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After pastor dies suddenly, family finds provision through ChRP survivor benefitcomment (0)

October 10, 2013

By Grace Thornton

After pastor dies suddenly, family finds provision through ChRP survivor benefit

All of Abbeville was stunned when 40-year-old Michael Whitt, pastor of the city’s First Baptist Church, died of a sudden heart attack on the softball field July 9.

But no one was more stunned than his wife, Melissa, and four children — Elizabeth, Lydia, Julia and Jonathan.

“The night Mike died was the longest one of my life,” Melissa Whitt said. “I laid there all night, surrounded by my precious children, wondering how I was going to provide for them.”

But the Lord spoke very clearly to her through 1 Chronicles 20:12 and 15–17, she said. “We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”

In the days following, a miracle showed up.

It was a significant check from the survivor protection benefit of the Church Retirement Plan (ChRP) that the Cooperative Program (CP) helps to provide for every participating Alabama minister.

Melissa Whitt was stunned again.

“I found out about this benefit as well as another policy Mike had taken out for us,” she said. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. He was providing for us just as He promised.”

With those funds in place, Melissa Whitt was able to keep homeschooling her children.

It was “God’s gracious provision” through Alabama Baptists that “gives us greater confidence in His plan to give us ‘a hope and a future,’” she said.

There are stories all over the state of people who have been significantly blessed by the ChRP, said Bobby DuBois, associate executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).

Through their gifts through the CP, Alabama Baptists contribute monthly to the 403(b)(9) plans of ministers in the state who participate in the ChRP, a GuideStone Financial Resources retirement option.

It’s “a contribution Alabama Baptists make for every minister in the Alabama Baptist State Convention who participates in the plan” and gives more than $52.50 each month, DuBois said. 

The amount depends on the amount put in by the minister. For every $3 above $52.50 that a minister contributes, the SBOM will contribute $1 up to a maximum of $17.50 a month.

From the ChRP, ministers get retirement benefits as well as disability income benefits if needed and the survivor protection benefit that the Whitt family received.

“That benefit can go up as high as $100,000 depending on the age of the minister who dies,” DuBois said.

The disability benefit can provide up to $500 a month for qualifying participants.

To receive these benefits, a minister must have been participating in the plan for at least a year.

“We’ve had some situations where someone was disabled, and it’s not much, but every dollar helps,” said Lee Wright, coordinator of Church Compensation Services for the SBOM. “We’ve also had a number of times that something tragic has happened — we’ve had some ministers pass away, and their widows were very, very grateful.”

The ChRP contributions are “a tremendously important ministry, even though it’s not enormous,” Wright said. “It encourages ministers to be a part of a retirement system. Before (the ChRP ministry began), many of them were woefully unprepared.”

For more information about the ChRP, contact Wright at lwright@alsbom.org or 1-800-264-1225, ext. 241, or visit www.guidestoneretirement.org.

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