All posts from “May 2010”

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May 27, 2010

Creating a Safe Outreach Ministry

Plan properly, so you can focus on meeting the needs of your neighboring communities.

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My last year of college, I had the privilege of overseeing 20-plus weekly outreach ministries to the greater Chicago area. Our programs included a sports ministry, refugee outreach, hospital visitation, tutoring, street evangelism, and soup kitchen ministry. I witnessed the breadth and scope of the impact such ministries can have on the communities they serve.

However, anyone who has participated in outreach ministries also knows how complicated they can be logistically. Outreach ministries expose the local church to unique liabilities, such as transportation. Inner-city ministries like the ones I was involved with required transportation to and from the church, and drivers were nearly always volunteers. How can you provide meaningful service in another community, and yet maintain a level of protection for your volunteers? Use the following simple tips from ChurchSafety.com to help you plan properly, so you can focus on meeting the needs of your neighboring communities.

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May 24, 2010

Protecting Churches from Embezzlement

A special webinar this week covers important financial controls.

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Back in December, we ranked the Top 7 Resources to Combat Church Embezzlement. Six months later, I’m reminded of why, and with another unfortunate headline emerging last week, it’s an opportunity for me to highlight a special online event we’re hosting this week that you can attend.

At the time of our December posting, a couple of recent headlines had caught our eye, including the “zero tolerance" stance judges are beginning to take in cases involving embezzlement at churches, and a $1 million embezzlement allegation against an individual who oversaw a Connecticut church’s investments.

In Your Church magazine’s Spring 2010 issue, many of our Editorial Advisors cautioned leaders about the ever-present threat of fraud to church finances, a problem compounded by a reluctance by some to institute stronger financial controls, or by an ongoing presumption that safeguards aren’t necessary because those in their church office are trustworthy.

Last week, we were reminded again of this threat—this time in our own backyard. The pastor of a storefront church in Aurora, Illinois, just minutes from our offices, was arrested, accused of swindling $470,000 from three men, including a member of his congregation, through a church real estate investment scheme.

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May 20, 2010

Hosting Large Events at Your Church

Consider safety precautions for your building and staff.

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Whenever churches open their doors to the public they expose themselves to both opportunity and risk. A well-run event maximizes the opportunity and takes precautions against the risk. Use these simple tips from ChurchSafety.com the next time your church is considering hosting a large event.

Communicate Responsibility
Keep accountability. Event and Building Use forms are essential when letting outside groups use your church for an event. It's important that groups are held accountable for things they agree to in your Building Use forms and Event forms.

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May 18, 2010

Should Churches Buy Fair-Trade Coffee?

Responses to a Your Church article on fair trade

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Last week, we published "Weighing Fair-Trade Coffee," on YourChurch.net, the home website for Your Church magazine. We became more interested in this topic several months ago, after Kevin Miller connected with Troy Jackson, pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. University Christian partners with a Guatemalan village called Santa Maria de Jesus in a direct-trade relationship. That relationship produces La Armonia Hermosa (The Beautiful Harmony), a coffee awaiting fair-trade certification, which the church sells.

In my days as a business reporter and editor, I often witnessed the volatile debates that occur from conversations pertaining to certification and food. In the early 2000s, there were hotly contested discussions among natural foods circles about "organic" certification (many of those discussions still remain). I knew the same held true for the "fair trade" label, as this Wikipedia entry will attest. I anticipated we'd receive a variety of responses after we published the fair-trade coffee article, even though the purpose of the Your Church piece wasn't to take a position on the topic. Rather, it was written to generally define the topic and give some basic parameters for church leaders to understand as they shop coffee options.

Nevertheless, the responses began to arrive. I've posted three of them below. In the meantime, what better place to continue the conversation than here? Should churches buy fair-trade coffee?

Continue reading Should Churches Buy Fair-Trade Coffee?...

May 13, 2010

What Churches Should Know about IRS Form 990-N

Why outreach ministries may be affected by a looming deadline.

(Editor's Note: Since posting this on May 14, the IRS has issued a statement urging small nonprofits to still file, even though the May 17 deadline has passed).

We recently fielded a question from a reader regarding the Internal Revenue Service's Form 990-N.

Tax-exempt organizations that average $25,000 or less in gross receipts during the previous three years are required--annually--to file a Form 990-N with the IRS through a free electronic form. When an organization misses a filing for one year, or even two, the IRS will send a reminder. But if the organization fails to make its filing for a third consecutive year, the IRS will revoke the organization's tax-exempt status.

It's a big deal this year because 2009 represents the third tax year since certain law changes went into effect. And the deadline for filing for the 2009 tax year looms near.

The reader wanted to know whether the Form 990-N affects churches. The short answer is no.

But there are situations that church leaders should note because they could trigger a need for ministries and organizations related to their churches to comply. And in those situations, a filing must be made, either by Monday, May 17 (the deadline for organizations that use a January 1 fiscal year is normally May 15, but because that date falls on a Saturday this year, it pushes back to May 17), or by November 15 (the deadline for those that use a July 1 fiscal year) at http://epostcard.form990.org.

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May 13, 2010

Safe and Legal Fundraising

Use safety precautions when planning your next fundraiser.

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Before you launch your next fundraising effort, be sure to consider some aspects that may be putting your church and your members at risk. Use the simple tips below as a checklist for your next fundraiser.

Physical Safety

Outside Vendors. Most vendors are reputable. However, some may be inexperienced or unprofessional. Be sure to select vendors who have references. Utilize a written contract outlining their duties and get proof that they have adequate insurance.

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May 11, 2010

8 Resources for Peacefully Resolving Church Conflicts

The definitive collection to guide leaders before, during, and after turbulent times.

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In our ongoing conversations with church leaders, as well as our collaboration with colleagues at Leadership Journal, OutofUr.com, and BuildingChurchLeaders.com, we know conflict remains one of the biggest detractors from a healthy church office environment. So we're keenly aware of this issue, and why it matters a great deal to church leaders like you and me.

I was reminded—again—of the significance of this issue last summer, when I attended the National Association of Church Business Administration's annual conference. Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries, offered a keynote address on the urgency with which church leaders should address conflict and resolve it peacefully. Otherwise, congregations face unnecessary heartache, and the testimony given to the communities surrounding them becomes stained.

One point that Ken offered during his speech remains firmly planted in my mind: "Reflect much on Jesus and his gospel, and you will reflect much of Jesus and his gospel."

Since then, we've offered two pieces on the subject of healthy conflict resolution, and in a recent phone interview I did with Ken, he offered additional resources to help church leaders. Here's a helpful look at all of them:

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May 7, 2010

Your Church Celebrates Four Awards

Our quarterly church management magazine receives four honors.

Many of you may not know this, but Your Church magazine, like many other publications at Christianity Today International, is a member of the Evangelical Press Association, "the world's largest professional organization for the evangelical periodical publishing industry," as its website reports.

Each year, the EPA honors the best work from the prior calendar year. On Thursday, we learned Your Church received four awards for work performed in 2009. In all, the EPA judged 734 entries representing 87 publications:

  • Your Church magazine, along with two other publications, received Awards of Merit in the Christian Ministries publication category (Your Church's sister publication, Leadership journal, received an Award of Excellence, the top honor for the category);

In the EPA's "Higher Goals" categories:

  • David Harbaugh, fifth place, for his cartoon, "Church Collateral," which you can see here:
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We're humbled by the recognition, and thankful, too. We pray this work honors the Lord and serves church leaders like you well.

May 6, 2010

Accidents Caused by Teenage Drivers

Accidents during youth events can create unexpected liabilities for churches.

Follow Richard on YouTube.com: http://www.youtube.com/richardrhammar

For more information on keeping the youth in your church safe, visit the "Youth" section of ChurchSafety.com. You'll find topics on High Risk Student Activities, Safe Mentoring Relationships, and more.

May 5, 2010

Responding to Floods and Other Disasters

Tips and resources as flooding hits the Southeast.

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As the death toll rises to 18 in the aftermath of the flooding in Tennessee, the water is slowly starting to recede. Many residents are returning to their homes to find damaged possessions and property. Churches are also dealing with the repercussions of the flash flood; many have been forced to reconvene in alternative meeting areas.

The Your Church Blog has compiled a number of resources from our family of sites at Christianity Today International that are available to help affected churches. These resources also are useful for any churches in other parts of the country who are reminded of their needs to plan and prepare for a possible future disaster situation like this one.

Below is a free article from a ChurchSafety.com download, "Serving as a Disaster Relief Team." This article provides simple, effective tips before a church begins to respond to an affected community. Following the article is a list of other resources that can help.

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May 4, 2010

Don't Forget the Check

Remote-deposit capture is an efficient way to handle Sunday offerings.

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The buzz surrounding electronic giving options continues to grow as online donation capabilities improve and text-messaging campaigns take hold. The American Red Cross, for instance, says it raised $35 million within 48 hours of the January earthquake in Haiti, with half arriving via its website and $5 million through texts.

But a lesser-known technology called remote-deposit capture may provide significant benefits to churches as they sift through the large number of checks still given weekly. A February survey of 750 Christian households by Maximum Generosity, Church Finance Today, and Leadership shows 90 percent still primarily use checks for their weekly offering.

Remote-deposit capture first gained acceptance among retailers wanting to speed the clearing of checks. In recent years, banks like Christian Community Credit Union, Bank of the West, and Evangelical Christian Credit Union began offering it to churches.

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