This article originally appeared in the October 2023 issue of New Horizons
by Bryan D. Holstrum
In his infinite grace, God has blessed his church with men to serve as ministers of the Word and sacraments, in order that the saints will be built up and “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:12–13). In turn, God has placed a responsibility upon congregations to adequately care for those engaged in pastoral ministry, and churches should be generous in their support of those who are called to such work. Paul states this obligation clearly in Galatians 6:6:
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
Of course, individual congregations differ widely in their ability to pay. As a result, some pastoral benefit packages are not only modest in size but address only the basic categories of salary, housing allowance, vacation privileges, and perhaps some provision for health insurance. While it’s possible for a congregation to construct a package covering only these items that is otherwise sufficiently generous to meet the day-to-day needs of their pastor, such a package fails in one significant way: protecting the pastor and his family against the unexpected. The provision for health insurance is one critical component of such protection.
But two other areas of coverage that are less often found in standard packages—yet ought to be—are life insurance and disability insurance.
The purest (and least expensive) form of insurance protection is term life insurance. For a fixed annual dollar amount over the term of the policy (anywhere from ten to thirty years), life insurance pays the full face amount to the insured’s beneficiary in the event of his death. The death of a beloved pastor is hard enough on the congregation he has served; just think about the impact that it has on his own family. Life insurance proceeds won’t ease the emotional pain that they experience, but it can help to prevent a financial disaster due to the permanent loss of his income.
Moreover, in most cases life insurance is a relatively inexpensive benefit, especially for younger men who are in good health. Nor should churches neglect this benefit for a man who is yet unmarried, since the earlier such coverage is obtained the lower the annual premiums are for the remainder of the chosen term.
Insurance professionals will often point out that a person is more likely to become disabled during their working years than they are to die. Yet disability insurance is one of the most overlooked forms of protection. This coverage replaces a portion of the income that is lost when a person becomes unable to perform the duties of their job due to a physical impairment. While more complicated than life insurance, it too serves the basic function of protecting the pastor and his family from the potentially devastating financial consequences that unexpected events can bring.
Congregations can demonstrate their commitment to the welfare of a pastor and his family by providing both forms of protection as part of a comprehensive benefits package. Those that do so will benefit from a pastor who can focus on their needs, as he takes comfort in the knowledge that his own flock is obedient in “shar[ing] all good things” with him in love and appreciation for the work to which he as the pastor has been called.
Bryan D. Holstrum is a member of the Committee on Ministerial Care’s Volunteer Financial Planning Team and a ruling elder at Grace OPC in Elburn, Illinois.