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Worker Benefits Services Hosts Strategic Planning Session

February 7, 2019 No Comment

Approximately 12 employer representatives ( congregational leaders from across Canada), with 4 member representatives, as well as staff and board members of Worker Benefit Services (WBS-LCC) took part in a Strategic Planning Session on January 27th and 28th. The session, held in Winnipeg, came as a result of the feedback from the 16 Regional meetings WBS sponsored in 2018 where employers – mostly congregations – expressed a desire to engage more directly with the board of WBS around issues facing employers. The session included a review of the current WBS strategic plan developed in 2010 and solicited advice from the group around some critical issues facing the worker benefit plans. The session was organized by LCC staff under the direction of Dwayne Cleave, the administrator of LCC and facilitated by Dr. Dieter Kays, chair of the WBS board.

Dwayne Cleave, LCC Administrator

Sunday evening the session was kicked off by President Tim Teuscher with words of welcome and a devotion centered on Luther’s words to the church about their responsibility for their pastor’s wellbeing. The rest of Sunday and Monday morning, the group was given a statistical overview of the state of our overall church body, the current benefits church workers receive and an orientation to the current WBS’ Strategic Plan. This included the accomplishments in implementing each strategic direction over the last number of years. While participants determined that a majority of the current plan continued to be relevant, slight modifications were made to the mission, vision and values statements. In the area of Strategic directions, sustainability of the plans, in the light of our declining church membership, continued to be a primary direction. Participants suggested that joint responsibility between the member and employer continued to be critical and that WBS should look for ways members and employers could encourage our church workers to engage in personal health promoting activities.

Monday afternoon dealt with specific issues that the WBS board needed to make decisions around. The discussions at this session resulted in a number of recommendations. The group benefit plan was reviewed with the group suggesting that the current flex plan, where approximately 75% of church workers chose one option, be eliminated for a more traditional group plan where everyone is enrolled in the same option. This would save administrative dollars, some of which could be reinvested in other valued member benefits. Health Spending Accounts were also discussed with the group unanimously advising against such a plan since it tends to benefit primarily younger, healthier members. (The WBS board in a subsequent meeting has authorized staff to solicit proposals from group benefit providers for costing a traditional group plan.) In addition the planning forum discussed reducing the life insurance benefit from 5X to 3 X annual salary for all members in order to bring it in line with other group benefit plans. It was again unanimously agreed to implement this, as long as a member could continue to purchase 5X annual salary at their own cost if this was a need.

A further issue discussed centred around placing a “hard freeze” on benefits earned by members in the closed defined benefit (DB) plan. Currently, members with an earned pension in the DB plan continue to accrue benefits because their benefit at retirement will take into account their salary increases at time of retirement. This factor can significantly benefit the retiring member but also has an impact on increasing the time it will take to eliminate the solvency deficit. Upon consideration the group recommended that the hard salary freeze not be implemented, believing that the impact on our church workers retirement benefit would be too severe and the impact on the time for eliminating the solvency deficit minimal. WBS has decided to take no action at this time but to monitor this issue.

Overall participants evaluated the session as highly effective and worthwhile. At the end, Arnold Drung, chair of the LCC board of directors, thanked the participants for giving of their time and talents, closing the meeting with a prayer of thanksgiving and asking for God’s continued guidance on the work of WBS as they support our church workers in their various ministries. Reg Tiegs, a participant and currently chair of the board of elders at Grace Church in Oshawa, remarked “This session has been very helpful to me, hearing how the board has been managing the affairs of the Worker Benefits. I am very impressed with the decisions they have made and their progress to date. Glad I attended!”