All posts from “October 2009”

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October 30, 2009

Ways to Help the Unemployed at Your Church

Practical steps for churches to reach the unemployed--and the underemployed.


The ABC News affiliate serving the Rochester, Minnesota, area posted a piece earlier this week highlighting the efforts of some local churches to help the unemployed. The article makes an interesting point about the challenges presented by unemployment to an area, as well as underemployment--the number of workers who take part-time or low-paying jobs to help make ends meet as they seek permanent employment in their careers of choice.

I'm guessing the never-ending stream of daily and weekly media reports about unemployment probably have turned the issue into the equivalent of static in your eyes and ears, as it has for me. It's vital we not forget the need to administer outreach programs to people in our congregations and communities right now.

In the July/August 2009 issue of Your Church, we covered the multiple ways churches can serve as the unemployment rate reaches 10 percent (or more) around the country. You can find the article here, and an accompanying box listing the efforts of more than a dozen churches here.

October 29, 2009

Report: Finances Steady at Two-Thirds of Churches

New research: Giving flat or growing for many congregations.


New research released this week by Indiana University's Lake Institute on Faith & Giving and The Alban Institute suggests giving remained steady--or grew--during the first half of 2009 for two-thirds of the 1,540 churches they surveyed.

More than three-fourths of those surveyed hail from Protestant denominations, the two organizations said.

Nearly 37 percent of congregations said their collections grew during the first half of 2009 compared to the same period of 2008, while another 34 percent said their collections remained flat year-over-year, the research showed.

The remaining respondents said giving declined in the first six months of 2009 compared to the same period a year ago--up 8 percent compared to survey results from a year ago, the two organizations said.

Other highlights of the research:

Continue reading Report: Finances Steady at Two-Thirds of Churches...

October 29, 2009

You Want to Donate What?

How to handle all types of charitable contributions.


Join us on Tuesday, November 10, 2009, for a live webinar event with nonprofit CPA, Elaine Sommerville titled, "You Want to Donate What? How to Handle All Types of Charitable Contributions" (Click on "You Want to Donate What? on the left side of the page to sign up). Elaine will present a sensible plan to help your church receive and document these contributions with confidence. She also will provide tips on educating members to give donations that comply with tax laws and benefit the giver as well as the receiver.

October 28, 2009

Creating Missional Space for Your Church

A live webinar event with Leadership's Skye Jethani, and CKN's Ed Bahler and Bill Couchenour

Assumptions about church facilities are changing. The young are looking for sacred space. Others believe the church should spend more on the poor and less on multi-media theatrical buildings. And the multi-site movement is decentralizing church programming. What does all of this mean for how we plan our facilities? Ed Bahler and Bill Couchenour from the Cornerstone Knowledge Network have decades of experience as church architects. They have also been helping churches think more clearly about vision and facilities in our rapidly changing culture. Leadership's managing editor, Skye Jethani, will be interviewing Bahler and Couchenour about what church leaders should do before they decide to build or renovate their facilites. And you will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.

Sign up for this live webinar event featuring Ed Bahler and Bill Couchenour with Skye Jethani of Leadership journal, on November 17th, 11 a.m. (CDT). Also sign up for Building For Ministry's free e-newsletter.

October 28, 2009

Will Mancini on "Discerning Your Unique Call"

Uncovering God's plan for your church.

Editor's Note: Marian Liautaud, editor of, is blogging live this week from the Cornerstone Knowledge Network's Alignment4 Conference and WFX. Watch for more dispatches throughout the week:

Will Mancini moved from the trenches of church leadership and founded Auxano, a church consulting group that takes a unique approach of helping churches find their vision frame before proceeding with typical consulting services. To that end, Will calls himself a "clarity evangelist."

Will spoke about how a church can discern its unique calling at the 2009 Cornerstone Knowledge Network conference in Charlotte. Click here to see what he had to say.

October 27, 2009

Fast Ideas for Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers

Ideas from churches at the Cultivate Conference to recruit--and keep--more help.

I'm live at the Cultivate Conference '09 in Chicago today (see my other updates on Twitter: @MattBranaugh). This gathering of a couple of hundred church leaders primarily focuses on communication inside and outside of church walls, but one of the breakout sessions in the morning looked at how to recruit and retain volunteers to fulfill various roles, including graphic design work, web development, and other strategic communication roles that churches often don't have the budget to cover.

Jami Ruth from Granger Community Church and Blair Farley from Mariners Church hosted the workshop. Here are several ideas worth noting in your church's efforts, courtesy of Jami and Blair (and some of the conference participants who shared ideas):

Continue reading Fast Ideas for Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers...

October 27, 2009

Kevin Ford on Leading Change

What to preserve--and what to change--prior to exploring facility questions.


Editor's Note: Marian Liautaud, editor of, is blogging live this week from the Cornerstone Knowledge Network's Alignment4 Conference and WFX. She posted this live dispatch on Tuesday (watch for more throughout the week):

Kevin Ford is the Chief Visionary Officer and Managing Partner of TAG Consulting, a management consulting firm specializing in strategy, leadership and ministry development. TAG's client list includes Merrill Lynch, the Federal Aviation Association and the Salvation Army. While Kevin loves consulting with companies and ministries of all sizes, his passion is to help leaders of the local church.

In his workshop at the 2009 Cornerstone Knowledge Network Conference in Charlotte, Kevin presented on the topic of "Leading Through Change." Here are some of the highlights:

The primary task of leadership is to distinguish between what needs to be preserved and what needs to change. Work on what to preserve before tackling what needs to change.

How do you take your church through the process of change? First, determine what you need to preserve.

To read more, click here.

October 22, 2009

Facing a Financial Crisis: Three Experts Weigh In

Is your church struggling with a mortgage? Some tips on how to act—now.


A headline I read earlier this week from the newswire service United Press International gave me pause: “More Churches Face Foreclosure.” Upon reading the piece, I quickly understood why: While the rate of foreclosed church properties continues to climb, thanks partly to some widely publicized defaults in Naples, Florida, and Temple Hills, Maryland, among others, the overall number remains small.

As the article points out:

“The scope of the problem is difficult to measure. Most of America’s 335,000 churches are well established, building costs paid off long ago. The situation among a minority of congregations, however, is certainly worse than it was last March, when the New York Times found that 0.31 percent of the 82,441 churches it studied were facing foreclosure.”

Not many can say 2009 delivered a banner year, but these types of headlines suggest a widespread financial problem among churches, which just isn’t the case. (As Dan Mikes from Bank of the West pointed out to me, his division has $1.3 billion in direct church loan exposure “without a single delinquency, loss, or foreclosure.”)

Nevertheless, these headlines remind me that some churches are struggling with how to make a mortgage payment. To help, we asked three lenders to tell us what churches facing a financial crisis should do if they aren’t able to make mortgage payments. Here are their responses.

Continue reading Facing a Financial Crisis: Three Experts Weigh In...

October 20, 2009

Consider Adding Windows 7

Church offices should benefit from Microsoft’s new operating system.


Ministry Business Services Inc., the church consulting firm I started in the 1980s, began testing Microsoft Corporation’s Windows 7 Professional in January. On Tuesday, MBS announced it adopted Windows 7 Professional as its preferred operating system, and it recommends churches to do the same.

This may surprise some, since the challenges with Microsoft’s Windows Vista, the preceding operating system, have been many. Clarence White, the chief information officer for the Salvation Army’s western territory, even asked me on a recent podcast if MBS really believed in Windows 7 Professional. The answer is yes. I told him it’s almost like Vista was a beta for Windows 7, or that Windows 7 is the first service pack for Vista that really fixes it.

Corporate customers have embraced Windows 7’s release as well. The Gartner Group recently said the operating system is ready (Gartner also recommends a 12- to 18-month integration process, saying earlier this month that organizations should start now), and a recent Softchoice study with ComputerWorld found that 88 percent of corporate PCs are capable of running Windows 7. That means many churches and ministries likely are in a position to upgrade to it as well.

Continue reading Consider Adding Windows 7...

October 15, 2009

Free Excerpt: The Essential Guide to Church Finances

Most churches don't use a program budgeting method--and they're missing out


Earlier this year, we released The Essential Guide to Church Finances by Richard Vargo, a professor of accounting in the Eberhardt School of Business at the University of the Pacific, and Vonna Laue, a partner at nonprofit accounting firm Capin Crouse.

Below is a free excerpt, which discusses the advantages of program budgeting and why churches that use incremental budgeting strategies put themselves at a disadvantage (and, if you like what you see from this excerpt, you can order your copy of Essential Guide to Church Finances here).

Continue reading Free Excerpt: The Essential Guide to Church Finances...

October 14, 2009

Building a Culture of Generosity in Your Church

An interview with Brian Kluth on teaching members to give to God.


Some estimate giving to churches is on a 40-year decline. In contemplating the reasons why, here's a thought that should give church leaders pause: A church budget usually is set to the level of its people's unfaithfulness.

That's one of the messages Brian Kluth is taking to churches around the country.

Brian spent 10 years as the senior pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church of Colorado Springs. Nine out of those 10 years, the church ran a surplus budget. In the four years prior to Brian's arrival, the church never met budget.

Earlier this year, the church commissioned Brian to become a "generosity minister at large." In addition to developing his resources and writing a book, Brian now is touring with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and its 14-city "recession-proofing churches and ministries" workshops.

Brian recently visited Christianity Today International and sat down with me to share more about the tour, and about developing a culture of generosity in your church. In our short interview, Brian makes several interesting observations, which you can hear by clicking the link below (the audio player you need appears with the rest of this post).

Continue reading Building a Culture of Generosity in Your Church...

October 12, 2009

Get Organized!

Tips and tricks from an efficiency expert.


A number of years ago, my church needed an office manager. Aware of my experience as an executive assistant, the pastor offered me the job. I was looking for change, so this new position seemed like a win-win. After my first day, I wondered what I had gotten myself into!

I discovered an office devoid of any filing system or operational procedures for managing daily tasks. Disorder abounded! Feeling claustrophobic from the piles of decades-old church bulletins, and other useless “stuff,” I rolled up my sleeves and set to work on an extreme organizational make-over of our church office.

Today there are whole companies devoted to creating manageable office environments that promote efficiency. Ultimately, efficiency is the end product of organization. According to Monica Friel, CEO (that’s Chief Executive Organizer) of Chaos to Order, “employees lose an average of six weeks per year looking for documents.”

That’s six weeks per year per employee! The cost to companies (and church offices) is enormous, and in these hard economic times as we see more businesses metaphorically “clean house,” perhaps it also makes good, financial sense to reclaim the literal meaning and actually clean house.

Where Do We Begin?
Organizing for better efficiency may be divided into three parts: the physical environment, attitudes, and maintenance. Like any major undertaking that requires change, it’s also important to enlist support. Don’t set out to do an overhaul of your office systems without first meeting with the person in charge of your church office. As much as possible, keep this individual involved in the step-by-step changes taking place.

Continue reading Get Organized!...

October 12, 2009

Engaging Congregation Members in Community Ministry

How the right planning and logistics can maximize effectiveness.


All around the United States, congregations are reaching out to their neighbors with creative community ministry programs. Churches are providing after-school and job training programs, developing affordable housing, offering medical care, opening day care centers, and distributing food and clothing, among many other outreach efforts. In my experience, getting congregation members involved in community ministry programs is the key to their success.

The best community ministries that I have seen have “bubbled up” right out of the congregation. A small group of people may come forward with a vision for providing an after-school program, for example, or starting a free legal clinic (as was the case in one of the congregations where I served as a staff member). When people do come forward with an idea like this, it’s important for staff and lay leaders to take them seriously, and consider what it would take to move forward. Not all ministry ideas are good ones, but over the years, I have found that God can move a congregation forward into new ministry by giving vision to a small group of laypeople.

Here are several ways to develop the planning and logistics that helps shape the churchwide strategy on community outreach:

Continue reading Engaging Congregation Members in Community Ministry...

October 8, 2009

Study: Donations Grow 42% With Face-to-Face Time

Research underscores the power of relationships for church leaders.

A new study about the best ways to secure larger gifts from donors strongly reinforces the central theme of “Asking for Big Gifts,” an article in the current issue of Your Church: face-to-face time matters. A lot.

In fact, it matters so much, the study reveals “donors to religious organizations gave an average of $2,904, or 42 percent more, when they were asked in person by someone they know,” according to an article published Wednesday by Philanthropy Journal.

That stat provides a tangible reminder of the power of relationships. Of course, when it comes to ministry, face-to-face time should matter more than just to land a big-dollar donation. We were created for relationship with the Lord, and for relationships with each other. Relationships matter a great deal to Him. We should strive to maintain healthy, edifying ones with all congregants, regardless of their financial situations, because the fruits of such efforts are eternal.

Keeping that in mind, there are people in your congregation who feel the Lord has blessed them in terms of finances and resources. For a church leader, the key is to learn more about these people by listening to them, and to hear about how their passions might align with the church's vision.

Continue reading Study: Donations Grow 42% With Face-to-Face Time...

October 5, 2009

Church Shootings in the Spotlight

Continued coverage shows need for planning, preparation.

Last week’s Washington Post article, “Sense of Sanctuary Lost as Church Attacks Spike,” underscores the unfortunate attention that church shootings now draw from national media and those outside of ministry.

The Post’s piece recounts several recent, high-profile shooting incidents, including one that took place in February, when a man arrived at a Maryland church’s Sunday services toting a Bible and .38 caliber revolver, confronted his estranged wife in the parking lot, and shot her five times. She died on the scene. He recently received a life prison sentence.

The article makes two interesting observations:

Continue reading Church Shootings in the Spotlight...