Absolutely not!! The Benefits Board recommends that all ministers participate in Social Security.
Since 1968, ministers have automatically been covered under the Social Security system unless they pro-actively chose to opt-out of coverage. Ministers are the only group allowed to opt out of the Social Security system - but they can only do so if they meet certain criteria set out by the IRS, i.e. opting-out has to be done before the second year of ministry, etc. To opt out, ministers are required to file a Form 4361 with the IRS. To truthfully file a Form 4361, the minister must "certify" that because of religious principles he is "conscientiously opposed to ... the acceptance ... of any public insurance (i.e. Social Security and Medicare) that makes payments in the event of death, disability, old age, or retirement."
It is important to notice that the certification is because of the opposition to the acceptance of benefits, not to the payment of the taxes. Most people, including ministers, would say that they are opposed to the payment of the taxes. However, it is conceivable that Form 4361 could be interpreted to provide that your conscientious objection must be such that even if you were required by law to pay the taxes that you would not accept the benefits once you were eligible to receive them.
In a review of the legislative history of this provision, it seems clear that Congress only intended for those of the Amish faith to use this "opt-out" provision. However, ministers of all faiths have, I believe, wrongfully used this provision. Further, while most ministers who file a Form 4361 are doing so for economic reason - simply because they do not want to pay the Social Security taxes, they are in fact placing their family's future in harms way. By filing the "opt-out" application, ministers are not only opting out of Social Security, they are also opting out of the Medicare system. Most young ministers do not realize the impact of their decision, especially in regards to not having Medicare available upon retirement or Social Security disability available prior to retirement in the event of a debilitating event.
The acceptance by the IRS of a completed Form 4361 supposedly irrevocably removes the minister from the Social Security system for ministerial income purposes. However, during the past 24 years, Congress has allowed three different "windows of opportunity" for ministers to change their mind concerning their "irrevocable" decision to get out of the Social Security system. The last "window" closed, for all practical purposes, on April 15, 2002. If a minister has an "opt-out" form on file with the IRS, he can still gain Social Security "credits" by working at a secular job. The "opt-out" provision only applies to ministerial employment. Although the rules are more complicated than we can go into here, simply put, a person can qualify for Social Security benefits upon retirement, including Medicare, after they have worked for 40 quarters, which equals 10 years. To earn one credit, you must make at least $920 during the quarter in 2005 - and that number increases each year based upon inflation.
To qualify for Social Security Disability, the rules are even more complicated. However, generally you will need to have earned at least 20 credits in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled.
A simple example may be helpful. Let's assume that a man enters the ministry at age 30. He has had secular employment since age 18 and has earned more than 40 credits towards Social Security. Within his first year of ministry, he decides (upon bad advice) to opt-out of Social Security for ministerial income purposes by filing a Form 4361. Upon retirement, the minister would be eligible to draw a small monthly Social Security retirement check - and he would be eligible for Medicare. However, if at 36, 45, 54, etc. he became disabled, he would have no Social Security disability or Medicare. He would have to survive until he reached 65 years of age to qualify for Medicare. Had he not contributed enough quarters from his earlier secular employment, he would not have Social Security, Medicare, or Disability available to him at all. Even if he had invested the money that he would have normally paid into Social Security, his return on such would have to be sufficient to cover not only his anticipated Social Security payments - but also medical insurance for someone who does not have Medicare coverage upon retirement. One of the largest medical insurance companies in the country has estimated that a single policy for a person over 65 without Medicare would cost upwards of $1700 per month.
The simple retirement model the Benefits Board uses is a three-legged stool. The three legs are made up of a strong retirement plan, personal savings, and Social Security. If any of those "legs" are missing or incomplete, the stool is going to fall. Therefore, the Benefits Board strongly encourages all ministers to fully participate in the Social Security system.