Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them. I recently interviewed Gary Campbell with PCA Retirement and Benefits (RBI).
Christina: Can you tell us what RBI does for the PCA? How did it come into existence?
Gary: Thanks, Christina, for the opportunity to talk about the ministry of PCA Retirement & Benefits (RBI). Put simply, RBI provides employee benefits and support services for PCA church servants. Our mission is to prepare, protect, and nurture PCA servants through investment, insurance, relief, and related services, so they can focus on ministry. RBI was founded at the very beginning of the denomination in 1973. It was known as the Annuity Fund for Ministers and was part of the Administrative Committee. In 1973 the organization was a very small operation, but as it grew there was a need to establish it as a separate denominational agency overseen by a dedicated governing board. This was accomplished in 1982 when our name was changed to Insurance Annuities and Relief (IAR). Today, RBI serves over 7,000 participants with combined assets of $650 million in the PCA Retirement Plan. Group Insurance volume is almost $685 million covering 4,281 ministry partners. And RBI Ministerial Relief has paid $637,726 in awards to 64 beneficiaries in the past four quarters.
Christina: What are the main services pastors seek your assistance with?
Gary: That’s a good question. I believe the leading source of incoming and outgoing calls is related to questions church workers have regarding saving and planning for retirement. These interactions are a result of a retirement readiness survey we conducted in late 2010 with the assistance of Price Waterhouse Coopers. The survey confirmed our worst fears. We found that PCA church leaders were significantly behind in their preparation for retirement and, by implication, the future for widows of PCA teaching elders was dire. We realized that reversing this trend would require effort and prayer by RBI to unify the denomination around a solution to this problem. Since 2010, RBI has transformed the organization to embody a relational/missional culture of service to church workers. We employ a team of teaching elders who are also Certified Financial Planners to proactively meet with church workers throughout the PCA. We also publish a yearly compensation guide called the PCA Call Package Guidelines to assist churches as they seek to understand how to pay pastors fairly and deal with complex issues such as pastoral housing allowance, social security, and other unique facets of pastoral compensation. This has been a monumental effort and I believe the needle is moving, but we have much more work yet to do.
Christina: Are there any groups that are particularly under-served?
Gary: The heartfelt goal of RBI is to serve church ministry partners across all of the PCA. To reach that goal we must do more to serve our Korean brothers and sisters who represent a large part of the PCA. We also must do more to reach non-ordained men and women who serve as staff members in our local churches. RBI is aggressively moving in this direction by translating more or our materials into the Korean language and seeking out leaders who will partner with us in reaching minorities and those who are under-served.
Christina: You have two counseling services, Cherish and Servant Care. Can you tell us about those?
Gary: As part of our ongoing care for our pastors and their families from the beginning of their ministries to the end of their earthly lives, we offer ServantCare and Cherish, counseling services designed to help men and women navigate the unique pressures of life in ministry. ServantCare is designed for pastors, while Cherish is exclusively for pastors’ wives. Both connect church servants to Christian counseling that is high quality, confidential, and affordable. Counseling services are provided over video interface such as Skype or Zoom, or over the phone.
Christina: RBI interviewed pastor’s wives in the PCA to find out what their experience is like as pastor’s wives. What were the results of that study?
Gary: In our study, pastors’ wives told us that while they love the church, they also have a complicated relationship with it. Due to their husbands’ roles, they and their kids are subjected to scrutiny. It can be hard to develop deep relationships in the church. For these reasons and more, pastoral wives often wonder if they can be vulnerable and open about struggles, fears, and failures. As a result, they are often lonely and isolated. 9 out of 10 of the wives we interviewed believe they are perceived differently than other women in the church. 7 out of 10 surveyed felt they have few people they can confide in. And 8 out of 10 told us they would make use of Christian counseling if it was offered. The need is clearly there. By offering affordable, Christian counseling, we are giving our pastors’ wives the help they have asked for to be able to thrive in ministry.
Christina: Do you have any projects/goals RBI is currently working toward to further assist co-laborers in the church?
Gary: Yes, we do. For the past two years, we have been working on a retirement plan research project that may enable us to offer a life-time guaranteed income option to participants. We believe this would be a very welcome addition to the plan. The fear of outliving one’s retirement assets is very real. This is the chief reason the projection is so high for teaching elder widows in poverty. While this project won’t make the problem disappear, we believe it will have a significant impact.
The second project I’d like to mention is a plan to significantly transition RBI Ministerial Relief into a much more proactive ministry. In the past, Ministerial Relief has largely been reactive in the sense that we stand ready to assist widows and teaching elder families in financial need. This is a good thing, and we want to keep doing it as long as God allows. However, we believe God is calling us to consider what we can do to promote the emotional and spiritual health of our pastors and their families. We want to push into all aspects of a pastor’s life proactively, providing the tools and venues for holistic thriving. Our prayer is that this work can reach pastors before they fall into depression, marital strife, addiction, or simply burnout. We are currently in the research stage and would welcome your prayers!
Christina: How can the women of the church pray for RBI? Are there practical ways we can serve in the work you are doing?
Gary: Prayer Needs for RBI:
- For the transition of current president, Gary Campbell to president-elect, Ed Dunnington.
- Jon Medlock, Vickie Poole, and Chris Zurbach, our new Director of Philanthropic Giving, as they lead the Ministerial Relief team and seek to care for our pastors and widows in the denomination.
- For Chet Lilly as our COO and all the details that come with his position.
- For Heather Chambliss as our Office manager/Executive Assistant.
- For Emily White, RBI’s front desk administrative assistant.
- For our new comptroller, Teresa Reese and her accounting team, Stephanie Simpson and Janipher Dongerdive
- For Bonnie Nowak, Sandie Robertson, Myra Davis, and Ingrid Krein, RBI’s Insurance and Retirement Benefits Specialists as they offer guidance for those in the denomination.
- For our ministry partners service team including the team manager Mark Melendez, Dave Anderegg and Don Aldin, who work as financial planners, and Katelyn Rodgers and Peggy Henry team assistants. Pray for their work as they meet with and give guidance to pastors and churches, and as they seek to fill Ed Dunnington’s role as financial planner.
About the Author:
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including TGC, Revive Our Hearts, Desiring God, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Ligonier Ministries. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament , Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish, Idols of a Mother’s Heart and Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms. Christina serves on the advisory board at Covenant College and is on the national women’s ministry team as Regional Adviser of the Southeast. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.