Concordia Plan Services Tailors Benefits To Churches, Schools

By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor

Concordia Plan Services is an unusual entity in the highly competitive world of employee benefits.

Jim Sanft Concordia Plan Services

Jim Sanft is president of Concordia Plan Services, a subsidiary of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

As an agency of The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, it’s not marketing to just any business. Its clients are 6,000 Lutheran churches, schools and colleges, most of whom chose Concordia as their employee benefit provider decades ago. The plans provide benefits to 87,000 individuals nationwide.

On the other hand, the churches, schools and colleges aren’t required to use Concordia, which operates as a self-insured employee benefits trust. It’s based at the church’s headquarters in Kirkwood, where it shares an exercise room, cafeteria and chapel.

“We have to be competitive and go out and earn the business,” said Jim Sanft, Concordia’s president. As an organization of the church, they have the advantage of knowing their customers and understanding their ministry. But they still have to offer a cost-effective product.

Concordia benefit consultants meet with churches and other clients often to explain changes and choices in their plans, which include health, dental, prescription drug, and behavioral health coverage; a defined benefit and defined contribution plan; a 403(b); disability coverage; and supplemental life insurance.

Often, they have to explain the difference between their plans and plans in the for-profit world to lay church leaders.

“We don’t exist to make a profit,” Sanft said. “We exist to take care of people.”

Concordia employees traditionally have been church employees who previously had other roles in the synod. But Sanft said he’s now recruiting more employees with professional benefits experience and expertise.

Concordia Plan Services values

Concordia Plan Services’ values are painted on walls above employees’ cubicles.

“Employees must believe in the church’s mission,” Sanft said, “which is to vigorously make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world.” After they are hired, employees work through a program called Integrity Service platform, which underscores five important corporate values: integrity, compassion, excellence, stewardship and accountability.

Teams of employees work through binders covering the values together over several months. At the end, there’s a graduation.

“It gives us all a common language of service expectations,” Sanft said.

Concordia uses outside vendors to administer most of the benefits, such as health insurance and prescription drug plans. But it has a retirement department that makes pension payments, and it operates a call center that helps employees at churches and schools determine their eligibility and enroll if they are new employees. The call center also conduct benefits processing and irons out any problems that arise.

Concordia tracks the accuracy of claims handling and measures client satisfaction with vendors using surveys and other metrics.

About half of Concordia’s 130 employees work in operations. The organization also has separate departments for financial and actuarial services, accounting, investments, legal and compliance, products and services and marketing.

“Churches are small businesses but they are so much more,” Sanft said. As a part of the synod, Concordia can say, “We’re walking with you. We’re here to help you.”

Profiles of BBB Accredited Businesses, non-accredited businesses and BBB Accredited Charities are created as part of BBB’s TORCH Award process and are not intended as an endorsement. Concordia Plan Services is not accredited with BBB. This year’s TORCH Award Luncheon will be Oct. 14 at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St .Louis. For more information, click here.

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