All posts from “May 2013”

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May 30, 2013

Q&A: Should the Church's Payroll Include Youth Providing Childcare?

A common practice may trigger unexpected paperwork.

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Q: When we have youth from our high school youth group do childcare for church events, do they need to be put on the payroll? In the past we have just paid them from the ministry fund they are babysitting for.

A: Yes. Also, your church is covered by minimum wage and child labor laws. You need to make sure you are not violating any of the laws related to employing youth.

May 28, 2013

Opinions Vary on Knowing What People Give

Six voices offer a wide range of perspectives on a difficult question.

We've previously covered the question of whether pastors should know what people give, and we featured one high-profile pastor's thoughts on knowing what people give. The question recently surfaced again in a national survey, and our sister publication Christianity Today took a closer look by asking six voices to weigh in.

The answers ranged from a definite "yes" to a definite "no."

Gary Moore, founder of the Financial Seminary, offered this response:

Biblical principles support faithful giving in secret. Moses commanded a flat tax where all supported the temple equally; Jesus said to practice charity in secret. The real stewardship question is whether we want to simply and pragmatically raise funds or biblically create disciples.

How is your church handling this question?

May 23, 2013

Five Ways to Survive Summer with a Balanced Church Budget

These ideas can help turn a traditionally difficult season into a blessing.

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Churches have historically dreaded summer due to one thing: giving. That's because activities and costs peak with summer missions trips, camps, and Vacation Bible School just as regular weekly contributions wane. The challenge for every church leader is to survive slow summer giving with a balanced budget.

The good news: It's possible. The bad news: It will require more attention than you've likely given it in the past. If you want different results, you must be willing to shift your thinking, planning, and strategy.

There are, of course, the obvious tactics like boosting participation in online giving--especially recurring giving. As attendance during the summer months proves to be inconsistent, traditional giving during the weekly worship service can be dramatically affected. Recurring online giving can solve that.

Another often-overlooked idea to boost summer giving is to keep everyone connected to the church and church needs via e-mail. Too often, church communication is limited to what is spoken from the platform or what is printed in the church bulletin. While that is certainly efficient for the church, it is not necessarily effective when a portion of your congregation is expected to be transient.

These two ideas are a good place to start, but there is so much more you can do to boost your giving this summer. Consider these five ideas:

Continue reading Five Ways to Survive Summer with a Balanced Church Budget...

May 21, 2013

Responding to Storm-Related Disasters

Oklahoma twisters illustrate the need for churches to be ready.

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On Monday, a 2-mile-wide tornado touched down outside of Oklahoma City, destroying homes, cars, and buildings. Governor Mary Fallin declared an emergency for 16 Oklahoma counties that suffered severe storms and floods. This tornado was just a part of the heavy, dangerous storms that have affected more than 171,000 individuals during the last three days. There have been an estimated 28 tornadoes in Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma since this weekend, and the storm watch continues. Churches and congregations in all four states have been affected, and they've gathered together to pray and grieve.

Natural disasters are dangerous, and sometimes tragic, but the better prepared your church is, the safer your congregation will be.

Prepare your church for a natural disaster with our resources:
When Disaster Strikes
Planning for Emergency Evacuations
Reducing the Risks Associated with Natural Perils
Serving as a Disaster Relief Team
And view a few of the articles featured on our site, covering natural disasters and your church:
• "Natural Disasters and the Tax Law"
• "Creating an Evacuation Plan"
• "Disaster and Emergency Readiness in the Local Church"
• "A Vulnerable Asset: Simple Steps Can Protect Data From Loss or Theft"
Leadership Journal's "How Churches Can Prepare for Disasters"

May 21, 2013

The Ways People Give at Church

In which areas of the church budget do people give the most?

This year's annual State of the Plate research combined results from this and the past four years to create a composite view of tithers--people who give 10 percent or more of their income. As the infographic below shows, most people give the majority of their tithe to their church's general fund, or operating budget. Beyond that, more than 80 percent of a church's most generous donors contribute to missions and the benevolence fund.

In what areas are your congregants most generous?

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May 16, 2013

State of the Plate: Church Financial Reserves

How much money does your church keep in reserves?

Each year we survey churches across America to find out about the state of their finances. In this year's State of the Plate survey, we asked more than 1,800 church leaders how much cash reserves their churches keep. About 20 percent have less than one month in reserve, and an equal number maintain two months.

Earlier this year, Leadership Network said that 54 percent of megachurches it surveyed had average cash reserves of two to three months. Our Essential Guide to Church Finances encourages churches to maintain at least three months' worth of cash reserves.

How long could your church operate with the amount you currently have in reserve?

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For the complete results of our 2013 State of the Plate research, see 20 Truths about Tithers.

May 14, 2013

Church Giving: Up, Down, or Flat?

More than 2,000 church leaders weigh in on church income, tithing practices.

Each year for the past five years, Christianity Today has surveyed church leaders to see which direction the trend line is moving for church giving: up, down, or staying flat. In this year's State of the Plate survey, which we conducted with Brian Kluth of MAXIMUM Generosity, ECFA, and ECCU, the majority of churches reported that giving had increased in 2012. At nearly the midpoint in 2013, what are you seeing for church giving so far this year? Is income up, down, or flat?

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For an in-depth look at the results of the 2013 State of the Plate, featuring responses from more than 2,000 church leaders nationwide, check out the new, comprehensive executive summary, 20 Truths about Tithers.

May 8, 2013

The "Shape" of Your Fundraising Requests Matters

Subtle cues can go a long way toward winning the hearts of givers.

An interesting tidbit today from Taylor and Francis Online via the Harvard Business Review: The physical shape of flyers appealing for funds or donations matters to potential donors. A heart-shaped flyer, for instance, generated 50 percent more support for a food collection helping the needy than a rectangular-shaped one.

"A great deal of choice-making is unconscious and results from subtle cues in the environment," HBR says, citing the researchers of the project in France.

The takeaway for churches: Even seemingly small details can go a long way toward winning the hearts and minds of potential givers and donors. Think through the way you intend to convey information and requests, whether for a food drive, support for a missionary, commitments to a capital campaign, or something else. Don't shy away from creative techniques, but make sure the creativity reinforces the message in subtle ways without causing complexity or confusion.

May 7, 2013

Q&A: Are Proceeds From the Church Community Center Taxable?

A prime outreach opportunity raises financial, tax considerations.

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Q: Our church's new community center includes a gym, and a coffee shop for people to fellowship and drink coffee while watching their younger children on our playground just outside the building. We also host a church basketball league involving other churches. All the fees from the basketball league and funds from the sale of coffee will be used to pay for supplies, electricity, janitorial supplies, and so on, for the events we plan. All money goes right back into our ministry for which the building is intended--to reach non-Christian families in a recreational environment.

Here are my questions:
  • Do we owe taxes in any way?
  • How are payments for referees handled? Contract or payroll? Cash or check?
  • Can we use waiver of liability forms for referees and/or players?
A: Athletic facilities have become common among larger churches. The tax consequences of such an operation is well beyond the scope of this forum. You should engage a competent tax professional for detailed advice.

It does not matter for tax purposes how the funds are spent. The only thing that matters for taxes is the transaction where the church received the funds. Churches may operate youth athletic leagues within its exempt purposes, so all the fees received from operating the leagues are exempt from federal income taxes. If the church allows another entity to operate the leagues, then the proceeds will likely be taxable.

Continue reading Q&A: Are Proceeds From the Church Community Center Taxable?...

May 2, 2013

How Much is a Volunteer's Time Worth?

How churches might use this nonprofit-sector calculation.

How much is a volunteer's time worth? About $22.14 an hour, according to a new Independent Sector calculation.

The organization uses Bureau of Labor Statistics information, looking at payroll averages of nonfarm, nonsupervisory labor and adding a percentage for benefits. Although it's an imperfect measurement, it can help nonprofits determine some dollar amounts associated with the hours of volunteer time provided to them during the year. Rick Cohen from Nonprofit Quarterly further explains:

Continue reading How Much is a Volunteer's Time Worth? ...