What church leaders should note from the Supreme Court's decisions.
Richard Hammar, editor of Church Law & Tax Report, penned a quick analysis today on ChurchLawAndTax.com regarding the Supreme Court's rulings on same-sex marriage. Rich offers seven key points for church leaders to note, including the following:
The seven state statutes and 30 state constitutions defining marriage as a union between a male and female are not affected;
It is likely if not inevitable that the Supreme Court will one day address the constitutionality of state laws declining to recognize same-sex marriages;
Churches need to carefully evaluate the application of federal laws and regulations to church employees who are lawfully married under state law to a person of the same sex.
The mission to share Christ can quickly—and tragically—derail without a proactive plan.
With summer in full swing, and many regular volunteers out on vacation, it's tempting to relax the rules a bit in order to keep your children's ministry volunteer staff up to capacity. However, your church still has first-time and regular visitors during the summer, and probably more child-geared activities. The risk of child sexual abuse doesn't take a vacation when the weather gets warmer. Instead, summer is an important time for your church to tighten up its Reducing the Risk action plan.
What is the Reducing the Risk action plan? Five steps that help keep your church's most vulnerable protected:
Six-agency report provides help with forming teams, assessing risks
Our sister site ChristianityToday.com's "Gleanings" gives a quick recap today of the White House's first-ever emergency operating plan for houses of worship.
The free plan, created by six government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, covers how to create an emergency preparedness team and assess potential risks and hazards, including natural disasters and active-shooter scenarios. Regarding the latter, Abby Stocker notes in "Gleanings":
(T)he White House has--for the first time--told churches and other houses of worship how they should respond to a gunman.
The most interesting detail: Encouragement to not only run and hide, but to fight back as a last resort.
Watch for future updates regarding the plan's recommendations and how they square with the planning and prevention efforts that churches should make. In the meantime, the following resources also can further aid those efforts:
These governance and stewardship guidelines are making a difference at three churches.
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) recently hosted a webinar focused on church governance, finance, and stewardship. The organization invited Eric Heard, the stewardship pastor of Mariners Church; Cathi Linch, the financial operations leader of LifeChurch.tv; and Mark Davis, former executive pastor and CFO of Calvary Chapel, to speak.
Heard, Linch, and Davis all bring unique experiences and perspectives to the often highly nuanced conversations surrounding church financial leadership and planning. One consistent thread emerged from their presentation: The need to create and maintain a healthy financial culture within the local church.
Churches of all sizes will benefit when they pay attention to these three areas in particular:
Randy Marsh, ministry development officer for the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, shared four poor responses church leaders make to money problems while speaking recently in Dallas at the 2013 XP-Seminar, a conference involving nearly 200 executive pastors from across the country.
The poor responses:
1. Demanding more. Some churches respond to financial challenges by overemphasizing the need for each person or household to give more, Marsh said. Churches want to cultivate generous members who do more out of a natural desire to give. But, calling upon members to give more out of compulsion won't cultivate such an environment--and, it may only backfire, especially when individuals and households are dealing with their own financial challenges, he said.
Such a move might trade one set of potential problems for another.
Mike Huckabee raised an intriguing, provocative question on Monday while addressing pastors ahead of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston: Should churches reject their tax-exempt status as a way to break free of government oversight and restriction?
According to the Associated Baptist Press, the former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate said the unfolding Internal Revenue Service scandal should give pastors and church leaders pause:
"The recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting people of faith--people who are conservative, people who are pro-Israel--and have been picking out the parts of belief and speech and faith that government seems to approve and that which it doesn't approve has brought up a very important reality that I think, sooner or later, as believers, we need to confront," said Huckabee, host of a top-rated Fox News Channel weekend program.
How clergy should handle multiple residences after the Driscoll decision.
Q: I know the recent Driscoll decision means a pastor can't claim two homes for his or her housing allowance. In a situation where a pastor answers a call in one state, but his or her family stays behind to sell the current residence and to allow the kids to finish school, which home should be used for the pastor's allowance provided by the new church?
A: As of March 2013, the regulations allow the housing allowance for the primary residence of the clergy. As a result, the expenses related to the place where the minister primarily resides qualify for the housing allowance. In this case, the minister's housing expenses at his new place of call will qualify for the housing allowance. The expenses related to the old home are not counted after the minister relocates.
These diagnostics can help gauge a church's effectiveness.
Thom Rainer (the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources) recently offered his Top 10 rules of thumb for healthy churches in America.
Several caught our eye, including:
8. Effective giving: For every person in average attendance, including children and preschool, $26 in budget receipts. For example, a church with an average worship attendance of 100 should average at least $2,600 in weekly budget giving. This ratio is obviously greatly impacted by demographics.
9. Maximum debt payment budgeted: 33 percent of annual income for most churches. Up to 40 percent for fast-growing churches.
10. Maximum debt owed: 2.5 times the annual income of the church for the previous year.
How do these calculations compare with your church's preferences and realities?
The dangers of distracted driving and inexperienced drivers.
Richard R. Hammar
This video, the third in a series by Richard Hammar on six legal risks for church youth pastors, describes the threats of distracted driving, the use of inexperienced drivers, and the legal liabilities churches may assume by not fully knowing their state's laws. These threats are important to note, especially because so many youth group activities rely upon staff, and upon volunteer drivers, including youth old enough to drive, to drive members to events.