How A Former Pastor Helps Churches Save Millions

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This blog was written by John Staub, Brand Development Manager at Remodel Health. Read more about our strategic partnership with Remodel Health here.

I remember when I got my first full-time job as a pastor. I moved across the country to a city I’d visited once and moved my entire life to a church community that I’d met for no more than my interview weekend. Sure, I was young and apprehensive. But I was also far more excited. Because this was the dream!  This was the first time that I would be both paid a salary and receive benefits.

Shortly after arriving at my new job and home, I was invited to the infamous all-employee open enrollment meeting. I attended with big expectations of what I would experience. Why was I so excited about this particular meeting? Because I knew firsthand what it felt like to be uninsured while doing ministry.  

There is one particular memory of being uninsured in ministry that is seared into my psyche. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was in my late teens, laying bedridden with Dengue fever, a virus contracted through a mosquito bite in the jungle. In my family’s barely air-conditioned missionary home on the Amazon River, I fought for my health while knowing that I couldn’t go to the hospital because I didn’t have any health coverage.

Thankfully, I pulled through after a full week of a health-shattering high temperature. But the fear I experienced as I wondered what I would do if I had a more critical medical need never left my mind.

Fast-forward a decade to my first open enrollment meeting, and I was so excited. Finally, I was going to have health insurance! That night, something very special happened for me, and it was not finally getting health coverage. In fact, it had less to do about what plan I picked and more about the way that someone helped me see a solution that was right under my nose but was too complicated for a novice to notice.

While I sat there frustrated and fumbling around with my application and plan selection documents, an older, wiser team member walked my way and asked if they could help. Gratefully, I accepted. Over the next 10 minutes, I learned some of the most powerful and simple tools about healthcare, which I still use today.

I walked out of that meeting knowing that I wanted to help everyone learn about these strategies! But, of course, I did not go on my campaign to share right then. After all, I had just gotten my dream job working in the church. Someone else had solved my problem and I quickly let that memory fade into the distance. Little did I know it would someday be resurrected in a big, big way.

Fast-forward to the emergency staff email from our church’s leadership informing us that budgets were getting cut… in a big way. Why? Because health insurance costs had doubled that year.  

During that particular season, churches everywhere knew about the rate increases. They had become commonplace for decades. Nonetheless, the pain and problems it caused our ministry that year left another scar in my brain only akin to my brutal body chills from Dengue fever. Everything I had planned for my team—and for my church family—that I had prayed for and was excited for, did not happen that year. At all.

Sadly, if you’re a leader, you know what this feels like. Something as essential as health insurance was stealing from our ability to do more ministry. 

After several years of ministry, I eventually decided that I wanted to transition into business. My undergraduate degree was in business and I had always had a knack for spreadsheets and processes, and much of my job in the church was implementing and training in new software solutions. Little did I know that in the midst of my life transition, all of my background, education, experience and giftedness would culminate into a career only God could design. 

Enter Remodel Health.  

Specifically, let me introduce you to one of our founders, Austin Lehman. He awkwardly tracked me down in a parking lot one afternoon—following many deliberate attempts that I had done to (not so) politely ignore him.  I thought I knew what he did and I did not want to be “that insurance guy” for my next gig. But there was just something I couldn’t shake with Austin’s persistence. Something was really intriguing to me.

So I agreed to lunch and figured I’d at least listen to what he had to say. As I sat there munching on my chips and salsa, Austin began to explain how he had discovered a solution for health benefits that used technology to actually save money for churches… and it was no small amount. Austin shared that Remodel Health had just celebrated having successfully saved $1 million for churches in Indiana. 

At this moment, I realized that even though money cannot solve every problem, more money means more mission. If Remodel Health was able to help this many churches redirect money back into their mission in Indiana, how much more impact could they have on churches all over the United States? 

Austin used the rest of our lunch to share with me the specific tools and strategies that Remodel Health was implementing. He shared his huge vision for how many more churches he wanted to serve and, more importantly, how many more millions of dollars in resources he wanted to see returned back to ministry.

Needless to say, I joined the team and jumped all in. Since that day, the company has grown continuously, and we’re nowhere near done!

Remodel Health is now the national leader in health benefits technology for Christian employers. We’ve also been serving alongside Vanderbloemen for over 3 years and couldn’t be more grateful for our partnership together.  

As Vanderbloemen knows full well, compensation for church staff is one of the most important factors in being able to recruit and keep top talent. But sadly, as of 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 29.6% of total compensation for U.S. employees is spent on benefits. This is unsustainable.

Here are some fast facts on the problem:

  • The cost of group health plans has increased by 283.7% in the past 22 years—an average increase of 12.89% per year

  • Pay has increased by 89.94%, which is an average increase of only 4.28% per year in the same timeframe

Group health plans are increasing in cost three times faster than pay in the United States. And from 1999 to 2021, deductibles have increased by 398%, an average of 18.1% per year. This is literally paying a vendor more to do less for you. We would never agree to this in any other type of purchase, so why do it here?

Looking at these statistics, one thing is clear: we simply cannot keep doing things the way we always have. 

Necessity is the mother of invention

For 2022 alone, the cost of group plans increased by 6.3%. Original projections were in the double digits for increases, but that was assuming that 2021 would have brought a better reprieve from the pandemic. This means they will get it here in 2022—so anyone with a group plan better get ready for some massive increases!

Individual plans, however, are telling a much different story. Instead of an increase, individual plans actually saw a 3.1% decrease. And we can expect to see the cost of old group health plans to be twice as much compared to individual plans. Furthermore, individual plans have actually decreased by 9% over the past 5 years.

What we are seeing in health benefits is the same thing we saw in retirement benefits back in the 1980s. Organizations are leaving the group benefit and moving to individual benefits, just like they left pension plans and transitioned into 401(k)s. 

Thankfully, this is not a brand new solution for health benefits. In fact, these low-cost individual plans have been around for a decade now. The continued stability and increased incentive for groups to move over to “managed individual,” the health benefits version of 401(k) plans, has finally gained the critical mass it needed to make its way to you reading about it right here on this blog. Congratulations!

Where do we go from here? 

You might be wondering what exactly you can do about all of this, and what the best way to move forward is. Here are three easy steps for moving towards the best benefits possible for you and your team. 

1. Run an analysis.

Start learning, and walk before you run! Remodel Health has designed a proprietary tool that allows you to compare your current group plan to the managed individual model. Get your questions answered in your context and see for yourself how it can make an impact. 

2. Start doing something.

Whether you jump all in or take baby steps toward change, the reality is that doing what you’ve been doing is just not sustainable. Your team needs help and there are newer, cheaper ways for you to serve them better than ever.

3. Spread the word.

Maybe you’re reading this and it seems irrelevant to you. But maybe this content could help someone else. After all, if you hear good news that can help someone else, you can’t keep it to yourself!

Go to to learn more about how this can work for you! You can request to chat with a consultant, run an analysis, and even download our 2021 National Health Benefits Analysis for Christian Employers. But no matter what you do, don’t just sit there and do nothing! Do something today, because there are resources to be saved for the church. It’s time to save more money for more mission!

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