All posts from “December 2010”

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December 30, 2010

TheYourChurchBlog.com's Top 5 Posts of 2010

The key law, tax, finance, and safety issues readers cared about this year.

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Last week, we took a moment to highlight the Top 10 most-read articles from Your Church magazine's website, YourChurch.net. As we continue to count down the days to 2011, we now offer the Top 5 most-read posts from TheYourChurchBlog.com during 2010:

5. Should Pastors Know What People Give? This post--which generated a high number of comments--raised the question based on how three different churches say they address it.

4. A New Tool for Calculating Church Staff Salaries. Personnel expenses make up a significant portion of church budgets--sometimes 50 percent or more. As a companion tool to our 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, we developed a free worksheet that actually walks church leaders through the process of determining a fair pay range for each pastoral and staff position at their churches.

Continue reading TheYourChurchBlog.com's Top 5 Posts of 2010...

December 20, 2010

10 to Remember From 2010

These Your Church Today articles drew the most traffic.

As 2010 comes to a close, it’s time to get all nostalgic and look back at the year that was. That includes reviewing the articles that interested readers throughout the year. Based on Internet traffic patterns, these 10 articles from YourChurch.net (Your Church Today magazine’s website) led the way:

10. Is My Church Covered? We noticed many church leaders seemed to be taking a hard look at their church insurance policies, their premiums, and any possible savings they could make in light of tightened budgets. Our Summer 2010 cover story reviewed the changing landscape of church insurance, including key coverage changes to note, terms to know, and a brief look at the biggest church insurance providers.

9. State of the Plate Results A detailed look at the results from the 2010 State of the Plate survey, which Christianity Today International conducted with Maximum Generosity to see how 2009 ended for American churches. Among the findings: More churches missed their budgets in 2009 compared to 2008.

8. Debunking the Clergification Myth Respected author and researcher Ed Stetzer examines the prevailing models of church staffing structures and argues for changes that place less emphasis on paid staff and more emphasis on an empowered lay leadership base.

Continue reading 10 to Remember From 2010...

December 17, 2010

7 Reasons Churches Should Offer Electronic Giving Options

Why an offering plate and giving box can't cut it alone anymore.

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For many years, churches pondered (and even debated) whether to collect offerings by placing a box in the back of the sanctuary or by passing the plate. Today there is a much more important issue that is transforming how people give and how churches collect offerings: various forms of electronic giving, such as websites, mobile devices, electronic funds transfer, and more.

To dramatically illustrate my point, consider what would happen if you went up to the average 28-year-old and asked that person to write you a check for something. In most cases, he or she would look at your strangely and say something like, “Checks? Ahhh, I don’t use checks.” But the truth is, whether someone is 28, 38, 58, or 78, fewer people are using checks and instead are using various forms of electronic options for all of their financial and giving transactions.

So, let’s take a look at the top 7 reasons your church must offer (more) electronic giving options:

1. Scripture instructs ministers to “collect” people’s offerings. When I have been in other countries, I have sometimes seen churches use VERY LARGE offering baskets (as big as waste paper baskets!) to collect people’s offerings. People were taught to “give from what they had,” which often included eggs, bread, rice, money, and so on. The baskets had to be large enough to hold everything people brought. In some cases, I saw churches that built “tithe houses” so people could bring the best portion of their harvest to the church.

The biblical mandate is that ministers “collect” people’s offerings and churches and ministers need to use whatever methods are available and most helpful to empower their people to be faithful and generous givers.

Continue reading 7 Reasons Churches Should Offer Electronic Giving Options...

December 15, 2010

Deadline Nears for Pastors' Housing Designations

Act now so that pastors can receive this tax benefit in 2011.

Churches must designate a portion of each minister's compensation as a housing allowance by December 31 in order for ministers who own or rent their homes to receive the full benefit of a housing allowance exclusion for calendar year 2011. The designation should be adopted during a regular or special meeting of the church board, and should be contained in the written minutes of the meeting.

Churches should designate a parsonage allowance for any minister who lives in a parsonage and who is expected to pay some of the expenses of maintaining the parsonage (e.g., utilities, furnishings, repairs, improvements, yard care). For sample housing and parsonage allowance resolutions, see chapter 6 in the 2011 Church and Clergy Tax Guide, available for January shipment.

Get more handy reminders like this one sent to your inbox free each week by signing up for Richard Hammar's Essential Reminders.

December 9, 2010

Is Your Church Ready for Tax Season?

Churches and clergy face at least 64 tax changes come January.

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In an upcoming issue of the Church Finance Today newsletter, senior editor Richard Hammar relays a comment made by Douglas Shulman, U.S. Commissioner for Internal Revenue, during a speech given earlier this fall to the American Institute of CPAs: “The sheer girth and complexity of the tax code continue to grow, in spite of efforts to simplify it. There have been an astonishing 4,400 legislative changes to the code from 2000 to September of this year.”

Every year, Rich combs through pages of tax code looking for changes that directly affect churches and clergy. It’s a massive undertaking, but one that thousands of church leaders across the country appreciate, given the “sheer girth and complexity of the tax code” as Shulman puts it. For instance, how would any of us know about the 64 significant changes or additions that church leaders should note for the tax filing season upon us?

Rich highlights these changes in greater detail for our January/February issue of Church Law & Tax Report. But let me also encourage you to pre-order Rich’s 2011 Church & Clergy Tax Guide, the tangible fruit of his yearlong labor. This exhaustive book not only will guide you during tax season, but it also will serve as a trustworthy resource to reference time and again throughout the year.

December 7, 2010

Giving at Churches—How Will 2010 End?

New charitable giving report suggests strength for some ministries.

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Our friends at the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability recently released a report showing charitable giving to its members has remained steady, especially among its largest members, despite the recession.

But there were signs of challenge for ECFA members with smaller budgets and revenue.

In its first-ever “2010 ECFA Annual State of Giving Report,” total charitable giving to ECFA members (comprised of about 1,400 Christian nonprofits, charities, and churches) was $12.10 billion in 2009, compared to $12.11 billion in 2007, before the current recession kicked into high gear.

The data, taken directly from members' independently audited financial statements, showed organizations with annual revenue greater than $10 million fared best, reporting a 1.4 percent increase in donations compared to 2007. However, organizations with annual revenue less than $10 million reported a 6.9 percent decrease in donations compared to 2007.

Among churches, ECFA reported:

Continue reading Giving at Churches—How Will 2010 End?...

December 2, 2010

What You Should Know about Year-end Giving and Receipts

Advisors host webinar on handling end-of-year charitable contributions.

Michael Batts and Dan Busby, two members of our Editorial Advisory Board, will co-present a 60-minute webinar on Tuesday, December 7, about the ins and outs of year-end giving and receipts. Batts is managing partner with the CPA firm Batts Morrison Wales & Lee. Busby is president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which is hosting the webinar. Both are highly knowledgeable and articulate regarding a wide range of church tax and finance issues, including the handling of charitable contributions.

Among the topics they plan to cover:

• What is required and not required on year-end giving statements
• Cut-off dates for receipting of cash/check gifts
• Noncash gift reporting, including recent cases and IRS correspondence as well as valuing noncash gifts
• Form 1098-C issues with respect to gifts of autos, boats and airplanes
• How to acknowledge quid pro quo gifts
• How to handle Christmas gifts to staff, love offerings raised for staff, and gifts restricted/designated for staff

ECFA members can participate for free, while nonmembers need to register for $29.

For more information and guidance on year-end gifts and charitable contributions, be sure to check out Rich Hammar's 2011 Church & Clergy Tax Guide and our popular 2011 Charitable Contributions Bulletin Inserts, as well as "Best Practices for Receiving Charitable Contributions."