All posts from “January 2013”

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January 31, 2013

5 Tech Tools to Manage Pastoral Ministry

Apps and software can help maximize time for God's glory


I'd like to share with you some technological tools I use to help accomplish the responsibilities and demands for my ministry as a pastor. I pray that it will be helpful for you in your stewardship of time.

1. Evernote

Evernote is a life saver, and a basic account is free. Evernote is a cloud based database that can search and sort anything you put into it. It syncs across all your devices and allows you to have quick and easy access to any information or documents you need. It is the 21st century version of a portable filing cabinet that you can carry around with you on your phone.

Evernote helps me bridge the gap between paper and digital. My go-to resource for getting thoughts down is pen and paper. That's why I carry my Moleskine notebook with me everywhere. However, with Evernote you can scan or snap a picture via phone of your documents, and Evernote can search for them later.

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January 29, 2013

Why Multitasking May Fail Us

What church leaders should note from new research.

Why Multitasking May Fail Us

By their nature, church offices present numerous temptations to multitask.

For pastors, there are unexpected office visits and phone calls, budget reports, and board meeting preparations, all on top of sermon writing, long-range planning, crisis resolutions, the occasional emergency—and so on. For executive pastors, business administrators, and church office staff, there are similar circumstances to these, plus dozens more.

But in juggling all of this, particularly through the use of desktops, laptops, phones, mobile phones, tablets, and more, the question increasingly becomes, Does multitasking make us better at our work--or worse?

While the answer may not surprise you, the disparity between what people perceive and what their realities show may surprise you.

Lisa Marshall, a former newspaper colleague of mine, recently wrote about this for Colorado Public Television. In her article, "The Latest Study on Multitasking is One to Focus On ... Hey, Eyes Over Here," she shares some surprising new research about multitasking and gadgets from the University of Utah:

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January 24, 2013

Firm Issues Gloomy 2013 Forecast for Religious Giving

Four takeaways for churches in the midst of projected declines.


A company specializing in computer-based reports and forecasts for charitable giving in the United States says giving to religion rose steadily in 2012 compared to 2011. The religious sector, though, has seen its share of the overall charitable giving market shrink, and a dismal outlook for 2013 likely will erode that share further, the firm says.

The Dallas, Texas-based Atlas of Giving on Tuesday said overall donations to nonprofits across eight sectors climbed 6.7 percent in 2012, fueled by notable gains in educational and environmental causes. The religious sector, which includes churches, synagogues, and faith-based organizations, climbed 4.1 percent.

But early signs point to a decrease in collections for the religious sector in 2013, the only one the company predicts will decline. "It's not good," said Rob Mitchell, chief executive of Atlas of Giving. "We're projecting giving to religion to be down 0.8 percent, or essentially flat-to-trending-slightly-down-from-flat."

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January 22, 2013

Q&A: Is Form 990 Required for Churches?

Several organizations are exempt from this reporting requirement

Q: Does a small church need to file a 990N? I have not been able to determine if this is now required. In the past, we have not filed 990's as we are a small congregation.

A: Section 6033 exempts several organizations from the Form 990 reporting requirements, including the following:

A church, an interchurch organization of local units of a church, a convention or association of churches, an integrated auxiliary of a church (such as a men's or women's organization, religious school, mission society, or youth group), and certain church-controlled organizations (see Revenue Procedure 86-23). The term "integrated auxiliary" is defined fully in Chapter 12, section A.4, in my annual tax guide, the 2013 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.

Learn more about church reporting requirements with the 2013 Church & Clergy Tax Guide and Federal Reporting Requirements for Churches 2013 Tax Resources Audio CD.

January 17, 2013

12 Benefits of the New Taxpayer Relief Act

A snapshot of how the new tax laws will affect you and your church.

Congress enacted legislation, known as the American Taxpayer Relief Act, in the final hours of 2012 that increased taxes for the wealthiest Americans, and extended several expired tax benefits so they will be available in preparing your 2012 tax return. Here are some tax benefits that have been extended through 2012 and in some cases longer:
• The lower income tax rates for most Americans that were enacted by Congress in 2001.
• The lower capital gains and dividends rates for most Americans.
• The enhanced child tax credit.
• Marriage penalty relief.
• Enhancements in the dependent care credit and earned income tax credit.
• Enhancements in Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.
• Expansion of the credit for employer-provided educational assistance.
• Extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
• Increased exemption amounts in computing the alternative minimum tax.
• An extension of the $250 above-the-line tax deduction for teachers and other school professionals for expenses paid or incurred for books and equipment used in the classroom.
• The deduction of state and local general sales taxes. And,
• Extension of tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes.

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January 15, 2013

Establishing an Arbitration Policy for Church Staff Disputes

Avoid costly legal battles through this increasingly popular approach.


This article is taken from Richard Hammar’s Essential Guide to Employment Issues for Church Boards eBook. For this eBook and other cutting-edge eBooks for church staffs, boards, and clergy, view our online catalog.

Disputes occasionally arise between church employees, or between an employee and the church itself. These disputes can be costly and time consuming, and cause a breakdown in relationships. And if an employee sues the church, the lawsuit may not be covered under the church’s liability insurance policy as a result of an exclusion for employment practices. Church board members need to be concerned about reducing the likelihood of such disputes.

One solution to consider is mediation and arbitration. Using informal methods of dispute resolution is an idea whose time has come. The civil court system in this nation is deficient in many respects: litigants enter and leave the courtroom as enemies, delays are notorious, expenses can be substantial, and the results often seem arbitrary. As a result, many business corporations have begun using alternative methods of dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration, and there is no reason that churches cannot do the same.

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January 10, 2013

Will Churches Pay More in 2013?

Get $15 in church resources for taking our compensation survey.

A few months ago, our friend Warren Bird at Leadership Network informally surveyed nearly 600 Protestant churches to find out their plans for hiring and pay raises in 2013. The survey results appeared encouraging: 74 percent expected to give raises and 62 percent expected to hire at least one new staff member this year, with the biggest increases (in terms of both compensation and hiring) coming in larger-sized churches.

Less than 3 percent anticipated cutting salaries.

The last time we surveyed churches in America about their compensation levels, our data showed a 1.7 percent increase in pay and benefits (compared to the prior year) for all 8,000 positions reported. In the 2010-2011 compensation survey, pay and benefits declined an average of 1.4 percent from the year before.

So churches appeared to be rebounding, at least slightly, on the compensation front. Will that hold true again this year?

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January 8, 2013

"Fiscal Cliff" Law Temporarily Extends Certain Donations for 2012

Qualifying direct charitable IRA distributions made in January can count toward 2012.

The so-called “fiscal cliff” law just passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, formally known as the “American Taxpayer Relief Act” (the Act), includes a little-publicized provision providing a very short window of opportunity for eligible taxpayers to make direct charitable distributions from their IRAs in January of 2013 and count them as made on December 31, 2012.

The Act also contains a relief provision for eligible taxpayers who took distributions from their IRAs in December of 2012 (not knowing that the direct charitable IRA distribution exclusion would be retroactively renewed). The Act allows those taxpayers to exclude those distributions from their taxable income (within the prescribed limits) so long as they transfer the distributed funds to a qualified charity by the end of January 2013.

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January 3, 2013

Q&A: Is a Bonus Allowed for a Worship Song or Book?

Fairly rewarding an employee's work--when that work is owned by the church.


Q: Can we pay a ‘bonus’ to a pastor or worship leader for a successful derivative work (i.e. a worship song or a book based on sermons) they created and the church owns?

A: Yes, as long as the overall compensation of the employee is reasonable. A church cannot compensate any of its employees more than a reasonable amount. A reasonable amount is determined by experts using a facts and circumstances test. This test looks at the totality of the circumstances and compares similarly situated employees working for similar employers. If an employee creates something of great value, then it is reasonable to compensate that employee based on the increased value to the employer and not just the services performed.

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