America’s more than 1,200 megachurches typically dominate religion news. Many of them boast large budgets and can afford generous retirement plans for their pastors and employees.
But they’re only a small part of the universe of the more than 300,000 churches in America. About 177,000 congregations have seven to 99 members, and another 105,000 churches have 100 to 499 members.
Many of these smaller churches and parachurch ministries have no retirement plans for their pastors, employees and missionaries because of the expense of starting and administering the plans.
“It can cost from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars to set up a plan,” said The Master’s Plan retirement specialist Robin Bryant. “Then, it can cost from $50 to $300 a month to administer.”
Bridging the Gap
To bridge that gap, Timothy Plan founder and CEO Art Ally pioneered The Master’s Plan, a unique service by which Timothy Partners, Ltd. absorbs the cost of planning, launching and administering retirement plans that would otherwise be unaffordable. The new service was launched in January 2018.
“I was losing money at first with my retirement plan,” said Dr. Sherry Brower, director of Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) Florida, which now uses The Master’s Plan. “I was paying a $500 fee in a prior plan. One year, I literally made a quarter – 25 cents.”
Based in Missouri, Child Evangelism Fellowship, which brings the gospel to children who attend public schools, requires all of its state chapters to offer retirement plans to their full-time employees.
“The Master’s Plan and Timothy Plan are perfect. Perfect. Perfect,” Dr. Brower said. “That they align with godly principles and do the work for us is wonderful.” The Master’s Plan makes it possible for CEF Florida to offer a retirement plan to about 60 full-time employees.
Here to Serve Those Who Serve
“We now serve dozens of client churches and parachurch ministries,” said Mrs. Bryant, who is the Director of the Master’s Plan.
“Art just has a soft spot for pastors, which is how the whole Timothy Plan family of funds came into being,” she said.
“A pastor came to him when Art was a financial advisor and said he wanted to invest money, and wanted to be a good steward and invest in something that doesn’t trade in pornography. But there was nothing out there that was clean; everybody was involved in something. So, he filled that hole with Timothy Plan. “
“My hot button was the fact that, while pastors in denominations often had decent retirement plans, the pastors from independent churches were left high and dry,” Art recalled.
“So, in 1992, I began to put together a retirement program geared to helping them on a national scale. I soon realized that I could not use companies that violated Biblical principles when these pastors were preaching against the evils of abortion and pornography from the pulpits. I looked around for a system that would screen out offenders and allow for building biblically responsible portfolios, not only for pastors but also for other Christian investors. But I found little that reflected biblical principles.”
So, Art founded Timothy Plan mutual fund in 1994, which offered a portfolio consisting only of those companies that passed a set of biblically responsible filters.
A Ministry for Ministers
But something else was needed. “Retirement plans and 403(b)s were becoming exorbitant in costs and a lot of churches were doing away with them,” Mrs. Bryant said.
“So, we’re doing this as a ministry; we write the plan and administer the plan at no cost to the employer. We’re taking that cost away from the church so that any churches or pastors can take advantage without bankrupting themselves. We customize to each employer, because every employer is different.”
“We loved the concept of ‘clean investment’ but did not know there was such a thing,” said Paul Bosch, executive ministry director of the Coastline Church in Indian Harbor, Florida, which participates in The Master’s Plan. “We vetted the organization and loved the genesis – why it was started. We’ve had excellent communications with the team in Florida and we love the monthly reports that are clear and easy to understand.”
Currently, The Master’s Plan handles ministries with fewer than 100 participating employees. Anything more than that kicks it under the jurisdiction of ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974).
“We have a couple of Christian schools on the Plan,” Robin said. “The IRS is very specific about churches, but anything that falls outside the definition of church complicates it. There are forms that have to be filed annually and compliance testing. It takes a lot of man hours to perform these tasks. As far as church daycares, the church must run it and subsidize it – but not from tuition.
“Here’s the general formula: If more than 25 percent of income is anything other than church subsidy, then it does not fall under the guidelines of a church-controlled organization. They could still be eligible to have a plan, but we would not be able to write it because it takes too much manpower to handle all the red tape.” Before making any determination, the orginization needs to consult with a CPA or tax preparer that is familiar with the 403b guidelines, rules and regulations.
“Our plans are geared mostly for churches and a few select 501(c)(3) ministries that do the work that furthers the kingdom,” she said.
For more information about The Master’s Plan, contact Robin Bryant at 1 (833) 634-8252.
A writer for Timothy Partners, Ltd. He is a regular weekly columnist for The Washington Times and Townhall.com and is frequently published by AmericanThinker.com, DailyCaller.com, OneNewsNow.com, and others. He has authored the following books: “A Strong Constitution: What Would America Look Like If We Followed the Law” (D. James Kennedy Ministries, 2018), Invested with Purpose: The Birth of the Biblically-Responsible Investment Movement, and A Nation Worth Fighting For: 10 Steps to Restore Freedom.