Back in 1995, the IRS and Department of Labor (DOL) found many opportunities to fine 403(b) plans inside of non-profit hospitals. Since they found so many hospital plans out of compliance, they began to move on to school districts. And guess who's next? That's right—the non-profit Christian organizations.
Today 403(b) plans provide significant benefits and advantages for churches, parachurch, and mission sending organizations.
Since Christian ministries have different and unique needs, it's important to tailor any retirement plan and to be aware of the tax code and the department of labor rules. Not only to be aware but to benefit from them.
As a Christian, you are called by God to serve. This calling does not end when you stop receiving a paycheck. Retirement is not only a reward for past service but a stepping-stone to future ministry. We call this your Future Funded Ministry! When you successfully construct and fund a retirement plan, you are creating a source of money to fund your future ministry activities. What an exciting way to live!
A quick look back in history suggests that determining where you are and how long it will take to get to your destination has always been important. The Romans put up obelisks and we put up signposts every 10th of a mile. These signposts determine your exact location and tell us how far to the next state line.
Retirement Plan compliance is critical as you're a Christian organization and an example to others. Two governing agencies that oversee retirement plans are the IRS and The Department of Labor. You probably don’t want to become an expert on all of the regulations but you certainly want to arm yourself in case one of them shows up on your doorstep.
Is your retirement plan too complex and taking a lot of your time? If it’s too complicated for you, it will definitely be too difficult for your employees to understand. And if it's not easy for them to understand, then you are missing key pieces. Your retirement plan is too valuable not to put the right parts totally in place.
When an ordained, licensed, or commissioned minister receives a portion of their compensation as housing allowance, that portion is excluded from gross income and therefore not subject to federal income tax. This can represent substantial tax savings for the minister. Further, when an ordained, licensed, or commissioned person retires, a portion of their 403(b)(9) retirement plan distribution can be received as housing allowance, providing additional tax savings in retirement.
Executive Pastors, Business Managers, Board Members, CEO’s, COO’s, and HR Directors associated with Non-Profits are often in the dark when it comes to understanding retirement plans. Often this includes those who are directly responsible for the oversight of their plan or charged with the responsibility of setting up or finding a new vendor.
US Citizens are waking up to the fact that retirement lasts a long time. That truth holds many implications. The US Government is waking up to the fact that less than 50% of US adults have savings or have only nominal savings. The Retirement Planning industry is waking up to the fact that most participants in formal retirement plans are financially illiterate.
It may be the hardest thing to do. Change suggests disruption, confusion, difficulty and inconvenience. We are wired to keep doing what we’ve always done. And yes, we will then get what we always got. If what we have is too painful, not encouraging and/or just plan hard, I’m open to change. What about you?
Leading and unity inherently include a dynamic tension that is hard to resolve. Leading includes envisioning a future that does not exist. It also includes communicating that vision to a group of people that have not seen, experienced, or acknowledged the potential existence of the vision.
Anything new will be accepted by a few, acknowledged as possible by more, and resisted by most. This reality illustrates why leadership is the purview of the few and the challenge for all. As a friend of mine once opined:
Leading with new ideas is like pushing a wet noodle uphill with your nose.
A bit graphic perhaps but essentially true.
Moving an idea from acceptance to excitement and ultimately onto unity is a tough road. We know that teamwork leads to amazing successes. After winning college or professional sports national championships, the television and radio interviews go something like this:
Question: “How do you account for the tremendous success of the team?”
Answer: “It was amazing how we all came together and accomplished this success!”
What does “came together” mean? Perhaps this coming together is the key ingredient to success. It must be hard to accomplish and very powerful when it happens.
So, does it happen by chance, just luck, or the alignment of the moon and the stars? I don’t think so! It happens when the hearts of men and women change, when personal priority is forfeited, and each individual dedicates themselves to a common goal. They take their identity from outside themselves and commit to something other and greater than themselves. Does that description ring true to you?
I went searching for the basis and example of this phenomenon outside of the world of sports and found that the christian scriptures are a source of the truth. Jesus’ teaching instructs us about life here and life eternal. What does he, and the disciples that he taught, say about this subject?
We can start with Jesus’ own words about unity and success in John 17. As a leader, he certainly challenged the men and women of both his day and current day with a new way of thinking and subsequently a new way of living.
Jesus’ goal expressed here is a powerful one: The world will know that he was sent into the world by God His father. That truth then legitimizes his teachings, life, and the reality of his death and resurrection. Without that knowledge, proof, and acceptance of his claims are hollow and the reality of an afterlife for believers is suspect.
The power and reality of His message is demonstrated by his being united with God and subsequently his followers with him. It is in the unity of voice, message, and action power exists and reality affirmed. It is how we “win” the game and show the world that Jesus is who he said he was and that by following Him we, including our family and friends, can be changed. And that an eternity with him is real on the condition of accepting the truth about ourselves and His role in our redemption.
Not an easy task and we need leadership to accomplish it. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul expands on this theme numerous times, as does Peter. Understanding the theme is important is all aspects of ministry where it takes a team to accomplish a goal…..and that is everywhere and in almost every situation. I say “almost” as a hedge against the exception however, I can’t think of one.
It takes a team to be productive, to achieve a goal, and to change lives.
Here are three of the key ingredients to finding unity and producing God inspired results. Without that God inspiration, we can only strive for the “man inspired” results. And these results are more limited and often lead to unintended and painful consequences.
1. Love: if you start with a clear vision and unroll it starting with love, the results will always be better. The underlying principal is that concern for the other person, above yourself, will open you and them to more possibilities impacting success. In growing God’s Kingdom here on earth, “They will know we are Christians by our love” for each other and the constant demonstration of that love is convincing and inviting evidence of our faith and the reality of Jesus in our lives.
2. Listen: You only learn by listening - rarely by talking. Some of us gain insight and clarity through verbal exchange, even within ourselves. It is the listening to others or even hearing ourselves speak that learning, clarity, and new understandings occur. I’m wearing a wristband distributed in our church last week that reads: “I am second." Inherent in that commitment is the priority, importance, and learned skill of listening. Listening for the “still small voice” for guidance and the insights, issues, and concerns of those we are leading.
3. Like Minded: Until we are like-minded and pulling in the same direction, we are a house, team, or society pulling against itself. Certainly, there is value in discourse but progress comes when unity and like mindedness is achieved. When we all come together to accomplish a common goal
It takes patience, encouragement, perseverance and steadfastness to move from like-mindedness to success. The Apostle Paul knew this when he wrote in Romans 15:5-6:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s principles of success play out across the spectrum of our lives. Those of us with leadership responsibility are wise to acknowledge and practice those principles in all we do. Loving, listening, and coming to a like-mindedness are elements leading to both unity and productivity success.
Stay with us as we journey through the hills and valleys of life with Trusted Advice along The Way.