April 22, 2014

4 Tips for Church Budgeting

Help for avoiding budgetary headaches.

1. Don't Get Lost in the Numbers: Consider Human Relationships
It's easy to become overly involved with the mechanical aspects of budget construction and lose sight of the fact that budgets are for a church, a voluntary group of members sharing common religious beliefs, rather than for a corporation. Unless the budgeting effort considers human relationships, even the most precise efforts will be for naught if met with resistance, skepticism, or indifference.

2. Unanticipated Events May Occur and That's Okay
Many churches overemphasize the use of budgets to control expenditures. A budget is not carved in stone. A few changes in the annual operating budget or any other budget during the year might have to be made because of unanticipated events. These changes do not damage the planning and budgeting process. They simply reflect the difficulty of accurately forecasting the future.

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April 21, 2014

Monday Church Management Roundup: 4/21/14

Five trends, tips, ideas, and stats to help church leaders manage well this week.

  1. Job hopes are rising—but not paychecks. "We continue to expect an average monthly gain of 200,000 [jobs] for the year. That's enough hiring to match normal growth in the labor force, but not brisk enough to soak up millions of long-term jobless and part-timers who can't find full-time work. So ... only a small increase in workers' wages this year: 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, following a 2 percent rise in 2013" (April 4, 2014, Kiplinger Letter, Kiplinger.com). As your church assesses compensation for pastors and staffers this year, don't forget the 2014-2015 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, which offers comparative data for 14 church positions based on data from thousands of churches nationwide.

  2. Use your time effectively. Via the XP Briefing comes this tidbit from Mind Tools about the "Urgent/Important Matrix" made famous by former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and Dr. Stephen Covey: "Time stressors are the most pervasive source of pressure and stress in the workplace, and they happen as a result of having too much to do, in too little time. ... Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent." Once you understand this distinction, place your tasks into one of these categories: (1) Urgent and Important; (2) Urgent and Not Important; (3) Not Urgent, But Important; or (4) Not Urgent and Not Important ("The Urgent/Important Matrix," by Mind Tools).

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April 17, 2014

Safety Training: It's More Than a Manual

Youth Ministry Roundtable: Part three of a five-part series focused on issues related to risk and safety.

With the "Youth Ministry in America" survey results as a starting point, we continue our roundtable discussion. Today we discuss the important—and sometimes overlooked—issue of safety training in churches. (If you missed the last two blog posts on the top concerns facing youth ministry and communication policies in youth ministry, you'll find them here and here.)

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Roundtable participants: Brian McAuliffe, CFO at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois; Garland Owensby, professor at Southwestern Assembly of God University in Texas and a volunteer youth worker; Brad Neese, teaching pastor at Berrien Center Bible Church in Michigan; Laura Leonard, associate editor of BuildingChurchLeaders.com and a volunteer youth leader in Illinois; and Wes Trevor, youth director at Central Presbyterian Church in Colorado. Ashley Moore, assistant editor for the Church Law & Tax Group moderated this roundtable—with assistance from editorial resident Andrew Finch.

Ashley Moore: According to our research, about one-third of youth pastors and youth workers say that their church provides training on child abuse awareness and reporting. More than three in ten respondents say they didn't receive any training. Do your churches have any safety training?

Wes Trevor: We have a policy manual that dictates reporting structure, but we do not have annual abuse awareness training. I have been here two years and I still have not received formal training from the church.

Brian McAuliffe: We try to go over our manual during our leaders' meetings once a year. We also have a reporting structure. So if our leaders or volunteers see something alarming, they bring it up the chain. We usually get pastoral and church staff involved in the reporting.

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April 15, 2014

The Top 6 Management Conferences for Church Leaders

These events cover training, development on legal, financial fronts.

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Leaders are learners, as the saying goes, and in matters of church management, ongoing training and learning are essential for leaders to keep up with legal, financial, and risk management developments. Numerous conferences and live events abound on this subject matter, and it's sometimes hard to discern which ones are best. Factor in limited budgets, and the decisions are even tougher to make.

After receiving numerous inquiries from readers regarding conferences worthy of their time, energy, and attention, and, after the continued questionable practices of a few seminar leaders, we put together a short list of national events that churches should consider.

Of course, many denominations provide training to their churches, and those events shouldn't be ignored. Many good organizations also offer live web events that provide valuable information for a fraction of the cost of a conference.

But sometimes breaking away from the office to spend a couple of days focused on learning and networking with peers can bring numerous benefits for church leaders. So if you fit in that category, here are six—listed in no particular order—that we recommend:

1. NACBA National Conference. The National Association of Church Business Administration hosts the longest-running national conference serving church business administrators. It offers a full daily schedule with a wide range of workshops and an exhibit hall with more than 100 vendors serving the church market. Can't make it? NACBA has 75 local chapters that meet monthly. These chapters offer guest speakers who cover various topics related to church administration.
Dates: July 14-18, 2014
Location: Orlando, Florida
Number of years in existence: 58
Registration cost: Members: $729 (early bird); Nonmembers: $999 (early bird). Rates go up after May 15, 2014.
Maximum attendance capacity: 1,000
Don't miss: The strong lineup of presenters, including Richard Hammar (senior editor of Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax Group, the publisher of ManagingYourChurch.com) and Michael Batts, Frank and Elaine Sommerville, and Vonna Laue (all Editorial Advisors for the Church Law & Tax Group).
More info: Click here.

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April 14, 2014

Monday Church Management Roundup: 4/14/14

Five trends, tips, ideas, and stats to help church leaders manage well this week.

  1. Tax season is year round. April 15 may be Tax Day, but as this new infographic demonstrates, tax season really is year round. Numerous one-time and ongoing filing and reporting requirements exist for churches and clergy that can't be missed ("Tax Guide Timeline: 2014," ChurchLawAndTax.com). Keep tabs on fulfilling these requirements and obligations with the 2014 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.

  2. Too big to fail? "[McDonald's is] the leader in fast food. ... In the last few months we've seen a leveling (or decline, depending on the numbers you look at) of revenues at McDonald's, and fewer people are visiting. Perhaps America's love affair is waning. What about the American church? We have 350,000 locations, but the church is witnessing a leveling off and decline. … Like McDonald's is attempting, we need to change perceptions. Don't rely on what you 'know,' but start with where your community is. Remember that perception 'feels' like reality. ... Work in your community and use local media to change thinking. Have you polled the people around your church? Or [run] a focus group of the unchurched in order to listen to them? Many good things can come from that" ("2 McChurch lessons to stop the decline," by Mark MacDonald, nacba.net. NACBA offers a free Weekly Update of church-related headlines).

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April 10, 2014

Does Your Youth Ministry Have a Communication Policy?

Youth Ministry Roundtable: Part two of a five-part series focused on issues related to risk and safety.

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With the "Youth Ministry in America" survey results as a starting point, we continue our roundtable discussion. This time around participants talked about concerns and policies related to how youth leaders communicate with their students. (If you missed last week's blog post on the top concerns facing youth ministry, you'll find it here.)

Roundtable participants: Brian McAuliffe, CFO at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois; Garland Owensby, professor at Southwestern Assembly of God University in Texas and a volunteer youth worker; Brad Neese, teaching pastor at Berrien Center Bible Church in Michigan; Laura Leonard, associate editor of BuildingChurchLeaders.com and a volunteer youth leader in Illinois; and Wes Trevor, youth director at Central Presbyterian Church in Colorado. Ashley Moore, assistant editor for the Church Law & Tax Group moderated this roundtable—with assistance from editorial resident Andrew Finch.

Ashley Moore: During my work on the "Youth Ministry in America" survey, I came across a number of youth pastors who lacked solid communication boundaries with their students. I read one tweet from a student to a youth pastor that went something like, "Isn't it funny that my youth pastor is my number one friend on Snapchat?" There's always a tension between trying to reach students where they are, while still protecting yourself and your leaders from anything inappropriate.

At your churches, are there policies and procedures for how youth leaders should communicate with students?

Brian McAuliffe: At Willow Creek, parents have to be notified before there's any kind of electronic communication with their kids, and they need the parents' permission. In terms of what's communicated and what's said, the leaders are trained about how to recognize if it's getting away from where it should go, so that they can ask for assistance or communicate with parents.

Brad Neese: Our church doesn't have any communication rules or policies that I know of. One of the things that I do, personally, is make sure my wife has access to everything that I have. So whether it's passwords, a Twitter account, Facebook, text, or e-mails, there is just no-holds-barred access. When we entered into student ministry in 2001, we followed those personal guidelines. Ever since then, she's had access to everything.

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April 8, 2014

Q&A: Rules Covering Opting Out on Social Security

A pastor asks if it's too late for him to opt out.

Q: I have been a pastor for 15 years. In the beginning of my pastorate, I received some confusing information from the IRS about opting out of social security, so I never did.

I recently became ordained in the denomination that I have always served in. I also now understand the opt-out issue. Is there any way I can proceed with opting out now?

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April 7, 2014

Monday Church Management Roundup: 4/7/14

Five trends, tips, ideas, and stats to help church leaders manage well this week.

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  1. Background checks: Proceed with caution. Employers, including churches, must exercise caution when conducting background checks for employment decisions. That's because certain federal laws protect applicants and employees regarding how employers use those background checks. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a new, free guide to help employers comply with these laws (Kiplinger Letter—March 28, 2014, kiplinger.com). For more information about how these laws apply to churches, check out "New EEOC Guidance Addresses Background Checks," by Richard R. Hammar on ChurchLawAndTax.com.

  2. Prepare for the unthinkable. What would you do if you or someone from your church had reason to believe a child was being abused? Our new, free infographic covers 10 questions to answer now so that you and your team are prepared if the unthinkable ever happens. Since April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, take time now to address this important topic ("What Should We Do If We Suspect Child Abuse?" ChurchLawAndTax.com).

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April 3, 2014

Social Media and Youth Ministry in the Post-Facebook Era

Youth Ministry Roundtable: Part one of a five-part series focused on issues related to risk and safety.

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Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax Group conducted a roundtable concerning the findings from our recent survey, "Youth Ministry in America," conducted with Brotherhood Mutual. The participants of the roundtable included pastors, volunteers, and other church-staff leaders. We'll break this interview into five parts and post weekly during the month of April in connection with National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Today we focus largely on social media—one of the top concerns facing youth ministry.

Roundtable participants: Brian McAuliffe, CFO at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois; Garland Owensby, professor at Southwestern Assembly of God University in Texas and a volunteer youth worker; Brad Neese, teaching pastor at Berrien Center Bible Church in Michigan; Laura Leonard, associate editor of BuildingChurchLeaders.com and a volunteer youth leader in Illinois; and Wes Trevor, youth director at Central Presbyterian Church in Colorado. Ashley Moore, assistant editor for the Church Law & Tax Group moderated this roundtable—with assistance from editorial resident Andrew Finch.

Ashley Moore: The survey mentioned the following as some of the top issues facing today's youth ministry: bullying, social media safety, increased inappropriate texting, depression, suicide, and sexual abuse. How do those issues track with your church? Specifically, what are the biggest challenges facing your youth ministry?

Brian McAuliffe: Because of the number of students we have—over 1,400 in our high school and another 1,000 in our junior high—one of the big issues is size and being able to have control and keep potential problems in check.

As for specific issues you mentioned, I get all the reports when anybody is called in for pastoral care and there are issues of suicide, depression, and cutting. I'm overwhelmed by the number that we get for the kids we have in our school program. It's just incredible.

But as social media continues to grow, that's the thing that gives me the most cause for loss of sleep. The biggest concern is how do we not over-control but keep appropriate relationships going through Facebook, texting, and e-mailing.

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April 1, 2014

Role Descriptions: An Effective Tool for Recruiting Volunteers

Spelling it out can motive and encourage

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Role descriptions can be used as a tool for recruiting volunteers. They help you emphasize the seriousness of the role and its importance to the church's vision. No one will take it seriously if you don't.

People don't like to be managed, especially volunteers. They get enough of that five days a week at their jobs. So role descriptions take away the need to manage people and place it on managing agreements.

People want volunteering to be a choice, not an obligation. They want to feel appreciated for what they contribute, not taken for granted. And the best way to measure and appreciate someone's contribution is to spell it out.

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