Posted October 29, 2014 in Around the Synod

Insurance can be a tricky thing. Sure, when there’s an accident, insurance companies are there to help you out in your time of need. But what if you’re careful and manage to stay out of harm’s way? It can seem like those regular premium payments are being made but nothing is received in return.

Thanks to the Brotherhood Insurance Partnership program, the Synod of the Trinity and the 135 churches, camps and presbyteries within the synod’s bounds that participate in the program are annually receiving money back from unused portions of their payments.

Basically the partnership works like this: At the end of the year, if it’s a “good” year with minimal insurance claims, the profits generated by Brotherhood Insurance are in turn given back to the Synod of the Trinity and then shared with those entities that participate in the program. In September, close to $84,000 was distributed back to the churches, camps and presbyteries in the synod in various amounts in relation to the payments being made by the organizations.

The “giving back” by the synod falls in line with the theology of the Presbyterian church, according to synod treasurer Chantal Atnip.

“We are a connectional church,” she explained. “We value our partnership, and when we do well, we all do well. And when we don’t do well, we help our hurting brothers and sisters.”

This year marked the sixth year that the synod has been part of the program and only once during that time did churches not receive a check in the mail. That was in 2012 when a building fire at Krislund Camp and Conference Center resulted in a large claim that wiped out Brotherhood’s distribution money. But while the participating entities didn’t get some money back that year, their moneys came together and benefited Krislund in its time of need.

However, every other year, churches, camps and presbyteries have received wide ranges of checks. This year, checks were cut from anywhere from less than $100 to over $10,000.

Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Sarver, PA (Beaver-Butler Presbytery) received a check for $261.99 and is in turn using the money to help support a missionary couple in Peru. The Michael Mahon family is doing work for the South American Mission group, with Michael an aviation mechanic and wife Nancy a teacher in Peru. They are currently home but are looking to return in the summer of 2015 and need funding to do so. Buffalo PC has opted to use the Brotherhood Insurance refund check to increase its giving to $100 per month to help support that mission.

Elsewhere, East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh is one of the congregations that receives a larger check. East Liberty doesn’t do anything special with the money, just rolls it over to help pay for its future insurance premiums.

“We use it as sort of a ‘discount’ on the cost,” said business manager Pam Kimmel. “Not very glamorous, but it does help us afford to run our building and support our ministries in a safe and more cost-effective way.”

Brotherhood Insurance originally approached the Synod of the Trinity about the giving-back program, seeing that many Presbyterian churches in the synod’s boundary were buying insurance from them and offered up the idea of collectively refunding money if there was any available.

“They recognized that there were a number of PCUSA churches using them, and so they said, ‘You could help your churches by creating a partnership,’” Atnip recalled. “That also gave them a marketing tool. It was a win-win situation. This gives them an entrée into PCUSA churches, but by the same token, if our churches have, for any given calendar year, a good experience – in other words don’t make too many claims – then the insurance company hands back money.”

The Synod of the Trinity uses James O. Bower Insurance, Inc. as its carrier. The Camp Hill, PA, company does provide a similar partnership with roughly a dozen other denominations, but not all of the groups return the money to the individual churches, said owner James Bower Jr.

“This is a great program, not just because of the money, but also because the churches can still select their individual coverage, limits and deductibles,” Bower said. “They can pick which Brotherhood Mutual agent they want to work with, and they are not required to be a part of the program if it does not suit them. There is nothing like it in the marketplace today with so many benefits and flexibility.”

Bower Insurance also provides other services to congregations if need be.

“Our agents don’t just sell policies, they are expert church insurance risk managers,” Bower added. “(We) help to put together child protection policies, employment handbooks for ministries and dealing with safety and security issues constantly. We are even offering payroll processing for our church clients. Our mission is to ‘service the kingdom by serving the church,’ and that is what we do.”

Serving others. That’s what churches are called to do. And in this case, giving back is also what Brotherhood Insurance has been doing nearly every fall for the last six years.

Note: Any church, presbytery or camp within the Synod of the Trinity that would be interested in learning more about the Brotherhood Insurance Partnership can email Atnip at treasurer@syntrinity.org or call Bower Insurance at 1-800-326-7200.