All posts from “September 2011”

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September 29, 2011

Staying Afloat Amid Information Overload

Can church leaders get much-needed breaks in a communications-saturated world?

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The flow of information never stops for the Rev. Dr. Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president in the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

He fields up to 150 emails a day. He spends afternoons trading text messages about the church’s strategic plans. And he once tuned in to a conference call via cellphone while cutting the grass.

On a recent night, he and his wife had climbed into bed to watch TV when he heard the telltale ping of his cellphone from across the room.

He hopped out of bed, retrieved an email, fired up his laptop, and went to work responding.

It was past 9:30 p.m.

“It’s like an addiction,” Adams said. “I’m so driven by the customer service component of what our office is supposed to provide that I want them to have an immediate response.

“I am a digital media boundary failure,” he added, with a laugh.

His experience isn’t unique, and it raises questions for leaders of Christian institutions: Is it possible to serve the church’s mission and still give your mind, body and soul a much-needed break from the seemingly unending flow of information?

Can you be an effective, responsive leader without being plugged in all the time?

And when you are plugged in, are there strategies for managing the wave of information coming at you so you can avoid drowning in it?

Continue reading Staying Afloat Amid Information Overload...

September 27, 2011

Nine Tips for Keeping Church Football Games Safe

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Football season is underway, and many churches are hosting flag football and touch football events for their youth ministries. In full-contact football, players wear extensive padding and safety equipment. Virtually no protective gear is used for flag or touch football, and yet players still can experience high levels of contact, both intentionally and unintentionally. Here are nine quick safety tips to keep players safe on the gridiron:

  1. Before play begins, inspect the playing area for hazards and make sure the field is clearly marked.
  2. Check that the playing area includes a buffer zone.
  3. Maintain a balance between skill and size when dividing up teams.
  4. Before play begins, explain the rules of the game including what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Continue reading Nine Tips for Keeping Church Football Games Safe...

September 22, 2011

"Shopping" for a Bank

Quick thoughts for churches that work with banks.

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Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Money Matters in Church by Aubrey Malphurs and Steve Stroope (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2007):

At times you may find the need to “shop” banks. For example, if your church is ready to secure a loan to begin a large building project, such as a renovation or even a new facility, you will want to contact several local banks, provide them with the information they need, and go with the bank that offers you the best rate. This assumes the bank has a good reputation and is willing to work with your church. The obvious advantage of shopping banks is that you will likely get a better rate, especially if the bank knows you are shopping.

Our advice is to shop banks when you’re looking for a large loan. If you find a bank that’s willing to give you a better rate than your existing bank, then use this as leverage. Approach your current bank and ask if they’ll match the other bank’s offer. If they refuse, then you’ll need to decide whether to go with the new bank for the new loan but stay with the old bank for your existing services or move to the new bank entirely. (To provide you with a special rate, most banks will ask that you move all your accounts to them.)

So you should consider whether the better rate is worth changing banks. How much will you really save?

Continue reading "Shopping" for a Bank...

September 21, 2011

Tax Scammers in Person

Teams of people posing as tax service companies knock on church doors.

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The most common way tax scammers seem to work is through e-mail. Countless e-mails arrive daily in inboxes claiming a tax refund is available.

Many tax scammers have become less shy recently, according to a recent IRS news release and an Oklahoma news service. They walk through church doors, posing as unfamiliar for-profit tax services.

After teaming up with a church, they charge a fee for their service that includes convincing unsuspecting taxpayers to file an IRS return for tax credits, refunds, or rebates for which they are not entitled. By the time claims on the returns are rejected, the scammers have left town.

Continue reading Tax Scammers in Person...

September 19, 2011

Pastors Shot in Florida Church

Church shooting reminds us to create procedures to help protect our staff and parishioners.

This Sunday, a Florida man shot and killed his wife before entering a church a block away. Inside the church, the shooter identified the senior pastor and shot him in the head. He then shot the associate pastor three times, according to WTSP.com, a Tampa news station. Other church members tackled the shooter and held him until authorities arrived.

Sheriff Grady Judd, who was interviewed about the incident, called the intervening parishioners heroes for stepping in like they did. Unfortunately, these parishioners had to react to a horrific and unexpected situation. "If there's one place that you should be able to go on Sunday and worship safely and securely, it should be your church or your synagogue," Judd said. "And, unfortunately, that wasn't the case here this morning."

Judd’s words ring true for all churches. We want our church buildings to be dependably safe and secure. If you haven’t already established policies and procedures for dealing with violence in your church, get started with some helpful resources from ChurchSafety.com. Begin with the free assessment “Is Our Church Secure from Crime and Violence?” then read through the accompanying article “Preparing for the Unthinkable.” If you want additional training on this subject, look to any of the following to help guide your team: Protect Your Church from Crime & Violence, Confronting Gun Violence at Church, and Creating a Safety Team.

Lindsey Learn is assistant editor to the Church Management Team at Christianity Today International.

September 19, 2011

Who Owns a Pastor's Sermons?

Most clergy are shocked when they learn the answer.

Most clergy would be shocked to learn that their sermons are works made for hire that are owned by their employing church, and that their sermons cannot be used in any other churches with which they are later employed without the permission of the church with which they were employed when the sermons were created. This can become a contentious issue in the case of clergy whose sermons are recorded and sold publicly by the church.

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Are Sermons Works Made for Hire?

Are a minister's sermons works made for hire that are owned by the employing church? To the extent that sermons are written in a church office, during regular working hours, using church secretaries and equipment, it is possible if not likely that they are works made for hire since they are created by an employee within the scope of employment.

The argument could be made that sermons are works for hire even if composed by ministers at home, during "non-office" hours, since they comprise one of the most important functions that they perform on behalf of their employing church and congregation.

What this means for you and your church:

Continue reading Who Owns a Pastor's Sermons?...

September 15, 2011

Seattle Hayride Crash Injures Youth Group, Leaders

A bale of fun, or the last straw for church liability?

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A church-sponsored hayride turned dangerous in July when a trailer carrying a Seattle area youth group flipped on a steep hill. According to a local news source, the trailer jackknifed on a packed gravel road, seriously injuring three adult volunteers. One lost a finger to amputation, while the other two suffered severe leg and ankle injuries. Several youths were also hospitalized. Investigators are studying the weight of people and objects placed on the trailer and the maintenance of the tractor and equipment.

At the moment, it is unclear if the tractor's driver (an adult church volunteer) will be cited.

It's more important than ever to use both common sense and educated legal knowledge to ensure the safety of church-sponsored events. As your congregation plans outdoor events throughout the fall season, do you know your legal responsibilities and liabilities? How can you keep participants—and your church—safe while enjoying traditional events and outings such as hayrides? Legal expert Richard Hammar gives a crash course in caution and savvy planning for hayrides as he fields this question in his Risk Management Handbook:

Continue reading Seattle Hayride Crash Injures Youth Group, Leaders...

September 14, 2011

Church Puts Property Up for Sale After Tax Dispute

City says land can be assessed.

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An ongoing property tax assessment battle between Concord, N.H., and a 50-member church there has led to the church putting its property up for sale to make ends meet, according to a recent article in the Concord Monitor.

Four years ago, the city assessed taxes for the property after it determined 60 percent of it wasn’t used for religious purposes. The Destiny Christian Church, a Pentecostal congregation, owns a two-story building, a parsonage, and 26 acres, according to the newspaper article.

The church disputed the tax bill, but the Board of Tax and Land Appeal sided with the city. This summer, the appeal was approved to go to the state Supreme Court.

Continue reading Church Puts Property Up for Sale After Tax Dispute...

September 13, 2011

Six Steps for Handling Fraud

What to do when your church has been embezzled.

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Churches are prime targets for embezzlement. This is partly because churches are some of the most trusting organizations, a quality often abused by paid staff and volunteers.

Embezzlement not only robs a church of money; it also damages its reputation, calling the ministry's integrity into question by the public. A church's own congregation might even disagree on the response to embezzlement—grace versus punishment. This is why one of the biggest challenges of embezzlement in a church setting is determining how to respond when theft is discovered. Here are six steps that may help you navigate the disturbing discovery that your church has been embezzled:

Continue reading Six Steps for Handling Fraud...

September 8, 2011

A Good Time to Launch a Church Building Campaign?

Advice on expensive church projects in a time of economic turmoil.

Editor’s note: Churches continue to consider new building projects, even as the economy remains challenging. Church Finance Today recently created a new training resource to help churches navigate this difficult time of fundraising during a down economy. This interview was excerpted from that resource:

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Church congregation growth may run on God's timing, not the economy's. The ability to deal with that growth, though, is more dependent on earthly funds, and the dollars in a church budget may be fewer when members are losing jobs and savings.

So what happens to church growth campaigns when the economy is going downhill?

Bill Walter is president of Church Growth Services, an organization that helps churches plan capital campaigns for building and growth projects. Walter has been in the business for over 30 years and offers a historical perspective on what seems to be the current recession and how it could affect churches.

Continue reading A Good Time to Launch a Church Building Campaign?...

September 6, 2011

What's Wrong with Credit Card Debt?

Are they financial tools or charging us into sin?

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Earlier this year, we asked whether churches should accept credit cards for tithing. Christianity Today recently asked what's wrong with credit card debt? Three Christian leaders with backgrounds in theology and personal finance weighed in.

Read excerpts of their answers here, then tell us your views on credit cards:

"It's a lack of faith. ... Financial choices and predicaments are always symptomatic of other issues. Some of the more common issues that lead to credit card debt include a lack of contentment, a lack of self-discipline, the search for security, and the search for significance.

The bottom line is that we should avoid putting a lender in the place of God by depending on them to meet our needs, and we should not play God in our own lives by deciding that the only way to meet our needs is to borrow.

Continue reading What's Wrong with Credit Card Debt? ...

September 1, 2011

Cartoon: Giving for Tax Purposes

If you’ve ever created receipts for church offerings and donations, you’ve probably been asked to receipt donated property.

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On a more serious note, Richard Hammar offers a couple of lessons on how to meet IRS requirements for non-cash contributions of $5,000 or less and $5,000 or more.