Taking Steps To Care For Our Family

We sometimes criticize those ‘as too worldly,’ putting too much focus on estate planning and retirement, but if the truth be known, church leaders don’t do enough planning and thinking ahead.
I had occasion recently to counsel with a minister friend, who recently lost her spouse.  They had been co-pastors in their church and suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, he was taken home to be with the Lord.

Praise God, there are several areas of a positive nature in which to rejoice.  The church leadership is rallying and are totally supportive; She has the benefit of apostolic ministry covering, and they are standing by her side during this time of trial and testing;  The church family is gaining maturity, and there was no exodus from the church.  Through Gods help she is getting back to her feet.
Her husband had taken out a life insurance policy on his life, so the negative financial impact at his passing is somewhat lessened.  She has yet to deal with the full financial impact of her future; however she will not be in a destitute position thanks to her husband’s forethought. She has the love of her church family, and they will help her through the difficult days of readjustment that lie ahead.

Barbara and I have ministered to the leadership in more than 3,000 churches since 1988.  Let me share a candid observation.  We feel the vast majority of the church leadership has been lax in taking steps to provide for their families in the event should a situation such as this arise.  The Bible is very clear:  “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”  1 Tim 5:8
Some of the prevailing thoughts regarding Premature Death of a Spouse / Disability / Retirement:
·    The Lord will take care of us; or
·    Well – we always have Social Security – that will take care of my wife and children if I should die before they are 18;  [But many ministers have elected to exempt out of Social Security, and will not have those funds to help them – and what happens if the children are out of the home?  How is the surviving Wife supposed to live on the skills she has honed as a supportive pastors wife?  If the church is unwilling, or unable, to support her while she develops a skill that will enable her to make a living – how is she to live, pay the rent, buy food?];
·    Many pastors elected to ‘opt out’ of Social Security, and have systematically ‘eaten their seed.’  [This means they have not wisely invested their funds for the future, but have, by choice or necessity, spent it already.]
·    Some pastors and ministers have not worked and contributed the required 40 quarters [10 years] to ‘the system,’ and therefore are not even eligible for Medi Care when they attain the age 65;
·    Jesus is coming soon, and we won’t have to worry about retirement; [It’s amazing how quickly we attain the ‘retirement’ age of 65];
·    Many pastors and ministers have not been able to purchase their own homes, or for various reasons have chosen to not do so. And for those who have not, where are they to spend their last days?
·    “Retirement?  I don’t see that in the Bible, I’ll just minister until He takes me home.”  [This is called presumptuous faith.]  How can we know if we will able will be able to minister until the day of our death?  And if he is unable to generate income, where will the necessary funds for food, shelter and medical care come from?
·    Estate Planning?  “That’s for those who have a big estate.”  [No – it is loving and caring enough for the loved ones left behind, that they will face a minimal amount of worry, stress and financial hardship.]

For many pastors, this may be a ‘Wake Up Call.’  And for others, ‘Praise God I’ve done some things well.”  If this is a ‘Wake Up Call’ for you, [especially the younger minister] it’s never too late to seriously, ‘in repentance and prayer,’ ask the Lord for direction and Holy Spirit guidance.  You might also consider calling some professionals to inquire about:
·        Term Insurance [10 or 20 year fixed with a cost of living adjustment factor];  For ministers in the age range of 40 or less, the cost is quite reasonable, and not doing something is unthinkable.
·     Income Replacement Insurance [having  4 to 6 month deductibles, will minimize the cost];
·    Estate Planning involves creating a ‘Living Trust’ aka ‘Family Trust,’ ‘Revocable Trust,’ sometimes even called an ‘Intervivous Trust.’  This greatly lessens the ‘Hassle factor’ of your survivors having to deal with Lawyers and the Courts;  This must also include “Durable Power of Attorney’s” for:
1.    Health and
2..  General Business Decisions.
·    Time of Death  Barbara and I have already purchased our burial plots, and paid for all the funeral arrangements, for that day of our promotion, when we go home to be with the Lord.  Why?  As my Sister once said, “Don, you will one day see that this is one of the most loving things I could do for you.”  And she was so very right – when that day arrived, and she went to be with the Lord, all the major [difficult] decisions were already made – by her.  All I had to do [administratively as the Successor Trustee] was to meet with the Director in charge of the burial, and agree to her wishes.  There were no moments of anguish talking about ‘what would she have wanted.’  We could totally concentrate on the ‘home-going celebration.’

UPATE – Barbara, subsequent to writing the above, went to be with our Lord Jesus Christ in November 2007. Her passing was instantaneous – there was no time for us to say our goodbyes. If there is anything I would add to the above – is to say, “take the time to talk.”  Knee-to-knee; face-to-face, talk about everything – all the issues and decisions that will have to be made by the one remaining.  This will not only provide direction, but will lessen any  feelings of guilt.  eg: Should the remaining Spouse consider remarrying.

I pray this letter will stimulate you to “Take thought beforehand.” [2 Cor. 8:21  Amp Ver

Please feel free to contact me for further help or input.  I can give you general ideas and direction in regards to Trusts, and the reasons for having them.

Be assured, I am not selling anything, nor do I receive any form of monetary reward or ‘kick back.’  Our concern is truly for the church, her people, and her ministry.  May the Lord Bless you as you seek to discover His will in this matter.

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