"Pardon our Dust"
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The ABC-MI Region Office received a call from Spartan-Net, the company with whom we contract for IT services, asking if we could assist them in identifying "families in need" in the Lansing area they might assist with providing Christmas for their children. At the request of the Region Office, Rev. Dave Leisman, pastor at ABC-MI related Valley Farms Baptist Church, worked with Spartan-Net to identify a family of three and a family of nine.
Spartan-Net Marketing Manager, Christie Provost-Perkins recently communicated to the Region Office the following regarding this experience: "The Spartan-Net team came together to help these two families in need provide their children with a wonderful Christmas. Thank you so much for connecting us with Rev. Dave Leisman at Valley Farms Baptist Church. We ended up adopting a family of 3 and a family of 9. We collected donations of cash, toys, clothing, and winter essentials for each of these families. Because of the generous contributions we were able to provide all of the gifts from each child's wish list as well as some great surprises like tablets and gift cards! We also gave food for a Christmas meal, breakfast, items for the pantry, as well as a Meijer gift card for the parents. Instead of our usual holiday office party, we threw a "wrapping party" where we all got together to wrap and decorate the presents that everyone donated (see pictures)."
The Region Office thanks Rev. Leisman for agreeing to help Spartan-Net identify families they might "bless" at Christmas and kudos to Spartan-Net for ministering to these two families instead of spending the monies on a company party for themselves!
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Titus 2: 11-13
Our AMERICA FOR CHRIST theme this year is “Discipleship: A Journey of Grace,” based on Titus 2:11-13. It is a wonderful reminder that Jesus’ public ministry was all about connecting and caring for people in need. On each day of his journey, the compassion of Jesus was felt by someone somewhere. Our gifts support Christ-centered transformational ministries that manifests the grace of God’s love to neighborhoods and communities by touching lives and transforming people across the United States and Puerto Rico--through evangelism training, church renewal and discipleship resources, volunteer disaster response plus initiatives that fight poverty and so much more.
As we read the gospels, we are presented with a loving Lord as someone who does things, not someone who did things. One of the greatest dangers of Christianity is to think of Jesus as someone to be remembered, instead of someone to be met and experienced. As the church in the 21st century, our calling is to help people see the power of the risen Christ in action today.
As we promote this special annual offering for the month of February, we ask that you be the hands & feet of Jesus to give sacrificially to help the least of these! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Debbie Hart at the Region Office – 800.632.2953 ext. 221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Medical Insurance Information and Options for Pastors/Churches
Since the American Baptist-related Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB) discontinued offering medical insurance through CIGNA, coupled with the piecemeal implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there has been a lot of confusion, misinformation, and continuing evolution in the field of medical insurance. While not claiming to be experts in this,we share the following information with the hope you might find it helpful:
• First, if the church continues to provide group health insurance for its employees(including the Pastor) that remains a non-taxable benefit for employees. If the church is not presently providing group insurance it would do well to work with a reputable broker who is familiar with small businesses. The church can also set up a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) or allow the pastor to designate a portion of salary for a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to cover out of pocket expenses, prescriptions, etc;
• Second, if the church is not providing group health insurance, the pastor must seek private insurance. Again, we urge the pastor to work through a reputable, experienced (with respect to ministerial issues) broker – don’t try to struggle through the online Marketplace. Housing allowance is NOT considered as income, and most pastors will qualify for subsidies. The FSA option is NOT available to pastors under these circumstances. The church should not reimburse the pastor for medical expenses without setting up a formal arrangement like an HRA or section 125 plan – and they need professional help to do this. The church cannot reimburse the pastor for health insurance coverage through a spouse;
• Third, all "informal" agreements and approaches to reimburse the pastor for premiums or medical expenses are fraught with potentially serious legal consequences for both the pastor and the church. The penalty can be up to $100 per individual per day or $36,500 per year. Do not take the risk! If the church is paying health insurance premiums, or reimbursing health insurance premiums for the pastor on a before tax basis other than through a group plan, you must consult a knowledgeable professional in taxes, insurance,and the Affordable Care Act."
Here are two options for individual health insurance in ways that legally minimize tax liabilitiesfor pastors and churches:
• Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) plus private individual health insurance: The church works with an administrator to create an HRA. The pastor obtains private insurance through a broker -- you cannot use this arrangement for Marketplace policies. The pastor is responsible for and pays the insurance premium, then turns in the documentation for reimbursement. The church should not pay the premium directly. The HRA can also be set up to include reimbursement of eligible out of pocket medical expenses. This type of HRA is an exception to ACA, which in ALL other cases does not allow individual insurance premiums to be paid or reimbursed tax-free. Not all churches qualify for this,but most churches with the pastor as the only employee would qualify. The church cannot do this on their own, they must work with an administrator to verify their eligibility and manage the reporting. If eligible, we believe this might be the best option for some of our churches.
• Health Savings Account (HSA) plus High-Deductible Insurance: This also requires working with a knowledgeable broker/administrator. It may be a good option for younger pastors in good health. The insurance premiums are not tax-free, but the HSA account has triple tax savings. It is usually not a good option for older pastors.
On Sunday, November 16, the message of Rev. Mark Montei, newly installed pastor of the Essexville Community Church, was titled, "God's Tapestry: Valuing Our Differences." Pastor Montei invited people to bring in family quilts to display throughout the sanctuary that day. The quilts served as a visual aid to help people understand that, as quilts are made from many different pieces of material and are all different, when the quilter puts them together, the differences complement each other and form something beautiful and valuable. Likewise, God takes our differences and helps us to realize that our differences are to be used to glorify God and His creation.
The people responded by bringing in many quilts. Some were new and some were over 100 years old and had been handed down through the family for generations. They were displayed all over the sanctuary during the service, and people had opportunity to share the story of their quilts afterward during the fellowship time. There were over 30 quilts on display.
It was wonderful to see the many different quilts and hear the stories of those quilts that day and in the following weeks as well.