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United Methodist Church Lay Employee Retirement Benefits

NOTE: For complete and definitive information on lay employee retirement benefits, contact the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church (GBOPHB). What follows are brief summary statements and responses to frequently asked questions I have received mostly from local church musicians. You may contact GBOPHB as follows:

Address: General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The UMC
Attn: Retirement Services
1201 Davis Street
Evanston IL 60201-9910
Website: www.gbophb.org
E-mail: http://www.gbophb.org/contact/index.asp
Use this online contact form to send email to GBOPHB. It will route your message to the proper office and person, and you will receive an e-mail confirmation that your message has been received.
Telephone: 1-800-851-2201

What Did General Conference Say?
The 2004 General Conference (GC) passed legislation directing staff-parish relations committees to recommend to the church council a retirement benefit for eligible lay employees in the form of an annual contribution of at least three percent of the lay employee's compensation.

Why Did General Conference Pass This Legislation?
Many dedicated church workers — secretaries, organists, education directors, custodians, office managers, and others — serve the church without benefits. The church pays them a salary, but all too often does not offer retirement benefits. Offering retirement benefits to lay employees of the local church is an issue of justice and respect. Lay employees are vital participants in congregational life and ministry. Their unique ministries are valuable to the church.

Who Is Eligible?
Church councils may enroll any of their paid employees, but General Conference recommends that eligible lay employees include those who . . .

  • are at least 21 years of age,
  • have completed one year of permanent service, and
  • work at least 1,040 hours a year (20 hours per week).

Certified lay ministers are also eligible for this benefit.

Is the Benefit Mandatory?
General Conference mandated only that staff-parish relations committees recommend this benefit to the church council. It did not mandate that the church council provide it. The final decision of whether to provide the benefit, to whom, and in what amount remains the choice of the local church council.

Who Selects the Retirement Plan?
The local church may provide this benefit as it sees fit; that is, it may select the plan provided by GBOPHB or some other agency. GBOPHB's United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP) satisfies the requirements of the recently adopted legislation, and it has the additional benefit of being administered by the largest denominational pension fund in the USA.

Who Contributes to the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP)?
UMPIP can accept both employer and employee contributions; but eligible employees may contribute even if the church, as the plan sponsor, chooses not to. The church may choose the specific eligibility requirements, employer contribution rates, and whether the enrolled employee must contribute to the plan in order to qualify for the employer contribution. In order for the lay employee to make personal contributions to the plan, the church must be enrolled as a sponsor, even if the church has elected not to make contributions.

How Does the Church Become a Sponsor of UMPIP?
Every United Methodist church has received a notice from GBOPHB in 2005 regarding the action of General Conference and notifying it of GBOPHB's plan for lay employee retirement benefits. GBOPHB followed up with all churches that responded by mailing an adoption kit containing all the information required to choose the options that best suit the church and the staff. To enroll its lay employees in the plan, the church must become a plan sponsor by completing an adoption agreement in the kit. The church may request an adoption kit by contacting

What If I Have More Questions?
First, do not ask a friend or post a message to an e-mail listserv. You will not receive definitive answers from either, and you may receive incorrect information. If you have questions or concerns, contact GBOPHB by mail, phone, or e-mail. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits has the answers, and the staff there are daily engaged in the ministry of serving churches and you, the employee.

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