Advice on how to approach the many details of this communications tool.
One of the tasks I have serving on the church staff is to help produce the bulletin every Sunday. The bulletin, or "program" as some places call it, lists the events of the day and week as well as any other upcoming events or news to promote regarding our different ministries. It also includes nursery workers for the week, Bible-reading schedules, financial shortfalls, my pastor's article, health needs in our church family, among many other pieces of noteworthy information. From time to time, inserts are also included.
For guests and visitors, the bulletin is a bird's-eye view into a church they might know nothing about, a first impression of sorts. For church family and friends, it's the schedule they align with theirs. The bulletin, then, becomes more than just a hodgepodge of information; it's a printed tool for the ministry.
Here are some tips for preparing the church bulletin:
Determining the best way to expand your church's digital presence
The authors of Mobile Persuasion warn that "developing a mobile 'experience' is fundamentally different from a web experience. The experience is not only 'smaller,' but should also be 'smarter.' They go on to conclude that "being mobile is much less about technology, and much more about culture, connectedness, and fundamental human needs."
As you consider making your digital presence compatible with mobile devices, you will be confronted with the decision of just how to do so. Your first thought might be to quickly develop a mobile app that users can download to their phones to obtain information about your ministry. But this is probably not the best first choice for going mobile.
A mobile app is an expensive proposition, and it will only run on one type of mobile device at a time. For example, if you create an iPhone app, people with Android phones are out of luck. Each app takes several thousand dollars to create, so this may not be the best use of your funds.
Some common practices may lead to surprising fines.
Church leaders may not realize it, but common practices conducted in worship services and through website updates may put their churches at risk for copyright violations. Fines are assessed by the violation, including attorneys' fees, meaning a church that violates the copyrights of others could easily face some hefty bills.
Many times these violations aren't intentional. But fines are levied regardless of whether a violation was intentional or not.
Some common practices of churches that can lead to copyright problems include the following:
These strategies can strengthen the congregational ties that bind.
I am currently helping a large, nonprofit Christian retailer go through a visioning process. Recently, a retail consultant led a two-hour meeting I attended. These points are heavily adapted from that conversation with some additional thoughts on how they relate to churches.
Trend #1: Tweets and Seats. Provide free Wi-Fi and places to sit.
This is fairly simple to apply at church. Don't wonder whether you should have Wi-Fi or not in any church space. Provide it! Retailers realize this is not a distraction for their customers; rather, it is a part of how their customers live (constant mobile connectivity).
In church, the connectivity that Wi-Fi provides can translate to deeper engagement to everything that matters for the mission. Examples:
Noncompliance penalty delayed to January 2015 for large employers.
Michael E. Batts
The Obama Administration announced on July 2 a one-year delay in the effective date of a major component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring employers with at least 50 workers to offer health coverage or be exposed to a penalty.
The provision, commonly known as the "play or pay" penalty or employer mandate, will now become effective on January 1, 2015. The delay removes the pressure to redesign plan coverage in the next few months to maximize the cost benefit of avoiding (or paying) the penalties. Employers now have an extra year to vet the pros and cons of their plan designs and to implement the Act's requirements on coverage.
As of now, the Act's other two major provisions, expanding Medicaid and requiring individuals to obtain coverage or pay a penalty, are still scheduled to become effective on January 1, 2014.
This guest post first appeared in The Nonprofit Watchman, a free e-newsletter published by Batts Morrison Wales & Lee, P.A., that covers significant state and federal developments for churches, nonprofits, and their leaders. Reprinted with permission.
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?
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."
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.
The reasons a church fails often go beyond money problems.
Editor's Note:This is the first in a series of guest posts from Dave Travis' book, What's Next?:2012 Edition. Travis is CEO of Leadership Network.
The recession has left its mark everywhere--on our friends, our families, our cities, our churches. Leadership Network clients have not been immune, but we believe the damage has been greater elsewhere. We've heard the reports of foreclosure, layoffs, and other cutbacks.
In fact, the global financial crisis presents a ready scapegoat for failures of every kind. If a market segment struggles, blame the economy; if a church stumbles, same explanation. The truth is often a bit more complex. Looking a bit deeper into a specific situation, we might find church division, moral failure, or simply bad leadership decisions as the root issue. To our knowledge, we have no clients in foreclosure trouble.
Unfinished construction--churches as well as condo units--has been a sign of the times. We've heard of churches suspending building programs due to the lender's inability to fulfill commitments made to the church. Those driving by would assume the church was struggling, but it might well have been the bankers, who have, in fact, been hit the hardest during this recession.
Most of our clients seemed to reach the bottom of the trough in 2009, with conditions steadily improving since then. A board member explained it this way: "Seven fat years, followed by seven lean years." Looking back, he would appear to have it right, as we all enjoyed the go-go economy of 2002-2008, and the recession may end up matching it in length.
The following seven insights shared by Bourgeois may prove particularly helpful for churches trying to sort out their digital strategies:
1) It's a post-website world--but you still need a website. A church website is still essential, but the primary ways your church will interact with people are through numerous streams of communication, including e-mail, texting, and social media, Bourgeois says. Some will find your church through its website, but more than likely, they'll find it through a friend on Facebook or Twitter who recommends the church, points to a video or story on the church's website, or some other form of word-of-mouth communication.
Every church needs a strategy that decides which streams it will use to reach beyond its website. Researching preferences within the congregation is the first place to start. Understanding your church's demographics in relation to those preferences should then help you choose the two or three it will pursue (you can't do them all, he adds).
New survey shows attitudes on how pastors, churches respond.
The results of a new LifeWay Research poll released this morning reveal some interesting attitudes among American adults when it comes to how pastors and church leaders handle the topic of same-sex marriage.
In November, LifeWay received 1,191 completed online surveys. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender, and education to represent the adult population of the United States, LifeWay said. Some specific highlights (you also can read the full recap from LifeWay and additional coverage from our sister site ChristianityToday.com):
Church leaders evaluate numerous factors, making clear priorities a must.
Thom S. Rainer
In a previous post I noted different trends among pastoral search committees. As I stated then, I am using the phrase “pastoral search committee,” even though it does not apply to every congregation. Some churches receive pastors through an appointment system from denominational leadership. Some pastors are chosen from a body of elders. The methods of pastoral selection are numerous.
Every church, however, searches for a pastor in the course of its history. After speaking with dozens of search groups, I’ve noticed a pattern in how they are evaluating prospective pastors. There is nothing new in what they are evaluating. What is new is how they are evaluating.
In a significant number of searches, perhaps a majority, the pastor search process takes place in four layers or levels. While each is important, the church assigns the greatest value to the first. The process is more subjective than objective, but the result is a clear definition of priorities in how a church evaluates a prospective pastor.
What churches should note as Colorado case, California bill challenge access.
A news story involving a Colorado family's battle with a school district has garnered national attention after a school in the district said the family's six-year-old boy, who believes he is a girl, can use a clinic bathroom or a gender-neutral staff bathroom—but no longer can use girls-only bathrooms.
The public discussion of "transgender" people is one church leaders should follow, since it's possible questions will eventually arise about what accommodations churches do—or don't—provide to individuals who identify themselves as the opposite gender.
In Denver, the child was born with male genitalia. The parents also say the child is a girl, and say consultations with professional counselors have confirmed their child's "gender identity" is female. In February, after the school's decision, the family filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Agency; the agency, citing the state's anti-discrimination laws, sent a formal charge requiring a response from the school district within 30 days.
Last week, the family took the situation public, appearing on local television news broadcasts, Katie Couric's television show, and CNN, according to the Denver Post.
Rights for transgender individuals "will be America's next great civil rights struggle," the executive director of a legal defense fund said in a news conference last week with the family, according to the Post.
Security expert Carl Chinn discusses how congregations should respond to the latest stats.
Last month, church security expert Carl Chinn updated his statistics on violent incidents at churches and faith-based organizations. He began tracking this information in 1999 by learning of incidents reported by news agencies, which he then independently researches and verifies before categorizing and tabulating them. The result of this work is 14 years of data churches can use to analyze the risk of violence for their congregation.
Chinn works for a security solutions firm serving the private sector, but his ministry background is extensive. Previously, he was building engineer for Focus on the Family, and he also served on the security team at New Life Church in Colorado Springs that responded to a 2007 shooting there. He frequently speaks to law enforcement groups, churches, and ministries nationwide.
His analysis of 2012 revealed 135 "deadly force incidents" and 75 deaths at churches and faith-based organizations—"a bad year for violence," he observed recently in a blog post on his site. Chinn recently spoke via phone with ManagingYourChurch.com to talk more about church security, shootings, and how churches can respond.
Q: Since 2009, the number of "deadly force" incidents surpassed 100 and stayed there. Is that a function of better reporting and information, or was something else going on during the past four years?
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.
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.
What church leaders should note from new research.
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.
Get $15 in church resources for taking our compensation survey.
Marian V. Liautaud
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Q: I recently read an article about when churches give Christmas gifts and have a question. If a church takes up a love offering at Christmas for its pastor and staff, is that reportable as income? This would not come from budgeted funds, and there is no predetermined amount. It would be miscellaneous, free-will donations made by members of the congregation. The church would simply tabulate the funds and write the checks. Is this reported as taxable income?
I. Thou shalt not allow the church’s intellectual property to be used for personal purposes.
Rule: Under the work for hire doctrine, any property developed within the scope of the job duties of an employee is the property of the employer.
Practice Tip: An intellectual property policy should be carefully crafted and adopted. It should address all areas of concern, such as curriculum, sermons, and music.
II. Thou shalt not have a substantial amount of revenue derived from unrelated business income.
Rule: An organization may have some unrelated business income, but too much can endanger the exempt status of the church.
Unrelated business income is generated from activities that are:
1. Regularly carried on.
2. Not substantially related to exempt purposes.
3. Trade or business.
Practice Tip: The rules are complicated and there is an exception to every exception. Each activity must be separately analyzed. The commercial manner in which an activity is conducted can create unrelated business income even if the activity seems to be related.
How would your congregation react if they knew a convicted sex offender was worshipping among them each Sunday morning? This controversial question is something congregations across the country are currently asking themselves.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Experts recommend that staff members proactively address this question by developing a sex offender policy.
Kristen Blanford, partner at Hermes Sargent Bates law firm in Dallas, Texas, understands that liabilities are attached when religious organizations are dealing with sex offenders.
“How it’s handled really comes down to each congregation’s individual faith beliefs and ministries,” Blanford said.
She recommends that leadership teams consider a few critical questions when developing a sex offender policy for their congregation:
Peacemaker founder discusses starting a new ministry.
Editor’s Note:On July 31, Ken Sande officially stepped down as president and chief executive officer of Peacemaker Ministries, the ministry he started in 1982 as a way to resolve conflict and bring reconciliation and healing, particularly in church and ministry environments. Sande, an attorney, serves as an Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax Report. He recently spoke with me via phone about the changes underway for Peacemaker and for himself.
You recent stepped down as president and CEO of Peacemaker Ministries, the ministry you founded 30 years ago. Why?
We’ve talked about doing this for a while. It was on the books; we had a consultant involved because we desired a smooth transition. We thought it might not happen for a couple of more years. But a couple of things happened.
One, we continued to sense Peacemaker’s expansion as a global ministry and there are implications with such an expansion. I don’t have a lot of global experience—I was born and raised in Montana. I felt maybe we should get someone in here who has that experience and can speak to a global stage. I told the board there has to be someone more gifted than me to do this. It’s a dynamic similar to when a pastor starts a church and then brings someone in a few years later to grow it.
The other thing that proved to be decisive was that, in the last few years, I have had a growing interest in creating educational materials that are proactive, rather than reactive, with conflict. With Peacemaker Ministries, we have world-class people trained to respond to conflict. They’re really good at that. But over the years, as I walked away from mediations we were called in to help, I began realizing that more could have been put in place years before that might have avoided those crises. It’s about getting upstream of conflict.
Churches often receive requests to use their buildings for weddings. Some church leaders may feel there are so many requests that there may be a more simple way to answer them all.
Sharing space with the community for a wedding is a nice way to be welcoming, and churches need to develop policies and procedures that make their facilities available for additional use—all while keeping their assets protected. Managing Your Church Facility Use will help church leaders apply best practices to facilities management. It includes a sample policy.
For more forms to work with people who seek to celebrate their marriage in your church, check out Wedding Arrangements.
Some tips churches should note before implementing a plan.
When church leaders learn a sex offender is in their midst, their response typically is one of the following three:
Do nothing. They just don’t know what to do.
Total exclusion. They choose a blanket policy prohibiting a registered offender from setting foot on the premise. This is an extreme response, but there may be some cases where this makes sense. For instance, a church may decide not to allow an offender to attend if one or more of their victims also attend. Or a church may decide the offender's crime or crimes are too severe to allow attendance.
Conditional agreements. This means the church allows a registered offender to attend, subject to certain conditions. This is the most common response by churches. It's an attempt to balance safety and ministry, although it's a nuclear-level risk on your premises because it imposes such an extraordinarily high burden of care on your part to become a guarantor for the offender's good conduct. But churches can achieve that high burden by carefully drafting and following a conditional agreement policy.
In a recent free webinar with church leaders by Richard Hammar and Marian Liautaud, Hammar looked more closely at conditional agreements. According to Hammar, a sex offender's attendance agreement can include certain conditions, such as:
Three steps to build relationships in everyday interactions.
The issue is not that we make assumptions. The issue is that a lot of times they are wrong.
We often misinterpret one another. We add underlying meaning or subtext that was never intended. In other words, we often go 90 miles per hour to a deep, dark place of distrust and disloyalty.
Don’t feel guilty. We’ve all done it.
For example, imagine you are in your office and someone calls complaining that a person on your team never called them back. What do you do?
Do you go straight to the blame game? Confront your colleague and ask why he or she didn’t call the person? Or do you go to this individual and truly ask what happened?
The reality is that your perception of the situation, or any situation for that matter, is truly determined by your beliefs. In this case, your opinions about your colleague, that caller, and all other factors in your world that day impact your view of the situation.
Your beliefs are always driving the show.
So how do you make sure they are not leading you astray?
Here are three tips to help you not jump straight to assumption:
David Middlebrook explains the benefits of a properly conducted report.
Q: At the end of every year, our board discusses the salary for our ministers for the upcoming year. We would like to compensate our ministers for all they do for our church, and some have suggested we get a compensation study done on our senior pastor and others at the executive level. What is a compensation study?
A: A compensation study, when properly undertaken, is an independent report on an organization’s total compensation of certain individuals, usually those at the executive level. It is performed by a compensation committee or a group of the board of directors, neither of which would include the subject of the study or members of the subject's family. This group or committee also should consist of only non-disqualified persons.
Total compensation includes both cash compensation (which is salary, bonus, and housing allowance) and non-cash compensation (which is everything else). Properly done, the compensation study should serve the organization for at least a few years, barring significant changes in the size or finances of the organization or its compensation structure. The process for determining the reasonableness of compensation is much like that of valuing an item of property.
Deciding details early coordinates efforts and avoids last-minute problems.
Nelson Searcy and Jason Hatley, with Jennifer Dykes Henson
Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt fromEngageby Nelson Searcy and Jason Hatley, with Jennifer Dykes Henson (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2011):
The first church I pastored was a small Baptist church in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was a 21-year-old kid. The night they voted to call me as pastor, a whopping fifteen people were in attendance. Later I learned the plan that night had been either to vote me in or to vote to merge with the church down the street. They went with me, but I’m still not sure they made the right decision. Fortunately, God began to bless that little church and it started to grow. After a few long, hard seasons, we were averaging almost 100 people per week. Since attendance was so “high” every Sunday, I went to the deacon board with a proposal: we needed to hire a part- time minister of music. They reluctantly agreed.
After a few interesting interviews, I found a woman who fit the bill perfectly. Her name was Laura. Laura was an incredible singer, and her husband played the piano to boot—I got a two-for-one deal! Now, with the three of us on the platform, God began blessing our church even more. But things were far from perfect.
Important information to address this common tax question.
Q: Can a church give a cash benevolence gift to an employee? And is it taxable income?
A: Yes and yes.
For better or worse, churches seem to attract needy employees. They may need their car repaired or have serious uninsured medical expenses. The Internal Revenue Code requires all benevolence payments provided to employees be taxed. The church must add the amount of the benevolent payments to the employee's Form W-2, and if nonclergy, withhold all payroll taxes like the payment was wages. It makes no difference if the payment is direct or indirect, like to the employee's doctor.
Over the years we have seen the best and worst responses to conflict from our brothers and sisters in Christ. But the story of one conflicted church, a church we will call Lakeview Community Church (LCC), stands out from the rest because of its shocking ending.
God-fearing immigrants founded LCC almost 100 years ago on lakefront property near Cleveland, Ohio. These hardy people shared not only a common faith but common values. They did business with each other, and the children of many of the families married and continued to grow the church and the family businesses.
Over the years, the neighborhood around the church's property changed significantly. The new ethnic demographic of the community contributed to the church's growing sense of being disconnected from their immediate neighborhood. In addition, many of the children and grandchildren of the founders lived in more upscale suburbs, but continued to remain members, traveling to the church each Sunday to attend service and visit grandparents. As the grandchildren grew into teens, intergenerational conflicts began to erode the former unity of the church.
An Oregon church says its insurer's restrictions go too far.
Marian V. Liautaud
Set Free Christian Fellowship in Medford, Oregon, recently received a letter from its insurance provider that outlines requirements for allowing known sex offenders to attend the church. Stipulations include fully disclosing the identity of sex offenders to the 100-member congregation, allowing offenders to attend only one predetermined service, and requiring offenders to be escorted while on site.
The Medford church, which specifically reaches out to people struggling with addictive behaviors, fears that these proposed requirements may lead to its closure.
What are some of the biggest challenges you see churches struggling with right now?
Well, the metrics are discouraging for most established churches, and anybody who’s paying attention knows that the trajectory for the church in general is not real great. Everybody is talking about downsizing their staff. United Methodist, Southern Baptist, Evangelical Free—doesn’t matter. Everyone is downsizing. So, what that means is, local congregations who have been, in effect, farm teams of the denominations and have relied on the denomination to do their identity and mission work, now need to decide everything on their own, from curriculum to strategic initiatives. It used to come from the top down, but it no longer does.
To help congregants with work-related matters, church leaders will need to manage church business wisely.
John C. Knapp
Most ministers have managerial responsibilities, such as budgeting, hiring, supervising, and purchasing, though it seems many church members either do not understand this or harbor doubts about pastors’ competence in these roles. When our interviewees were asked why they had not sought pastoral counsel about work-related matters, quite a few shared misgivings about the church’s own management:
“How well does the church conduct its business affairs? Would any of their practices be relevant for the world?”
“The church is not a good example itself. Consequently, church officers burn out or become too attached to their responsibilities.”
“The church’s support comes from businesspeople, but we are not always confident the church manages that money responsibly.”
“I see all the same problems in the church working environment.”
Of course, the church is a business, and a sizable one at that. Taken as a whole, churches and other places of worship continue to receive the largest share of Americans’ charitable giving, more than education, human services, health, and other categories. Two-thirds of all adults, and 76 percent of Protestants, make such contributions. Annual per-capita giving by Protestants averaged $1,304 in 2004. Total annual giving to religious congregations in the U.S. exceeds $80 billion, a figure that translates to a like amount of spending and investment.
One survey shows many say no; what the law says about political activity.
Matt Branaugh and Michelle Dowell
On Father’s Day, numerous churches in Maine used their offering time to take up collections for a political action committee (PAC) campaigning against a same-sex marriage referendum on that state’s ballot.
An article on ChristianityToday.com points out such an activity is permissible, and won’t jeopardize a church’s tax-exempt status if conducted within reason. But many church leaders are often confused about what’s allowed when it comes to politics. The Internal Revenue Service explicitly prohibits church support or opposition for political candidates in races; however, churches may lobby for or against legislation, including referendums on ballots, although the IRS is vague about how much or little it will permit.
Our nation celebrates its independence this week, and November seems far away, yet we already find ourselves in a heated political season. A contested race for the White House is underway, as are competitive races for congressional seats. Many states will have referendums covering a variety of social and moral issues, including abortion, religious liberty, and marriage. In some form or fashion, churches will see spirited, and perhaps contentious, political debate in their communities.
What role, if any, should they play in that dialogue?
As malls empty, churches are moving in. Are they a bane or a blessing to commercial neighbors?
George Romero’s classic 1978 film Dawn of the Dead centers on a tattered group of zombie-plague survivors huddled together in a shopping mall. In the aftermath of society’s collapse, the vast parking lots, brightly lit stores and restaurants hold everything that a small group could possibly need to live indefinitely through the collapse of society.
Romero’s images of empty escalators and desolate shopping centers were a powerful social critique in 1978. At the time, the thought of an abandoned shopping mall was a major stretch of the imagination, a picture that stuck with you.
How this surging visual aid for social media helps congregations.
Imagine if you had access to the world’s largest bulletin board—a place where you could exchange ideas and images from around the globe. That’s one of the major benefits of the increasingly popular website, Pinterest.
Unlike sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which tend to be driven by words, Pinterest is propelled primarily through visuals. The site is the equivalent of a giant bulletin board allowing users to pin their favorite thoughts, ideas, photos, and images. Once “pinned” (the equivalent of “posted”), any user can re-pin the image, like it, or comment on the pinned item.
Pinterest is estimated to be the third most popular social network, behind only Facebook and Twitter. Though the company is hesitant to release exact numbers, the site attracted about 19 million monthly users in April, according to The New York Times. Not only is the user base growing at an exponential rate, but the length of time users remain on the site is impressive. While the average user spends less than twelve minutes on Twitter and eight minutes on LinkedIn, they spend more than sixteen minutes—or 25 percent more time—on Pinterest.
This enormous bulletin board creates an opportunity for churches to up the ante of their quality of visuals used in their congregations, as well as exchange ideas for projects such as VBS, sermon series, Sunday school classes, and more. Like many other social media sites, users can use keywords and hash tags in the descriptions and link to another webpages—including your church’s.
Here are eight ways your ministry can utilize Pinterest starting today:
Christianity Today receives 43 honors for its print and online publications.
Today's post is a little different than the norm because we have some good news to share.
ManagingYourChurch.com received a top honor Friday from the Evangelical Press Association during the organization's 2012 conference.
The site received the Award of Excellence--the highest possible--in the Christian Ministry/Digital category. Judges said: "Top notch writing and editing; touches on SO many relevant, practical topics for church leaders—news, advice, legal, etc.; well-laid-out blog. Pleasing color palette. Easy to navigate; Follows many blog best practices, thus easy for new visitors to intuit; exceptional presentation all the way around."
ManagingYourChurch.com is owned by Christianity Today, a not-for-profit global publishing ministry. Its goal is to help church leaders keep their ministries safe, legal, and financially sound.
2011 data: Technology remains promising, but no panacea.
A report issued in February by a major provider of fundraising technology and consulting services offers some helpful insights for church leaders as it relates to online giving.
In short: Use of online giving continued to grow in 2011, however, that growth remains small relative to total dollars given. Adding an online giving tool should be done to diversify options for givers and provide convenience for those who desire it. But it won’t provide an instant remedy to any organization struggling to get its vision funded.
Before looking more closely at the 2011 Online Giving Report from The Blackbaud Index of Online Giving, two important disclaimers:
First, churches, ministries, and religious organizations aren’t included in the research because “the 990 tax data set available for this group is not considered representative at this time,” the report’s authors write.
And second, Blackbaud analyzed 1,560 small-, mid-, and large-sized organizations across a variety of sectors. Small means the organization had a budget of less than $1 million, while medium means a budget of between $1 million and $10 million, and large means a budget of $10 million or more. For our purposes, we’ll mostly discuss the results for small- and mid-sized organizations, which more closely resemble the budget sizes of most U.S. churches.
So, the lessons below highlight notable, general trends that aren’t necessarily apples to apples for churches, but more likely crabapples to apples. They’re still of value, though, given the 41 percent of churches who indicated they used online giving in 2011, based on our recent 2012 State of the Plate constituency survey.
With that in mind, here are five lessons about online giving for nonprofits that church leaders should note:
Taxes, vacation time, and other things to clarify.
Bible college and seminary are great for a lot of things. In my experience, important skills you need to survive in an office, such as yearly budgets, business plans, and understanding a housing allowance, are not some of those things.
I love the education I received, but I am embarrassingly lost every spring when I try to do my taxes.
For rookie pastors, or for those who start a pastoral position at a new church, someone on staff will approach you within your first 30 days and start talking about things that affect your paycheck and how many days you get off for the year.
It will be tempting to not ask questions because you are intimidated or because of some silly pride that prevents leaders from asking questions. You can go that route and miss out on some deserved benefits. Or you can ask some honest questions and get clarity.
I go to an Episcopal church. We have liturgy. Our pews aren’t padded. We don’t do PowerPoint. We don’t have a visitor’s welcome center. Our website? Kinda lame. Our communications budget? A single line item for a phone book ad, which we cut. A communications committee has started and failed multiple times in the last five years.
We’re what you call a normal church. One of the little guys.
I say that so you understand I’m not from one of these cutting edge churches with communications directors and flat panel TVs and sermon graphics. We’ve got an admin assistant, and Janice puts together a mean newsletter.
So understand where I’m coming from when I say this: There’s hope for the little guy.
The people in this book talk a big talk. And many of them walk the walk. But for us little guys, it’s a little overwhelming. They’re debating microsites and we’re still high-fiving that we even have a website.
But don’t let that scare you away. Don’t let that intimidate you.
The truth is you’re already communicating. Don’t let the fact that you’re little stop you from making it better.
Q. Redeeming Church Conflicts doesn’t apply to us because our church is being sued by non-Christians. So we have to listen to our lawyers, right?
A. If you are being sued by anybody, it is always wise to listen to your lawyers. Besides being licensed experts in the secular law, however, lawyers are not merely “attorneys-at-law;” they are also to be “counselors-at-law.” That means they are to be aware of what is important to you as Christians and how your faith will be expressed even as you respond to a lawsuit. And that means that Redeeming Church Conflicts does apply because you don’t stop becoming people of faith just because you are being sued by non-Christians. Christians, of course, should retain Christian lawyers who will be sensitive to the priorities and values of their fellow believers.
Setting the church's direction shouldn't require blind obedience.
Editor’s Note: Today is part three of a three-part series looking at the ways difficult decisions must be made, even when they’re sometimes risky. Part one looked at personnel decisions and part two looked at commitment and considering the good of many with decisions.
Using the principle of commitment for situations other than institutional ones compounds their difficulty.
It is perhaps easiest to confuse an institutional problem with a theological one and ask for obedience when commitment is necessary. For example, when a leader claims, "God told me to build this building," he has masked an institutional matter — will a new building help our church be more effective, and can we afford it? — as a theological issue. Instead of asking people to commit themselves to the hard work of determining building needs and projecting income, he demands their obedience by divine fiat.
Why does this type of confusion occur? Partly because there is a relationship between theology and the institution. Good theology undergirds all decisions in a church, whether institutional, interpersonal, or personal. Good theology increases the chances that a church will be a good institution. In an intriguing study reported in the Review of Religious Research, Doyle Johnson investigated the relationship between commitment to the church and the acting out of justice in the community. He found those persons most likely to be racially tolerant and working for social good in the community were also the most involved and committed to the institutional church.
Problems arise, however, when institutional decisions that call for a pragmatic answer are "solved" by demanding obedience. Demand obedience to a church leader on institutional matters, and cultic devotion usually results. Call for obedience to a group or institution, and chauvinism results. In institutional matters, discussion and give-and-take are needed, not unquestioning obedience.
Tell us yours and then read what others are saying.
As I travel the country and interact with church administrators, executive pastors, treasurers, and bookkeepers, I’m often reminded of the steadfast commitment these people bring to their roles and their churches. Because of the nature of their duties and responsibilities—crunching numbers, hiring a new staff member, or implementing a new safety policy, to name a few—it’s easy for their work to go overlooked, at times even underappreciated. It’s unfortunate, because what these men and women do each day helps make ministry flow at churches throughout the country.
It’s also unfortunate because it’s easy for senior pastors, worship leaders, or church board chairs to forget that these men and women have visions, dreams, and hopes for their churches, too. They’re not all about paperwork and policies, although some may get energized by handling those things. They do their jobs because they want to serve the Lord, and as a part of that desire, they see new opportunities, dream big ideas, and genuinely hope their churches advance to greater heights.
Christianity Today, the global media ministry that publishes this site, recently unveiled a new look and a new initiative that encourages people of all backgrounds, roles, and responsibilities to share their hopes for the church. For those of you who regularly read this site, and deal with the administrative, accounting, legal, financial, and risk management duties in your churches, this is your invitation to join the conversation.
It’s my hope you feel valued, appreciated, and heard in your roles. Whether you are or aren’t, though, this is your opportunity to be heard on a larger platform. Take a few minutes to share your hope for the church right now (the first 1,000 to respond on ChristianityToday.org/Hope receive free, one-year subscriptions to Christianity Today magazine). Read what hundreds of others have already said. And spread the word to your friends, family, and social media networks (if you’re on Twitter, use #hopeforthechurch as your hashtag, and make sure to follow me at @MattBranaugh and tell me you’ve participated).
Why commitment and considering the good of many is key in your decision.
Editor’s Note: Today is part two of a three-part series looking at the ways difficult decisions must be made in churches, even when they’re sometimes risky. Part one looked at personnel decisions.
In deciding an institutional issue, church leaders should try to determine which alternative will serve the largest number of people. That is, what will allow 100 percent of the congregation to worship and serve God most effectively? In difficult situations, of course, 100-percent solutions may be impossible. Many decisions will satisfy only 90 percent; some only 60 or 70 percent. Truly agonizing decisions arise occasionally when the congregation is split evenly.
Institutional decisions can often be no-win situations. Our research has shown little correlation between making or not making these decisions and staying or leaving. Ministries may be forfeited either way. These are the truly selfless decisions, done for the good of the body, though recognition may not come for years, if ever.
The recent payroll tax holiday extension keeps a 2-percent reduction for employee and clergy Social Security withholdings in place throughout 2012.
We've already covered what those rates should be on paychecks. But the reason why it is so important for churches to get all payroll withholdings--the payment of employee income and entitlement taxes--right is illustrated by the Feature Article in the upcoming March edition of Church Finance Today.
A federal court in North Carolina recently ruled that a minister met the definition of a “responsible person” under section 6672 of the tax code, and therefore the IRS could assess a penalty against the pastor in the amount of 100 percent of the payroll taxes that were not withheld or paid over to the government by the church.
The 12 illegal or false claims that churches and leaders should avoid.
Each year, the Internal Revenue Service releases the top twelve tax scams that individuals, nonprofits, churches, and businesses should watch for and avoid. The newest list, issued by the IRS this month, reveals the latest "dirty dozen":
Return Preparer Fraud
Hiding Income Offshore
"Free Money" from the IRS and Tax Scams Involving Social Security
Churches must verify employee withholdings are correct.
Congress on Friday voted to extend the payroll tax holiday through December 31, 2012, adding an extra $20 per week on average to paychecks for 160 million workers.
President Obama previously pledged to sign any extension into law once it was passed.
The payroll tax cut involves a 2-percent reduction in employee withholdings for Social Security. The holiday was originally passed toward the end of 2010 for the 2011 year; just before it expired on December 31, 2011, a temporary extension through February 29, 2012, was passed.
With the extension now approved for the remainder of 2012, employers, including churches, need to make certain they're meeting withholding requirements. Employees who are eligible for Social Security should have 4.2 percent withheld, as well as 1.45 percent for Medicare, for a combined 5.65 percent on each paycheck. Ministers are self-employed for Social Security with respect to their ministerial services, so their combined withholding rate for Social Security and Medicare is 13.3 percent.
The national deficit will grow by another $126 billion over five years as a result of the extension. Supporters of the extension said employees will not see lowered Social Security benefits in the future as a result of the reductions, although in recent weeks, debate about that has grown.
Churches will need to verify employee withholdings are correct.
Congress appeared close late Tuesday to passing an extension of the payroll tax holiday through December 31, 2012, for millions of workers. A bill may be finalized Wednesday and put before President Obama for signature by the end of the week, the Associated Press reported.
The payroll tax cut involves a 2-percent reduction in employee withholdings for Social Security. The holiday was originally passed toward the end of 2010 for the 2011 year; just before it expired, a temporary extension through February 29, 2012, was passed.
Employers, including churches, need to make certain they're meeting the requirements of the temporary extension, withholding 4.2 percent for employees who are eligible for Social Security and 1.45 percent for Medicare, for a combined 5.65 percent on each paycheck. Ministers are self-employed for Social Security with respect to their ministerial services, so their combined withholding rate for Social Security and Medicare is 13.3 percent.
With an extension, these rates will continue through December 31, 2012, putting $20 into an average worker's paycheck each week, the Associated Press reported. The national deficit will grow by another $100 billion, but lawmakers have previously said employees will not see lowered Social Security benefits in the future as a result of the reductions.
Churches should note upcoming February 28 deadline.
Editor's Note (02/21/12): A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the deadline for Form 1099s that are mailed. The correct dates are now shown in the post.
Form 1099s that are mailed are due on February 28, 2012, for the 2011 tax year (April 2, 2012, for those filing electronically), and churches that need to issue these forms should take note this year: a failure to send them on time has doubled from $50 per form to $100 per form.
If you do not have all the information needed to complete a Form 1099 (such as a Social Security number), you can still file it incomplete by February 28. As long as you secure the missing information and file the amended Form 1099 before August 1, 2012, then no penalties will apply. By the way, if you file the Form 1099 within 30 days after February 28, the $100 penalty is reduced to $30. If you file Form 1099 more than 30 days after February 28, but before August 1, 2012, the penalty is reduced to $60 per form.
The IRS projects collecting big bucks from these penalties over the next few years. Churches should check—and double check—to make certain Form 1099s are issued to all unincorporated businesses that provided services of $600 or more to them during 2011. This includes sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability corporations (LLCs). You can verify the business information via a Form W-9.
4. “Professional development. People are dying for this. Any kind of denominational conferences and events—find out what you can do. These are often more affordable than what’s offered in the outside market. Doing this also enrolls people philosophically and emotionally into the mission of the denomination at the national and international levels. It allows them to network and learn. People come back fired up from these things. For the most part, people are really excited because it’s an investment in their future.
One workplace expert offers several ways to honor employees.
Editor’s Note:Liz Ryan spent 20 years as a corporate human resources leader. During that time, she saw the best and worst of how employers treat their employees. She’s now a full-time writer and consultant on workplaces and writes a regular column for Bloomberg Businessweek, all with the goal of “bringing more humanity into the workplace,” as she puts it. And she has a unique perspective on church culture—as an accomplished vocalist, she often tours churches in Colorado where she lives. Through those visits, she has gained an appreciation for the dynamics at work with church pastors and personnel.
She recently sat down with Matt Branaugh, editor of ManagingYourChurch.com, to talk more about how churches as employers can reward and honor their employees. As the 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staffhighlights, raises are hit or miss, depending on place, position, and person. Not to fret, Ryan says. There are a lot of positive things church leaders can do—whether or not money is available for raises.
In Part 1 today, Ryan talks about the first four ways churches can reward and recognize employees when raises aren’t possible. In Part 2, she talks about the final three ways and her thoughts about the how and why of implementation:
What is one immediate thing many churches can do to reward staff, absent of a pay raise or a new health benefit, but might overlook?
Employment disputes between churches and clergy can’t be reviewed by civil courts.
Richard R. Hammar
In a ringing endorsement of religious liberty, the United States Supreme Court today unanimously affirmed the so-called “ministerial exception” barring civil court review of employment disputes between churches and ministers. The ministerial exception has been applied to a wide range of employment disputes by state and federal courts over the past half century, but has never before been addressed by the Supreme Court.
Several months ago the Court accepted an appeal of a federal appeals court’s decision rejecting the application of the ministerial exception to a claim of disability discrimination by a “called” teacher in a Lutheran secondary school in Michigan who was regarded as a commissioned minis-ter by her church. The appeals court concluded that the exception did not apply because the teacher’s duties as a “called” teacher were identical to the duties she previously performed as a lay teacher, and her “religious” duties comprised only 45 minutes of each workday.
On January 11, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a decision explicitly recognizing the ministerial exception and concluding that it barred the civil courts from resolving the Lutheran teacher’s disability claim. The Court concluded that the First Amendment prevents the civil courts from “interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select” their clergy.
Church leaders followed these stories most this year on ManagingYourChurch.com.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m a sucker for lists. And the end of a calendar year always brings opportunities to reflect on the top stories and headlines from the year that was.
So it’s only natural to share the top ten articles for ManagingYourChurch.com in 2011 based on unique page views. Each post is highlighted below, starting with the tenth-most uniquely viewed post and building up to the first-most. Each highlight also includes the post’s title, author, and date, as well as a brief description and, if available, a notable reader comment.
See what caught the interest of church leaders nationwide, and feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on these legal, financial, and management topics:
Social media tools continued to proliferate in 2011, and no new addition created a larger stir than the summer unveiling of Google+. Many early adopters viewed Google+ as the first legitimate threat to Facebook’s status as the social networking site of choice for the masses. Christian author Margaret Feinberg dove in to Google+ immediately and shared her initial thoughts about how it works, and the way its features may be useful for churches.
Notable reader comment: “I definitely see the strengths of G+'s Circles. Love the idea of Hangout, etc all being built in. My concern is that FB would only need to make a few changes to do the same thing. And so far, my Incoming on G+ is DEAD. Very little updating going on.” —Richie Allen
Hundreds of things need to be done in a church—here’s how to manage.
Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Pastor’s Handbook by John Bisagno (B&H, 2011):
Imagine trying to lead two million persons across a desert with no map, no food, and no water. Moses had an administrative nightmare not only in leading the Israelites and providing for their needs but also in judging them in matters of personal and national decisions. His was an impossible task.
You know the story. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, helped him get organized. The people were divided into groups, assistants were named, and the work efficiently done. Our Lord, of course, referred to Himself when He said, “On this rock I will build My church” (Matt. 16:18). Yet he poured his life into developing twelve leaders who would be the human instruments through which he would do the building.
The pastor of a growing and vibrant church must learn that he cannot be a jack of all trades, make all the decisions, and do everything himself. He must have help. Staff, secretaries, deacons, teachers, and the church members comprise a large reservoir of talent and abilities. Right now there is probably someone in your congregation just waiting to help you do the job.
Simple reminders can help members with end-of-year giving.
Richard R. Hammar
To avoid jeopardizing the tax deductibility of charitable contributions, churches should advise donors at the end of 2011 not to file their 2011 income tax returns until they have received a written acknowledgement of their contributions from the church. This communication should be in writing. To illustrate, the following statement could be placed in the church bulletin or newsletter during the last few weeks of 2011, or included in a letter to all donors:
IMPORTANT NOTICE: To ensure the deductibility of your church contributions, do not file your 2011 income tax return until you have received a written acknowledgment of your contributions from the church. Some of your contributions may not be tax-deductible if you file your tax return before receiving a written acknowledgement of your contributions from the church.
Keep your congregation informed about the rules for substantiating charitable contributions by ordering the2012 Charitable Contributions Bulletin Insertsby Richard Hammar. The insert is designed as a one-page summary explaining the rules of most importance to church members and can fit easily in church bulletins, newsletters, or contribution statements. The inserts are available in quantities of 100 or can be purchased for electronic download. Call 1-800-222-1840 or visit YourChurchResources.comto order.
Why word choice may undermine tithing and other acts of worship.
Editor's Note: Dan Kimball originally wrote this piece for his blogVintage Faith. He allowed us to publish an edited version here as a guest post:
I have become very aware of the power of words—and the power of defining words. In the Christian culture we have created, I don't believe we can ever assume we mean the same thing anymore when we say terms like "gospel," "Jesus," "salvation," "inspired," "evangelical," "evangelism," "missional," and so on. I have learned (sometimes the hard way) that you need to ask someone their definitions of terms with specific meanings to understand how theirs may differ from yours.
One of these terms is "worship."
I question how we have overwhelmingly defined "worship" to primarily mean music and singing, often to the detriment of other acts of worship, such as giving.
Our local newspaper ran a front page story that examined a local church's financial turmoil. Faced with a steep drop in giving that began years ago, the article detailed how leadership made changes to cope with this crisis in order to keep the doors open and serve those who attend.
One of their changes deserves more than glancing consideration. Specifically, the church has eliminated staff positions and covers important tasks with volunteers. Not a groundbreaking strategy, I know. But cut and paste this situation outside the church walls and you'll see a timely opportunity to make a difference in others' lives—an idea worth a second look for any church.
To start, consider this prediction: Your state has cut the K-12 education budget and further cuts appear in the budget currently under consideration. Like the church in the news, local administration will need to make changes to cope with these steep drops while keeping doors open and serving the children who attend school.
I make no claims to understand the particulars of state and local education budgets. But I do claim to care about the impact on children.
More safe predictions: As your local schools deal with budget cuts, services will begin to dwindle and disappear. Support staff positions will face elimination. Class sizes will increase. Programs will go away. Activities will stop—especially as the number of adults serving children decreases.
Can you see the opportunity?
Your church can provide much-needed, sure-to-be-appreciated volunteer assistance to a school. Imagine the impact of a school, and the community it serves, recognizing your church as a solution to problems. The greatest resource a church can share with a community is love, as delivered through the active involvement of those who attend.
"Do people really notice?" you ask.
Click here to continue reading "One Solution to Education Cutbacks" on BuildingChurchLeaders.com.
I saw him at a church conference. He lit up the stage. He was one of the most electric worship leaders I had ever seen. Young, handsome, talented. I went after him. I had to be a bit discreet—it felt a bit like stealing. He was, after all, serving at another church. But that just added value to his stock, particularly considering the church he was at. So the covert seduction began.
In the end, I got him. I was elated. Buckle your seat belts, church growth world—it’s time for warp speed! I had just nabbed the up-and-coming worship leader at one of the nation’s most prestigious megachurches.
In less than twenty-four months, he had been removed from ministry and placed under church discipline. He eventually left the ministry, and to the best of my knowledge, he has never served in a church since.
Not long afterward, I interacted with the senior pastor of the church from which I had procured my wunderkind. He graciously asked how my new hire had worked out, and I had to sheepishly tell him that, well, he didn’t.
I told him the whole story. After I was done, he said, “I’m not surprised. We had been having issues with him for months. Just before he left, I had entered into some pretty serious conversations with him attempting to confront the very kinds of things you have had to deal with. I was deeply concerned that he went to another church before we could work through anything.”
And then he said words that have haunted me and instructed me ever since:
How churches can benefit from Google’s latest social media tool.
Google+ is the latest entry in the ocean of social media. As a church leader, you need to know the potential this has for your leadership and church.
The interface has drawn a number of comparisons to Facebook, and while they look like they’re from the same family, you’d never mistake them for twins.
Sure, you’ll find a profile page where you can add photos, a bio, links and videos. And you can share your whims and thoughts just like Facebook. But the most unique aspect of Google+ is its Circles, which enable you to review updates from different groups, such as “Work,” “Friends,” “Family,” “Foodies,” “Fans of America’s Got Talent,” or whatever categories you’d like to develop for the people you know.
The amazing thing is that you develop Circles like, “Loves Rob Bell” or, “Would Vote for Palin in 2012,” and keep those people as close or as far away from you depending on your preferences. But the whole concept of Circles becomes more helpful (and less tongue-in-cheek) when you think about the natural circles of involvement in your life, whether it’s “Church Staff,” “Small Group,” or “Outreach Event.”
Why is the Circles feature so important to you as a church leader? Because it streamlines who you communicate with and the way you do it. Instead of choosing between an e-mail, a blog post, or a tweet, you now have one place to communicate and an easy way to get the word out. The following has been observed:
We want to recognize and reward those churches who’ve worked to improve their church communications in some way during the last year. It’s about looking back but also looking forward. In addition to giving Juicys to churches who have done something great during the last year--and are ready to start their next project--we also want to help a church who has a great idea but hasn’t found a way to make it happen.
Tell us what you did, or wanted to do, over the last year and you could receive $1,000 towards your next communications project. (Cue The Price is Right music.) That’s right, we want to give you $1,000 to jump-start your next project.
ChurchJuice.com will select three churches--one small, one big, and one "making it happen." More details, and an application, are available here.
One conference’s policy shows how serious some churches view Twitter, Facebook, and other sites.
The Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has an interesting rule for the clergy in its member churches: We see something questionable on your social media pages, we retain the right to affect your ordination process.
Not only does the KAC’s social media disclosure statement require staff to befriend the denomination on Facebook, but it also secures accountability and monitoring rights.
Social media and online use policies are becoming a common staple in church employee handbooks. Potential liabilities concerning copyright law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), discrimination, privacy, and defamation have forced churches to consider the potential problems caused by their staffs interacting with others online.
Don't let details distract from daily discipleship.
Coming off of the Memorial Day weekend, we offer this cartoon courtesy of our Church Laughs e-newsletter. It's a good bet the to-do list is already long for those who labor in church offices. We pray those details don't distract from the personal time you need with the Lord:
Are details like these a constant challenge for you or someone in your office? Consider pre-ordering the 2012 Church Office Planner, a unique solution tailored to the needs of most church offices.
How one church leader became a believer in Twitter.
Editor's Note: Relief efforts continue in Joplin, Missouri, following Sunday's horrific tornado, which killed at least 117 people and left extensive damage in its wake (the area remained on edge during the early parts of the week as predictions of more explosive storms rolled in). Churches and ministries are looking for ways to help. Aside from When Disaster Strikes and Serving as a Disaster Relief Team, two helpful church training resources from ChurchSafety.com, we offer this interesting blog post from Jenni Catron, who uncovered the power of Twitter during her church's response a year ago to flooding in Nashville:
I swore I wouldn't sign up for Twitter. It seemed like a nuisance. I had already given in to Facebook and started my personal blog. I didn't need one more thing!
But I quickly realized that as a leader in a church with a population of primarily Generation X and Y, I needed to engage this medium if I intended to influence them. Little did I know that less than a year later Twitter would become a key tool for responding to one of the greatest tragedies our city has ever faced.
Sunday, May 2, 2010, is a day that will be etched in my memory forever. I'd never seen so much water in my life, and it just continued to rain and rain and rain. I had spent nearly two hours trying to get home, but there was simply no way. My neighborhood and several of those around it were completely surrounded by water. Since going home was not an option, I found my way to a friend's house and camped out in front of the TV, paralyzed by the continuous news footage. Soon I received word of not one, not two, but three of my staff members whose homes were submerged in water. Tears began to flow when one of my staff texted me a picture of the roof of her house—everything else was under water. "God, please make it stop," I begged.
Nashville was devastated and we needed to respond. That evening, Pete Wilson, lead pastor for Cross Point Church, and I brainstormed ways our church might bring the love and hope of Christ to our flooded city. We had no idea what we could do, but we knew we needed to rally Cross Point volunteers and begin to help. Sunday evening Pete and I began tweeting our plans to our combined 60,000 followers and several thousand Facebook friends, asking them to meet Monday morning to help with flood relief.
Julie Bell believes mind management improves teamwork—and discipleship.
Editor’s Note: On Thursday, the early registration and discounted rate ends for the National Association of Church Business Administration’s 55th annual conference (July 1-5 in Washington, D.C.). Christianity Today International’s Church Management Team is a content partner with NACBA, an organization that supports the work of thousands of business administrators and office staff across the country. As leaders contemplate whether to go, we sat down for a Q&A with Dr. Julie Bell, 44, one of NACBA’s keynote speakers for this year’s conference. Bell is founder and president of The Mind of a Champion, a Dallas-based coaching consulting firm that helps professional athletes, corporate executives, and church teams improve their performance.
As a part of The Mind of a Champion, you’ve developed a concept called Performance Intelligence and wrote a book about it. What is it? It’s your ability to perform your best when it matters most. A lot of people can do their best when the circumstances are right. How do you use the talents and resources that God has given you to do your best, regardless of the circumstances?
How would this benefit someone who works in a church office? A lot of great programs come in to maximize your skills, such as a communications workshop or conflict resolution or time management. Mind management is our greatest inefficiency. My list of things to do doesn’t wear me out—my thinking about my list of things to do wears me out.
What are some common problems in church offices that you think can benefit from better “mind management”?
Editor's Note: April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As the month draws to a close, here's a piece from Marian Liautaud regarding the need for churches to take the lead on child abuse prevention for the good of people—and the good of ministry:
Thirty-some years ago, someone I love was sexually abused by a trusted adult. Although this incident occurred when we were kids, time has done nothing to heal my friend. All it's done is stolen peace, freedom, and wholeness from him. Harboring hatred has a way of eating away at one's soul.
Child abusers are the most reviled people on the planet. Even hardened criminals view child molesters with particular disdain. And so did I. For years I harbored a deep hatred toward the perpetrator who violated my friend in an unthinkable way.
But then over the course of the last few years, I started to wonder whether all my righteous anger was really just a way for me to withhold forgiveness from someone who most certainly didn't deserve it. Could the blood of Christ cover someone as horrible as a pedophile? And if it could, would I ever bring myself to say to the worst of the worst—child abusers—you, yes even you, are saved by grace!
Questions like these are what drove me to spearhead a research project last year for Christianity Today. For nine months, I delved into the dark world of sex offenders. We conducted a national survey to find out what church leaders think about sex offenders—whether they should be integrated into congregations in a compassionate way, and if so, how they do this so no one is put in harm's way. Sex Offenders in the Pew, the Christianity Today story that grew out of the research, looked at how many churches have registered sex offenders attending their services and what they are doing to safely integrate these individuals into the congregation.
Courts have generally recognized a rule known as the "ministerial exception" when it comes to employment lawsuits in churches. Because of the First Amendment, many judges have considered it inappropriate to rule in these disputes, especially when their rulings may influence who preaches from the pulpit.
However, a case in Michigan involving the teacher of a Christian school--in which a federal court ruled the teacher's disability discrimination lawsuit couldn't proceed because of the ministerial exception--was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the Court accepted it. In this short video update below, Richard Hammar explains the significance of this development, and why church leaders will watch closely to see how the Court interprets the scope of ministerial exception:
Upcoming event will cover ins and outs of church communication
Cultivate11, a two-day event geared toward helping church leaders think deeper about communications with staff, lay leaders, congregants, and the community, is just around the corner. It's scheduled for May 4 and May 5 in Huntington Beach, California.
Want free tickets? Keep reading this post to find out how you can get them.
I attended Cultivate in 2009 in Chicago. It's a unique experience built around conversations between participants, panelists, and speakers, more so than most conferences I attend. You can read one of my recaps to get a better glimpse of how Cultivate works.
Tim Schraeder, co-director of the Center for Church Communication and a Cultivate11 organizer, explains it this way:
What is Cultivate?
Cultivate is a two-day conversation focused on the space where culture, innovation, and communication connect inside of churches and non-profit organizations. It’s a gathering of like-minded people who are passionate about their Cause and the endless opportunities that lie in new media. Conversations at Cultivate will center around social media, the Web, texting, communication, and how all of these can be leveraged for good.
Radio interview touches on pay, benefits for pastors and staff
John Clemens with IRN USA Radio recently interviewed Matt Branaugh about Christianity Today International's National Church Compensation Survey. In this six-minute clip (which aired on more than 1,100 stations nationally), you'll hear more details about the importance of this survey, and why every church leader should care, including:
How boards can effectively use the data gleaned from this survey to set pay packages;
How pastors and others can use the data to understand their own pay situations;
How churches possess a unique opportunity to set examples in their communities regarding fair pay.
The article goes on to explain the very real chance American workers will receive bigger pay raises this year:
With corporate America sitting on large piles of cash and manufacturers seeing a surge in exports to fast-growing emerging markets, signs are mounting that some of the benefits will start trickling down to employees.
This could mean average wage gains of as much as 3% in 2011, compared with 1.7% in 2010—enough to boost consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, but not so much that it would stoke concerns of an inflationary spiral.
In addition, a recent issue of Kiplinger highlights the U.S. economy is on track for GDP growth of 3.5% this year, up from last year’s 2.9%.
While I doubt many churches are sitting on large cash reserves, these headlines make me wonder—will churches give pastors and staff members raises this year? A couple of weeks ago, my church approved 3% raises for the senior pastor and staff (we’re a congregation of about 120 people). Will yours?
It’s a serious question. If you chair a church board, it’s worth a long, hard look. After a multiyear recession, many churches implemented pay freezes to help weather budget challenges. A recent article on ChurchLawAndTax.com illustrates why now is the time to reevaluate:
As February fast draws to a close, you may be encouraged to know that you get an extra three days to work on 2010 filings. From this morning's Richard Hammar's Essential Reminders:
"Taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18 to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15," reports the IRS.
The key law, tax, finance, and safety issues readers cared about this year.
Last week, we took a moment to highlight the Top 10 most-read articles from Your Church magazine's website, YourChurch.net. As we continue to count down the days to 2011, we now offer the Top 5 most-read posts from TheYourChurchBlog.com during 2010:
These Your Church Today articles drew the most traffic.
As 2010 comes to a close, it’s time to get all nostalgic and look back at the year that was. That includes reviewing the articles that interested readers throughout the year. Based on Internet traffic patterns, these 10 articles from YourChurch.net (Your Church Today magazine’s website) led the way:
10. Is My Church Covered? We noticed many church leaders seemed to be taking a hard look at their church insurance policies, their premiums, and any possible savings they could make in light of tightened budgets. Our Summer 2010 cover story reviewed the changing landscape of church insurance, including key coverage changes to note, terms to know, and a brief look at the biggest church insurance providers.
9. State of the Plate Results A detailed look at the results from the 2010 State of the Plate survey, which Christianity Today International conducted with Maximum Generosity to see how 2009 ended for American churches. Among the findings: More churches missed their budgets in 2009 compared to 2008.
8. Debunking the Clergification Myth Respected author and researcher Ed Stetzer examines the prevailing models of church staffing structures and argues for changes that place less emphasis on paid staff and more emphasis on an empowered lay leadership base.
Matt Perman on how Christians should think about productivity.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey
Matt Perman wants to help you get your inbox to zero. He wants you to effectively multi-task, organize your desk, and schedule your day. But Perman, who blogs at whatsbestnext.com and is working on a book on productivity, is interested in more than managing workflow. Christianity Today spoke with Perman, who is senior director of strategy at Desiring God, about how his tips to manage productivity connect to theology.
Do you think Christians downplay the importance of productivity?
Yes, I think some do. Because we can think, Oh, it's not spiritual. You have to make a living and learn to do that job well. So I realized that I need to know more than theology; I need to know how to do my job well. That made me realize the importance of learning about the practical.
How does productivity fit with theology?
Theology gives significance to the practical. The practical helps advance theology. It's not that we have theology over here, here's practice, let's do these practical things that will help theology; rather, we can think theologically about the practical. That means we realize that the practical things we are doing are part of the good works that God created us in Christ Jesus to do. So when we're doing practical things, we're actually doing good works. That's a theological understanding of the things we're doing every day.
Is it somewhat an American ideal to be productive? Could you take your message to another country and communicate a similar idea?
I want to define it as getting the right things done. Sometimes that means just being with people rather than accomplishing tasks. Being productive on a Tuesday night might mean saying, I'm not going to do e-mail tonight. I'm just going to hang out with my family. Biblically speaking, productivity is about fruitfulness and serving people. So there doesn't need to be a tension between being productive and having relationships, because productivity exists for the sake of people. We need to define productivity not simply in terms of work products—get as much done as possible—but what are the things, tangible and intangible, that serve people and make life better.
One of the best resource books for determining church staff pay, The 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, now offers a free, easy-to-use tool for church leaders. The "Free Compensation Handbook Worksheets Download," walks church leaders through The 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, helping them identify a range of values that they can use to determine a starting salary for a new hire or a raise for a current employee, or to make an assessment of how fair—or unfair—a pastor or staff member's current pay is.
Based on a national survey of nearly 5,000 churches, The 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff provides reliable church employee compensation breakdowns for a variety of scenarios, including part-time and full-time positions. This information can be used to compare a church's payroll plan, or an individual's salary situation, with information from those of thousands of other church workers nationwide. The information is organized by position, as well as other factors, including geography and demographics. Compensation profiles are then organized by categories so you can easily determine base salary, retirement, health insurance, and housing allowance.
Using the new "Free Compensation Handbook Worksheets Download," church leaders can take personalized church data, such as worship attendance, church region, education level, years employed, and denomination, reference The 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff’s range of data using helpful step-by-step instructions provided in the worksheet, and then develop a unique compensation package range for most any church staff position.
More things that church leaders can do to improve online visibility.
Editor’s Note: Last Thursday, we introduced Part 1 of “Easy Ways to Boost Church Website Traffic,” with freelance business and technology journalist Joe Dysart offering us some ideas about ways churches can generate more traffic to their websites. We also asked Kevin Hendricks, editorial director for the Center for Church Communication, to share his take.
Here are the rest of Dysart’s ideas:
• Become an easily quotable media source: Generate free—and valuable— news story links to your website by establishing a ‘go-to’ person on your staff for the news media. “Once you fill a niche and provide a unique perspective on your area of expertise, and once people are drawn to what you offer, they continue to return to you,” says Bob Baker, author of Poor Richard’s Branding Yourself Online, (Topfloor Publishing, 2001). “Not only because of what you do, but also because of who you are and what you bring to the subject.”
Hendricks’ take: I'm not familiar with those specific sites, but I have seen http://helpareporter.com/ and that one seems pretty effective (mainly because it's reporters reaching out with specific needs, not just a general listing of experts). Of course becoming a trusted source for a media outlet is easier said than done. What works best isn't fancy new technology, but age-old relationships. Do some networking with the local media and you might be able to set yourself up as a go-to source. But it's got to be a real relationship, not just glad-handing and schmoozing.
Little things that church leaders can do to improve online visibility.
Editor’s Note: Joe Dysart, a freelance business and technology journalist in Manhattan, recently offered us some ideas about ways churches can generate more traffic to their websites. Outside of the standard answers—an updated, well-crafted site design, a presence on Facebook, and experimentation with Twitter—Dysart offered some additional ideas that might not be so readily obvious to church leaders.
For additional ministry perspective and application, we asked Kevin Hendricks, editorial director for the Center for Church Communication, to share his thoughts as well.
“As Web marketing has matured, a number of tried-and-true techniques have emerged that consistently lure potential visitors to church websites in significant numbers,” Dysart tells us. “The easiest way to home-in on implementing these techniques is to first and foremost ensure you have a high-quality website. Once you’ve got the overall design of your website in place, there are key tactics you can use to ensure your site becomes a promotion engine for your organization.”
Not surprisingly, Dysart recommends churches form pages on Facebook to take advantage of the continued popularity of social networking among Internet users of all ages. “It’s a great place to post church videos, staff photos, coordinate events and be, as they say, ‘where the fish are,’” Dysart says. Dysart says to search for Oasis Church Miami and Hope Summit Christian Church on Facebook for good examples of using Facebook for ministry purposes.
Regarding Twitter, Dysart recommends a more experimental approach. “The key here is to hang back and ‘lurk’ awhile before participating. ‘Follow,’ or sign up to receive messages from a few churches first to see how it’s done,” he says. “The community here responds most favorably to individuals and organizations that have something to add—rather than something to trumpet.”
Beyond these ideas, Dysart also offers the following tips for churches to generate more traffic to their websites:
Why preventing staff from accessing the site may backfire.
Editor's Note: Evan McBroom, a ministry communications consultant, recently shared a story with us about an event in which a church staff member who handles the office's information technology revealed he was required to block staff access to Facebook. Evan questioned the move, seeing Facebook as a potential online equivalent to in-home or hospital visitations.
"If you want to follow Jesus' command to love God and love others, then you can't block Facebook from your in-church computers and computer network," McBroom says. "Ministry leaders can absolutely love the people of your church and the people in their lives through Facebook. To block your people from Facebook is the same as saying 'people don't matter.'"
Ed Stetzer interviews Brandon O'Brien about his book, "The Strategically Small Church"
Brandon O'Brien, associate editor for our sister publication Leadership Journal, has written a new book, The Strategically Small Church. In this work, he seeks to demonstrate how small churches are uniquely equipped for success in today's culture. Ed Stetzer interviewed O'Brien about his book and why being small may be more missionally strategic.
Ed: What do you mean by "strategically small church"? Is this a new church model, like "simple" or "organic" church?
Brandon: A "strategically small" church is one that has learned to recognize and leverage the inherent strengths of being small. Being strategically small means that instead of trying to overcome your congregation's size, you have learned to use it to strategic ministry advantage.
In other words, I'm not advocating a new model of doing church. Instead I'm hoping that by telling the stories of some truly innovative and effective small churches, other small congregations will stop viewing their size and limited resources as liabilities and begin thinking about them as advantages.
Ed: What keeps small churches from becoming "strategically small?"
Brandon: Many small churches try to operate like big churches. The idea seems to be that if we imitate what the megachurches are doing--if we do ministry like them--then we'll grow like them. The trouble is, operating like a big church can undermine the inherent strengths of being small.
For example, as I explain in the book, research suggests that one of the factors that contributes to whether or not young people stay active in church after high school is intergenerational relationships. The students who have more and deeper relationships with adults other than their parents are much more likely to remain in the church in college and beyond. Now, smaller congregations offer tons of opportunity for developing these intergenerational relationships. But the hallmark of large churches is age-segmented ministry, programs designed to separate children from youth, youth from adults, young adults from seniors. When small churches imitate this model, they undercut their advantage for fostering intergenerational relationships.
Ed: So are you arguing that small churches are more effective than larger ones just because of their size?
As hard as it may be to believe, churches are not immune from embezzlement. In fact, the widespread belief among church leaders that such a crime "could never happen in a church" makes churches an easy target. Economic downturns make the risk even greater. Here are seven reasons to prevent fraud from happening at your church:
Removing temptation. Churches that take steps to prevent embezzlement remove a source of possible temptation for church employees and volunteers who work with money.
Protecting reputations. By taking steps to prevent embezzlement, a church protects the reputation of innocent employees and volunteers who otherwise might be suspected of financial wrongdoing when financial irregularities occur.
What other church leaders are reading and using to keep their congregations safe.
ChurchSafety.com provides expert guidance and risk management information on a broad range of safety topics. We’ve compiled the Top 10 most-downloaded resources from ChurchSafety.com during the past year. Find out what other church leaders have read and used to train staff and volunteers and to develop a safe environment for ministry:
While the number of incidents involving guns at churches remains small, information and preparation are still vital. Begin by assessing the current security of your church. This download gives helpful advice on how to plan for the unexpected, whether or not your church should hire a security guard, and how to deal with the media in the aftermath of violence.
Children are often the most vulnerable members of our congregations, and their presence also presents some of the most serious liability risks. Most churches use minors to assist in various children's or youth programs. Screening these workers will help prevent youth-peer sexual harassment. Institutions can be found guilty of negligence in these cases for not providing security against such abuse. Learn practical steps to properly screen underage workers and access helpful templates for references and interviews.
8. Creating a Safety Team
When crisis arises, are you prepared? Don’t be taken by surprise next time. Learn to respond appropriately to situations ranging from common medical emergencies to crisis involving gunfire. Every church can benefit from forming a safety team that is trained to respond appropriately to various emergencies. This download will discuss the importance of having a team that can handle situations requiring security intervention, medical response, or evacuation.
The topics that most interested readers like you during the past year.
I love milestones. And I'm a sucker for top 10 lists (thank you very much, David Letterman). Since today is August 26, it means the TheYourChurchBlog.com turns 1. Naturally, I went back and looked at our 10 most popular posts for the first year.
But before I do, a few observations about our past year:
1. Subject popularity appears diverse: 3 of the Top 10 posts fall under the Law Category, with 2 each under Finance and Safety, and 1 each under Staff and Office (the other post was a general one and didn't fall under one specific category);
2. Our highest traffic day came on February 23, on the heels of our post "Oregon Case Provides a Powerful Reminder to Churches," which reviews the implications of an appeals court's ruling that allowed a pastor's victory in a defamation lawsuit against his former church to stand.
3. The post garnering the most comments was "Where You Work Best," which discusses the pros and cons of worshipping at the church where you also work.
Without further delay, here are TheYourChurchBlog.com's Top 10 posts during its first year:
10. Legally Host a Super Bowl Party: If your church is hosting a Super Bowl party this year, you will need to abide by three simple guidelines to avoid violating copyright law ... read more
9. The Top 7 Resources to Combat Church Embezzlement: Earlier this month, we looked at two recent cases of church embezzlement, and the "zero tolerance" stance judges are starting to take against these crimes. Unfortunately, yet another big headline has since emerged ... read more
8. 10 Questions to Ask About Your Church's Communication: As you approach 2010, consider these 10 questions to discuss your church’s communication efforts ... read more
7. What Will the New Health Care Bill Mean for Churches?: Now that President Obama has signed the health care reform bill into law, many churches are wondering what the impact will be on staffing costs. ... read more
I’ll admit that I like to pull a Scarlett O’Hara when it comes to the less attractive side of church leadership, like getting the parking lot paved or turning in a budget. “Fiddle dee dee!” I shrug. “I can’t think about that now! I’ll think about that tomorrow…”
I think the business of church can be excruciating. What do you get when you take a room full of over-committed volunteers, mix in some underpaid staff workers, and toss in hundreds (or thousands) of church-goer expectations? How about business leaders who are used to managing corporate dollars combined with under-resourced and over-ambitious “kingdom” plans? Welcome to church business.
Our sister site BuildingChurchLeaders.com recently released a bundle of training resources titled "Essentials for Church Staffing." It includes the survival guide "Dealing with Staff." Below is an excerpt from one of the articles in that guide, suggesting what to do with an underperforming church employee before you get to the point of firing him or her.
From time to time, I suspect a staff member is malfunctioning. This hardly constitutes evidence for firing, although it may eventually lead to it. What are the steps to take before that drastic measure is called for?
* Quietly investigate. As soon as I suspect trouble, I put my ear to the ground. I ask questions of secretaries or other staff. I do so quietly and casually, asking, "What's going on with So-and-so? How are his groups doing? Anything new coming on line? What's happening in the department? How many people were in his last class?"
* Meet with staff. If two or three staff members suggest there are problems with the person in question, I call a meeting of the entire staff, not including the person in question. I ask how serious the problem is. Is it worth looking into, or should I just forget about it? That's usually when something comes out.
How churches can commit better to the internships they use.
I’ve recently thought about the use of interns, which happens frequently today in many churches. I know why: it’s a win-win. The intern gets experience, churches get more hands and (let’s face it) cheap labor, and everybody benefits.
That is, except if we violate some of the most basic tenets of good people management.
In light of some things I’ve observed recently and over the years, here are five ways churches can commit to creating internships that work well for everybody:
1) Commit to mentoring them. When you accept an intern on your staff, don’t just use the person to accomplish a task. An intern is not a traditional employee. Your commitment must include mentoring and coaching. It’s a commitment to a process, not just a project. The goal is to shape this individual into a more effective, productive future employee, not just get something from him or her today. That happens through a relationship, which is what an internship is about.
2) Commit to a specific time period. Unless the intern is stealing, lying, or doing something else worthy of dismissal, stick with the person for the duration of the internship. Don’t let someone go halfway in because they’re not meeting your expectations. Coach the person toward your expectations. If it still doesn’t go well, chalk it up to experience. Refuse to offer a recommendation. But don’t cut the individual loose. That’s desertion, not good management.
The pros and cons to working and worshiping at the same church.
Can church employees work at one church and worship at another? Off the Agenda recently explored this question on our sister site, BuildingChurchLeaders.com with mixed feelings. Blogger Tim Avery asked these follow-up questions in response:
• If the church can't meet all of your spiritual and relational needs, do you expect it to meet the needs of others?
• Does your role impede your ability to relate to the community because you are placing too much weight on your responsibilities?
• Can you really fulfill your role well without being fully involved in that community?
• Is your perception of the church as employer something that needs to be fixed or fled from?
While Avery ultimately objects to the idea of having two church homes—one for work, one for growing—there are some church administrative assistants who would advocate for this situation.
What church leaders around the country plan to do next year.
Christianity Today, our sister publication, recently asked several financial advisers, researchers, and other observers to weigh in on whether churches should increase their operating budgets next year. Here are their responses:
"What we see is cautious optimism on the part of our church members. Donations seem to be trending upwards somewhat. Some of them are still down five to 10 percent compared to a year ago, but there is increasing optimism on the part of churches as we see some positive trends in the giving."
Dan Busby, president, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, and an Editorial Advisor for Your Church
"The years of prosperity concealed underlying internal issues that are the real reason giving is down at some churches. During the time the economy was good and offerings were increasing, statistics say the offerings were not increasing on a per-giver basis. … They were growing their operating budgets by growing numbers of people. When the lean resource environment sets in, scarcity begins to clarify everything. For some of these churches, it clarifies that they haven't been healthy for a while, and the abundance of money was just covering it up."
Jim Sheppard, CEO, Generis
"Our church will not. In October 2008 there was a tsunami that hit Wall Street, and almost overnight there was crisis. That did not happen to churches. Churches do not experience tsunamis, but they are experiencing rising floodwaters of financial challenges. It isn't like bam, they all got slammed; it's like people aren't giving as much. Some of our people are out of work. There's not any one cataclysmic event, but rising floodwaters of economic difficulties that are more and more affecting churches."
Brian Kluth, founder, Maximum Generosity, and a Contributing Editor to Your Church
Read responses from Crown Financial Ministries' Chuck Bentley, The Financial Seminary's Gary Moore, Barna Group's David Kinnaman, Leadership Network's Chris Willard, LifeWay Research's Scott McConnell, and Generosity Monk's Gary Hoag at the full article here, then tell us what your church anticipates for its 2011 budget.
How different churches plan to approach pay increases in 2010.
An interesting post recently surfaced in the Church Admin discussion group hosted on Yahoo:
"Situation: Our church is currently very close to our income and expense
budget for the current year (fiscal year end in December). Last year, the board chose NOT to give any pay increases, but this year, some of them want to do so in next year's budget.
One board member feels that since some of our congregants are out of work, that we shouldn't give salary increases, even though according to our budget projections, there is no financial reason not to. He is very vocal that we shouldn't even consider raising anyone's pay.
Is anyone willing to share whether or not they are giving pay increases, and the rationale behind their decision? I'm especially interested in hearing from churches who are doing okay at meeting their budgets, and whether or not they are considering pay increases."
The administrator's question is an interesting one. If the economy is beginning to thaw—and there is still debate about whether that's actually the case—then should churches currently meeting their budgets consider pay raises for staff? Our 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, which surveyed nearly 5,000 churches across the country, showed a small decline in salaries in 2009 (after a slight gain in 2008). This means many church staff members haven't received a bump up in pay in quite some time.
Here's how other church leaders responded to the question:
Your efforts can help you save money and design an attractive piece.
If the word frugal conjures up images of your matronly aunt’s used tin foil collection, or the carefully washed plastic bags drying in her dish drainer you’re not mistaken, but being frugal is also simply being a good steward with the resources we are given.
When it comes to a church’s design budget, however, maybe we should be thriftier and less frugal. Though frugality is used with the best intentions, it has a negative connotation linking it with an effort to be simple, plain, and well, cheap. Simplicity in design can still be a great element in your creativity tool belt, but it is important to familiarize yourself with your cost-cutting options in order to stretch the limits of what’s available to you. Your design doesn’t have to suffer because of your lack of dollars.
Forming the team responsible for the church’s vision.
Editor’s Note: Paul Clark, the Operations Pastor at Fairhaven Church in Ohio and a Contributing Editor toYour Church, recently underwent a major staff reorganization. In a four-part series that started three weeks ago, he explained what Fairhaven sought to change, and the first step for making that change—the dissolution of the executive team. Two weeks ago, he addressed the establishment of new title structures. Last week, he explained how Fairhaven created a Management Team. In today’s concluding article, he explains how Fairhaven created a Lead Team.
Step Four: Creation of a Lead Team
The final step involves how Fairhaven sets the vision and direction for the church. The new Lead Team is comprised of a mixture of individuals who are invited to participate based on their experience, gifting, vision, and their strategic role in the broad scheme of ministry. It includes both men and women, ranging from Boomers to Gen X. It's an eclectic group, each representing a unique vantage point on Fairhaven and culture.
The Lead Team deals with four strategic questions:
Editor’s Note: Paul Clark, the Operations Pastor at Fairhaven Church in Ohio and a Contributing Editor to Your Church, recently underwent a major staff reorganization. In a four-part series that started two weeks ago, he explained what Fairhaven sought to change, and the first step for making that change—the dissolution of the executive team. Last week, he addressed the establishment of new title structures. Today, he explains how Fairhaven created a management team.
Step Three: Creation of a Management Team
Steps three and four reshape how we plan and execute our ministries. They involve establishing two functionally driven teams for vision and implementation. We’re calling these two teams the Lead Team (vision) and the Management Team (implementation).
Both teams are comprised of individuals who are invited to participate, not because of title, but because of their responsibilities, their gifting, or their ability to contribute to the goals of the team. These teams will be fluid, in that they can change at any time, based on the dynamics of our staff. We can make changes to both teams and not have to tweak our organization chart or our titles. New members can be invited to sit in, perhaps based on a particular discussion that’s relevant to them or to which they bring some expertise or special interest.
Unlike the former Executive Team, this new structure provides the possibility for greater flexibility and nimbleness, with less formality. The key is to have the right people around the table at the right time.
Why churches should re-evaluate the staff titles they use.
Editor’s Note: Paul Clark, the Operations Pastor at Fairhaven Church in Ohio and a Contributing Editor toYour Church, recently underwent a major staff reorganization. Last week, we published the first in a four-week series on what Fairhaven sought to change and how. Step One involved dissolving the executive team. Today, he writes about Step Two.
Step Two: Establishing a New Title Structure.
Titles can be extremely difficult to manage as a staff’s size increases and roles become more diverse and specialized. In order to reduce some of the problems mentioned in Step One, we decided to simplify and de-emphasize titles. Five general titles will remain, with clearly defined parameters. All staff will fit into these five employment categories:
Lead Pastor: This designation is reserved for the individual providing overall organizational leadership and reporting directly to the Governing Board.
Pastor: This designation is reserved for individuals who: 1) possess Bible college or seminary education; 2) are licensed (or are in the process of licensure by the District), making them eligible to perform sacerdotal functions; and/or 3) manage ministries and/or have other paid staff under their supervision.
Useful apps for the iPhone and other phones church leaders use.
Editor’s Note: Since its launch in 2007, the iPhone has changed the way we use mobile phones, creating a wave of applications and other features that turn these devices into mobile computers. With Apple upgrading its iOS4 software on June 21 (Wiredrecently compared iOS4 to Google Android’s 2.2), and launching sales of the iPhone 4.0 on June 24, we asked Carol Childress, a self-professed “iPhone junkie,” to share some of the apps she believes can help church leaders.
Time magazine named the iPhone the invention of the year in 2007. Just writing that sentence sounds like ancient history, and it is, in terms of innovations in current technology. I have fond memories of standing, sitting, reading, listening to music, and chatting with others who waited in line with me for the better part of June 29, 2007, to buy my first iPhone.
Despite all the hype at its release, I don’t think Steve Jobs, AT&T, or few others really understood how quickly the iPhone and other smartphones would change the telecommunications industry. The telephone now is almost the least functional feature of my iPhone. Actual telephone usage on all wireless phones is declining. In 2009, for the first time in the United States, the amount of text, e-mail, streaming video, music and other services on smartphones and other mobile devices surpassed the amount of voice data in cell phone calls.
A major reason for this shift is the introduction of third-party applications that convert an iPhone and other smartphones into a computer, a book, a wallet, a movie screen, a photo album, a remote control, or almost anything you can imagine in a single, hand-held device. Because of these apps, my phone has become the single-most indispensable tool I own. The same likely is true for ministry leaders who use smartphones. For leaders who have been reluctant to move to a smartphone, the scope of available apps, new smartphone models, and the increasing competition between carriers may be compelling enough to make the switch.
There are more than 225,000 apps available through the Apple App Store and more than 5 billion apps (that’s with a ‘b’) have been downloaded since it opened in July 2008. Paid apps account for almost three of every four available apps and the average cost of a paid app that is downloaded is $3.04. There are also more than 50,000 Android apps now available (Android apps are available off of their developers’ sites, from Google, Motorola, and a variety of other places).
With so many apps available, and 15,000 new ones submitted weekly to the Apple App Store, it’s hard to know which ones to download, which ones to keep, which ones to use to improve productivity, and which ones to help manage your life and time. Of the more than 250 apps I have downloaded, I have found several to be consistently useful in life and ministry.
Changes may prove costly for churches, as will non-compliance
Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission set a deadline of June 12--this Saturday--for organizations to stop using any wireless systems, including microphones, currently operating in the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency.
Churches need to determine if their wireless mic systems comply with the new rules. Several say the changes will result in thousands of dollars in costs. Church leaders who aren't sure whether their systems use the frequency can find out on a website created by the FCC.
The FCC says the deadline will help eliminate potentially harmful interference with public safety systems now using the frequency. The deadline also will allow companies that purchased slices of the spectrum in 2008 to now pursue next-generation 4G wireless devices, the FCC says.
One church's reorganization challenges staff titles and hierarchies.
Editor’s Note: Paul Clark, the Operations Pastor at Fairhaven Church in Ohio and a Contributing Editor to Your Church, recently underwent a major staff reorganization, and reflected on the changes through his blog, http://visionmeetsreality.org. Starting today, and continuing for the next three weeks, we’ll run a four-part series, “Doing Staff Reorganizations Well,” which details what Fairhaven learned and improved by evaluating its staff structure. Regardless of size, we think every church can learn from many, if not all, of Fairhaven's lessons.
At Fairhaven Church, we recently implemented a staff reorganization that we started working on last fall. The organizational structure we had when I came almost eight years ago was traditional, with the Lead Pastor overseeing about 10 direct reports. Leadership, mentoring, and oversight was limited to what he could do, given his own workload and time constraints. The joke was that it had been years since he had ventured into certain ministry areas of the church, even though those ministry leads reported directly to him.
When David Smith became the Lead Pastor, he reorganized, adding an Executive Team so that he could pour himself into four other guys, who would then provide leadership, mentoring, and oversight to the rest of the staff. It's a model that's worked well for us for most of the last five years.
Last fall, David and I stole away for a day and asked ourselves this question: "What organizational changes do we need to make in order to be an effective staff serving a church of 6,000?" Our current attendance is about 4,500. We filled an 8-foot whiteboard several times as we worked to answer that question. We took an honest look at what we do well, what we struggle with, and how well we are positioned to respond to the growth God is giving us. We worked through staffing and organizational issues down to a micro-level. It was an exciting day.
After a process of explanation and approval that involved the Personnel Committee and the current Executive Team, we presented our organizational restructuring to the staff. We noted that the church has grown quickly over the last few years and that many new staff have been added to respond to the growth in ministries. Although the staff continues to be healthy and the ministries are effective, we nevertheless identified some important organizational goals as we considered who we want to be in the future:
Dave Ferguson explains how "Coaching Conversations" help equip lay leaders.
At Community Christian Church, we value a culture that commissions each man, woman, and child for an outreach effort that they feel God has called them to fulfill. Part of that culture involves what I call “leading with a yes,” because as a pastor, I regularly get approached by people who ask whether their outreach idea is worth pursuing. By saying yes when they come to us with a worthy idea, we give them the affirmation they need to move forward.
But that doesn’t mean our “yes” guarantees them funding from the church, or the hands-on assistance of staff leadership. It’s just not always possible. When I’m asked how we train people to pursue their ideas, given these limitations, I tell people we error on the side of relationship, meaning we ask people to have relationships: an apprentice that they are developing and a coach that is developing them. If we can put someone into a coaching relationship, be it weekly or monthly, then that helps give needed support for various ministry efforts.
Community has developed a coaching model that guides both sides, whether it’s a staff member overseeing a lay leader, or a pastor overseeing a staff member. Part of that model involves the coach asking these six questions each time they meet with the leader they’re overseeing. We find these “Coaching Conversations” help develop these leaders, and they significantly enhance the experience for everyone involved:
Last week, we published "Weighing Fair-Trade Coffee," on YourChurch.net, the home website for Your Church magazine. We became more interested in this topic several months ago, after Kevin Miller connected with Troy Jackson, pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. University Christian partners with a Guatemalan village called Santa Maria de Jesus in a direct-trade relationship. That relationship produces La Armonia Hermosa (The Beautiful Harmony), a coffee awaiting fair-trade certification, which the church sells.
In my days as a business reporter and editor, I often witnessed the volatile debates that occur from conversations pertaining to certification and food. In the early 2000s, there were hotly contested discussions among natural foods circles about "organic" certification (many of those discussions still remain). I knew the same held true for the "fair trade" label, as this Wikipedia entry will attest. I anticipated we'd receive a variety of responses after we published the fair-trade coffee article, even though the purpose of the Your Church piece wasn't to take a position on the topic. Rather, it was written to generally define the topic and give some basic parameters for church leaders to understand as they shop coffee options.
Nevertheless, the responses began to arrive. I've posted three of them below. In the meantime, what better place to continue the conversation than here? Should churches buy fair-trade coffee?
The definitive collection to guide leaders before, during, and after turbulent times.
In our ongoing conversations with church leaders, as well as our collaboration with colleagues at Leadership Journal, OutofUr.com, and BuildingChurchLeaders.com, we know conflict remains one of the biggest detractors from a healthy church office environment. So we're keenly aware of this issue, and why it matters a great deal to church leaders like you and me.
I was reminded—again—of the significance of this issue last summer, when I attended the National Association of Church Business Administration's annual conference. Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries, offered a keynote address on the urgency with which church leaders should address conflict and resolve it peacefully. Otherwise, congregations face unnecessary heartache, and the testimony given to the communities surrounding them becomes stained.
One point that Ken offered during his speech remains firmly planted in my mind: "Reflect much on Jesus and his gospel, and you will reflect much of Jesus and his gospel."
Since then, we've offered two pieces on the subject of healthy conflict resolution, and in a recent phone interview I did with Ken, he offered additional resources to help church leaders. Here's a helpful look at all of them:
Our quarterly church management magazine receives four honors.
Many of you may not know this, but Your Church magazine, like many other publications at Christianity Today International, is a member of the Evangelical Press Association, "the world's largest professional organization for the evangelical periodical publishing industry," as its website reports.
Each year, the EPA honors the best work from the prior calendar year. On Thursday, we learned Your Church received four awards for work performed in 2009. In all, the EPA judged 734 entries representing 87 publications:
Your Church magazine, along with two other publications, received Awards of Merit in the Christian Ministries publication category (Your Church's sister publication, Leadership journal, received an Award of Excellence, the top honor for the category);
The SEC's embarrassing news provides a sobering reminder.
An eye-opening national headline emerged last week, providing a timely sneak peek into our upcoming issue of Your Church magazine.
The inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission--the organization tasked with enforcing the laws and regulations that govern the country's stock and options exchanges--conducted 31 probes of employee internet use during the past 2 1/2 years. The overarching finding? Senior staff members of the SEC spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers, according to a memo obtained first by ABC News.
Among the findings, according to an Associated Press story published Friday:
One senior attorney spent up to 8 hours a day looking at porn. Upon running out of hard drive space, he burned files to CDs or DVDs;
One accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month by the SEC's internal filter, yet he still found ways around that filter using search engines;
In all, the SEC discovered 2 cases in 2007, and 16 in 2008 (as many will recall, the country's financial woes began to emerge midway through 2007).
Unfortunately, this isn't the first government agency to share disturbing news like this. Last fall, the National Science Foundation's agency inspector revealed he had to shift time scheduled to combat grant fraud to instead crack down on porn use by staffers.
So, what's the connection to church leaders and staff members?
Green practices can be a testament to good stewardship and an outreach opportunity.
Going "green" is a popular expression in today's eco-minded culture. Ministries are not exempt from environmental responsibility. In fact, green practices can be a testament to good stewardship and an outreach opportunity.
Go with the flow. Incorporate natural features, such as hills and slopes, into any new building designs to minimize disturbance.
Choose local materials. Whenever possible use materials produced locally. The energy saved in transporting the materials can be used elsewhere.
The corporate world says "get the right people on the bus"--but spiritual leadership requires something more.
"We need more structure in our decision making. Without that discipline, we'll never accomplish anything."
"We're a church, not a business. We need to rely on God. We can't operate like the corporate world."
Ever been on one side or the other of this argument? Or perhaps in the middle? The tensions are present in most churches in America today. As corporate "best practices" are applied to church life, church leaders struggle to make sense of it all.
What happens when we let gifts and relationships define our organizational structures?
The single most powerful organizational step your church can take—at least on a human level—is to be organized around the gifts of the Spirit. That means that a church is to be led by people with leadership gifts, taught by people with teaching gifts, shepherded by people with shepherding gifts—the whole nine yards. And that vision is about to change my life.
I'll tell you how in a minute.
I serve as a senior pastor. But I'm not one of those multi-mega-gift guys. I can do about one thing right—and that's on a good day. Whatever gifts I have are primarily centered around communication. So I have been looking and praying for a partner who has great leadership gifts to do ministry with. I love the era in which we get to work. I think it is a time of great innovation in the church. There is something God-like and energizing about creating.
Ron Johnson, the guy who started the Apple stores, says his favorite phrase is "In the beginning … " Part of that innovation involves the people leading in a church. When I was growing up, a group of people forming a church would hire the 'minister' who would do the 'ministry.' But no one would ask what his (it was always a 'him') actual gifts were. The pastor's job description was so big that only Jesus could fulfill it. And I'm not sure even he would want it.
Increasingly churches are recognizing that shepherding and teaching and leading and administrating rarely come in the same package. We have to break old models of church leadership—not to go to new models, but to go back to an even older model—organization around gifts.
Continue reading the full version of this article on our sister site LeadershipJournal.net, where it first appeared.
What churches might learn from those that spend less on staffing than the national averages.
With many congregations facing tighter budgets as they weather the worst economic recession in decades, a recent survey of U.S. church leaders shows that a small percentage of churches are able to continue doing ministry while keeping staffing costs—the single-biggest expense for nearly every church—well below national averages.
The “Lean Staffing” survey was conducted in January by Christianity Today International's Your Church magazine and Leadershipjournal, and Leadership Network. It was taken by 735 leaders of Protestant and evangelical churches.
The results show that 1 in 7 spends less than 35 percent of its annual budget on staffing costs. Historically, churches in recent years spend, on average, about 45 percent of their total budgets on staffing costs—and sometimes more.
The “Lean Staffing” study separated 539 respondents to generate the "lean staffing" comparison: 15 percent of that group spends less than 35 percent on staff, while the rest spend between 35 percent and 65 percent. The study used 35 percent or less as a benchmark since it represents a sizable decrease from national averages and it helps with statistical comparisons, said Warren Bird, director of research at Leadership Network.
Besides identifying churches that spend less on staffing, the study also found “lean-staffed” churches typically spend more on ministry efforts outside of their walls, Bird said.
“There are churches that seem to be healthy and outreach-minded that do, indeed, have a lower percentage of their budget going to staffing costs. It can be done,” Bird said. “That was very affirming.”
Also, you can listen to a 12-minute podcast between Warren Bird and me (note: free registration is required to download the podcast), and read Warren's blog post about the research (and the next steps to further research the topic).
I am neck deep in strategic thinking. The school where I teach is engaged in an aggressive strategic planning initiative. We are working with an excellent consulting team and are asking hard but important questions about the present and the future. But all this has got me wondering about the apostles.
The execution of the apostolic mission seems to have been driven as much by Spirit directed intuition (Paul’s ministry in Phrygia and Galatia) and the apparent vagaries of circumstance (the scattering of persecution) as by planning. It is true that Paul planted churches along trade routes and in major cities. But was this a pre-meditated apostolic “strategy?” Or was it simply a consequence of the natural constraints of travel in his day?
Now that President Obama has signed the health care reform bill into law, many churches are wondering what the impact will be on staffing costs.
“Does the church have to pay 100 percent of the employee’s premiums?” “Will we be required to cover our entire church daycare staff, which currently does not receive medical insurance as a benefit?” “Will we have to pay large fees and/or provide heathcare for our employees? Health insurance is very expensive and being forced to pay could mean we no longer can afford our small staff.”
These are the kinds of questions and concerns that are surfacing on discussion boards and through readers’ questions to us.
I can appreciate the trepidation many churches are feeling. We are in a very dynamic period, with several state attorneys general having filed legal challenges to the new law in recent days, and Senate Republicans engaging in parliamentary maneuvering. No one can say what the results of these efforts will be.
And, note two additional considerations: First, if the Republican Party regains control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections later this year, it will have the authority to defund implementation of many, if not most, of the provisions in the new law. Second, even if none of these roadblocks stop this legislation, many of the provisions in the law do not take effect immediately. Some do not take effect for several years.
The bottom line is that it is premature to say what all of the ramifications of this bill will be.
I am currently reviewing the impact of each provision in this 2,500-page bill on churches, while at the same time monitoring the potential obstacles to full implementation. I will be sharing the results of my analysis in upcoming articles for Church Law & Tax Report and Church Finance Today.
In the meantime, if you have questions on this new legislation, please feel free to submit them to: CLTReditor(at)christianitytoday.com.
Focusing on individual gifts may yield better results.
David R. Fletcher
Charlie couldn’t lead the church staff. The harder he tried, the more he failed. With 3,000 people in worship each week, the church seemed healthy. The staff, however, seemed emotionally sick and suffered from high turnover. When people left the church staff, they invariably stepped out of full-time ministry. Former staff members expressed bitterness and unhappiness with how they were treated. Charlie knew his ministry was failing. He couldn’t lead and mentor the staff. Charlie couldn’t release the staff to each person’s potential, fully using their gifts for ministry in the church.
Stories like Charlie’s always get our attention, but they don’t provide much positive traction for growth.
I spent some time recently talking with some executive pastors of significant churches around the country to discover their best practices for leading staff. What I found surprised me—not the best practices themselves, but the fact that my independent interviews, without any prodding by me, all connected to one common thread: holistic staffs.
Let’s look at how these leaders develop and oversee holistic staffs, and the lessons we can learn from them for our own ministries:
Two church communications professionals offer tips.
Kevin D. Hendricks
Editor’s Note: On February 4, a local television station ran a story about Ed Young and Fellowship Church, the Grapevine, Texas, where he leads. The piece, citing anonymous former staff members, among others, suggests Young leads a lavish lifestyle. Young responded that same day through a post entitled “No Secrets,” on his blog, then addressed it from the pulpit on February 8.
Kevin Hendricks from ChurchMarketingSucks.com, the blog for the non-profit Center for Church Communication, took the opportunity to ask a bigger question—when a church faces negative coverage in the media, how should it respond? Below is an excerpt of the interview Hendricks did with Kem Meyer, the communications director at Granger Community Church in Indiana, and Kent Shaffer, the founder of Church Relevance (you can also read the full version):
If your church were attacked in the local media, how would you respond? We asked two Center for Church Communication board members, Kent Shaffer and Kem Meyer, to offer their perspective:
Nearly a third say December giving fell short of expectations.
A “new normal” is emerging in the church world when it comes to giving, budgets, and generosity initiatives, according to an ongoing survey conducted by Maximum Generosity and Christianity Today International’s Church Finance Today and Leadership journal.
Five major developments are emerging from the survey, which asks church leaders and pastors to report on how their giving efforts concluded in 2009 and began in 2010:
1) The poor economy is hurting a growing number of churches. While the headlines may say the economy is improving, its impact hasn’t shown up yet in the offering plate:
- The number of churches reporting a decline in giving this past year has increased to nearly 36 percent of churches surveyed, compared to 29 percent at the same time a year ago.
- Only 38 percent of churches saw giving increase this past year, compared to 47 percent a year ago.
2) Many churches say December year-end giving fell short. While Rick Warren’s December appeal to more than 100,000 e-mail recipients helped his church adequately close the gap on a year-end budget shortfall, many other churches weren’t so fortunate. In the “State of the Plate,” 30 percent of churches surveyed said that their December year-end giving “missed” their expectations. Only 24 percent of churches indicated that year-end giving surpassed their expectation. With nearly a third missing expectations at the end of 2009, many churches likely entered 2010 looking for ways to slow their church spending.
Research on how well churches are developing the next generation.
Recently, LifeWay Research surveyed pastors about the church's leadership development and mission. We asked them to rate their agreement in the following three areas:
1) Investing in leaders through the church
The survey asked pastors to respond to this statement: "I am intentionally investing in leaders who will emerge over the next ten years."
Pastors strongly believe they are doing just that—67 percent strongly agreed and 26 percent somewhat agreed. Wow! That's 93 percent who are convinced that they are investing in emerging leaders. They also affirmed that the church has a responsibility to develop future leaders.
But when asked to evaluate how well the church is accomplishing the task of leadership development, most agreed, but not nearly as enthusiastically. We posed this statement: "The church does a good job fostering and developing new leaders." This time 26 percent strongly agreed and 52 percent somewhat agreed, a drop in overall agreement of 15 percent. In addition, a significant amount of disagreement starts to appear—21 percent either somewhat or strongly disagreed with the statement.
While pastors believe that the church is a place where leaders need to be developed and they see themselves investing in this task, they generally recognize a real deficit in the church's effectiveness in accomplishing it. Although efforts are being made, pastors are not confident that the church is nurturing and growing new leaders adequately.
A Harvard concept may help churches clarify, prioritize
During this season of economic turmoil and ambiguity, one question may have the power to bring clarity—and better priority-setting—for the churches where executive pastors, business administrators, and pastors serve.
That question: What exactly are we trying to accomplish?
David Fletcher, the executive pastor of The Chapel in Akron, Ohio, and a Your Church contributing editor, shared the question last week at his annual XPastor.org conference in Dallas, where about 125 people gathered.
The concept, dubbed “Question Zero,” comes from the Harvard Business School. Fletcher said the timing couldn’t be better for churches to use it. In good times, church leaders usually ask how to make a program or event bigger and better, or how to create the next big thing. But this often results in a focus on “the number of cups of coffee served, rather than the number of people who come back for a second cup,” he told participants.
“We get confused when we try to cater to people,” he said. “We lose track of our mission … How are lives being changed?”
Now, with the hardest economic environment to hit the United States since the Great Depression, church leaders have an opportunity to establish a better focus. “You want the recession to help your church,” Fletcher said.
Useful titles for the inner and outer lives of church leaders.
Pastors and church leaders are bombarded by the myriad books published every year and don't have the time and resources required to sift through, purchase, and read all that are of interest. For this reason, Leadership journal (a sister publication of Your Church magazine at Christianity Today International) released the Golden Canon Awards. This is a collection of the top 10 books most valuable for church leaders from 2009.
The 2009 winners were selected by a diverse group of more than 100 pastors and leaders, including contributing editors to Leadership journal. The list divides into two different sections—the leader's inner life that focuses on communion with God, and the leader's outer life that points to church leadership's best practices.
"There are countless books published for pastors each year, and we appreciate the chance to recognize and honor those most deserving of attention," says Marshall Shelley, Leadership journal's editor. "We feel these books provide clarity and wisdom in presenting the gospel and leading a church wisely and well."
CTI invited well-known and well-respected members from church legal and financial circles to an Editorial Advisory Board to bring authoritative and qualified eyes to its work.
The 14 advisors will regularly contribute to the church management division’s publications, websites, and resources, and also will regularly provide ideas, thoughts, and feedback, shaping the articles, videos, books, blog posts, and other resources that guide church leaders on important legal, financial, safety, and administrative decisions.
Noted church and business leaders who will lend their expertise include:
Microphone systems must comply with June 12 deadline.
Editor's note: Since this posting appeared on January 22, Your Church has published a more in-depth article on the FCC's ruling: "Racing the FCC Mic Deadline."
The Federal Communications Commission has set a deadline of June 12 for organizations to stop using any wireless systems, including microphones, currently operating in the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency.
The restriction includes churches.
In its prepared statement, the FCC didn't indicate what penalties, if any, organizations might face for not complying. The FCC says the deadline will help eliminate potentially harmful interference with public safety systems now using the frequency. The deadline also will allow companies that purchased slices of the spectrum in 2008 to now pursue next-generation 4G wireless devices, the FCC says.
The FCC's announcement shouldn't come as a surprise, but that may not ease the sting for church leaders who now face the prospect of replacing or modifying their current microphone systems to comply. Your Church covered this looming possibility in May, and included some possible solutions that may not require buying a new system.
In a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article, two church leaders indicated they'll likely need to replace equipment. One estimates it will cost the church $2,400 to replace four mics affected by the changes.
Most telecommunications providers currently use 3G standards, which allow simultaneous voice and data transmissions at faster rates of speed. The upgrade to 4G will accelerate the speeds of those transmissions and widen the types of services those providers can offer. Companies, including AT&T and Verizon, paid the FCC billions of dollars through a 2008 auction for the rights to portions of the spectrum.
Understanding how lean personnel costs are--or aren't.
How lean is your church staff? How does it compare with other church staffs? If you've ever wondered about these questions, here's your chance to find out.
The editors of Christianity Today International's Your Church magazine and Leadership Journal are collaborating with Leadership Network to learn about healthy ways churches keep staff costs down. If you'll take a few minutes to tell us about your church, you'll receive a copy of the findings, showing you what other churches have said.
Your replies will be held in the strictest confidence. The final report, and any subsequent articles and presentations, only will give group totals.
Please complete the survey by January 25, 2010. If you have questions or comments, there is contact information provided on the first survey page.
Looking back at the articles you read most this past year.
Last week, we wrote about the Top 10 most-read posts on TheYourChurchBlog.com during 2009. This week, we're taking a look at the Top 10 most-read articles from YourChurch.net, the website for Your Church magazine.
For a year riddled with bad economic news, there are a few surprises in these results (hint: Our No. 1 ranked story has nothing to do with the economy, or finances for that matter). What can we conclude from this? Probably not much. Except the fact that church administrators, executive pastors, pastors, and lay leaders wrestle with a variety of challenging, and often complicated, questions on a wide array of topics.
A look at the hottest topics facing pastors and administrators.
As 2009 draws to a close, here's a fun look back at the year's 10 most-read posts on TheYourChurchBlog.com. Doing this kind of review often helps us understand the most pressing issues facing church administrators, executive pastors, pastors, and leaders.
And, it's a nice way to showcase topics that you may have missed the first time around.
Online tools for churches to build connection, community.
Editor’s Note: Drew Goodmanson, co-founder and pastor of San Diego’s Kaleo Church and a church web consultant, conducted a research project earlier this year on the state of social media for churches. In Part 1, Drew explained the research project, the scope of the findings, and the first of three discoveries that church leaders, business administrators, and pastors should note. In Part 2 today, he looks at a variety of online tools that churches are using for connection and community efforts.
Discovery No. 2: Tokbox Can Help Build Community
Building relationships and community online is an oft-cited goal of social networking. In the research, 40 percent of church leaders say making an effort to connect with, and support, their online communities was one of the most effective ways to use the web. Yet a third of ministry leaders felt building real community was one of the top challenges to being successful online.
In contrast, only 5 percent of church members felt building community online is a challenge. Many church members already see the benefits of online communities as they use tools to connect with past schoolmates and friends throughout the day.
Tokbox is one example of a social, video, and voice technology that can be used for building this community and supporting relationships. Tokbox, similar to Skype, offers free video calling and video conferencing. Conferencing is often equated with business meetings, but Cynthia Ware used it for a small group of moms that she led.
How Facebook is shaping online strategies for churches.
Editor’s Note: Drew Goodmanson, co-founder and pastor of San Diego’s Kaleo Church and a church web consultant, conducted a research project earlier this year on the state of social media for churches. In Part 1, Drew explains the research project, the scope of the findings, and the first of three discoveries that church leaders, business administrators, and pastors should note. In Part 2, Drew shares more thoughts on the second and third discoveries made from this year’s research.
The social nature of media will continue to converge in ways we cannot imagine during the next five years. As church leaders, it is important to understand the state of social networking, and the directions of these participatory technologies. These tools may promise significant benefits to churches, who seek to build community, mobilize congregations, and offer greater interaction with unbelievers. And an understanding today leads to better action today and better planning for tomorrow.
To gain a full understanding, though, it’s critical that church leaders learn both the benefits and challenges of social media sites. Earlier this year, Monk Development set out to discover some answers to these questions through a “state of social media” research project, surveying hundreds of church leaders about the social media sites they’re using, what features and functions their church members seek, and what benefits and challenges they face using open source solutions or “church-only” ones.
We first shared the results of this research in a webinar entitled, “Church, Christians, and Social Networking” (you can watch an archived recording of the webinar). I’m the founder of Monk Development, a web consulting firm, and I’m also co-founder and pastor of Kaleo Church in San Diego. Cynthia Ware, who has two decades of pastoral ministry experience and a master's degree in new media, helped me present. She helps Christian leaders use their online presence to enrich and expand their ministry reach, and she actively speaks and writes on the subject.
Our work provided insights on three areas where social networking intersects with social media: outreach, discipleship, and community. While we can’t predict the future impact of social media, Cynthia quoted 1 Chronicles during our webinar, focusing on the passage where the “men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” Hopefully this information helps your church in that process.
A sad story emerged last week out of Indiana, where a 37-year-old woman accused of stealing more than $350,000 from a church while working there as an employee received the maximum sentence allowed by the state.
According to an article in the Greencastle Banner-Graphic, the local paper, the woman was convicted on six counts of Class C felony charges and six counts of Class D felony theft, resulting in 10 years in the state jail, followed by 5 years of probation.
The woman began stealing from the church shortly after getting hired in late 2004 as the church's financial and administrative secretary, according to the article. She forged signatures on 192 checks, doctored bank receipts to cover it up, and also made unauthorized charges on church credit cards, the paper said.
This case is similar to one covered by Richard Hammar in November's Church Finance Today in which a woman employed as a church office manager for seven years stole $450,000. She received a 15-year sentence, which included an upward adjustment "for misrepresenting that she was acting on behalf of her church," according to the article.
What's the takeaway for church leaders from these cases? Aside from the need to implement strong financial controls, if such controls aren't already in place, Richard explains three reasons why church leaders should learn from cases like these:
The scenario that got both Sally and Jim both terminated from their company could have run like this:
Jim: All I said was that I needed the documents, completed and signed, by tomorrow night. Sally: Don’t tell me that’s all you said. You demanded it! Jim: I asked nicely. Sally: Yes, but when my boss was here you kissed up to him really well and then asked me nicely. But your e-mail screamed at me. Jim: Well, you made me do it because you didn’t write back to me. Sally: I’m your boss and don’t have to get back to you. I tell you what to do.
And so it went, until the screaming attracted the attention of the entire office. Most office conflict doesn’t spiral out of control. But everyone has a conflict in the office from time to time. Even if you don’t have frequent conflict with others, you will be around people who do disagree with one another.
In office conflicts, there are “only” three major causes of conflict. If your office has any of the following, then you will have conflict:
Humor aside, everybody is going to have conflict. The book of James gives another example of the source of conflict:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. —James 4:1–2 (NIV)
Conflict begins when someone shares their salary with a co-worker, who then becomes envious of the other. Or, one person gets a promotion, while the one who doesn’t takes out their angst on the new boss. It also can start when a subordinate continually makes insulting jokes and jabs, undermining morale.
What should we do when conflict happens? Here are some typical steps to consider when conflict happens in your office:
Among the crowded field of books on leadership, some stand out.
Recently I talked with a senior partner of TAG Consulting, Kurt Andre. Among his many talents, Kurt is a certified Executive Leadership Coach. So I asked him which books on leadership he finds the most helpful. Here are his top 5:
Seminary equipped me to do many things, but not to tackle the complex challenges in leading the church. Heifetz distinguishes between problems that can be solved through expertise (technical problems) and problems that require innovative approaches, including preserving a church’s unique identity or code and the consideration of the church’s values (adaptive problems). For the church, an adaptive problem could include engaging a community whose demographic no longer reflects the church, buildings whose structure no longer meet the needs of today’s ministry, or navigating the tension between discipleship and outreach. Heifetz identifies four major strategies of leadership: (1) approach problems as adaptive challenges, and diagnose the situation in light of the values involved; (2) regulate the "heat in the kitchen" caused by confronting issues that increase people’s anxiety, by pacing the congregation through change; (3) focus on what is important versus what others say is important to them, and (4) shift the ownership for problems from the leadership (the pastor or elders/deacons or council) to all those affected by the necessary change.
Copper remains a popular target for thieves because of the metal’s potential re-sale value.
Thieves steal anything containing copper in order to turn a quick profit. Air conditioning units, gutters, electrical wiring, pipes—all of these items are ripe for the picking. Even rooftop heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are being vandalized.
In the recent past, one Alabama church had its air conditioning units stolen twice in 10 days. Each time, thieves got about $300 worth of copper, and the church had to pay more than $3,000 for replacements. A church in Detroit, Michigan, spent more than $50,000 to replace heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units damaged by copper thieves.
In October 2009, thieves stole copper downspouts three times in a two-month span from a Massachusetts church. An article in the local paper said the value of scrap copper has diminished in recent months, but the article indicated copper thefts remain an option of choice, especially “to someone who’s obviously desperate,” the town’s chief of detectives said.
Here are some practical steps to protect church property from copper thieves:
A seasoned executive pastor shares how he learned about his next job.
Dr. David R. Fletcher
One day, I received an e-mail from a senior pastor I didn’t know who leads The Chapel, an 11,000-person church in Ohio. As the founder of XPastor.org, I get a good number of “can you help me?” e-mails. In this case, Paul was looking for a new executive pastor. As I always do, I replied with some ideas on how to find one.
Paul wrote back with more thoughts, and before long, we sensed God was doing something. We began to talk about me coming to partner with him as his executive pastor. This caused me to shift from being an impartial consultant to being personally involved!
Before I took off my XPastor.org hat, I planned how best to approach an interview process. My conclusion: Although this church’s leaders needed to interview me, it was vital that I interview them, too!
Todd Wagner, the lead pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, once said, “The best place to get fired is in the interview.”
The place to determine “fit” is in the interview, not in the first six months of the new ministry. I had to interview The Chapel so that I could determine my fit.
Use these to help determine direction and strategy in the year ahead
Editor’s Note: Scott Vaughn, a church communications consultant, recently posed these questions in a discussion forum for church administrators. Vaughn, whose firm helps churches and faith organizations, is quoted extensively in “Bringing Joy to the World: A communications strategy to reach more people at Christmas—and beyond,” which appears in our current issue of Your Church magazine. We thought the questions serve as a helpful, quick assessment for church leaders and administrators; many of the themes addressed here also are covered in other articles of our current issue, including best practices for websites and using tech and nontech approaches for communicating with members and the community:
As you approach 2010, consider these 10 questions to discuss your church’s communication efforts:
1. How does our current communications methodology compare to what we were
doing five years ago? Are we changing with the way people in our church are
2. Do we talk about a communications budget as an expense or an investment? Are
we strategic in using our communication to advance our mission to make
followers of Jesus? (Remember, a successful communications strategy leads to increases in participation and giving to the budget).
3. Are we talking with, and listening to, our members and attendees and making
adjustments in how they want to “receive” information from us?
4. Is more than 50 percent of our communications budget needlessly paying printing costs?
Current legal trends that can help your church assess its vulnerabilities.
Richard R. Hammar
For many years, I've closely reviewed litigation involving churches to identify patterns that pastors and leaders can use to assess their own risks and potential vulnerabilities. In 2008, the following five types of cases brought churches to court more than any others:
1. Sexual Abuse of a Minor (15 percent of cases). Sadly, this type of case is typically the No. 1 or No. 2 reason churches wind up in court every year.
2. Property Disputes (13 percent of cases).
3. Zoning (10 percent of cases).
4. Personal Injury (9 percent of cases). This is a Top 4 issue every year.
5. Tax (7 percent of cases).
Based on this ongoing analysis, churches should note the following major risk categories they face and work to evaluate (and to minimize) their own risks:
As a ministry leader, you may be wondering what you can do to keep your congregation healthy. Here are some important steps you can take to reduce the spread of the flu within your own faith community.
Read through the tips below, then take our free online assessment to see if your church is ready to communicate to staff and congregants during a pandemic.
Practical steps for churches to reach the unemployed--and the underemployed.
The ABC News affiliate serving the Rochester, Minnesota, area posted a piece earlier this week highlighting the efforts of some local churches to help the unemployed. The article makes an interesting point about the challenges presented by unemployment to an area, as well as underemployment--the number of workers who take part-time or low-paying jobs to help make ends meet as they seek permanent employment in their careers of choice.
I'm guessing the never-ending stream of daily and weekly media reports about unemployment probably have turned the issue into the equivalent of static in your eyes and ears, as it has for me. It's vital we not forget the need to administer outreach programs to people in our congregations and communities right now.
In the July/August 2009 issue of Your Church, we covered the multiple ways churches can serve as the unemployment rate reaches 10 percent (or more) around the country. You can find the article here, and an accompanying box listing the efforts of more than a dozen churches here.
A live webinar event with Leadership's Skye Jethani, and CKN's Ed Bahler and Bill Couchenour
Assumptions about church facilities are changing. The young are looking for sacred space. Others believe the church should spend more on the poor and less on multi-media theatrical buildings. And the multi-site movement is decentralizing church programming. What does all of this mean for how we plan our facilities? Ed Bahler and Bill Couchenour from the Cornerstone Knowledge Network have decades of experience as church architects. They have also been helping churches think more clearly about vision and facilities in our rapidly changing culture. Leadership's managing editor, Skye Jethani, will be interviewing Bahler and Couchenour about what church leaders should do before they decide to build or renovate their facilites. And you will have the opportunity to ask questions as well.
Sign up for this live webinar event featuring Ed Bahler and Bill Couchenour with Skye Jethani of Leadership journal, on November 17th, 11 a.m. (CDT). Also sign up for Building For Ministry's free e-newsletter.
Editor's Note: Marian Liautaud, editor of BuildingForMinistry.com, is blogging live this week from the Cornerstone Knowledge Network's Alignment4 Conference and WFX. Watch for more dispatches throughout the week:
Will Mancini moved from the trenches of church leadership and founded Auxano, a church consulting group that takes a unique approach of helping churches find their vision frame before proceeding with typical consulting services. To that end, Will calls himself a "clarity evangelist."
What to preserve--and what to change--prior to exploring facility questions.
Marian V. Liautaud
Editor's Note: Marian Liautaud, editor of BuildingForMinistry.com, is blogging live this week from the Cornerstone Knowledge Network's Alignment4 Conference and WFX. She posted this live dispatch on Tuesday (watch for more throughout the week):
Kevin Ford is the Chief Visionary Officer and Managing Partner of TAG Consulting, a management consulting firm specializing in strategy, leadership and ministry development. TAG's client list includes Merrill Lynch, the Federal Aviation Association and the Salvation Army. While Kevin loves consulting with companies and ministries of all sizes, his passion is to help leaders of the local church.
In his workshop at the 2009 Cornerstone Knowledge Network Conference in Charlotte, Kevin presented on the topic of "Leading Through Change." Here are some of the highlights:
The primary task of leadership is to distinguish between what needs to be preserved and what needs to change. Work on what to preserve before tackling what needs to change.
How do you take your church through the process of change? First, determine what you need to preserve.
Church offices should benefit from Microsoft’s new operating system.
Ministry Business Services Inc., the church consulting firm I started in the 1980s, began testing Microsoft Corporation’s Windows 7 Professional in January. On Tuesday, MBS announced it adopted Windows 7 Professional as its preferred operating system, and it recommends churches to do the same.
This may surprise some, since the challenges with Microsoft’s Windows Vista, the preceding operating system, have been many. Clarence White, the chief information officer for the Salvation Army’s western territory, even asked me on a recent podcast if MBS really believed in Windows 7 Professional. The answer is yes. I told him it’s almost like Vista was a beta for Windows 7, or that Windows 7 is the first service pack for Vista that really fixes it.
Corporate customers have embraced Windows 7’s release as well. The Gartner Group recently said the operating system is ready (Gartner also recommends a 12- to 18-month integration process, saying earlier this month that organizations should start now), and a recent Softchoice study with ComputerWorld found that 88 percent of corporate PCs are capable of running Windows 7. That means many churches and ministries likely are in a position to upgrade to it as well.
A number of years ago, my church needed an office manager. Aware of my experience as an executive assistant, the pastor offered me the job. I was looking for change, so this new position seemed like a win-win. After my first day, I wondered what I had gotten myself into!
I discovered an office devoid of any filing system or operational procedures for managing daily tasks. Disorder abounded! Feeling claustrophobic from the piles of decades-old church bulletins, and other useless “stuff,” I rolled up my sleeves and set to work on an extreme organizational make-over of our church office.
Today there are whole companies devoted to creating manageable office environments that promote efficiency. Ultimately, efficiency is the end product of organization. According to Monica Friel, CEO (that’s Chief Executive Organizer) of Chaos to Order, “employees lose an average of six weeks per year looking for documents.”
That’s six weeks per year per employee! The cost to companies (and church offices) is enormous, and in these hard economic times as we see more businesses metaphorically “clean house,” perhaps it also makes good, financial sense to reclaim the literal meaning and actually clean house.
Where Do We Begin?
Organizing for better efficiency may be divided into three parts: the physical environment, attitudes, and maintenance. Like any major undertaking that requires change, it’s also important to enlist support. Don’t set out to do an overhaul of your office systems without first meeting with the person in charge of your church office. As much as possible, keep this individual involved in the step-by-step changes taking place.
Vulnerability, our theme this week, is the degree of openness between oneself and others. Finding the right degree is a balancing act. A related challenge in ministry is confidentiality—that is, how open can you be about someone else? These nine questions can help you decide whether what you know should be shared.
1. Am I telling this to someone who can do something about the problem by helping the person or offering discipline or correction?
Continue reading at Off the Agenda for the other eight questions that can help you decide whether what you know should be shared.
How church administrators can prove—and increase—the worth of their roles.
In this uncertain economy, with so many churches scrambling to reduce expenses, the role of the church administrator inevitably will come under the bright light of scrutiny. Because of this uncertainty, church administrators need to spend time reflecting on ways to showcase—and increase—our value to the churches we serve.
Nearly half of the 1,168 churches surveyed by Your Church magazine earlier this year indicated giving at their churches was on the decline (click here for the full report). Personnel costs usually consume between 45 percent and 60 percent of a church’s budget, so that makes it fertile ground for reducing expenses. And as a senior pastor or key decision-maker looks across the staff, the cost of the church administrator might appear more tempting a fruit to pluck off the vine than other staff positions because the perception is that the administrator does not have the direct impact on ministry that other church positions offer.
The administrator usually doesn’t preach, doesn’t counsel, doesn’t meet with new families, doesn’t lead programs, or possess nearly as public of a face as other staff members. It could be suggested, albeit incorrectly in my opinion, that a church could release a church administrator and not see a direct impact to the ongoing ministries of the church. That kind of reasoning is wholly short-sighted, but perhaps understandable in tough economic times like these.
That’s why we must demonstrate our value and find ways to further expand that value, not just to lessen the likelihood we’ll lose our jobs, but also for the far more noble desire to increase our impact in Christ’s Kingdom. We want to become more valuable because we can and, because in so doing, we’ll gain the fulfillment that comes from knowing we have made a difference in our world through the Gospel.
The role of church administrator is one of efficiency and productivity. It allows the church organization to function smoothly and effectively. It involves processes and systems that indirectly, yet significantly, impact the people we serve in our churches. The church administrator often works behind the scenes to ensure resources are wisely and efficiently used. The church administrator also creates and implements policies and systems that promote harmony, decrease ambiguity and confusion, and allow for greater productivity and impact toward the church’s mission.
Here’s how to showcase these very important qualities and raise the bar even higher:
Most church office staff interact with a large number of drop-in visitors. These are often congregational members who come to the church for a specific reason, but then end up in the church office. These conversations can be helpful in building relationships, but sometimes they can prevent the staff from getting work done. This case study examines that concern. Read the following case study and respond in the "comments" section on this blog.
Stacy is working on a mailing for the Sunday School staff. During the last 35 minutes, at least 3 congregational members have dropped in the office, and one elderly member of the congregation phoned. In each case, the members chatted for a few minutes about this and that, nothing really important. The elderly person calls on a regular basis, and just likes to visit.
Stacy wants to be sensitive to congregational members, but is unsure how to minimize visits when she has other work that needs to be done. What would you suggest?
Every so often, we should examine the relationship between how we organize our work and how effective we are at getting our work done in an efficient and effective manner. Clearly, many ways exist to organize work, but they are not all equal. Some ways may actually add to our stress and make our work more difficult. Read the following case study and respond in the comments section on this blog.
Stacy arrives at the church office each morning around 8:30 A.M. She usually follows a routine of turning on the copy machine, making some coffee, checking her e-mail and reviewing her to-do list for the day. Often, though, she feels disorganized. It's not long before people are starting to drop by, the phone is ringing, and she finds herself continuously getting up and down
to get this or that.
What can Stacy do to better organize her time, her work, and herself? What routines do you follow that help you get your work done better? Do you have a morning routine, an afternoon routine, a daily, weekly, or monthly routine?
Survey: Pastors, church staff nationwide see slight pay declines.
About half the nation’s full-time pastors report they received no salary increase in the past year, continuing a downturn in salaries among top leaders in churches, according to a new survey published by Christianity Today International. In fact, the extensive survey, publishing this fall in the 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, shows a slight decline or stall in pay levels for the majority of every church employee surveyed this year.
The Compensation Handbook was developed to provide church leaders and employees with a current and reliable picture of compensation practices across a broad spectrum of American churches. It presents survey data from nearly 5,000 churches representing more than 10,000 staff members in 13 ministry positions, both full-time and part-time, ranging from pastors to childcare positions. The survey was conducted in February and March from subscribers of various Christianity Today International magazines, e-newsletters, and web channels, including Church Law & Tax Report, Church Finance Today, andLeadership, a journal for pastors and church leaders.
Among the findings:
• After a slight bump up in salaries in 2008, the new survey finds a small decline reported in 2009.
How one rural pastor uses technology without spending a lot.
In ministry, one can define stewardship as “maximizing the impact of every dollar.” In this economy, this definition takes on even greater meaning. And as the pastor of a small rural church, I have experienced this reality firsthand. Yet, even with added financial difficulties, I cannot forget that the above definition still includes the word “impact.” Our spending, regardless the amount, must make a difference.
One area often caught between stewardship and impact is technology. In my church, I have found that a little bit of technology goes a long way. Yet, the cost presents a formidable challenge to our budget. Unwilling to forgo the impact, I have tried to find creative ways to add technology without adding the typical high costs. Though not profound, the result of my efforts is five effective ideas for becoming high tech on a low budget.
Five purchases churches might budget for this fall to buy next year.
Despite the lingering effects of the current economic maelstrom, next year’s church budget will soon become reality, and the need to disperse funds will be here.
Since a church budget should be assembled and managed wisely, it helps to know where trends are headed and how they affect resource effectiveness. For example, spending money on digital signs in the lobby may be a better investment than upgrading the paper quality of the bulletin, since many people have become acclimated to information video displays in airports and shopping malls and often prefer to receive data digitally.
Technology trends, then, give at least a general course directive on how to allocate funds and, while not a panacea, provide a useful tool in the service of worship when appropriately applied.
Here, then, are five current developments your church may find helpful as it considers purchases and next year’s budget:
Answers to common questions about computers and phones.
Editor’s Note: The author’s consulting firm doesn’t sell or distribute any hardware or software, or receive any compensation for referrals. The firm’s work for many years with hundreds of churches led to the recommendations outlined here.
Many people make one of two mistakes about church technology needs. Either they underestimate the need and look for the cheapest possible solution (which often costs more because it’s the wrong solution), or they overspend on technology and overcomplicate the system.
We’ll look at some common questions regarding two office technology tools—desktop and notebook computers and mobile devices (such as smart phones)—with the hope that church leaders can avoid these mistakes on two essential categories of purchases.
Outside of megachurches, churches rarely have the budget for Information Technology staff. Some larger churches can add part-time staff to help support the technology needs of pastors and office personnel, but outside of that, most churches are best served by simple system and hardware strategies that increase reliability, which means less need for support.
When hardware purchases are strategized, they can drastically reduce the need for support and improve team productivity. And that’s especially important given our missions to share the Gospel and disciple believers.
The answers to these questions can help with those strategies for buying hardware: