Thursday, November 10, 2011

A sweet deal from NAMB

Most pastors, like ordinary Americans, are acutely attuned to health care costs and especially to the premiums they pay or their church pays for comprehensive health care coverage. The holy grail of healthcare for Southern Baptists is be employed by or have an arrangment with some SBC entity whereby they pay your health insurance premiums. We hacker and plodder pastors who go individually to GuideStone pay high premiums for not-so-hot coverages.

I suppose GuideStone is doing the best they can with a voluntary pool of aging clergy whose health habits are measurably below the general population (think fried chicken and rotund reverends) but coverages have deteriorated and premiums have risen, both substantially.

It's an unholy mess. No one is happy about GuideStone health coverages and premiums.

I am approaching retirement age and the coverages my church can afford on me are pathetic even though the premiums amount to over a thousand dollars a month. When I retire, my health care premiums will be my largest monthly bill, easily going beyond my combined mortgage plus escrow payments.

So, when I learn that the North American Mission Board has been carrying health insurance for around 340 missions personnel who are only partly funded by NAMB, well, I'm interested.

That is a sweet deal.

Get the picture here. Some missionaries for whom NAMB provides as little as $100 in monthly support qualify for having NAMB pick up their insurance. Of course, that means Annie Armstrong and Cooperative Program givers - you, me, our churches - struggle to pay insurance for our full time people but if you can get NAMB to jointly fund a position, even part time, even the slightest fraction part time, and we get to pay their insurance also. Not so sweet.

It's time to say goodbye to the sweet deal. NAMB is eliminating insurance for positions for which they are not primary employer. Good for NAMB.

"We do not feel obligated to pay those benefits when we are not the primary employer" says NAMB leader, Kevin Ezell.

Ezell estimates that this will eventually result in up to a $5 million annual savings. Annual savings? Five million...anually? Good heavens.

While I sympathize with those affected, nothing raises the ire of folks in the pulpits and pews greater than when they learn that some people in SBC life are getting a sweet deal, and we are paying for it.

Good move, NAMB.
My source for this is reporting in The Christian Index, November 3, 2011.


Anonymous said...

I'm a retired Baptist pastor after 44 years and have no health insurance since I can't afford it. I'm 64 now and have only a little while to wait until Obama will be taking care of me. I always thought he would do it free of charge but have been discovering there are a lot more charges than he told us.

At least when Obama takes care of me it will be far less than Guidestone.

Now I just have to be sure to stay healthy until I turn 65.

JR said...

I'm not sure this such a great idea across the board. It depends on what the part-time people in question are doing. This insurance benefit has been a huge help to campus ministers in states outside of the South, a number of whom I know personally. Many of those small state conventions cannot replace this benefit. The only solution will be for the ministers to try and raise more outside support. In some cases this may work. In others, maybe not.

The question is what ministries Southern Baptists consider valuable. Only church planting? I believe church planting should be primary and that drastic cuts should be made in other areas, but we may also lose some good people/ministries if every part-timer loses their benefits.


JR said...

I should also add that just because a person is part-time with NAMB, it doesn't mean they do ministry only part-time.

William Thornton said...

Jeff, I appreciate that NAMB's policy change will be felt by these 340 individuals who are funded <50% by NAMB. I read that 206 of these are in the southern region where their associations or state conventions can pick up their insurance.

We would all like to be brought under NAMB or some other large entity where the pool of insured is fixed and lower premiums may be achieved. To read that NAMB picks up insurance for people that they only fractionally fund looks like a sweet deal for the individual and for their majority funder.

If you know of individuals affected by this policy change, I'd be interested in the details. My email is

Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

Jeff -

It is sad that we who are in ministry often have to live with things many others do not. The pool is getting smaller for those who get decent benefits.

Like the 1st poster on this blog who pastored for 44 years now (and probably much of his ministry) did so without medical insurance.

I don't have it. We are a one income home. As I get older, I worry more about it. God has been good and kept us healthy most of our married lives.

I had a member of the church I pastor who is worried for us also and asked me if paying my insurance premium out of our CP dollars would cause problems in the church. Maybe, maybe not. It did get me thinking though. If I (my church) am paying for others insurance now, why not just pay for mine instead? I have spent 32 years in ministry mostly with churches who could not afford insurance nor retirement.

I'm not complaining but do wonder if those who are blessed by our paying their insurance really think about many who put into that pot, live without it so others can have it. That includes the full-timers.

William Thornton said...

Anonymous 6:44, it would be disgraceful if you had a major health issue that bankrupted you while your church is supporting the Cooperative Program. I don't know your state but chances are 60+ percent of your CP dollars stays in your state and most of that goes to pay staff expenses. You can be guarranteed that no one on your state convention staff lacks comprehensive health insurance, at your expense.

Churches should evaluate their staff benefits.

Email me at, I have a couple of questions I'd like to ask you.