All posts from “May 2011”

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May 31, 2011

Maintaining Balance with Church Management Work

Don't let details distract from daily discipleship.

Coming off of the Memorial Day weekend, we offer this cartoon courtesy of our Church Laughs e-newsletter. It's a good bet the to-do list is already long for those who labor in church offices. We pray those details don't distract from the personal time you need with the Lord:

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Are details like these a constant challenge for you or someone in your office? Consider pre-ordering the 2012 Church Office Planner, a unique solution tailored to the needs of most church offices.

May 26, 2011

Churches Weather Copper Thieves, Insurance Concerns

One insurer says it may limit payouts on costly thefts.

Copper remains a hot commodity. On Thursday afternoon, one pound of the industrial metal was worth nearly $412, according to Bloomberg. And because of the metal's increased value, thieves see a prime opportunity to swipe copper from air conditioning units and home and commercial construction sites, then turn around and sell their spoils to scrap metal dealers for quick cash.

Churches remain a primary target.

For instance, Southern Mutual Church Insurance, South Carolina's largest insurer of churches, says it paid more than $707,000 in claims to 113 churches through April. In 2010, it paid $1.2 million to 174 churches for the entire year, according to The State.

Thieves hit one South Carolina church twice, causing more than $100,000 in damages. That church's insurer, unidentified in the article, stopped insuring it altogether, one of the church's leaders says.

Southern Mutual Church Insurance says the problem has grown so large that it may limit payouts on future coverages to any church that suffers damage from a copper theft and refuses to put protective measures in place.

A protective cage around an air conditioning unit is one such measure. Other steps can thwart thieves, according to this ChurchSafety.com article, which also points out that rooftop heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units, gutters, pipes, and electrical wiring are also at risk:

Continue reading Churches Weather Copper Thieves, Insurance Concerns...

May 26, 2011

Using Social Media During Disaster Relief

How one church leader became a believer in Twitter.

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Editor's Note: Relief efforts continue in Joplin, Missouri, following Sunday's horrific tornado, which killed at least 117 people and left extensive damage in its wake (the area remained on edge during the early parts of the week as predictions of more explosive storms rolled in). Churches and ministries are looking for ways to help. Aside from When Disaster Strikes and Serving as a Disaster Relief Team, two helpful church training resources from ChurchSafety.com, we offer this interesting blog post from Jenni Catron, who uncovered the power of Twitter during her church's response a year ago to flooding in Nashville:

I swore I wouldn't sign up for Twitter. It seemed like a nuisance. I had already given in to Facebook and started my personal blog. I didn't need one more thing!
But I quickly realized that as a leader in a church with a population of primarily Generation X and Y, I needed to engage this medium if I intended to influence them. Little did I know that less than a year later Twitter would become a key tool for responding to one of the greatest tragedies our city has ever faced.
Sunday, May 2, 2010, is a day that will be etched in my memory forever. I'd never seen so much water in my life, and it just continued to rain and rain and rain. I had spent nearly two hours trying to get home, but there was simply no way. My neighborhood and several of those around it were completely surrounded by water. Since going home was not an option, I found my way to a friend's house and camped out in front of the TV, paralyzed by the continuous news footage. Soon I received word of not one, not two, but three of my staff members whose homes were submerged in water. Tears began to flow when one of my staff texted me a picture of the roof of her house—everything else was under water. "God, please make it stop," I begged.
Nashville was devastated and we needed to respond. That evening, Pete Wilson, lead pastor for Cross Point Church, and I brainstormed ways our church might bring the love and hope of Christ to our flooded city. We had no idea what we could do, but we knew we needed to rally Cross Point volunteers and begin to help. Sunday evening Pete and I began tweeting our plans to our combined 60,000 followers and several thousand Facebook friends, asking them to meet Monday morning to help with flood relief.

Continue reading "How I Became a Twitter Believer" on our sister site, GiftedForLeadership.com.

May 23, 2011

Better Minds, Better Church Office Management?

Julie Bell believes mind management improves teamwork—and discipleship.

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Editor’s Note: On Thursday, the early registration and discounted rate ends for the National Association of Church Business Administration’s 55th annual conference (July 1-5 in Washington, D.C.). Christianity Today International’s Church Management Team is a content partner with NACBA, an organization that supports the work of thousands of business administrators and office staff across the country. As leaders contemplate whether to go, we sat down for a Q&A with Dr. Julie Bell, 44, one of NACBA’s keynote speakers for this year’s conference. Bell is founder and president of The Mind of a Champion, a Dallas-based coaching consulting firm that helps professional athletes, corporate executives, and church teams improve their performance.

As a part of The Mind of a Champion, you’ve developed a concept called Performance Intelligence and wrote a book about it. What is it? It’s your ability to perform your best when it matters most. A lot of people can do their best when the circumstances are right. How do you use the talents and resources that God has given you to do your best, regardless of the circumstances?

How would this benefit someone who works in a church office? A lot of great programs come in to maximize your skills, such as a communications workshop or conflict resolution or time management. Mind management is our greatest inefficiency. My list of things to do doesn’t wear me out—my thinking about my list of things to do wears me out.

What are some common problems in church offices that you think can benefit from better “mind management”?

Continue reading Better Minds, Better Church Office Management?...

May 19, 2011

Survey Says, Millennials Do Give—and Not Just Online

It’s more than just technology-driven factors

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Contrary to what you might think, Millennials are generous and technology isn’t the only way to motivate them to donate to nonprofits (including churches), according to the 2011 Millennial Donor Report.

Among the nearly 3,000 Millennials between the ages of 20 and 35 surveyed, 93 percent gave to nonprofits in 2010. Most gave to more than one nonprofit.

More than half of these Millennials gave in response to a personal request for support. Pastors and church leaders feeling uneasy about asking personally for donations might take comfort in knowing that informal, personal conversations about the ministry, and ways to support it, may build the relationship in a way that encourages future giving.

Continue reading Survey Says, Millennials Do Give—and Not Just Online...

May 17, 2011

Should the Jobless Tithe on Their Unemployment Benefits?

Three Christian leaders weigh in on a difficult giving question.

Should the Jobless Tithe on Their Unemployment Benefits?

In the March edition of Christianity Today, three men with backgrounds in church and personal finances were asked whether the jobless should tithe on their unemployment benefits. Read their answers, then share how your church has (or hasn't) addressed this question as the unemployment rate remains at or above 10 percent for many parts of the country:

"Yes, if joyfully. ... There are some reasons for jobless people—or anyone, for that matter—not to tithe. Do not tithe out of joyless obligation to law. Do not tithe if your soul requires nothing short of a New Testament demand to tithe (there is none). Do not tithe under the assumption that God will owe you anything. Do not tithe if you expect to default on a debt. Do not tithe if you will resent God for asking sacrifices of you—unless you intend the tithe, in the spirit of "I believe; help my unbelief," as your invitation for God to purge your resentment." —Douglas LeBlanc, editor at large for The Living Church magazine and author of Tithing: Test Me in This. Read his full answer here.

"Yes, with generosity. ... Scripture does not speak directly to the topic of tithing on an income that is not your own, so I am reluctant to say firmly, "Yes, give this much." But the Bible has much to say on the subject of generosity and gratitude. There are four questions church leaders and others can ask to help someone struggling with tithing on their unemployment benefits:

Continue reading Should the Jobless Tithe on Their Unemployment Benefits? ...

May 13, 2011

Report: More Older Americans Prefer Giving Online

Why churches should note this potentially turning tide.

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The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a brief but interesting article about new research on the demographics of online givers. In short:

Most people, no matter what their age, now prefer to make charitable donations online, according to a new study of more than 17,500 donors.
The survey by Cygnus Applied Research, in Chicago, found that more than half of donors who are 65 or older now prefer to make their gifts online, with much higher percentages of younger donors saying the same.
It was the first time in the three years the survey has been conducted that a majority of donors in all age groups said they preferred to give online.
What’s more, two-thirds of donors said they want all their communications to be electronic.

Two reasons this caught our attention:

  • Churches that don't offer online giving tend to suggest a primary reason they don't is the lack of interest or participation in online activity by older members. In the 2011 State of the Plate, 36 percent of the more than 1,500 church leaders surveyed said they offered automatic electronic payments (EFT), and nearly 30 percent accepted donations through their websites, during 2010;
  • Interest in electronic communications, such as e-newsletters and the like, appears to be growing among seniors, which churches—especially those that don't offer any form of electronic communications--should note.

May 12, 2011

New Report: Households Spent $368 on Gas Last Month

The ramifications of higher gas prices for churches.

A new report issued last week by the Oil Price Information Service shows the average American household spent $368 in April on gas, according to this CNN article.

If church leaders haven't already done so, it's time to think about the possible ramifications of unprecedented gas prices on attendance and giving this summer. People, already pinched by rising prices, small (if any) wage increases, job losses, and the like, may struggle to give what they normally would. And a need to cut down on car trips to conserve fuel for work and school commutes may prompt some to skip the drive to church some weekends.

Challenging economic times offer opportunities to speak of the blessings that come from faithful weekly commitments. It's also wise to anticipate the possibility of decreased giving.

Continue reading New Report: Households Spent $368 on Gas Last Month...

May 10, 2011

Church Bus Driver Arrested on Sex Abuse Charge

A reminder of what leaders can do to help prevent headlines like these.

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A church bus driver in southern Illinois was arrested and charged last week with sexually abusing a child.

According to the local newspaper, "the arrest came after a Wayne County Grand Jury returned an indictment against him." The driver, 33, was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a person under the age of 13, a Class 2 felony, the paper reported. He faces three to seven years in prison, and up to $25,000 in fines if convicted.

The article doesn't indicate the circumstances of the alleged abuse—whether it occurred as the man served in his role with the church, during church activities, or on church property. It also doesn't indicate whether the man has any prior convictions.

Without those details, it's less clear as to how his involvement with the ministry could have been handled differently.

However, church leaders still can take away this immediate lesson: Regardless of the role or position within the church, be it paid staff member or volunteer, children's ministry director or bus driver, anyone who will have access to children must go through a careful screening process, including thorough background checks.

These resources can help any church set up policies and procedures, including helpful ways to establish them in a positive way:

May 5, 2011

Missouri Woman Admits to $140,000 Church Theft

Practices church leaders can use to protect funds.

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A woman in Missouri pleaded guilty last week to stealing nearly $140,000 while serving as the treasurer of a local church and its denomination’s local governing organization. According to a Kansas City-based news website, the woman wrote checks to herself, overstated various expenses, or received reimbursements for expenses that never occurred. She faces severe penalties, including up to 10 years in prison without parole.

As lawmakers closely study financial accountability in local churches, it’s important to note that these types of cases are the exception, not the rule, across the country (although two more headlines emerged here and here this week, sobering reminders that the threat remains real). Leaders must build healthy practices and procedures at their churches to protect the money entrusted to them by those who attend.

To get started, or to refresh your memory and test your knowledge, use this Weekly Lesson and related interactive quiz created by Richard Hammar for church board members (get similar lessons every week for free by signing up here).

As a next step, consider our Internal Controls for Church Finances, a downloadable training tool to equip paid staff and lay leaders, and from there, the Essential Guide to Church Finances as the final, comprehensive resource to reference whenever needed.

May 3, 2011

A Pastor's Thoughts on Knowing What People Give

Facts and assumptions about a good--but complex--question

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Editor's Note: In November, TheYourChurchBlog.com published "Should Pastors Know What People Give?" It generated numerous responses, some in favor of the idea, some opposed. We recently came across another viewpoint on the question by Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in California and author of Sticky Church.

Larry permitted us to offer it today as a guest post:

One subject that’s always good for a little controversy is a discussion of whether or not a pastor should have access to congregational giving records. Years ago, I was a proud, card-carrying member of the “I-don’t-know-who-gives-what” tribe. But I changed my mind after being challenged and realizing that:

  • I had a hard time explaining why a pastor is any different from other ministry leaders (think missionaries, parachurch ministries, Christian media, seminaries, and the like).
  • I had a hard time explaining why capital campaigns are different. No one seems to object to the pastor knowing about large commitments and gifts to a building project. So how is this different than gifts to the general fund?
  • I found nothing in the scriptures supporting my viewpoint. Frankly, all the verses I used to support staying in the dark could just as well be applied to missionaries or anyone leading any ministry—even the church treasurer—something that no one I know of advocates. The idea that a local church pastor is somehow different is simply not Biblical.
  • Even though I took pride in not knowing, I still made subconscious assumptions. I couldn’t help it. It’s human nature. But once I had the facts in hand, I was amazed at how inaccurate most of my assumptions were.

Awhile back, I was discussing this with a group of pastors at a gathering I was hosting. The very next day I had an experience that showed once again why having the facts is always better than making assumptions—and how having the facts radically changes (and should change) the way we deal with individuals.

Continue reading A Pastor's Thoughts on Knowing What People Give...