All posts from “February 2010”

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February 25, 2010

Family Money Matters: A Look at Christian Household Finances

“State of the Plate” shows debt levels, giving patterns for families.


What really matters in an economy is not what the media says, but what people’s personal wallets say. As part of the second annual “State of the Plate,” 750 Christian households provided an inside look into their income, employment, debt, and giving/tithing.

I'm conducting this research with Christianity Today International’s Church Finance Today and Leadership journal. Based on preliminary results of this research, I've found that the average Christian family, though directly impacted by the economy, remains committed to faithful and generous giving to their church and ministries as a major priority.

Here's a closer look at four findings:

1) Income: The majority of families have either lost ground or remained flat financially this past year. For many years, most families saw their income increase. This is no longer the case as more and more families that completed the survey personally felt the effects of the sluggish economy:

- 33 percent of households said their incomes went down this past year.
- 43 percent of households saw no increase in their income.
- Only 23 percent of households saw their income increase.

2) Jobs: The negative effects of the economy are being felt in people’s homes and church. Almost everyone knows someone who has been negatively impacted by the economy. This financial pain has been felt in people’s immediate families, and everyone is mindful of other families in their church who are facing financial and employment struggles, too:

- 97 percent knew someone in their church who had lost a job in the past 12 months.
- 42 percent indicated they know people in their church who had to move away to find work.
- 33 percent of families had someone in their household whose job was negatively impacted by the economy.
- 30 percent know people personally who have lost their homes.
- 26 percent personally know people who declared bankruptcy.

Continue reading Family Money Matters: A Look at Christian Household Finances...

February 24, 2010

New Law Permits 2009 Charitable Deduction for Haiti Relief Contributions

Charitable contributions made after January 11, 2010 and before March 1, 2010 are deductible on 2009 income tax returns.


In an effort to encourage further charitable giving to help those affected by the earthquake in Haiti, Congress passed a bill on January 21 that permits donors to deduct (on their 2009 income tax returns) charitable contributions of cash made after January 11, 2010, and before March 1, 2010, for the relief of victims in areas affected by the earthquake. The President signed the bill immediately after it passed in both houses of Congress, giving effect to the new law. The new law does not apply to noncash contributions.

501c(3) organizations, including churches, that are accepting charitable contributions for the relief of earthquake victims must consider the implications of the new law in assisting their donors with proper documentation.

Continue reading New Law Permits 2009 Charitable Deduction for Haiti Relief Contributions...

February 23, 2010

2010 Tax Tips for Church Leaders

An update on key developments during filing season.

Ministry Direct, a channel of AGTV, recently hosted a live, 50-minute video with Richard Hammar on the latest tax information that churches and ministers should know. See it below.

Video provided by AGTV. Used with permission.

To learn more about how to file your 2009 tax return and for tax help throughout 2010, order Richard Hammar's 2010 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.

February 19, 2010

Responding to Negative Coverage in the Media

Two church communications professionals offer tips.


Editor’s Note: On February 4, a local television station ran a story about Ed Young and Fellowship Church, the Grapevine, Texas, where he leads. The piece, citing anonymous former staff members, among others, suggests Young leads a lavish lifestyle. Young responded that same day through a post entitled “No Secrets,” on his blog, then addressed it from the pulpit on February 8.

Kevin Hendricks from, the blog for the non-profit Center for Church Communication, took the opportunity to ask a bigger question—when a church faces negative coverage in the media, how should it respond? Below is an excerpt of the interview Hendricks did with Kem Meyer, the communications director at Granger Community Church in Indiana, and Kent Shaffer, the founder of Church Relevance (you can also read the full version):

If your church were attacked in the local media, how would you respond? We asked two Center for Church Communication board members, Kent Shaffer and Kem Meyer, to offer their perspective:

Continue reading Responding to Negative Coverage in the Media...

February 18, 2010

Church Finances Remain Pinched in Early 2010

Nearly a third say December giving fell short of expectations.

A “new normal” is emerging in the church world when it comes to giving, budgets, and generosity initiatives, according to an ongoing survey conducted by Maximum Generosity and Christianity Today International’s Church Finance Today and Leadership journal.

Nearly 800 churches have responded so far to the second annual “State of the Plate.”

Five major developments are emerging from the survey, which asks church leaders and pastors to report on how their giving efforts concluded in 2009 and began in 2010:

1) The poor economy is hurting a growing number of churches. While the headlines may say the economy is improving, its impact hasn’t shown up yet in the offering plate:

- The number of churches reporting a decline in giving this past year has increased to nearly 36 percent of churches surveyed, compared to 29 percent at the same time a year ago.

- Only 38 percent of churches saw giving increase this past year, compared to 47 percent a year ago.

2) Many churches say December year-end giving fell short. While Rick Warren’s December appeal to more than 100,000 e-mail recipients helped his church adequately close the gap on a year-end budget shortfall, many other churches weren’t so fortunate. In the “State of the Plate,” 30 percent of churches surveyed said that their December year-end giving “missed” their expectations. Only 24 percent of churches indicated that year-end giving surpassed their expectation. With nearly a third missing expectations at the end of 2009, many churches likely entered 2010 looking for ways to slow their church spending.

Continue reading Church Finances Remain Pinched in Early 2010...

February 17, 2010

Oregon Case Provides a Powerful Reminder to Churches

Appeals court says First Amendment can’t stop defamation lawsuit.


Editor's Note: On March 5, 2010, this post was corrected to show the trial court originally ruled in favor of the pastor, and this ruling was recently affirmed on appeal. The correct version appears in full below:

Last week, an Oregon appeals court issued an important ruling involving a pastor’s efforts to sue his denomination and two denominational officials for defamation. Church leaders should take note because appellate decisions become reference points for future cases heard around the country.

The court found that the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom did not prevent a dismissed pastor from suing church officials for defamation as a result of statements they shared with the congregation (read more about the ruling in The Oregonian).

First, some background. The pastor was asked by denominational officials to accept a call at a small church. After expressing concern that the church would not be able to adequately compensate him, the officials agreed to supplement his salary and sent the church a check in the amount of $3,000 for this purpose. The officials made clear that the supplemental payment was a gift, and did not have to be repaid by the pastor.

Continue reading Oregon Case Provides a Powerful Reminder to Churches ...

February 16, 2010

California Church Reeling from Shooter Incident

Resources to help churches prepare for the unthinkable.


On Sunday morning, a gunman walked into New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ in Richmond, California. Flanked by two hooded companions, the three men scanned the pews, possibly searching for specific targets. Church members attempted to approach the men to ask them to remove their hoods, but before they reached them, one man began firing into the pews. The five shots made a popping sound, according to witnesses. Caught in the fire was a 14-year-old, who was hit in the shoulder, and a 19-year-old, who was struck in the leg. Both were hospitalized and are expected to survive.

Although the shooter acted too quickly for church members to respond, they correctly identified that these men posed a potential threat to the congregation. A free article on our sister site,, outlines a basic strategy for recognizing and dealing with dangerous people.

Continue reading California Church Reeling from Shooter Incident...

February 11, 2010

Stetzer: Churches Struggle with Fostering Young Leaders

Research on how well churches are developing the next generation.

Recently, LifeWay Research surveyed pastors about the church's leadership development and mission. We asked them to rate their agreement in the following three areas:

1) Investing in leaders through the church

The survey asked pastors to respond to this statement: "I am intentionally investing in leaders who will emerge over the next ten years."

Pastors strongly believe they are doing just that—67 percent strongly agreed and 26 percent somewhat agreed. Wow! That's 93 percent who are convinced that they are investing in emerging leaders. They also affirmed that the church has a responsibility to develop future leaders.

But when asked to evaluate how well the church is accomplishing the task of leadership development, most agreed, but not nearly as enthusiastically. We posed this statement: "The church does a good job fostering and developing new leaders." This time 26 percent strongly agreed and 52 percent somewhat agreed, a drop in overall agreement of 15 percent. In addition, a significant amount of disagreement starts to appear—21 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed with the statement.

While pastors believe that the church is a place where leaders need to be developed and they see themselves investing in this task, they generally recognize a real deficit in the church's effectiveness in accomplishing it. Although efforts are being made, pastors are not confident that the church is nurturing and growing new leaders adequately.

This article first appeared in our sister publication Leadership journal. Continue reading "Good News, Bad News in Raising Leaders," on, where the full version appears for free.

February 10, 2010

6 Trends in 2010 for Grants

What churches should remember while seeking outreach funds.


If your congregation plans to seek grant funding for programs in 2010, keep in mind that the grants picture has changed quite a bit in the past 12 months due to the economic downturn. As I research local (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and national funders for several clients, and talk to a variety of churches and ministries about their grant-seeking efforts, I notice the following developments. They are worth noting in the weeks and months ahead:

Grantmakers generally have less money to give. Due to the downturn in the stock market, and reduced corporate profits during the past year, available funds are down. Funders are handling this in several different ways. Some are not making grants to any new organizations, which means if you don't already have a relationship with the funder, 2010 will not be a good year to try. Others are cutting the size of their grants. I occasionally encounter one organization that plans to stop making grants altogether for the coming year. So, when you call or e-mail a funder about applying for a grant, it will be important to ask, "Will you be making grants to any new organizations this year?"

It is important to frequently check funder websites. A number of funders have changed their guidelines and focus areas, sometimes without much notice. The foundation that looked like a perfect fit for your after-school program six months ago may have changed its focus to programs providing food and shelter. A few months ago, one foundation that I monitor abruptly changed its focus areas over a weekend, taking everyone (including the foundation staff) by surprise!

Continue reading 6 Trends in 2010 for Grants...

February 8, 2010

How One Question Can Make the Recession an Ally

A Harvard concept may help churches clarify, prioritize


During this season of economic turmoil and ambiguity, one question may have the power to bring clarity—and better priority-setting—for the churches where executive pastors, business administrators, and pastors serve.

That question: What exactly are we trying to accomplish?

David Fletcher, the executive pastor of The Chapel in Akron, Ohio, and a Your Church contributing editor, shared the question last week at his annual conference in Dallas, where about 125 people gathered.

The concept, dubbed “Question Zero,” comes from the Harvard Business School. Fletcher said the timing couldn’t be better for churches to use it. In good times, church leaders usually ask how to make a program or event bigger and better, or how to create the next big thing. But this often results in a focus on “the number of cups of coffee served, rather than the number of people who come back for a second cup,” he told participants.

“We get confused when we try to cater to people,” he said. “We lose track of our mission … How are lives being changed?”

Now, with the hardest economic environment to hit the United States since the Great Depression, church leaders have an opportunity to establish a better focus. “You want the recession to help your church,” Fletcher said.

Continue reading How One Question Can Make the Recession an Ally...

February 2, 2010

Struggling Cities Eye Taxes, Fees for Churches

Budget shortfalls bring tax-exempt status under fire.


Like countless other municipalities throughout the country, Fort Wayne, Indiana, is struggling to find ways to bridge the gap between declining tax revenue and the costs of maintaining infrastructure and services.

What makes Fort Wayne stand out is the city’s mayor, Tom Henry. Henry is leading the charge for the Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Indiana to tax nonprofit and church-affiliated ministries to help solve his region’s revenue shortfall.

Nearly every town in America is feeling the strain of the economic crisis. As a result, while becoming a 501©3 is a relatively simple process, maintaining a completely tax-exempt status may become increasingly difficult for churches.

Continue reading Struggling Cities Eye Taxes, Fees for Churches...