If you are an elder or staff leader in a local church, this blog post is intended for you. If you serve on the board of a mission work, I hope this reaches your desk. Likewise, if your service includes the responsibility for directing a Christian camp, campus ministry, or nonprofit organization, I hope you will carefully think about the important issue of the future of those we employ.
I live in a world of numbers. That comes with the territory of overseeing a retirement plan. When numbers seem to cascade into your day through a seemingly endless stream of emails, phone calls, and messages, it is easy to miss their significance. Recently, one number arrived with such impact that it could neither be lost nor ignored. In fact, since I saw the number, it has lingered in my mind. That number was $5,760.
It was the focal point of a recent report from The Motley Fool. Christy Bieber concluded, based upon new data from the Center for Retirement Research, that the total annual income most people in the USA can expect from ALL their savings is $5,760. Consider this for a moment. In spite of the proliferation of 401k plans, 403b plans, profit sharing plans, and various traditional and Roth IRAs, the total monthly income the average pre-retiree can reasonably withdraw from their personal savings is $480 per month. That sum, plus Social Security, is not likely to enable a family to pursue their passions.
I know those who are reading this blog want a brighter future for those whose lives are devoted to ministry than this shocking number presents. Elders in local congregations love the church staff and want the best for them. Mission and nonprofit board members certainly do not envision a retirement for their team members including continued fund raising. However, in spite of our best wishes, this is exactly the future many ministry and nonprofit personnel face.
My point today is not to eliminate the personal responsibility anyone in ministry has to save for their personal retirement needs. Just as Joseph encouraged Pharaoh to save grain for the needy days ahead, everyone in ministry has a responsibility to save for days when earning power will be diminished. My hope is that we, as leaders in Christ’s body, can take a step toward assuring the Christian servants we mentor will have a brighter future than the numbers portray today.
Certainly, we would welcome the opportunity for the Christian Churches Pension Plan to be one element of the solution to this need. The plan was created to be a simple, affordable, and portable piece of a diversified plan for retirement security. For as little as $750 annually ($62.50 per month), any congregation, ministry, or mission can provide a monthly lifetime income to help meet retirement needs. It has been our honor to serve thousands in ministry over 51 years. However, as leaders we should be encouraging all those on a staff for which we are responsible to save regularly through a variety of Roth IRAs, 403b Plans, and more.
The future retirement challenge ministry and nonprofit servants face will not go away quickly. Providing an adequate retirement income is only accomplished through diligent saving over a lifetime. However, those of us who lead Christian organizations can begin to lay the foundation by encouraging those on our staff to be frugal and save. Some mission organizations have begun requiring their team members to contribute to qualified retirement plans. Some congregations and ministries have found it affordable to begin by funding one unit in the Christian Churches Pension Plan for each team member.
I hope we all will agree, the status quo must not be considered acceptable. Here is to creating a better financial future for those serving in ministry.