It’s amazing how many organizations use the acronym “AMA”, but the most important one in my life and for our congregation is the “Aged Ministers Assistance.” As you’re reading this article, hopefully you have not forgotten tonight is our pie social fundraiser for the AMA. This ministry is so vital within our Assemblies of God fellowship because a large number of retired pastors did not adequately prepare for their future and are without a savings account, 401(k) or Social Security. Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, there was a big push to opt out of Social Security because some taught it was in contradiction to the Word of God. We do not criticize anyone who chose that path; rather we want to help them through the difficult situation in which they find themselves. There was a point in my young pastoral career where I considered opting out of Social Security. I was looking at my paltry paycheck and realizing 15% more each pay cycle was a significant amount of money. Most of you have the blessing of having half of your Social Security tax being paid by your employer (on your pay-stub it’s called FICA). Not only does it fund a retirement check through Social Security, but it also covers a significant portion of Medicare for seniors. Most of you pay approximately 7 1/2% on each of your payroll checks towards FICA, but for ministers it’s 15%. So if the average person makes $4000 a month it’s a significant amount of money. Some incorrectly assume ministers don’t pay taxes at all, working for a non-profit. And most ministers back in the 60s, 70s and 80s also did not have any housing deduction, because the overwhelming majority lived in parsonages as part of their “paycheck”, thus having no investment avenue as most of us do by owning our own home. I am very thankful for the benefits I receive because of my minister’s status. It does save me on income tax, but ironically the new middle class tax cut did not benefit ministers because the IRS removed a number of our deductions. Yes, this article is about the Aged Ministers Assistance, but sharing information about financial decisions a minister must make on a regular basis will hopefully help you appreciate the difficult decisions they have made in the past and why they are struggling today. Most ministers we help support did not serve large congregations. These are the rural pastors, the great men and women of God who served in congregations of 20, 30, 40, maybe up to 100 on a regular basis. I would encourage you, if you know of a minister who is retired or semi-retired, and you are aware they live on a very fixed income, please prayerfully consider sending them some Christmas gift in 2019 to bless them. As a way of giving you a little more of an insight into the thankfulness of these age ministers, I’m going to post below a few of their responses back to our ministry headquarters. The monies they receive only bring them up to the poverty level - that is the best our fellowship can do because of the great need across the nation.
“I would like to express my gratitude for your generosity towards me and for the gift that I receive which is a great blessing in my life. I thank the Lord for individuals such as yourselves that think about others that are in need and hurting - how you bring us joy and fulfillment in our lives. May God bless you always.”
“Thank You! I appreciate the behind the scenes work you do to help us retired ministers. You’ll never know how much we appreciate it and we pray for you and the donors all the time!”
“Your Christmas gift was a heaven-sent surprise. Your check came just in time to help me travel to my sister’s memorial service. Thank you so much for all you do for so many retired ministers including us. We appreciate also how you treat us with so much kindness and respect.”
Hope to see you tonight with a pie in your hand and a smile on your face!