Leaving the RCA?

Consider the impact to you or your employee’s benefits

If you are a Minister of Word and Sacrament, commissioned pastor, lay employee, or a RCA Church who is planning to demit or transfer to another denomination, there are some important things you should know about how it will impact you or your employee’s benefits for retirement, insurances and other ministries offered through the Board of Benefits Services (BOBS).

In all cases, it is important that RCA ordained ministers, commissioned pastors, lay employees and churches who are leaving the RCA or have left the RCA, communicate with BOBS when there is a change of employment status, church contact information or personal contact information.

View a glossary of terms

Glossary of terms

Some church planters and those new to the RCA might be unfamiliar with terminology and titles related to this topic. If you are unfamiliar with RCA terminology and are considering leaving the RCA, the following is a brief summary to help you navigate this site. We’ve intentionally tried to keep this simple and general; this terminology is not transferable to anything other than this webpage. For more detailed information about these terms, refer to the Book of Church Order

  • Minister of Word and Sacrament – Ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament by a RCA Classis. A Minister of Word and Sacrament can serve any RCA church or a church in any other denomination that is a party to an agreement with the RCA regarding the orderly exchange of ministers (currently the CRCNA, ELCA, PC(USA), and UCC). Ministers of Word and Sacrament serving as specialized ministers are not necessarily bound to the same benefit requirements, depending on their employer. Contact us at retirement@rca.org if you have questions about benefits for specialized ministers. 
  • Commissioned Pastor – Commissioned by a RCA Classis to serve a specific church or ministry as pastor. The commissioning relates to a specific ministry, only remains in effect during the period of that particular ministry job, and is not transferable to other churches and ministries. In relation to benefits, Commissioned Pastors have different rules and requirements than RCA Ministers of Word and Sacrament. Commissioned Pastors may participate in retirement and insurance benefits, but are not required by the Book of Church Order to do so. Much of the information regarding benefits is the same for Commissioned Pastors and lay employees, but there are a few additional items that need to be fulfilled by a Classis clerk for Commissioned Pastors. 
  • Lay Employee – On this webpage, “lay” refers to an employee who is neither a minister nor a commissioned pastor of the church, and who is enrolled in the RCA retirement plans or RBA insurance. A Preaching Elder may fit into this category.
  • Church – In regards to RCA benefits, a congregation is a gathering of baptized Christians. When that congregation has been officially organized by the local RCA Classis, it becomes a church. If a gathering of people is considered a plant, it has not yet organized, or is in a period of transition called an “organizing church”, the gathering is not yet considered an organized RCA church.. Before being officially organized by a Classis, it is not able to be a participating employer in the benefits program. Church plants should address questions to their sending organization, which could be another church, Classis, or adopting employer. If the church is not yet organized by a RCA Classis, but does have an EIN number, it may become an employer who participates in the RCA 403(b) Retirement Program. 

Bottom Line: If you’re ever confused or unsure of your status as Minister of Word and Sacrament, Commissioned Pastor, or Lay Employee, or the status of your congregation as a plant or organized church, ask your Classis clerk! They have all of the records on file and are glad to answer your questions.

Ministers of Word and Sacrament

If a RCA ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament demits, how does that affect any benefits with BOBS?

RCA Retirement Plan:

  • At the time of demission or transfer of ordination, distributions must begin immediately based on the election made on the original RCA Retirement Plan Distribution Election Form on file. If there is no election form on file or the original form cannot be properly administered, the participant will need to make an election of systematic withdrawals and begin taking those distributions immediately. However, if a minister demits or transfers their ordination before age 60, they may otherwise opt to take a full payout. All distributions from the plan are fully taxable.
  • RCA ordained ministers can be considered retired on or after age 60 with the classis approval of their retirement status. This is important because distribution options are different for retired and terminated participants.
  • Exiting ministers can still participate in the reallocation program as long as they received RCA taxable earnings within the prior five years.

RCA 403(b) Retirement Program

  • If the minister demits or transfers their ordination and is still working for a RCA employer, the RCA church can continue to contribute to the plan on behalf of their minister upon completing an Alternate Agreement and submitting that to BOBS.
  • If a minister demits or transfers their ordination and is no longer working for a RCA employer, neither the minister nor the non-RCA employer can contribute to the plan.
  • At the time of demission or transfer of ordination, the participant must leave their money in the plan. As long as the minister continues to work for the same employer a distributable event has not occurred. This is updated information from what was initially published on this page. After consulting with the BOBS legal team and Fidelity, this adjustment needed to be made. Should the minister’s employment cease at that church, they could:
    • Leave the money in the plan.
    • Roll it out into another retirement account.
    • If they are over age 59.5, they may begin taking withdrawals once the employment ceases.
    • To notify BOBS that a termination in Employment has occurred, the Participant Retirement/Termination Form must be completed and emailed to retirement@rca.org.
  • A full rollout of the RCA 403(b) Retirement Program will default any unpaid loans and the remaining balance of the loan will be reported as a taxable distribution. In addition, if the participant is under age 59 ½, the remaining loan balance, as a taxable distribution, will incur a 10% penalty by the IRS.
  • If a minister rolls their money out, the housing allowance letter approved by the BOBS board will only apply to funds being directly distributed from the RCA 403(b) Retirement Program, and will no longer apply to funds distributed out of a different retirement account.

Long-Term Disability and Life through BOBS

  • If a minister demits or transfers their ordination, their insurance will terminate as of the date of their demission or transfer of ordination.
  • Individuals no longer in the plan will be able to port their insurance at increased rates based on age and coverage amounts.

Other BOBS programs

  • If a RCA ordained minister demits or transfers their ordination, they will no longer be eligible for grant programs (Ministerial Excellence Fund or Assistance Program) or the Retiree Chaplains Program.

Insurances through the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA)

  • Ministers and churches should contact the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA) if they are enrolled in insurance through the RBA to determine their eligibility.

What should happen when a RCA Minister of Word and Sacrament leaves the RCA?

RCA Retirement Plan

  • Classis should submit the blue form notifying the denominational staff of the status of the minister.
  • Once the demission or transfer of ordination takes place, BOBS staff will be in touch with the participants as they must immediately begin taking distributions from the RCA Retirement Plan.
  • Exiting ministers can still participate in the reallocation program as long as they received RCA taxable earnings within the prior five years.

RCA 403(b) Retirement Program

  • Classis should submit the blue form notifying the denominational staff of the status of the minister.
  • Once the demission or transfer of ordination takes place, BOBS staff will be in touch with those participants as to their options.
  • If the church leaves the RCA, the church should contact BOBS to make sure that all missing contributions are paid to the account of their minister.

Long-Term Disability and Life through BOBS

  • Classis should submit the appropriate blue form notifying the denominational staff of the status of the minister.
  • RCA ordained ministers can still participate, even if the church leaves, as long as the church that they are working for continues to pay the premiums. 
  • If a RCA minister demits or transfers their ordination, their insurance will be terminated the last day of employment with an RCA church.   
    • Individuals no longer in the plan have 30 days to port their insurance, so if the classis sends the form in late, the minister may lose their opportunity to port. BOBS will send porting information to the exiting minister upon receipt of the blue form.
  • Churches should make sure they are current with the payment of insurance premiums.

Other BOBS programs

  • Nothing is required of the minister, the church or the classis.

Insurances through the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA)

  • Ministers and churches should contact the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA) if they are enrolled in insurance through the RBA to determine their eligibility.

What happens if the church leaves the denomination, but the minister remains RCA ordained?

RCA Retirement Plan

  • Ordained ministers will remain active in the plan. 

RCA 403(b) Retirement Program

  • Ordained ministers will remain active in the plan and can contribute employee contributions.
  • The non-RCA church can contribute employer contributions to the account of the RCA ordained minister if the church completes and submits an adoption agreement.

Insurance through BOBS

  • RCA ordained ministers can still participate, even if the church leaves, as long as the church that they are working for continues to pay the premiums.
    • If a RCA ordained minister demits or transfers their ordination, their insurance will terminate on the date that they demit or transfer their ordination and they will no longer be eligible for insurances through BOBS.

Other BOBS programs

  • If a RCA ordained minister remains RCA ordained, even if their church leaves the denomination, they are still eligible for any grant programs (Ministerial Excellence Fund or Assistance Program) or the Retiree Chaplains Program.
  • If a RCA ordained minister demits or transfers their ordination, they will no longer be eligible for any grant programs (Ministerial Excellence Fund or Assistance Program) or the Retiree Chaplains Program.

Insurances through the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA)

  • Ministers and churches should contact the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA) if they are enrolled in insurance through the RBA to determine their eligibility.

Commissioned pastors

If a commissioned pastor or their church leaves the RCA, how does that affect any benefits with BOBS?

RCA Retirement Plan

  • Commissioned pastors are considered lay employees under the plan rules.
  • When a commissioned pastor or their church leaves the RCA, the commissioned pastor must immediately begin taking distributions based on the election made on the original RCA Retirement Plan Distribution Election Form on file. If there is no election form on file or the original form cannot be properly administered, the participant will need to make an election of systematic withdrawals and begin taking those distributions immediately.
    • If a commissioned pastor terminates or their church leaves the denomination before the commissioned pastor turns 60 years old, they may otherwise opt to take a full payout. All distributions are fully taxable.
  • As a lay employee, the commissioned pastor is considered terminated at the point they, or their church, officially leave the RCA.
  • Exiting commissioned pastors can still participate in the reallocation program as long as they received RCA taxable earnings within the prior five years.

RCA 403(b) Retirement Program

  • Commissioned pastors are considered lay employees of the plan.
  • If a commissioned pastor is no longer working for a RCA employer, neither the pastor nor the church can contribute to the plan.
  • Upon leaving the RCA, commissioned pastors (as lay employees) must leave their money in the plan. As long as the pastor continues to work for the same employer, a distributable event has not occurred. This is updated information from what was initially published on this page. After consulting with the BOBS legal team and Fidelity, this adjustment needed to be made. Should the pastor’s employment cease at that church, they could:
    • Leave the money in the plan.
    • Roll it out into another retirement account.
    • If they are over age 59.5, they may begin taking withdrawals once the employment ceases.
  • A full rollout of the RCA 403(b) Retirement Program will default any unpaid loans and the remaining balance of the loan will be reported as a taxable distribution. In addition,  if the participant is under age 59 ½ the remaining loan balance, as a taxable distribution, will incur a 10% penalty by the IRS.
  • If a pastor rolls their money out, the housing allowance letter approved by the BOBS board will only apply to funds being directly distributed from the RCA 403(b) Retirement Program, and will no longer apply to funds distributed out of a different retirement account.

Long-Term Disability and Life through BOBS

  • Classis should submit the green form notifying the denominational staff of the status of the commissioned pastor.
  • If a church leaves the RCA, the commissioned pastor is no longer eligible to participate in insurances through BOBS.
    • Life and LTD insurance will terminate as of the last day of employment with a RCA employer.
    • Individuals no longer in the plan have 30 days from the date of termination to port their insurance, so if the classis sends the form in late, the commissioned pastor may lose their opportunity to port. BOBS staff will send porting information to the exiting commissioned pastor upon receipt of their green form.
  • Churches should make sure they are current with the payment of insurance premiums.

Other BOBS programs

  • Commissioned pastors who are no longer working for a RCA employer will no longer be eligible for Ministerial Excellence Fund grants.

Insurances through the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA)

  • Commissioned pastors should contact the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA) if they are enrolled in insurance through the RBA to determine their eligibility.

What will happen when a commissioned pastor leaves the RCA?

RCA Retirement Plan

  • Classis should submit the green forms notifying the denominational staff of the status of the commissioned pastor.
  • Commissioned pastors should notify BOBS of updated personal contact information. 
  • Once the termination  takes place, BOBS staff will be in touch with the participants as they will need to begin taking distributions if they are participants in the RCA Retirement Plan.

RCA 403(b) Retirement Program

  • Classis should submit the green form notifying the denominational staff of the status of the commissioned pastor.
  • Commissioned pastors should notify BOBS of updated personal contact information.
  • Once the termination takes place, BOBS staff will be in touch with those participants as to their options.

Long-Term Disability and Life through BOBS

  • Classis should submit the green form notifying the denominational staff of the status of the commissioned pastor.
  • Insurance will terminate as of the last day of employment with an RCA employer.
  • Individuals no longer in the plan have 30 days from the date of termination to port their insurance so if classis sends the form in late, the commissioned pastor may lose their opportunity to port. BOBS staff will send porting information to the exiting minister upon receipt of termination.
  • Churches should make sure they are current with the payment of insurance premiums.

Other BOBS programs

  • Nothing is required of the church or the classis.

Insurances through the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA)

  • Ministers and churches should contact the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA) if they are enrolled in insurance through the RBA to determine their eligibility.

Lay Employees

What happens to benefits for lay employees of the church if a church leaves the RCA? (not including commissioned pastors)

RCA Retirement Plan

  • When a lay employee is no longer working for a RCA employer, they must immediately begin taking distributions based on the election made on the original RCA Retirement Plan Distribution Election Form on file. If there is no election form on file or the original form cannot be properly administered, the participant will need to make an election of systematic withdrawals and begin taking those distributions immediately.
  • Exiting lay employees can still participate in the reallocation program as long as they received RCA taxable earnings within the prior five years.

RCA 403(b) Retirement Program

  • When a church leaves the RCA, lay employees participating in the plan remain inactive until they terminate their employment with the church.
  • If a lay employee is no longer working for an RCA employer, neither the lay employee nor the church can contribute to the plan.
  • When a church leaves the RCA,  lay employees must leave their money in the plan. As long as the employee continues to work for the same employer, a distributable event has not occurred. This is updated information from what was initially published on this page. After consulting with the BOBS legal team and Fidelity, this adjustment needed to be made. Should the employment cease at that church, they could:
    • Leave the money in the plan.
    • Roll it out into another retirement account. 
    • If they are over age 59.5, they may begin taking withdrawals once the employment ceases.
  • A full rollout  of the RCA 403(b) Retirement Program will default any unpaid loans and the remaining balance of the loan will be reported as a taxable distribution. In addition, if a participant is under age 59 ½, the remaining loan balance, as a taxable distribution, will incur a 10% penalty by the IRS.

Long-Term Disability and Life through BOBS

  • No action is required because lay employees are not eligible for insurances through BOBS.

Other BOBS programs

  • Nothing is required of the church or the classis because lay employees are not eligible for other programs offered through BOBS.

Insurances through the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA):

  • Lay employees and churches should contact the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA) if they are enrolled in insurance through the RBA to determine their eligibility.

Churches and Classes

What should churches who are leaving be aware of?

RCA Retirement Plan

  • Classis should submit the appropriate blue form or green forms notifying the denominational staff of the status of the minister or commissioned pastor.
  • RCA ordained ministers can be considered retired on or after age 60 with the classis approval of their retirement status. This is important because distribution options are different for retired and terminated participants.
  • Exiting ministers can still participate in the reallocation program as long as they received RCA taxable earnings within the prior five years.

RCA 403(b) Retirement Program

  • Classis should submit the appropriate blue form or green forms notifying the denominational staff of the status of the minister or commissioned pastor.
  • If the minister demits or transfers their ordination and is still working for a RCA employer, the RCA church can continue to contribute to the plan on behalf of their minister.
  • If a minister demits or transfers their ordination and is no longer working for a RCA employer, both the minister and the non-RCA employer are no longer eligible to contribute to the plan.
    • At the time of demission or transfer of ordination, the participant must leave their money in the plan. As long as a minister, commissioned pastor, or lay employee continues to work for the same employer, a distributable event has not occured. This is updated information from what was initially published on this page. After consulting with the BOBS legal team and Fidelity, this adjustment needed to be made. Should the employment cease at that church, they could:
      • Leave the money in the plan.
      • Roll it out into another retirement account.
      • If they are over age 59.5, they may begin taking withdrawals once the employment ceases.
  • RCA ordained ministers, even if their church is leaving the RCA, will remain active in the plan and can make employee contributions.
  • A non-RCA church can contribute employer contributions to the account of the RCA ordained minister if the church completes and submits an Alternate Adoption Agreement.
  • If a commissioned pastor is no longer working for a RCA employer, neither the pastor nor the church can contribute to the plan.
  • If a lay employee is no longer working for a RCA church, neither the lay employee nor the church can contribute to the plan.
  • If a church is planning to leave the RCA, the church should contact BOBS to make sure that all missing contributions are paid to the account of their minister before leaving.

Long-Term Disability and Life through BOBS

  • Classis should submit the appropriate blue or green forms notifying the denominational staff of the status of the minister or commissioned pastor.
  • RCA ordained ministers can still participate, even if the church leaves, as long as the church that they are working for continues to pay the premiums.
  • If ordained ministers can still participate, even if the church leaves, as long as the church that they are working for continues to pay the premiums.
  • Life and LTD insurance will terminate for commissioned pastors on the last day of employment with a RCA church and they will no longer be eligible for insurances through BOBS.
  • Individuals no longer in the plan have 30 days to port their insurance, so if classis sends the form in late, the minister may lose their opportunity to port. BOBS will send porting information to the exiting minister or commissioned pastor upon receipt of their blue or green form.
  • Churches should make sure they are current with the payment of insurance premiums.

Other BOBS Programs

  • Classis should submit the appropriate blue or green forms notifying the denominational staff of the status of the RCA ordained minister.
  • If a RCA ordained ministers remains RCA ordained, even if their church leaves the denomination, they are still eligible for any grant programs (Ministerial Excellence Fund or Assistance Program) or the Retiree Chaplains Program.
  • If a RCA ordained minister demits or transfers their ordination, they will no longer be eligible for any grant programs (Ministerial Excellence Fund or Assistance Program) or the Retiree Chaplains Program.

Insurances through the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA)

  • Ministers, commissioned pastors, and churches should contact the Reformed Benefits Association (RBA) if they are enrolled in insurance through the RBA to determine their eligibility.