All posts from “September 2012”

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September 27, 2012

Can We Send Banned Cribs Out of the Country?

New regulations force changes for church nurseries.

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Q: I am a children’s pastor. We have replaced all of our cribs, in light of the new regulations banning certain ones from being used, sold, or donated in this country. We have a missionary we support in South America who runs an orphanage. They have children sleeping on the floor, and they are very interested in our old cribs. They visited several months ago and they have a plan for making the cribs safe with a simple conversion that will not allow the sides to drop. My question is, since they are in another country, is it legal for us to ship these cribs to them?

A: In June 2011, the first of a two-stage process to implement the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act's new regulations for the sale, distribution, and use of nursery cribs in the United States went into effect. On December 28, 2012, the second stage begins.

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September 25, 2012

Building a Culture of Risk Management

Church boards, staffs must collaborate for the good of the ministry.

Now more than ever before, church leaders must recognize the importance of risk management as an inherent part of organizational oversight and leadership. But what does proper risk management look like, and whose responsibility is it? Many boards assume that the pastor and staff have the “bases covered” and board involvement is often limited to reacting to flare-ups. Such an approach to risk management is problematic and dangerous for multiple reasons.

Church leaders are typically consumed with day-to-day operating activities and decisions— the “tyranny of the urgent.” As a result, they frequently do not have, or take, the time to step back and proactively assess organizational risks and address them proactively. If that is the case, and the board is operating under the assumption that staff “has it covered,” the church may be a ticking time-bomb for obvious reasons.

Board and staff: a collaborative approach

A key area of responsibility for the board is to ensure that the church maintains an adequate approach to risk management in carrying out its programs. While the actual conduct of risk management activities is the responsibility of staff under the authority of the pastor, the board should evaluate the church’s risk management strategy since the board has ultimate responsibility for oversight.

An effective risk management plan is a holistic one—one that addresses risk in all aspects of the church’s activities. The risk management plan should also be proactive rather than reactive, identifying risks before they become liabilities and taking appropriate steps to mitigate them.

In order to effectively carry out its responsibilities, the board may wish to establish a standing “risk management committee” to oversee the church’s risk management strategy and to provide reports and recommendations to the full board.

The board or risk management committee should work with the pastor and staff to ensure that:

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September 20, 2012

The Zero-Percent Solution

How one church expanded debt-free.

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The only time a church mortgage gives any cause to celebrate is when it’s burned. Otherwise, it’s a drain on resources. Interest payments can easily triple or quadruple the cost of a church building.

Beracah Bible Church decided to forgo the joy of mortgage burning for something better: no mortgage at all. Here’s how it did it:

When our church began, our board of trustees quickly agreed that the congregation would function on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. Simply put, this policy allows us to spend only the money already in hand.

Two factors led to this decision: (1) Several churches and religious organizations in our area had been financially irresponsible, thus tainting the reputation of the rest of us. They assumed huge debts for building projects as a “step of faith.” In reality, it was a step of presumption. They were convinced it was “God’s will,” but it became a stone of burden for the whole Christian community.

Their desperate appeals for funds and their defaulting on payments created a negative image. Banks were reluctant to foreclose on religious organizations, but they weren’t eager to deal with any new churches, either. (2) We had no significant borrowing power anyway. Our only collateral would have been the personal property of members, which is what banks were demanding. Rather than asking individuals to cosign, our trustees unanimously endorsed a policy of nonindebtedness. It has served us well for decades.

For the first 15 years, we were content to meet in a series of nine locations for nominal rent, sometimes only the cost of utilities. We started with five families who gathered for worship in a vacant bank building. Later we used the hospitality room of another bank and eventually moved into a house, where we grew to 125.

At first the makeshift locations didn’t bother people; they came for content, not surroundings. But soon the surroundings were interfering with the ministry. We literally had people sitting on one another’s laps.

After three more moves, our people were ready to forsake the nomadic life. The final straw came when we discovered we could be locked out; one Sunday, for instance, “our” meeting place was preempted by an antique show.

It was then that our policy against deficit spending got its greatest test. Already the cash policy had been successful in paying for several church automobiles, a van, and a parsonage. But the huge estimated costs for a modest auditorium and land to expand was a much larger challenge.

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September 17, 2012

Ken Sande Gets “Upstream of Conflict”

Peacemaker founder discusses starting a new ministry.

Ken Sande

Editor’s Note: On July 31, Ken Sande officially stepped down as president and chief executive officer of Peacemaker Ministries, the ministry he started in 1982 as a way to resolve conflict and bring reconciliation and healing, particularly in church and ministry environments. Sande, an attorney, serves as an Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax Report. He recently spoke with me via phone about the changes underway for Peacemaker and for himself.

You recent stepped down as president and CEO of Peacemaker Ministries, the ministry you founded 30 years ago. Why?

We’ve talked about doing this for a while. It was on the books; we had a consultant involved because we desired a smooth transition. We thought it might not happen for a couple of more years. But a couple of things happened.

One, we continued to sense Peacemaker’s expansion as a global ministry and there are implications with such an expansion. I don’t have a lot of global experience—I was born and raised in Montana. I felt maybe we should get someone in here who has that experience and can speak to a global stage. I told the board there has to be someone more gifted than me to do this. It’s a dynamic similar to when a pastor starts a church and then brings someone in a few years later to grow it.

The other thing that proved to be decisive was that, in the last few years, I have had a growing interest in creating educational materials that are proactive, rather than reactive, with conflict. With Peacemaker Ministries, we have world-class people trained to respond to conflict. They’re really good at that. But over the years, as I walked away from mediations we were called in to help, I began realizing that more could have been put in place years before that might have avoided those crises. It’s about getting upstream of conflict.

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September 13, 2012

Hammar Achieves Professional Parliamentarian Status

Richard Hammar

In 2009, Richard Hammar—senior editor of Church Law & Tax Report and Church Finance Today—became one of 270 “registered parliamentarians” in the United States by passing a qualifying examination administered by the National Association of Parliamentarians. Recently, he passed a “professional qualifying course” and became a Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP), the highest status that a parliamentarian can achieve. The National Association of Parliamentarians describes this status as follows:

A member who reaches Professional Registered Parliamentarian® (PRP) status has demonstrated to fellow professionals that he or she not only has the in-depth knowledge of parliamentary procedure required of a Registered Parliamentarian, but also the skills to provide effective, practical help to an individual or organization in need of parliamentary assistance. These skills include the ability to preside over a meeting; to perform the duties of a parliamentarian for another presiding officer and help them preside effectively; to consult organizations on the rules that govern their meetings and operations; and to share parliamentary knowledge with others. A Professional Registered Parliamentarian must maintain this certification through practical experience and recurrent training, ensuring that each PRP maintains the same high professional standards throughout his or her career.

September 11, 2012

Free Church Payroll Webinar Rescheduled

Event now will take place Wednesday, September 19.

Due to illness, Richard Hammar’s “Prevent Payroll Mistakes—What Churches Need to Know” webinar, which was originally scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, September 12, 2012), has been rescheduled.

In an effort to best serve you, we have rescheduled this free webinar to 11 a.m. (Central Time)/12 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, September 19, 2012. Our hope is that this will accommodate as many registrants as possible. For those who can’t make the event because of this change, you will still receive free access to the recorded version of the webinar and the webinar handout. We will send out information regarding how to access the recorded webinar within 72 hours of the webinar’s conclusion next week.

You do not need to do anything in order to remain registered for this free event and its new date. Watch for an automatic notification from GoTo Meeting that confirms the new date for the webinar. This will be all that you need to log in and join us next week or to receive notification when the recorded version becomes available.

While this solution offered the least disruptive approach possible, we recognize the change still may create an inconvenience for some, and may cause a few of you to miss the presentation due to other scheduled commitments. We are very sorry for this.

Again, please watch for the GoTo Meeting e-mail regarding the new date of 11 a.m. (Central Time)/12 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, for the “Prevent Payroll Mistakes—What Churches Need to Know” webinar with Richard Hammar.

Haven't registered yet? Seating is limited, so don't miss out.

We look forward to seeing you next week!

September 10, 2012

3 Key Changes for Churches in Latest Robert’s Rules

11th edition goes beyond parliamentary procedure.

Editor’s Note:Richard Hammar, a Professional Registered Parliamentarian, recently reviewed the latest edition of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised for Church Law & Tax Report. Below, he summarizes three key changes from the latest edition.

Does your church use Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised as its parliamentary authority, either by a specific reference in the church bylaws or by common usage? If so, it is important for you to be familiar with the key provisions in the new and revised 11th edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, which released in late 2011, to ensure that your board and membership meetings are being conducted consistently with your parliamentary authority. The 11th edition replaces all earlier editions of Robert’s Rules, including the most recent 10th edition that was published in 2000.

This new edition contains more than 100 substantive changes in parliamentary procedure. It is important for church leaders to be aware of this development since most church bylaws identify Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised as the official parliamentary authority in the conduct of membership meetings.

Any church that has identified Robert’s Rules of Order or Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised in its governing document will be bound by the rules contained in the 11th edition. Following are three key changes in Robert’s Rules 11th edition that churches need to know about.

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September 4, 2012

A Pretty Place for a Wedding

Opening the church building to outside users

Churches often receive requests to use their buildings for weddings. Some church leaders may feel there are so many requests that there may be a more simple way to answer them all.

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Sharing space with the community for a wedding is a nice way to be welcoming, and churches need to develop policies and procedures that make their facilities available for additional use—all while keeping their assets protected. Managing Your Church Facility Use will help church leaders apply best practices to facilities management. It includes a sample policy.

For more forms to work with people who seek to celebrate their marriage in your church, check out Wedding Arrangements.