All posts from “December 2009”

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December 30, 2009

Buildings: Do Churches Really Need Them?

Two pastors debate the merits of church buildings.

An interesting debate between Pastor Dan Kimball and Ken Eastburn, a leader of a house church network in Orange County, California, began this month on Out of Ur, the blog of our sister publication Leadership Journal.

On December 2, Kimball wrote a piece entitled, "I Was Wrong About Church Buildings." In it, he discusses his journey as a church planter during the past eight years, and his gradual realization that church buildings can, in fact, enhance and advance ministry, not just drain resources.

Two weeks later, Eastburn published a response. Here's a quick highlight of what Eastburn wrote:

"I am writing this because the subject of the necessity of buildings is a crucial topic to discuss all across the Church. You do indeed describe good uses for buildings … but what is good, may not be best – either for your church or for the Body of Christ worldwide. Allow me to explain. After you listed good uses of both your church’s building and others’ (i.e. Compassion International), you made this statement:

'These missional opportunities would not be possible without a building.'

There are three reasons why I think you’re mistaken."

Eastburn then goes on to say:

"Churches around the world manage to be missional, make disciples, and spread the good news, without any building whatsoever. Even more, they are doing it better than churches in the West with buildings. You see, it is not buildings that create a consumer-mentality, it is just the opposite. It is our consumer-mentality that causes us to think we need buildings. Buildings can be great tools, but the Church gets by…no, the Church thrives … every day without them."

In Your Church's 2009 Church Budget Priorities Survey, buildings are the second-biggest expense for most churches, trailing only staff expenses. Given Kimball and Eastburn's discussion, are buildings one of the best uses of church resources--or not?

December 21, 2009

Your Church's Top 10 Articles of 2009

Looking back at the articles you read most this past year.

Last week, we wrote about the Top 10 most-read posts on TheYourChurchBlog.com during 2009. This week, we're taking a look at the Top 10 most-read articles from YourChurch.net, the website for Your Church magazine.

For a year riddled with bad economic news, there are a few surprises in these results (hint: Our No. 1 ranked story has nothing to do with the economy, or finances for that matter). What can we conclude from this? Probably not much. Except the fact that church administrators, executive pastors, pastors, and lay leaders wrestle with a variety of challenging, and often complicated, questions on a wide array of topics.

As a not-for-profit ministry, Christianity Today International is thankful it's in a position to help you answer these questions through Your Church, YourChurch.net, and TheYourChurchBlog.com, as well as Church Law & Tax Report, Church Finance Today, ChurchSafety.com, BuildingForMinistry.com, and YourChurchResources.com.

It's our desire to help you keep your church safe, legal, and financially sound. Here's looking forward to 2010!

And now, the Top 10 most-read articles on YourChurch.net during 2009:

10. Why Church Secretaries Quit

9. Virtual Sanity

8. E-give and Take

7. Unoriginal Sin

6. The Technophobe's Survival Guide

Continue reading Your Church's Top 10 Articles of 2009...

December 17, 2009

The Top 10 Church Administration Posts for '09

A look at the hottest topics facing pastors and administrators.

As 2009 draws to a close, here's a fun look back at the year's 10 most-read posts on TheYourChurchBlog.com. Doing this kind of review often helps us understand the most pressing issues facing church administrators, executive pastors, pastors, and leaders.

And, it's a nice way to showcase topics that you may have missed the first time around.

Here's the Top 10:

10. How to Interview Your Next Church

9. Report: Giving Steady at Two-Thirds of Churches

8. Prevent Volunteer Burnout

7. Free Excerpt: The Essential Guide to Church Finances

6. 5 Leadership Books Worth Reading

Continue reading The Top 10 Church Administration Posts for '09...

December 16, 2009

The Top 7 Resources to Combat Church Embezzlement

Best practices and guidance to protect your church's money.

Earlier this month, we looked at two recent cases of church embezzlement, and the "zero tolerance" stance judges are starting to take against these crimes.

Unfortunately, yet another big headline has since emerged—this time, the leaders of a 150-member Greek Orthodox Church in Connecticut discovered someone potentially embezzled more than $1 million. Federal authorities investigated the claims, and in an arrest made Tuesday, authorities say the suspect, who oversaw the church's investments (including managing the building fund and endowment) allegedly used the money for his businesses, according to the New Haven Register. The church's attorney, and federal documents released with the arrest, allege the 50-year-old man stole more than $2 million from three parishoners, and potentially millions more from the church, the paper reported.

As incidents such as these continue to spring up, we've compiled the Top 7 resources church leaders should use to prevent embezzlement opportunities and combat individuals who might attempt to steal:

Continue reading The Top 7 Resources to Combat Church Embezzlement...

December 15, 2009

The State of Social Media, Part 2

Online tools for churches to build connection, community.

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Editor’s Note: Drew Goodmanson, co-founder and pastor of San Diego’s Kaleo Church and a church web consultant, conducted a research project earlier this year on the state of social media for churches. In Part 1, Drew explained the research project, the scope of the findings, and the first of three discoveries that church leaders, business administrators, and pastors should note. In Part 2 today, he looks at a variety of online tools that churches are using for connection and community efforts.

Discovery No. 2: Tokbox Can Help Build Community

Building relationships and community online is an oft-cited goal of social networking. In the research, 40 percent of church leaders say making an effort to connect with, and support, their online communities was one of the most effective ways to use the web. Yet a third of ministry leaders felt building real community was one of the top challenges to being successful online.

In contrast, only 5 percent of church members felt building community online is a challenge. Many church members already see the benefits of online communities as they use tools to connect with past schoolmates and friends throughout the day.

Tokbox is one example of a social, video, and voice technology that can be used for building this community and supporting relationships. Tokbox, similar to Skype, offers free video calling and video conferencing. Conferencing is often equated with business meetings, but Cynthia Ware used it for a small group of moms that she led.

Continue reading The State of Social Media, Part 2...

December 10, 2009

Sex Offenders in the Church

Balancing between protection and ministry.

Because our team produces Reducing the Risk, a comprehensive training program that churches use with staff and volunteers to minimize the risks of child abuse in their ministries, we pay a great deal of attention to the issue of sex offenders in the church.

For example, this fall, we looked at the case of a Kentucky church that chose to ordain a registered sex offender. Last year, we surveyed churches about their child protection programs, and every year, Richard Hammar writes an exhaustive report on the child-abuse reporting laws for all 50 states.

So we took special notice this month when Christianity Today, a sister publication of ours, published "Modern-Day Lepers." The article clearly demonstrates the ongoing tensions church leaders, administrators, and volunteers face when it comes to balancing between the needs of protecting children and the needs of ministering to sex offenders.

At your church, how have you found a balance, if at all?

December 8, 2009

The State of Social Media, Part I

How Facebook is shaping online strategies for churches.

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Editor’s Note: Drew Goodmanson, co-founder and pastor of San Diego’s Kaleo Church and a church web consultant, conducted a research project earlier this year on the state of social media for churches. In Part 1, Drew explains the research project, the scope of the findings, and the first of three discoveries that church leaders, business administrators, and pastors should note. In Part 2, Drew shares more thoughts on the second and third discoveries made from this year’s research.

The social nature of media will continue to converge in ways we cannot imagine during the next five years. As church leaders, it is important to understand the state of social networking, and the directions of these participatory technologies. These tools may promise significant benefits to churches, who seek to build community, mobilize congregations, and offer greater interaction with unbelievers. And an understanding today leads to better action today and better planning for tomorrow.

To gain a full understanding, though, it’s critical that church leaders learn both the benefits and challenges of social media sites. Earlier this year, Monk Development set out to discover some answers to these questions through a “state of social media” research project, surveying hundreds of church leaders about the social media sites they’re using, what features and functions their church members seek, and what benefits and challenges they face using open source solutions or “church-only” ones.

We first shared the results of this research in a webinar entitled, “Church, Christians, and Social Networking” (you can watch an archived recording of the webinar). I’m the founder of Monk Development, a web consulting firm, and I’m also co-founder and pastor of Kaleo Church in San Diego. Cynthia Ware, who has two decades of pastoral ministry experience and a master's degree in new media, helped me present. She helps Christian leaders use their online presence to enrich and expand their ministry reach, and she actively speaks and writes on the subject.

Our work provided insights on three areas where social networking intersects with social media: outreach, discipleship, and community. While we can’t predict the future impact of social media, Cynthia quoted 1 Chronicles during our webinar, focusing on the passage where the “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” Hopefully this information helps your church in that process.

Continue reading The State of Social Media, Part I...

December 3, 2009

IRS Announces Standard Business Mileage Rate for 2010

Rates slightly drop as transportation costs ease.

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The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2010 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups, or panel trucks) will be:

* 50 cents per mile for business miles driven;
* 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes;
* 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Continue reading IRS Announces Standard Business Mileage Rate for 2010...

December 3, 2009

Zero Tolerance for Church Embezzlement

Extended sentences put churches on notice.

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A sad story emerged last week out of Indiana, where a 37-year-old woman accused of stealing more than $350,000 from a church while working there as an employee received the maximum sentence allowed by the state.

According to an article in the Greencastle Banner-Graphic, the local paper, the woman was convicted on six counts of Class C felony charges and six counts of Class D felony theft, resulting in 10 years in the state jail, followed by 5 years of probation.

The woman began stealing from the church shortly after getting hired in late 2004 as the church's financial and administrative secretary, according to the article. She forged signatures on 192 checks, doctored bank receipts to cover it up, and also made unauthorized charges on church credit cards, the paper said.

This case is similar to one covered by Richard Hammar in November's Church Finance Today in which a woman employed as a church office manager for seven years stole $450,000. She received a 15-year sentence, which included an upward adjustment "for misrepresenting that she was acting on behalf of her church," according to the article.

What's the takeaway for church leaders from these cases? Aside from the need to implement strong financial controls, if such controls aren't already in place, Richard explains three reasons why church leaders should learn from cases like these:

Continue reading Zero Tolerance for Church Embezzlement...

December 1, 2009

Resolving Conflict in the Church Office

5 ways to biblically approach a disagreement

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The scenario that got both Sally and Jim both terminated from their company could have run like this:

Jim: All I said was that I needed the documents, completed and signed, by tomorrow night.
Sally: Don’t tell me that’s all you said. You demanded it!
Jim: I asked nicely.
Sally: Yes, but when my boss was here you kissed up to him really well and then asked me nicely. But your e-mail screamed at me.
Jim: Well, you made me do it because you didn’t write back to me.
Sally: I’m your boss and don’t have to get back to you. I tell you what to do.

And so it went, until the screaming attracted the attention of the entire office. Most office conflict doesn’t spiral out of control. But everyone has a conflict in the office from time to time. Even if you don’t have frequent conflict with others, you will be around people who do disagree with one another.

In office conflicts, there are “only” three major causes of conflict. If your office has any of the following, then you will have conflict:

• Money
• Power
• People

Humor aside, everybody is going to have conflict. The book of James gives another example of the source of conflict:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. —James 4:1–2 (NIV)

Conflict begins when someone shares their salary with a co-worker, who then becomes envious of the other. Or, one person gets a promotion, while the one who doesn’t takes out their angst on the new boss. It also can start when a subordinate continually makes insulting jokes and jabs, undermining morale.

What should we do when conflict happens? Here are some typical steps to consider when conflict happens in your office:

Continue reading Resolving Conflict in the Church Office...