My negligence at a church day camp almost cost a child his life.
I spent my college summers working as a camp counselor at my church. It was a day camp, and a rather large one—we had kids who were there every single week for the entire summer. My twentysomething co-counselors and I spent the summer herding excitable, sunscreen-scented children around our church, churchyard, and pool. I'd bandaged cuts, worked with special needs, sent kids home (we had a biter) and even discovered a tick on the scalp of a five-year-old. By the end of my second summer, I felt like a pro.
That was, until Ryan.
Ryan was one of my first-grade campers. He was sweet, round-faced, and had an incredible laugh. I loved this kid—he had been there every day for two summers. We were buds.
One congregant noticed "something was wrong" earlier in service.
A 24-year-old man went on a stabbing spree during the closing moments of a Catholic parish's morning mass Sunday in Albuquerque, N.M., NBC News reports.
The suspect leapt over pews and lunged at people. Four people went to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Toward the end of the NBC News article, one witness told a local television station "that her husband thought 'something was wrong'" with the suspect after shaking hands with him earlier in the service.
This detail highlights an important reminder for churches of all sizes and backgrounds: Forming church safety strategies now often can help defuse potentially dangerous situations later. In our January interview with Carl Chinn, who tracks violent incidents at churches and ministries, Chinn emphasized how most any church can develop safety and security plans by focusing on people, parts, and processes.
With people in particular, good planning and communication can help coordinate the presence of multiple people casually monitoring the building and grounds during worship services. And, this planning can create dialogue that encourages churchgoers to mention unusual behavior to an usher, staff member, or someone publicly identified as a church security team member.
These additional resources can help get planning underway:
Tight lending conditions may renew interest on a wider scale.
Editor's Note:This is the final post in a guest series from Dave Travis' book, What's Next?:2012 Edition. The first posts addressed church finances, financial accountability, the use of interns and residents, and outsourcing work. Travis is CEO of Leadership Network.
Church bonds have been around for many decades. Most of the time, they proved to be a reliable system of financing construction-type projects. Occasionally, a prominent scandal or failure would decrease enthusiasm for them.
Bond financing also tends to rise when banks set tight conditions and higher interest rates. For the first part of the last decade, credit availability was widespread. But things have changed.
These pitfalls can be avoided with the right preparation.
Last month, Frank Sommerville, CPA, JD, visited Christianity Today and spent time with our team. Frank is one of our Editorial Advisors and he spent time with us discussing some of the top risks churches face each day.
A couple of days later, he spoke nearby at a National Association of Church Business Administration (NACBA) local chapter meeting. Between our on-site visit with Frank and his NACBA presentation, it became abundantly clear that there are critical, ministry-killing pitfalls that threaten every church, and leaders need to be better educated on these risks:
A wave of functions previously handled in-house at not-for-profits and small companies have been outsourced on an "as needed" basis. These are tasks and ministries that, in the past, would have been the responsibilities of staff and key volunteers.
A discussion among a group of church executive pastors several years ago brought this to my attention. One of them asked, "How much are the rest of you spending on financial administration between personnel, software, and other costs?"
There were various answers. Some said they were turning to a combination of volunteers or part-time staff; others were looking to full-time staff as always, or, in certain cases, software licenses. But one participant said, "I'm confused. We pay a service to handle all these things for us. We just pay them month-to-month on an agreed upon annual basis."
Tennessee megachurch challenged decision affecting part of its property.
On the heels of last week's news regarding an Indiana study that showed one in four government leaders favored payments of some type by churches in exchange for their tax-exempt statuses comes this online column by Peter J. Reilly of Forbes.
Reilly recaps a recent Tennessee appellate court decision regarding property taxes assessed between 2004 and 2008 on a portion of property owned by Christ Church Pentecostal of Nashville. Tennessee's State Board of Equalization and its Assessment Appeals Commission contended the megachurch's bookstore and cafe did not qualify for property tax exemption, and its fitness center qualified for only a 50-percent exemption.
The reason: Assessors believed the bookstore and cafe went beyond religious purposes, while the fitness center, by offering memberships to the general public, went partially beyond those purposes. The church disagreed; in court documents, the church's senior pastor explained the crucial role the bookstore and cafe and fitness center played with creating what is known in architectural design circles as third place spaces for the surrounding community, particularly its immigrant and low-income populations.
Sometimes Easter morning doesn't go quite as planned.
Two weeks ago, Christian blogger Matthew Paul Turner posted this video of an Easter morning mishap in which the on-stage "tomb" at a church caught on fire while the singer continued his Easter solo. While this video brought out laughter from most of our staff, on second viewing, it caused us each to pause and realize how disastrous this scenario could have been.
Be smart about fire safety. Visit our site to find resources on how to keep your congregation, your building, and the man you choose to dress up like Jesus on Easter morning, safe.
Like it or not, we live in a dangerous world. Protect your church.
Today at the Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded near the finish line, the mile that was devoted to the victims of Newton, Connecticut. The bombs exploded near the viewing stand, and reports of casualties are still coming in. We ask that you lift up these victims and their families, and pray for them in the days to come.
Marathons are a time for great celebration—for crowds to gather together and support those participating, and enjoy community of a shared love. In a lot of ways, they're a lot like a worship service. There's a sense of trust that stems from a spirit of camaraderie amongst those who surround you—a belief that everyone in attendance is there for the same joyful purpose.
But as we've seen today, this is not always the case, and more than that, at times, this sense of trust can become an easy target for those who desire to bring harm to a specific group of people.
‘Sobering message’ for tax-exempt charities, study director says.
A 2010 survey of local government leaders in Indiana shows one in four want churches to make “payments” or provide services in exchange for receiving tax exemptions on their properties.
The survey results, released for the first time on Monday, incorporated responses from 1,150 local government officials, including mayors, county auditors, and county commissioners. "The results of our survey send a sobering message to charities that are already seeing their tax status challenged in several states," said Kristen Grønbjerg, the study’s director, in a press release.
The Indiana Nonprofits: Scope and Community Dimensions project specifically focused on PILOTS—“payments in lieu of taxes"—and SILOTs—“services in lieu of taxes.” Some municipalities use PILOTs and SILOTs to generate additional revenue from tax-exempt entities. Many towns, cities, and counties continue to see their coffers languish as tax appraisals for commercial and residential properties remain below once-peak levels and as sales tax collections remain volatile, dependent on the employment, pay raises, and confidence of consumers.
What church leaders should watch out for this year.
The IRS recently released its annual list of the "dirty dozen" tax scams. Knowing about these scams can help church leaders avoid falling into these traps.
Identity theft and phishing are still the top two, and many of the same scams have stuck around and are important to review. The only scam to miss the transition from last year's list is the tenth-listed one, "Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions."
Where will all the staff come from in the future? Most likely a combination of places, as always. But one of the key development arenas will be structured intern and residency programs, targeting younger generations who come forward to ask for practical training.
This trend mirrors what is going on in other corporations. Not-for-profits and other institutons are mobilizing interns for a variety of tasks. Additionally, a growing number of high schools are requiring low level experiences that are often called internships.
The internship has somewhat replaced the part-time job as a combination resume builder and experience base to pad school entrance and corporate job applications.
Churches have had internships for some years. What's new is seeing them as strategic for development of new staff and Kingdom workers for other contexts. We've seen the same development with "pastoral residents programs," that act as finishing schools with longer time commitments and stipends.
Don’t turn the money discussion into a once-a-year event.
I recently sat through a workshop involving financial officers and business administrators from churches in metro Denver. A panel of three finance officers, convened to discuss cash flow and cash reserves, focused mostly on appropriate cash levels, metrics, and forecasts that churches should consider using.
At one point, one business administrator in attendance asked the panel whether they conduct annual pledge drives.
You may or may not be familiar with these efforts. At my church, usually in November and December (we use a January-December fiscal year), the church distributes pledge cards that allow households to indicate how much they expect to give every month in the upcoming year. Those pledges then help the church begin to anticipate what giving may look like and, to some extent, budget accordingly.
After this workshop, I wonder if the approach remains relevant.