All posts from “December 2012”

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December 27, 2012

The Top 10 Church Management Articles of 2012

Highlights and notable reader comments from the most-viewed articles this year

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The church office is a busy place, as shown in this year’s ten most popular articles on ManagingYourChurch.com. These ten alone demonstrate that many church leaders are working hard to count contributions, show employees their appreciation, conduct board meetings, share space, give to the poor, engage social media, and comply with tax law, among many other tasks.

Read through the list below to see if you missed any of these tips for day-to-day work at church and legal and tax updates that affect the church. Feel free to leave comments on any of them.

10. Part 1: When Raises Aren’t Possible for Church Staff by Matt Branaugh (January 12, 2012)

When a church lacks funds to give raises, it can find other ways to reward and honor employees. Matt Branaugh interviewed Liz Ryan, who has decades of experience in human resources, to see what churches in this position can do. This article is also helpful for churches that can give raises and are looking for ways to recognize employee contributions.

Notable reader comment: “Our church has just implemented a Service Award policy. Along with the recognition of 5, 10, 15, etc years of service, there is a monetary award as well. And interestingly, it is based solely on years served.” - Ray

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December 20, 2012

Outfit Your Church for Outreach

Three key areas of safety concern for your church’s outreach ministry.

As Christmas approaches, many churches are directing their attention toward local, national, and international outreach efforts. Christianity Today and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company recently conducted the joint national Outlook for Outreach study, collecting responses from 1,486 church leaders and volunteers involved in outreach. Based on the results of this study, we’ve identified three key tips to help your church safely engage in outreach efforts this holiday season.

1) Volunteers

Nearly all churches (96 percent) are serving those in their local community, especially in feeding and clothing the poor. The majority of these churches say that one of the biggest obstacles to doing outreach is finding enough volunteers. However, 41 percent of churches report that volunteerism is up for outreach ministries. How can your church minimize risk in selecting and utilizing volunteers?

Take greater precautions with minors. If a minor is injured while volunteering because of the church’s failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care in the selection or supervision of its workers, the church may be legally responsible on the basis of negligence. When screening minors, contact local charities or organizations to see what method they use for screening and selecting students younger than 18.
Know your volunteers. Once you have selected your volunteers, try to get to know them. Communication tends to flow more naturally if there is some history behind the relationship. Help your volunteers warm up to each other by holding an icebreaker before the event.

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December 18, 2012

"Clergy Killers”—and the Church

More than one in four pastors say a faction has forced them out.

Research conducted in recent years by two different organizations paints a disturbing picture about certain conflicts between pastors and small factions within their churches. The in-fighting often festers long enough that many pastors wind up pushed out.

Researchers at Texas Tech University, surveying nearly 600 pastors, say 28 percent of pastors indicated they have been forced out of their congregations at one time or another due to personal attacks or criticism from a small group of members. Separate work from Duke University’s National Congregations Study in 2006-2007 shows 9 percent of congregations had experienced a conflict between a pastor or leader and a group of church members within the previous two years that led to that pastor or leader’s departure.

A full graphic from ChristianityToday.com further illustrates all of the data, including details about which denominations saw more or less of these situations, what types of leadership roles were involved, and how many times a pastor or leader said they’ve experienced such a situation (of those forced out, three-fourths said it has happened only once so far in their careers).

David Briggs from the Association of Religion Data Archives says these factions within congregations are called “clergy killers”—“a small group of members [who] are so disruptive that no pastor is able to maintain spiritual leadership for long.” As the Texas Tech researchers point out, the toll is a heavy one in terms of the stress and dysfunction that carries on for weeks, months, or perhaps even years. A separate study of 55 ministers by Texas Tech and Virginia Tech University showed these dismissed pastors faced higher levels of depression, stress, and health problems, and lower self-esteem, Briggs says.

Beyond the short- and long-term effects on the pastors, which are significant and not to be casually dismissed, is the health and well-being of the congregation left behind. A small faction, for better or worse, has exerted enough influence to force a leadership change. If it was for the worse, the situation isn’t healthy, and the lingering toxicity likely will make it difficult to call a replacement.

How can churches avoid such situations? Or, better yet, how can church leaders respond when one or more individuals bring forward concerns about the pastor? We asked Ken Sande, founder of Peacemaker Ministries and an Editorial Advisor for ManagingYourChurch.com, for guidance.

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December 11, 2012

How Churches Serve Their Communities

New "Outlook for Outreach" survey shows where congregations meet needs.

Where would Americans be if churches didn’t make outreach a priority? Many would feel the pain of unmet needs for basics such as food and clothing, not to mention a slow-down in disaster recovery efforts. For many hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, it was churches that provided the first signs of relief. In fact, a new survey—Outlook for Outreach—shows that of the 58 percent of churches in America that provide hands-on assistance for causes throughout our country, 75 percent of them engage in national disaster relief efforts.

To better quantify how churches engage in outreach ministries to provide for physical needs within their local communities and the world at large, Christianity Today (CT) and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company (BMIC) recently conducted the joint national Outlook for Outreach study. Responses collected during the summer of 2012 from 1,486 church leaders and volunteers involved in outreach reveal that nearly all churches (96 percent) are serving those in their local community, especially in feeding and clothing the poor.

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December 4, 2012

Commission Releases First Report on Church Accountability

Panel offers 43 recommendations, sets 2013 release for political report.

An independent commission formed by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability at the request of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in January 2011 issued its first public findings today through a 91-page report that is available for free download.

The report touches on key areas Grassley asked the commission to examine, including pastoral housing allowances, compensation and excess benefit transactions, examinations of church leaders, donor accountability, and the possible formation of an IRS advisory committee for religious organizations. The commission said it will release separate findings on political activity by churches and religious organizations next year.

"The vast majority of religious and other nonprofit organizations in America operate with a genuine commitment to financial integrity and appropriate accountability," wrote Michael E. Batts, the commission's chair, in the report's opening letter. "Occasionally, we see a few exceptions."

Through public input, as well as the assistance of 80 legal and financial leaders representing a variety of faith traditions, including Richard Hammar, senior editor of Church Law & Tax Report, Batts says the commission formed 43 recommendations for Grassley and his staff to review.

"While self-regulation is a key element of addressing concerns about misconduct, critics
of self-regulation rightfully point out that non-compliant outliers have little interest in self-regulation," wrote Batts, managing partner of Batts Morrison Wales & Lee, P.A., and an Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax Report and ManagingYourChurch.com. "That’s where effective administration of existing law must come in, together with education about the law."

Watch for more articles regarding the commission's findings and recommendations in coming weeks on ManagingYourChurch.com.

December 4, 2012

Q&A: Is a Love Offering Tax Deductible for the Donor?

Yes—if specific factors are met.

Q: I realize love offerings need to be included in a pastor’s taxable income, however, should an individual receive tax-deductible credit for their gift if the church board authorized the collection? Also, what if an individual gives a love gift to a pastor on their own during the year by making the check payable to the church?

A: I address love offerings on page 177 of my annual Church & Clergy Tax Guide. Your specific questions bring two responses to mind:

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