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Clergy InsuranceAffordable Coverage for Pastors

Clergy insurance is a necessary but costly part of pastor salary. Each year in the United States health care costs rise much faster than most other budget categories. Churches are not immune to these skyrocketing prices. Many churches are struggling financially because they can't find affordable health insurance. Pastors increasingly find themselves in a cycle of financial crisis simply because of high insurance premiums and rising deductibles and co-pays.

But rising costs are only half of the story. While prices are going up, insurance companies are covering less. Years ago dental and vision coverage were standard parts of most every health policy. Now, it's rare that a "standard" policy provides this coverage.

So what can churches do to provide adequate and affordable health insurance for their pastors? I believe there are three things you should do to get the best clergy insurance.

  1. Prioritize - determine which types of insurance are most important. See below for my suggested order of priorities.
  2. Investigate Thoroughly - Finding clergy insurance is not an easy process. It takes a lot of hard work. You need to compare types of coverage as well as costs. I would encourage you to start with a local independent insurance agent. Interview the agent to learn about insurance in general and about what is available. The more you learn the better you will be able to do your own search for clergy insurance.
  3. Search Diligently - Insurance agents are salespeople. They may be good people, but they still earn a living by selling you insurance coverage. So no salesperson will try to sell you an insurance policy they don't personally offer. I'm not saying they will lie to you. I'm just saying that they won't tell you that a different company offers a better product. You have to learn all you can about insurance in general and then compare policies and costs. To do this you will have to meet with several salespeople and make a lot of phone calls. It's hard work. But your efforts will be worth it when you find adequate and affordable clergy insurance. You can also get free quotes and comparisons from online sources such as eHealthInsurance.

How, though, do you determine which insurance is most important?

Clergy Insurance Priorities

It's difficult to determine what's most important in the sea of available clergy insurance policies. So I offer the following list to help you make sure you are providing what's most important for your pastor.

Download the entire pastor salary section of in an ebook format. You can print as many copies as you want. And it will look better than printing each of the 11 pages directly from the web site.
See this page for more information.

  1. Comprehensive Health Coverage - Health insurance is the most important type of clergy insurance. Nothing else comes close. A simple visit to the doctor and a resulting prescription can easily cost $150 to $200. See below for more information on pastor health insurance.
  2. Liability. This coverage provides legal and financial assistance against a law suit. It usually doesn't cost much and will help your pastor sleep better at night. People sue over anything and everything. It may be a slip and fall in the church bathroom, it may result from a person's rejection of church discipline, or a person may not like the counsel your offered by your pastor. Whether or not the accusations have merit, the plaintiff will still get his or her day in court. So your church and/or your pastor will need a lawyer. A good liability insurance policy will provide for everything from basic counsel up to the payout of a settlement. These clergy insurance policies are not expensive and are well worth the money.
  3. Disability. People about 55 and younger are more likely to be disabled than they are to die. What will you do if your pastor is partially or totally disabled for six months? Will you continue to pay his salary? What if he is permanently disabled? Will you let him stay in the parsonage and continue his salary until retirement? If not, disability coverage is essential. No one likes to think about this possibility. But what if your pastor is involved in an automobile accident and can't work for three months, six months, or even a year? What if he is permanently disabled? Most churches would do their best to care for their ailing pastor for as long as they could. But if the disability is permanent, you will need a new pastor while you care for your current pastor. How can you afford both? Disability coverage is essential pastor insurance.
  4. Life Insurance. What will your pastor's spouse do if your pastor dies? Will he or she be able to get adequate employment? Do they have children? I believe a church has an obligation to care for the spouse of its deceased pastor. Life insurance is the best way to do this. How much pastor life insurance is enough? Each situation is different. However, consider things like the age of your pastor's children, the type of employment your pastor's spouse can obtain, and any special health or living situations. Life insurance can also be purchased by the church to cover expenses that are incurred by the church after the death of its pastor. Unexpected costs such as pulpit supply and a new pastor search can be covered by this type of policy. Ask your insurance agent for information.
  5. Supplemental - Supplemental clergy insurance is what you might think of as "gap" insurance. Use this type of policy to fill the coverage gaps in other types of clergy insurance. For instance, if your health insurance doesn't provide dental coverage, you might look for a supplemental dental policy. Specialized policies are also available. If your pastor has a family history of cancer or heart disease, you might consider purchasing a cancer or major illness policy. Nursing home costs leave a wake of financial destruction in many homes so you might also look at long term care coverage. This type of coverage is available through many insurance companies.

Pastor Health Insurance

  • Group health insurance policies are generally cheaper and more comprehensive than policies for individuals. If your church denomination offers affordable health insurance for pastors, that is probably the best place to start. If the policy doesn't provide the exact coverage your pastor needs you still might save money by using this group policy and then adding a Health Savings Account (see below) or supplemental clergy insurance.
  • Explore Health Savings Accounts. These are bank held savings accounts that are reserved specifically for health related bills. The better accounts provide a debit card with which you can pay your bills. In addition, be sure to look for accounts that can roll over from year to year. Some older accounts still require that all money deposited be used by the end of the year. The use of an HSA may allow you to choose a major medical clergy insurance policy with higher deductibles and thus get a lower monthly premium. HSA's provide convenience, help you plan ahead, and give tax advantages. You can begin your investigation into HSA's with this Wikipedia summary.
  • Consider alternatives to pastor health insurance. For instance, Medi-Share is basically a non-profit Christian organization that pools money and distributes it according to need. Samaritan Ministries is another clergy insurance alternative. It is often mistakenly called Christian health insurance or Christian medical insurance. You pay a monthly "share" and those shares are used to pay medical bills of other members. While these types of plans are legitimate, please be very careful when considering alternatives to clergy insurance. If you or a family member experience a significant medical problem (such as a heart attack) or contract a disease (such as diabetes or cancer) while uncovered by a true medical insurance policy, it will be almost impossible to obtain individual comprehensive coverage later on. Ask a lot of questions and contact references before committing to a clergy insurance alternative.

  • Search for doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals who give discounts to pastors. Some may waive deductibles while others may offer some services for free.
  • A word about Medicaid. In the USA, the government pays for all or part of the health care needs for people with low income. Many pastors qualify for these and other related government services. I know pastors who were on Medicaid for years because their pastor salary was not sufficient to purchase adequate clergy insurance. Medicaid, however, is not a perfect solution for several reasons. First, being on Medicaid is a very humbling experience. Second, Medicaid is not accepted by many medical specialists, and dentists treat Medicaid patients as though they had the plague. Third, Medicaid does not pay for many common medications. So if you need to put your pastor on Medicaid, please make it temporary. And if you can spare any extra money (even $50 a month), consider putting it into a HSA so that your pastor can use it for dental checkups and other things not covered by Medicaid.
  • Conclusion

    Download the entire pastor salary section of in an ebook format. You can print as many copies as you want. And it will look better than printing each of the 11 pages directly from the web site.
    See this page for more information.

    People are often very reluctant to part with their money to pay for insurance. But when we have a medical issue we are always glad we opened our wallets. Churches also find it difficult to pay for adequate clergy insurance. It is very tempting to ask your pastor to "live by faith" rather than pay the very high costs of coverage. However, you must think of clergy insurance as an investment in your pastor and his or her family. Without good clergy insurance, your pastor will not be able to afford to remain your pastor. I know of many pastors who had to choose between pastoring the church they loved and caring for their family. Don't force your pastor to make that choice. Do the hard work required to provide adequate and affordable clergy insurance.

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