform those regulations to the Constitution. Although 13 C.F.R. § 120.110(a) states that nonprofit entities are ineligible for SBA business loans (which includes the PPP program), the CARES Act explicitly makes nonprofit entities eligible for the PPP program and it does so without regard to whether nonprofit entities provide secular social services.

2. Are there any limitations on how faith-based organizations can use the PPP and EIDL loan money they receive?

Only the same limitations that apply to all other recipients of these loans (such as that loan forgiveness will cover non-payroll costs only to a maximum of 25% of the total loan to a recipient). The PPP and EIDL loan programs are neutral, generally applicable loan programs that provide support for nonprofit organizations without regard to whether they are religious or secular. The CARES Act has provided those program funds as part of the efforts to respond to the economic dislocation threatened by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Under these circumstances, the Establishment Clause does not place any additional restrictions on how faith-based organizations may use the loan proceeds received through either the PPP or the EIDL loan program. See, e.g., Religious Restrictions on Capital Financing for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, 43 Op. O.L.C. , *7–15 (Aug. 15, 2019); Authority of FEMA to Provide Disaster Assistance to Seattle Hebrew Academy, 26 Op. O.L.C. 114, 122–32 (2002). In addition, the CARES Act does not impose unique burdens or limitations on faith-based organizations. In particular, loans under the program can be used to pay the salaries of ministers and other staff engaged in the religious mission of institutions.

3. How will churches qualify if have not been informed of tax-exempt status by the IRS? Do organizations have to request and receive tax exempt status or just meet the requirements of 501(c)(3) status to be eligible?

Churches (including temples, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship), integrated auxiliaries of churches, and conventions or associations of churches qualify for PPP and EIDL loans as long as they meet the requirements of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and all other PPP and EIDL requirements. Such organizations are not required to apply to the IRS to receive tax-exempt status. See 26 U.S.C. § 508(c)(1)(A).

4. Will my organization be sacrificing its autonomy or its First Amendment or statutory rights if it requests and receives a loan?

No. Receipt of a loan through any SBA program does not (1) limit the authority of religious organizations to define the standards, responsibilities, and duties of membership; (2) limit the freedom of religious organizations to select individuals to perform work connected to that organization’s religious exercise; nor (3) constitute waiver of any rights under federal law, including rights protecting religious autonomy and exercise under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000b et seq., Section 702 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a), or the First Amendment.

Simply put, a faith-based organization that receives a loan will retain its independence, autonomy, right of expression, religious character, and authority over its governance, and no faith-based organization will be excluded from receiving funding because leadership with, membership in, or employment by that organization is limited to persons who share its religious faith and practice.

5. What legal requirements will be imposed on my organization as a result of our receipt of this federal financial assistance? Will those requirements cease to apply when the loan is either repaid in full or forgiven?

Receipt of a loan through any SBA program constitutes Federal financial assistance and carries with it the application of certain nondiscrimination obligations. Any legal obligations that you incur through your receipt of this loan are not permanent, and once the loan is paid or forgiven, those nondiscrimination obligations will no longer apply.

Consistent with certain federal nondiscrimination laws, SBA regulations provide that the recipient may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, age, or national origin with regard to goods, services, or accommodations offered. 13 C.F.R. § 113.3(a). But SBA regulations also make clear that these nondiscrimination requirements do not limit a faith-based entity’s autonomy with respect to membership or employment decisions connected to its religious exercise. 13 CFR § 113.3-1(h). And as discussed in Question 4, SBA recognizes the various protections for religious freedom enshrined in the Constitution and federal law that are not altered or waived by receipt of Federal financial assistance.

SBA therefore clarifies that its regulations apply with respect to goods, services, or accommodations offered generally to the public by recipients of these loans, but not to a faith- based organization’s ministry activities within its own faith community. For example, SBA’s regulations will require a faith-based organization that operates a restaurant or thrift store open to the public to serve the public without regard to the protected traits listed above. But SBA’s regulations do not apply to limit a faith-based organization’s ability to distribute food or clothing exclusively to its own members or co-religionists. Indeed, SBA will not apply its nondiscrimination regulations in a way that imposes substantial burdens on the religious exercise of faith-based loan recipients, such as by applying those regulations to the performance of church ordinances, sacraments, or religious practices, unless such application is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest. Congress enacted the CARES Act to afford swift and sweeping stopgap relief to Americans who might otherwise lose their jobs or businesses because of the economic hardships wrought by the response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, and SBA has a compelling interest in fulfilling that mandate to provide assistance broadly.

6. Is my faith-based organization disqualified from any SBA loan programs because it is affiliated with other faith-based organizations, such as a local diocese?

Not necessarily. Under SBA’s regulations, an affiliation may arise among entities in various ways, including from common ownership, common management, or identity of interest. 13 C.F.R. §§ 121.103 and 121.301. These regulations are applicable to applicants for PPP loans. (They also apply to the EIDL program when determining certain loan terms, although aggregating the number of employees of affiliated organizations does not affect eligibility for EIDL loans.) Some faith-based organizations likely would qualify as “affiliated” with other entities under the applicable affiliation rules. Entities that are affiliated according to SBA’s affiliation rules must add up their employee numbers in determining whether they have 500 or fewer employees.

But regulations must be applied consistent with constitutional and statutory religious freedom protections. If the connection between your organization and another entity that would constitute an affiliation is based on a religious teaching or belief or is otherwise a part of the exercise of religion, your organization qualifies for an exemption from the affiliation rules. For example, if your faith-based organization affiliates with another organization because of your organization’s religious beliefs about church authority or internal constitution, or because the legal, financial, or other structural relationships between your organization and other organizations reflect an expression of such beliefs, your organization would qualify for the exemption. If, however, your faith-based organization is affiliated with other organizations solely for non-religious reasons, such as administrative convenience, then your organization would be subject to the affiliation rules. SBA will not assess, and will not permit participating lenders to assess, the reasonableness of the faith-based organization’s good-faith determination that this exception applies.

7. Does my faith-based organization need to apply for this exemption or include any documentation of its religious beliefs or practices to fall within this affiliation exemption?

No specific process or detailed filing is necessary to claim the benefit of this exemption. If you believe that your organization qualifies for this exemption to the affiliation rules, you should submit with your loan application a separate sheet stating as much. That sheet may be identified as Addendum A, and no further listing of the other organizations with which your organization is affiliated, or description of the relationship to those organizations, is required. You are not required to describe your religious beliefs.

A sample “Addendum” is at the end this document, but you may choose to write your own. Your statement can be very simple.

8. How do I know where my organization fits in SBA’s size standards table? Should I use the table to determine whether my organization is a small business that is eligible to participate in the PPP program?

SBA’s size standards can be found at 13 CFR § 121.201. Under the CARES Act, a non-profit organization qualifies as small, and is eligible for assistance, if (1) it has no more than 500 employees or (2) the NAICS code associated with its primary industry has a higher employee- based size standard. Some industries—including “religious organizations”—are currently listed in the size standards table with a monetary cap on annual receipts rather than an employee-based size standards cap. For nonprofit organizations whose primary industry is listed with a monetary cap on annual receipts, the size standards table therefore cannot be used to determine eligibility for the PPP program. Faith-based nonprofit organizations that do not fall under a primary industry that is listed with an employee-based size standard must have 500 employees or fewer to be considered small.

ADDENDUM

The Applicant claims an exemption from all SBA affiliation rules applicable to Paycheck Protection Program loan eligibility because the Applicant has made a reasonable, good faith determination that the Applicant qualifies for a religious exemption under 13 C.F.R. 121.103(b)(10), which says that “[t]he relationship of a faith-based organization to another organization is not considered an affiliation with the other organization…if the relationship is based on a religious teaching or belief or otherwise constitutes a part of the exercise of religion.”

CARES Act provides benefits for churches during coronavirus crisis

 

CaresActCapitolOn March 27, President Donald Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation provides many benefits to individuals and churches. The purpose of this article is to provide information solely about how EPC churches may apply for federally guaranteed loans during the COVID-19 crisis. A subsequent article will address individual benefits.

“Please note that this is our best understanding of the CARES Act on March 30,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “The implementation of this program hasn’t been finalized yet, so we will continue to monitor developments related to the CARES Act as they occur and provide updates as quickly as possible.”

Q: How can my church benefit from the CARES Act?

A: The CARES Act allows for any 501(c)(3) organization with 500 or fewer employees that has been substantially affected by COVID-19 to borrow under the Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a) program—the Paycheck Protection Program Loan. The EPC is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means all EPC churches enjoy this status.

Q: Why are EPC churches eligible for this loan program?

A: The purpose of these loans is to help small businesses to keep their workers employed and compensated through the COVID-19 crisis. This program incentivizes employers to keep their employees instead of laying them off and shutting down their businesses.

Q: When will the SBA begin taking applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans?

A: On March 29, Larry Kudlow, Director of the United States National Economic Council, announced that the SBA would begin taking applications on Friday, April 3. This date may change given the fluidity of the impact of COVID-19.

Q: What is the duration of the Paycheck Protection Program?

A: The Paycheck Protection Program covers the period beginning February 15, 2020 and ending on June 30, 2020 (the “Covered Period”).

Q: What is the loan amount a church may apply for?

A: That amount is determined by the church’s payroll and related employee expenses for the period February 15 through June 30, 2020.

Q: How much can a church or ministry borrow?

A: The amount that may be borrowed is the total average monthly payroll costs for the preceding 12 months (March 2019 through February 2020), multiplied by a factor of 2.5. For example, if the average payroll costs for the preceding twelve months were $20,000, the maximum amount of the loan would be $20,000 times 2.5 for a total of $50,000. The maximum amount available for a Payroll Protection Loan is $10,000,000.

Q: What costs are considered payroll costs?

A: Salary or wages, payments of a cash tip, vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave, health benefits, retirement benefits, and state and local taxes.

Q: Is there a salary maximum that the loan can cover?

A: Yes. Salary expenses above $100,000 per employee are not eligible for consideration as payroll costs. Loan proceeds may not be used to pay salaries above $100,000 per employee.

Q: Is the pastor’s housing allowance included in the computation of payroll costs?

A: The SBA needs to issue guidance on how housing allowance will factor into the payroll cost calculations.

Q: Are there any other ways in which this loan may be used?

A: The loan proceeds may also be used to pay mortgage interest (not principal) payments, rent payments, utilities, or interest on other loans outstanding at the time of the pandemic. As stated above, the total amount of the loan can be up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs for the one-year period preceding the date of the loan. However, the only amount eligible for forgiveness is the total spent during the eight-week period beginning on the date of the loan on payroll costs including benefits (except for staff with salaries over $100,000), mortgage interest payments (not principal), rent, and utilities.

Q: How will the church need to document how its Paycheck Protection Program loan is used?

A: The church is required to make a “good faith certification” that the loan is necessary due to economic conditions caused by COVID-19. The church will need to demonstrate that the loan was used to retain employees, maintain payroll, and pay rent and utilities.

Q: How soon must the church, ministry, or pastor repay the loan?

A: A Paycheck Protection Program loan may include a term of up to 10 years from the date of application.

Q: What is the interest rate for a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

A: The maximum interest rate for this loan is 4 percent per year.

Q: May payments under the loan be deferred?

A: Yes, for a period not less than six months but not to exceed more than one year from the date of the loan.

Q: May all or part of the Paycheck Protection Program loan be forgiven?

A: Yes, the program is designed to encourage employers to retain employees and loan forgiveness is a key feature of these loans. A church under a covered loan can have all or a portion of the principal of the loan forgiven in an amount equal to payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, or utility costs during the eight-week period following the origination of the loan. The forgiven amount, however, may be reduced based on a formula that compares the ministry’s employment in prior pre-COVID periods with the number of employees and each employee’s wage or salary in the eight-week period following the origination of the loan.

Q: How does my church apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan?

A: Churches will apply for this loan through an approved SBA lender, which includes most local banks.

Q: What can the church do immediately to prepare to apply for a loan?

  • Confirm the church’s bank is an approved SBA lender. If it is, inform it that the church wants to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan ASAP. Ask the bank to provide the church with loan document documentation requirements. The bank will assist the church in completing the application.
  • Take whatever action is required for the church to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan (Session and/or congregational approval). Depending on local social distancing or meeting limitation regulations, this meeting may need to be virtual.
  • Ensure the church’s 2019 financial statements are complete and first quarter 2020 financial statements are prepared ASAP.

 

Information is gleaned with appreciation from Batts, Morrison, Wales & Lee (the audit firm of the EPC), the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Horizons Stewardship, and Baptist Press of the Southern Baptist Convention, which utilized a Q&A approach in its report.

Text-based smartphone app for primary care physician visits extended to all EPC benefit plan participants

 

98point6Effective immediately, access to 98point6, the newest benefit provided by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., has been extended to all EPC benefit plan participants. 98point6 is a text-based primary care app for smartphones and tablets. This new benefit launched on March 14.

“Anyone enrolled in any of our plans can take advantage of this low-cost, high-value tool,” said Bart Francescone, BRI’s Executive Director. “This includes people in our dental, vision, life insurance, and disability programs—even if they are not in one of our medical plans. All they have to do is download the app and register using the name listed on their insurance card from any of our plans. No registration or membership fee is required.”

Through 98point6, a U.S.-based, board-certified physician is available by text 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is provided with no co-pay for participants in the Platinum, Gold, and Silver PPO Medical/Prescription Plans, and only a $5 co-pay for participants in all other benefit plans.

“This is a great resource for people who are forced to shelter in place and thus not able to get to a physician,” Francescone added. “It’s fast, easy, secure, and one of the most cost-effective ways out there to have personal communication with a physician.”

For more information about 98point6, see www.98point6.com/how-it-works. To register, see the one-minute video at www. youtu.be/TSu0XKj5CVg.

For more information about the EPC benefit plans, see www.epc.org/benefits or contact benefits@epc.org.

Responding to coronavirus: EPC collates resources to assess situation as churches consider canceling worship services

 

CoronavirusResponseAs the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread in North America, EPC Stated Clerk Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said churches should avail themselves to the most current information and monitor how local authorities are dealing with the unfolding situation.

“I am grateful for the way EPC leaders are using their networks and social media to exchange information as they respond to COVID-19,” Jeremiah said. “We know that local conditions vary widely, so we encourage our pastors and church leaders to follow the guidance of the Center for Disease Control and the actions taken by their state and/or local governments.”

In some cases, a church’s decision to cancel worship services or provide an online worship experience only has been made for them by local authorities.

“The mayor of San Francisco asked that non-essential large gatherings not take place,” Jeremiah noted, “and the Governor of Kentucky has requested that churches not hold worship services this weekend.”

Numerous organizations and governmental agencies have made information and other helpful resources available. These include:

Jeremiah reported that the EPC’s permanent committee meetings scheduled for April at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando will conduct their business virtually in online video conferences. These include the National Leadership Team, the Next Generation Ministries Council, and the World Outreach Committee.

In addition, Jeremiah responded to a request from the Presbytery of the Southeast to hold its spring meeting virtually rather than as an in-person gathering.

“I wrote a provisional opinion that gives EPC presbyteries the ability to provide for virtual presence and participation of commissioners at their spring meetings,” Jeremiah said. “This gives our presbytery leaders the freedom to conduct their business in whatever way they feel is best for their safety and peace of mind.”

Jeremiah emphasized that preparations for the 40th General Assembly are proceeding as normal.

“At this point, we are not planning on postponing or canceling GA,” he said. “But if that changes, we will use every means at our disposal to keep the EPC informed quickly. The Hope Church team is watching the situation too, and they will be prepared.”

2019-20 Book of Order now available

 

Book-BookOfOrder2019-20600FrontThe spiral-bound, printed edition of the 2019-20 Book of Order is now available for purchase through EPC Resources.

The cost per book is $8.80 plus shipping.

“The 2020 Book of Order has a fresh new look, and includes all the decisions ratified by the 39th General Assembly last June in Denver,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. “Each of our pastors and clerks of session should have this valuable reference in their libraries.”

This 252-page document is Volume 1 of the EPC Constitution and includes amendments to the Book of Order and Rules for Assembly ratified by the 39th General Assembly (2019), as well as Acts of the 39th General Assembly. The Book of Order is comprised of the Book of Government, Book of Discipline, Book of Worship, Rules for Assembly, Acts of Assembly, and Forms for Discipline.

The Constitution of the EPC consists of the Book of Order, the Westminster Confession of Faith (including the Larger and Shorter Catechisms), and the document “Essentials of Our Faith.” All these are subordinate to Scripture, which is “the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks.”

Revitalization Matching Grants the latest ‘Two Minute Topic’

 

In the third installment of the EPC’s video series, “Two Minute Topics,” Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri discusses Revitalization Matching Grants, by which up to $10,000 is available to help strengthen an EPC church’s health and impact for the Kingdom. Revitalization is a component of the EPC’s strategic priority of “Transformation.”

“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.

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.

EPC Benefits Open Enrollment set for November 1-30

 

2020OpenEnrollmentFBO.jpgNovember is Open Enrollment month for EPC Benefit Resources, Inc., (BRI), which presents an opportunity for churches to enroll or make changes to benefit plan coverages provided to eligible employees. In addition, the Open Enrollment period introduces the EPC’s 2020 Benefit Plan offerings, plan changes, and premium rates. All changes made during Open Enrollment will be effective January 1, 2020.

  • Eligible individuals can be enrolled in the EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Changes can be made to an eligible individuals benefit selections for 2020.
  • Churches can enroll in EPC Benefit Plans for the first time.
  • Churches can change their Plan offerings for 2020.

New for 2020 are enhancements to the current Disability and Life Insurance offerings, as well as a new provider for the Dental Plan.

  • Short-Term Disability. Long-Term Disability (LTD) insurance can be augmented with Short-Term Disability insurance, which will pay a percentage of an employee’s salary for up to 90 days (beginning as soon as the 8th day after the date of a disability), after which LTD payments take effect.
  • Supplemental Life Insurance. Participants covered under the EPC’s existing Life Insurance benefit can purchase additional coverage up to $150,000 (in increments of $10,000), and also can purchase coverage for their spouse and dependents. Adding additional Life Insurance coverage will not require a physical exam or medical screening questions if existing participants add the coverage during Open Enrollment.

“These two options are voluntary,” said Bart Francescone, BRI Executive Director. “Churches can choose to offer them to their staff and have the premiums paid by the church, or by the employee through payroll deductions.”

Delta Dental is the new plan administrator for the EPC’s Dental Plan, replacing Principal. Current dental benefit participants will be automatically transferred to Delta with coverage effective January 1, 2020. Francescone said Delta offers “a much larger network of dentists, additional coverages, and lower out-of-pocket expenses to the participant.”

He also noted that the EPC benefit plans are available to all full-time (30 hours or more per week) employees of EPC churches, as well as Chaplains, ministers serving out-of-bounds, and various other categories.

“Anyone new to the EPC—or interested in enrolling in one of our benefit programs for the first time—should reach out to whoever handles benefits at their church regarding their interests,” he said.

Francescone explained that Open Enrollment is a “passive process” for current participants, meaning those already enrolled in the EPC benefit plans will automatically retain their 2019 benefit elections unless they choose a new plan or decline an existing coverage for 2020.

For more information about 2020 benefit offerings, see www.epc.org/benefits/2020openenrollment, or contact the EPC Benefits Administration Office at 877-578-8707 or EPC@cdsadmin.com.

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.

Two Minute Topics video series to answer frequently asked questions

 

The EPC Office of the General Assembly has launched a new video series, “Two Minute Topics.” The short, informative videos will address questions that the Office of the Stated Clerk frequently receives.

“We believe these videos will be useful tools for our leaders and others,” said Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “With many people asking us the same questions, we realized that answering those inquiries on video would be a good resource.”

In the first video in the series, Iamurri discusses the Candidates Educational Equivalency Program (CEEP). The CEEP is designed to help non-traditional candidates for ministry satisfy the educational requirements for ordination as a Teaching Elder in the EPC.

The videos are available at www.epc.org/news/twominutetopics, as well on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80. Additional topics will be covered in the coming weeks and months.

General Assembly Networking Lunches an opportunity for connections, ministry helps, more

 

GA2019ThemeArt-WebBannerNetworking Lunches at the EPC’s 39th General Assembly provide avenues for connecting with others with similar ministry interests on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, June 19-21, from 12:00-1:30 p.m. at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo. For more information, see www.epc.org/ga2019networkinglunches.

Wednesday, June 19

  • Beauty of the Local Church: Preparing for Worship (hosted by the Westminster Society)
  • Building Your EPC Retirement Plan Savings and Using Your Housing Allowance Benefit (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • Crossing Your Red Sea (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • Disability Ministry and My Church (hosted by the EPC Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic)
  • Dynamics of Change Management (hosted by the GO Center)
  • Effective Prayer for Missions (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Engage 2025 Presbytery Home Teams (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • How to Establish Staff Values (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Specific Ways to Re-Engage Nomad and Exile Millennials (hosted by the GO Center)
  • The Mission Field in Your Back Yard: Reaching the College Campus (hosted by Coalition for Christian Outreach)
  • Winning the Burnout Battle (hosted by PIR Ministries)

Thursday, June 20

  • Beauty of the Local Church (hosted by the Westminster Society)
  • Building Your EPC Retirement Plan Savings and Using Your Housing Allowance Benefit (hosted by EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • Diagnostic Assessment Process (hosted by VitalChurch)
  • Female Teaching Elders and Candidates (hosted by the EPC Women’s Resource Council)
  • GO Business: The Great Commission at Work (hosted by the GO Center)
  • Gordon-Conwell Seminary Alumni Connect (hosted by Gordon-Conwell Seminary)
  • How to Hire the Right People (hosted by Vanderbloemen Search Group)
  • Short-Term Mission Trips with World Outreach (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Six Relationships Every Pastor Needs (hosted by PastorServe)
  • The Risks and Rewards of Church Planting (hosted by the EPC Church Planting Team)
  • Unstoppable Giving (hosted by EPC Generosity Resources)

Friday, June 21

  • God is Using Business Professionals (hosted by EPC World Outreach)
  • Helping Your Congregation to Speak Words of Life (hosted by Presbyterians Protecting Life)
  • How to Take Care of Your Local Church Planter (hosted by the EPC Church Planting Team)
  • Leaders of Small Churches (hosted by the EPC Smaller Church Network)
  • LGBTQ Youth: Obstacles They Face and Pastoral Care (hosted by OnebyOne)
  • The Church’s Beauty Through the Old and New Testaments (hosted by the Westminster Society)
  • Training Session for Clerks of Session (hosted by the EPC Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest)
  • With Her Last Breath: A Tale of Suicide and the Hope of Heaven (hosted by Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church)

For more information about the 39th General Assembly, including online registration, daily schedules, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2019.