All posts from “Staff”

April 1, 2014

Role Descriptions: An Effective Tool for Recruiting Volunteers

Spelling it out can motive and encourage

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Role descriptions can be used as a tool for recruiting volunteers. They help you emphasize the seriousness of the role and its importance to the church's vision. No one will take it seriously if you don't.

People don't like to be managed, especially volunteers. They get enough of that five days a week at their jobs. So role descriptions take away the need to manage people and place it on managing agreements.

People want volunteering to be a choice, not an obligation. They want to feel appreciated for what they contribute, not taken for granted. And the best way to measure and appreciate someone's contribution is to spell it out.

Continue reading Role Descriptions: An Effective Tool for Recruiting Volunteers...

December 2, 2013

Doing More Ministry with Less—While Still Keeping Boundaries

Knowing limits is critical to leading well in post-recession ministry.

Editor's Note: David Fletcher is the founder of XPastor.org, a 10-year-old network providing articles, training, resources, and community to executive pastors nationwide. Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax Group is a co-sponsor of XPastor's XP-Seminar this February in Dallas. Matt Branaugh recently caught up with David to get his thoughts on current developments affecting executive pastors and the theme for the next XP-Seminar.

Q: We recently released the findings of our compensation and benefits survey with more than 3,000 churches nationwide. One of the highlights from the data was a 7.1-percent increase in pay and benefits for senior pastors. Are you hearing similar trends from your network of executive pastors?

A: I'm pleased, and I'm not surprised. The American church is a little skinnier right now, so we're compensating fewer people, but we're compensating them a little better because we don't have as large of staffs as we've previously had.

Continue reading Doing More Ministry with Less—While Still Keeping Boundaries...

November 25, 2013

Five Takeaways from the November 2013 Housing Allowance Ruling

Richard Hammar offers key points regarding Wisconsin judge's ruling.

UPDATE (12/2/13): Below are five immediate takeaways from Richard Hammar on the November 22, 2013, ruling on clergy housing allowances by a federal judge in Wisconsin. Rich goes deeper on these five, plus five more, in the January/February issue of Church Law & Tax Report.

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On November 22, 2013, federal judge Barbara Crabb from the Western District Court of Wisconsin (a President Carter appointee) struck down the ministerial housing allowance as an unconstitutional preference for religion. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) challenging the constitutionality of the housing allowance and the parsonage exclusion.

Here are five things to note about this ruling:

Continue reading Five Takeaways from the November 2013 Housing Allowance Ruling...

August 20, 2013

When Copyright Violations Cost Churches

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:

Continue reading When Copyright Violations Cost Churches...

August 8, 2013

Free Webinar: Guns at Church and Church Security

What church leaders should know about preventing--and responding to--violent acts.

If a shooting occurs at our church, are we liable? How should we form a church security team? Is it OK for church members with permits to bring their guns to church?

These questions may seem odd for church leaders to ask. Sadly, they're necessary. Acts of deadly violence at churches continue to make headlines.

With more than 135 deadly-force incidents occurring on ministry premises in 2012, church leaders must address how best to protect the people who come through their doors each week.

To help ministry leaders handle these challenges, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company and Christianity Today are co-sponsoring “Guns at Church: What Ministry Leaders Should Know,” a free webinar with noted church legal expert Richard Hammar at 11 a.m. (CDT)/12 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, August 14.

During this one-hour event, church leaders will learn:

Continue reading Free Webinar: Guns at Church and Church Security...

July 8, 2013

"Play or Pay" Health Care Penalty Delayed

Noncompliance penalty delayed to January 2015 for large employers.

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.

The September/October 2013 edition of Church Law & Tax Report will cover more about the "play or pay" penalty delay, as well as how the Act's notice requirement affects churches that fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act. To go even deeper on the implications of the Act for churches, read more about last year's Supreme Court ruling on the Act; a tax credit for small church staffs that provide health coverage; and a full legal analysis of the Act for churches.

June 6, 2013

Thom Rainer's Top 10 Rules of Thumb for Healthy Churches

These diagnostics can help gauge a church's effectiveness.

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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?

June 4, 2013

Addressing Transportation Risks with Youth Groups

The dangers of distracted driving and inexperienced drivers.

This video, the third in a series by Richard Hammar on six legal risks for church youth pastors, describes the threats of distracted driving, the use of inexperienced drivers, and the legal liabilities churches may assume by not fully knowing their state's laws. These threats are important to note, especially because so many youth group activities rely upon staff, and upon volunteer drivers, including youth old enough to drive, to drive members to events.

Part One of this series addresses the risks of inappropriate texting between youth pastors and teens.

View the entire six-part series on Richard Hammar's YouTube channel.

For more help with safety in your youth ministry, check out Richard Hammar's new eBook, Essential Guide to Youth Ministry Safety.

To get more help with best practices for transportation in ministry, check out Safety on the Road and Transportation Safety for Your Church, two downloadable training resources from our sister site, ChurchSafety.com.

May 30, 2013

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

A common practice may trigger unexpected paperwork.

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

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

April 23, 2013

Three Risks Keeping Church Leaders Up at Night

These pitfalls can be avoided with the right preparation.

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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:

Continue reading Three Risks Keeping Church Leaders Up at Night...

April 18, 2013

What's Next: How Churches are Using Outsourcing

Free your church's staff by finding capable outside help.

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of guest posts from Dave Travis' book, What's Next?:2012 Edition. The first three posts addressed church finances, financial accountability, and the use of interns and residents. Travis is CEO of Leadership Network.

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."

Continue reading What's Next: How Churches are Using Outsourcing...

April 9, 2013

Indiana Government Survey: 1 in 4 Say Churches Should Make Payments

‘Sobering message’ for tax-exempt charities, study director says.

A 2010 survey of local government leaders in Indiana shows one in four want churches to make “payments” or provide services in exchange for receiving tax exemptions on their properties.

The survey results, released for the first time on Monday, incorporated responses from 1,150 local government officials, including mayors, county auditors, and county commissioners. "The results of our survey send a sobering message to charities that are already seeing their tax status challenged in several states," said Kristen Grønbjerg, the study’s director, in a press release.

The Indiana Nonprofits: Scope and Community Dimensions project specifically focused on PILOTS—“payments in lieu of taxes"—and SILOTs—“services in lieu of taxes.” Some municipalities use PILOTs and SILOTs to generate additional revenue from tax-exempt entities. Many towns, cities, and counties continue to see their coffers languish as tax appraisals for commercial and residential properties remain below once-peak levels and as sales tax collections remain volatile, dependent on the employment, pay raises, and confidence of consumers.

Continue reading Indiana Government Survey: 1 in 4 Say Churches Should Make Payments ...

April 4, 2013

What's Next: Should We Use Interns and Residents?

Intern programs meet current church needs--and build for the future.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of guest posts from Dave Travis' book, What's Next?:2012 Edition. The first post addressed church finances and the second post addressed financial accountability. Travis is CEO of Leadership Network.

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.

Continue reading What's Next: Should We Use Interns and Residents?...

April 2, 2013

Are Annual Church Pledge Drives Still Relevant?

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.

Continue reading Are Annual Church Pledge Drives Still Relevant? ...

March 21, 2013

What's Next: It's the Economy—or Is It?

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.

Continue reading What's Next: It's the Economy—or Is It?...

March 14, 2013

Seven Digital Tips in a "Post-Website World"

How the right communications "streams" can aid churches.

David Bourgeois, a professor at Biola University, is author of the forthcoming book, Ministry in the Digital Age: Strategies and Best Practices for a Post-Website World. He recently presented a webinar with the Christian Leadership Alliance on several topics covered in his book.

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).

Continue reading Seven Digital Tips in a "Post-Website World"...

March 12, 2013

LifeWay Research on Gay Marriage and The Church

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):

Continue reading LifeWay Research on Gay Marriage and The Church...

March 11, 2013

The Four Levels of Scrutiny of Pastoral Search Committees

Church leaders evaluate numerous factors, making clear priorities a must.

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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.

Continue reading The Four Levels of Scrutiny of Pastoral Search Committees...

March 7, 2013

Transgender Activities in Churches

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.

Continue reading Transgender Activities in Churches...

February 25, 2013

When You Need Outside Help for Taxes

What clergy should look for in a tax preparer.

A brief Q&A recently featured in The Wall Street Journal offers tips for what to look for in a tax preparer. Many people hire someone to help them file their returns these days, the author notes, mostly because of the increasingly complex nature of the country’s tax code.

Those involved with ministry likely turn to some form of outside help for their returns. Clergy face numerous questions and decisions related to their tax status, and churches and clergy also deal with a number of complex matters, including the handling of housing allowances and the tax treatment of business expenses. Among the Journal’s tips for hiring a tax preparer, the following seemed especially insightful:

Continue reading When You Need Outside Help for Taxes...

February 19, 2013

Big Churches Expect Big Things in 2013

Gleanings from Leadership Network’s new economic outlook.

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Leadership Network released its 2013 economic outlook this morning, relaying a mostly upbeat forecast for the nation's big Protestant churches in the year ahead.

The organization created the report, written by Warren Bird and Stephanie Jackson, by combining responses from two surveys it conducted last year with large-sized churches.

The optimistic outlook is a contrast to the for-profit Atlas of Giving's recent projections of harder times ahead for religious giving in 2013.

The following 10 highlights from Leadership Network's report are especially helpful for church leaders who oversee budgets, staffing, and other management responsibilities, regardless of church size:

Continue reading Big Churches Expect Big Things in 2013...

February 5, 2013

2012: "A Bad Year for Violence" at Churches

Security expert Carl Chinn discusses how congregations should respond to the latest stats.

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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?

Continue reading 2012: "A Bad Year for Violence" at Churches...

January 29, 2013

Why Multitasking May Fail Us

What church leaders should note from new research.

Why Multitasking May Fail Us

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading Why Multitasking May Fail Us...

January 15, 2013

Establishing an Arbitration Policy for Church Staff Disputes

Avoid costly legal battles through this increasingly popular approach.

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

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

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

Continue reading Establishing an Arbitration Policy for Church Staff Disputes...

January 10, 2013

Will Churches Pay More in 2013?

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

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

Less than 3 percent anticipated cutting salaries.

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

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

Continue reading Will Churches Pay More in 2013?...

December 20, 2012

Outfit Your Church for Outreach

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.

1) Volunteers

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.

Continue reading Outfit Your Church for Outreach...

December 18, 2012

"Clergy Killers”—and the Church

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.

Continue reading "Clergy Killers”—and the Church...

December 11, 2012

How Churches Serve Their Communities

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.

Continue reading How Churches Serve Their Communities...

December 4, 2012

Q&A: Is a Love Offering Tax Deductible for the Donor?

Yes—if specific factors are met.

Q: I realize love offerings need to be included in a pastor’s taxable income, however, should an individual receive tax-deductible credit for their gift if the church board authorized the collection? Also, what if an individual gives a love gift to a pastor on their own during the year by making the check payable to the church?

A: I address love offerings on page 177 of my annual Church & Clergy Tax Guide. Your specific questions bring two responses to mind:

Continue reading Q&A: Is a Love Offering Tax Deductible for the Donor?...

November 27, 2012

Do Members Have a Right to Inspect Church Records?

Four ways a church's documents could be opened for review.

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

Church members have no inherent right to inspect church records. Such a right must be granted by some statute or legal document. Here are four ways this can occur:

Continue reading Do Members Have a Right to Inspect Church Records?...

November 20, 2012

A Minister’s Most Important Tax Break

Summing up the housing allowance exclusion

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This article is adapted from Richard Hammar’s Essential Guide to Money for Church Boards eBook. For this eBook and other cutting-edge eBooks for church administrators, board members, and clergy, view our online catalog.

The most important tax benefit available to ministers who own or rent their home is the housing allowance exclusion.

To the extent the allowance represents compensation for ministerial services, is used to pay housing expenses, and doesn’t exceed the fair rental value of the home, including utilities, ministers who own their home do not pay federal income taxes on the amount of their compensation that their church designates in advance as a housing allowance. Housing-related expenses include mortgage payments, utilities, repairs, furnishings, insurance, property taxes, remodeling expenses, and maintenance.

For ministers who rent a home or apartment, all of the above is true, with the only difference being the allowance is used to pay rental expenses, such as rent, furnishings, utilities, and insurance.

Continue reading A Minister’s Most Important Tax Break...

November 13, 2012

Four Ways to Boost Year-End Giving

Tap into your congregation’s generosity now so you can finish strong.

Many churches look forward to a year-end giving bump to help make up for a budget shortfall. In the annual State of the Plate survey we co-sponsor, we know churches consistently count on December to boost total giving figures for the year, and in uncertain economic times, this can present challenges. For instance, among 1,500 churches who responded to the 2011 State of the Plate, nearly a third said year-end giving in 2010 missed expectations.

An end-of-year giving project can help maximize a bump up. It also can encourage long-term giving to avoid an overdependence on future Decembers.

“When it comes to generosity, we tend to leave story behind and rely on other motivations such as tradition, ‘ought to,’ and unhealthy manipulation,” says Brad Leeper, author of the eBook, So Much More, and principal of “generosity development” firm Generis. By sharing stories of God’s mission and personal narratives of giving, church staffs can encourage their congregations to consider the place of regular generosity in their own stories.

Here are four things to keep in mind as you plot the story of your end-of-year giving project:

Continue reading Four Ways to Boost Year-End Giving...

November 8, 2012

Q&A: Are "Love Offerings" for Church Staff Taxable?

How to handle these well-meaning cash gifts.

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?

A: I cover the topic of “love offerings” on Page 177 of the 2012 Church & Clergy Tax Guide:

Continue reading Q&A: Are "Love Offerings" for Church Staff Taxable? ...

October 25, 2012

The 10 Commandments of Church Management

Key best practices every church should follow.

Editor’s Note: Frank and Elaine Sommerville, editorial advisors for ManagingYourChurch.com, presented some of this material on Monday at The Ultimate Financial and Legal Conference in Arlington, Texas.

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.

Continue reading The 10 Commandments of Church Management...

October 18, 2012

When a Sex Offender Wants to Attend Church

These steps can help ensure a smooth integration.

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:

Continue reading When a Sex Offender Wants to Attend Church...

September 27, 2012

Can We Send Banned Cribs Out of the Country?

New regulations force changes for church nurseries.

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Q: I am a children’s pastor. We have replaced all of our cribs, in light of the new regulations banning certain ones from being used, sold, or donated in this country. We have a missionary we support in South America who runs an orphanage. They have children sleeping on the floor, and they are very interested in our old cribs. They visited several months ago and they have a plan for making the cribs safe with a simple conversion that will not allow the sides to drop. My question is, since they are in another country, is it legal for us to ship these cribs to them?

A: In June 2011, the first of a two-stage process to implement the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act's new regulations for the sale, distribution, and use of nursery cribs in the United States went into effect. On December 28, 2012, the second stage begins.

Continue reading Can We Send Banned Cribs Out of the Country? ...

September 25, 2012

Building a Culture of Risk Management

Church boards, staffs must collaborate for the good of the ministry.

Now more than ever before, church leaders must recognize the importance of risk management as an inherent part of organizational oversight and leadership. But what does proper risk management look like, and whose responsibility is it? Many boards assume that the pastor and staff have the “bases covered” and board involvement is often limited to reacting to flare-ups. Such an approach to risk management is problematic and dangerous for multiple reasons.

Church leaders are typically consumed with day-to-day operating activities and decisions— the “tyranny of the urgent.” As a result, they frequently do not have, or take, the time to step back and proactively assess organizational risks and address them proactively. If that is the case, and the board is operating under the assumption that staff “has it covered,” the church may be a ticking time-bomb for obvious reasons.

Board and staff: a collaborative approach

A key area of responsibility for the board is to ensure that the church maintains an adequate approach to risk management in carrying out its programs. While the actual conduct of risk management activities is the responsibility of staff under the authority of the pastor, the board should evaluate the church’s risk management strategy since the board has ultimate responsibility for oversight.

An effective risk management plan is a holistic one—one that addresses risk in all aspects of the church’s activities. The risk management plan should also be proactive rather than reactive, identifying risks before they become liabilities and taking appropriate steps to mitigate them.

In order to effectively carry out its responsibilities, the board may wish to establish a standing “risk management committee” to oversee the church’s risk management strategy and to provide reports and recommendations to the full board.

The board or risk management committee should work with the pastor and staff to ensure that:

Continue reading Building a Culture of Risk Management ...

September 17, 2012

Ken Sande Gets “Upstream of Conflict”

Peacemaker founder discusses starting a new ministry.

Ken Sande

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.

Continue reading Ken Sande Gets “Upstream of Conflict”...

September 13, 2012

Hammar Achieves Professional Parliamentarian Status

Richard Hammar

In 2009, Richard Hammar—senior editor of Church Law & Tax Report and Church Finance Today—became one of 270 “registered parliamentarians” in the United States by passing a qualifying examination administered by the National Association of Parliamentarians. Recently, he passed a “professional qualifying course” and became a Professional Registered Parliamentarian (PRP), the highest status that a parliamentarian can achieve. The National Association of Parliamentarians describes this status as follows:

A member who reaches Professional Registered Parliamentarian® (PRP) status has demonstrated to fellow professionals that he or she not only has the in-depth knowledge of parliamentary procedure required of a Registered Parliamentarian, but also the skills to provide effective, practical help to an individual or organization in need of parliamentary assistance. These skills include the ability to preside over a meeting; to perform the duties of a parliamentarian for another presiding officer and help them preside effectively; to consult organizations on the rules that govern their meetings and operations; and to share parliamentary knowledge with others. A Professional Registered Parliamentarian must maintain this certification through practical experience and recurrent training, ensuring that each PRP maintains the same high professional standards throughout his or her career.

August 30, 2012

Can We Amend the Pastor's Housing Allowance?

A change is allowed, but note one important limitation.

Q: Our church designates, in writing, a housing allowance for our pastor on an annual basis (usually late November for the upcoming fiscal year—for example in November 2011 we submitted our proposed budget for 2012).

We now have a member who wants to modify the pastor's housing allowance and give the pastor an additional amount and designate it as the 2012 housing allowance. He referenced an auditor from a tax service about this issue and was told there would be no problem (tax wise) if our church decided to "adjust" the pastor's housing allowance in October for fiscal year 2012.

If we record this action in our business meeting minutes for October 2012 and increase the housing allowance for 2012 (about double the designated amount), are we within the tax laws?

A: Rich Hammar addresses this question in the Church & Clergy Tax Guide:

Continue reading Can We Amend the Pastor's Housing Allowance? ...

August 23, 2012

Drafting a Conditional Agreement for a Sex Offender

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:

  1. Do nothing. They just don’t know what to do.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

Continue reading Drafting a Conditional Agreement for a Sex Offender...

August 20, 2012

Don’t Jump to Assumptions

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:

Continue reading Don’t Jump to Assumptions...

July 26, 2012

Q&A: Should Churches Perform a Compensation Study?

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.

Continue reading Q&A: Should Churches Perform a Compensation Study? ...

July 24, 2012

Why Thursday Deadlines Make for Better Sundays at Church

Deciding details early coordinates efforts and avoids last-minute problems.

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Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from Engage by 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.

Continue reading Why Thursday Deadlines Make for Better Sundays at Church ...

July 19, 2012

Q&A: Is Benevolence for a Church Employee Taxable?

Important information to address this common tax question.

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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.

Continue reading Q&A: Is Benevolence for a Church Employee Taxable?...

July 17, 2012

Redeeming Even the Messiest Church Conflicts

The Acts 15 model provides leaders with guidance.

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.

Continue reading Redeeming Even the Messiest Church Conflicts...

July 12, 2012

Report: Penn State Sex Abuse Allegations Arose in 1998

Investigation also says leaders disregarded safety—here’s what churches should note.

Joe Paterno and other key Penn State officials knew about sex abuse allegations as early as 1998, but actively hushed concerns in fear of repercussions, according to a special investigative team’s report released today. The sweeping independent report notes that the investigation’s “. . . most saddening finding . . . is the total and consistent disregard by the most senior leaders at Penn State for the safety and wellbeing of Sandusky’s child victims.”

The report agrees with a recent grand jury’s findings that Penn State officials made no attempt to investigate abuse allegations, identify victims, or protect other children from the continuing crimes.

According to head investigator (former FBI Director Louis Freeh), "The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized." Freeh noted a trickle-down effect of organizational fear that arguably resulted in even a school janitor failing to report an incident of abuse he witnessed in 2000 because of concern for his job. In an ironic twist, the lack of action by staff and officials, all to protect jobs and reputations, most likely will carry severe consequences for the university and its staff in the months and years to come.

Church leaders and staff must remember that reported abuse must be investigated seriously and quickly. Liability can be traced not only according to what is (or isn’t) done, but how quickly an organization responds.

Continue reading Report: Penn State Sex Abuse Allegations Arose in 1998...

July 12, 2012

Setting Boundaries for Sex Offenders to Attend Church

An Oregon church says its insurer's restrictions go too far.

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.

Continue reading Setting Boundaries for Sex Offenders to Attend Church...

July 10, 2012

When the Church Needs a Doctor

A conversation with Bill Wilson, president of the Center for Congregational Health.

Bill Wilson, president of the Center for Congregational Health and keynote speaker at this year’s annual National Association of Church Business Administration (NACBA) conference in Houston, Texas, July 10-14, talks about what it means to be a healthy church and what to do when the church is sick.

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.

Continue reading When the Church Needs a Doctor...

July 2, 2012

Should Churches Be Involved in Politics?

One survey shows many say no; what the law says about political activity.

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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?

Continue reading Should Churches Be Involved in Politics?...

June 12, 2012

Pastors: Bring Financial Order to Your House

Your personal financial example sets the pace for your church.

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The average church in America today has only one full-time pastor. This leaves the pastor to handle the majority of the church’s duties, including business matters. In referencing the qualifications for a pastor, 1 Timothy 3:4 says the leader should be one who rules his own house well. What does this mean? It means the pastor must manage his own family correctly, in a commendable way that leaves no room for blame.

The point continues with this rhetorical question: “If a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5, NKJV). The answer is, he can’t. Ministers must be able to manage their own financial affairs in a God-pleasing manner.

Many important aspects are involved with the handling of business and financial matters. It is crucial that a pastor be able to conduct business in town, pay taxes, pay bills, and so on. The most basic part of your home’s business is a budget. Here are some ideas for creating and implementing one.

Continue reading Pastors: Bring Financial Order to Your House...

June 4, 2012

8 Ways Churches Are Using Pinterest

How this surging visual aid for social media helps congregations.

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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:

Continue reading 8 Ways Churches Are Using Pinterest...

May 15, 2012

ManagingYourChurch.com Honored by Press Association

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.

In all, Christianity Today sites and publications received 43 honors during the conference, including the Award of Excellence for Church Finance Today in the Newsletter category and an Award of Merit for Church Law & Tax Report.

Continue reading ManagingYourChurch.com Honored by Press Association...

April 26, 2012

Rookie Pastors: Keep the Devil Out of the Details

Taxes, vacation time, and other things to clarify.

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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.

Continue reading Rookie Pastors: Keep the Devil Out of the Details...

April 19, 2012

Little Guys Can Do Big Things

Small church doesn't equal small message.

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.

Here are some ways the little guy can step it up:

Continue reading Little Guys Can Do Big Things ...

April 17, 2012

Free Webinar: Child Abuse Reporting in the Aftermath of Penn State

May 2 event covers what churches must know about reporting laws and prevention.

Allegations of child molestation at Penn State University stunned the nation last fall. Even as the investigation continues, church leaders can learn from the tough lessons of this case, including recognizing abuse, the duties to report suspected cases of abuse, the mandatory reporting laws enforced by each state, and the civil and criminal liabilities associated with a failure to report.

In a free, live webinar co-sponsored by Christianity Today and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company on May 2, Richard Hammar will review these critical matters for church pastors and leaders and take questions.

Hammar's background with risk management matters, including his creation of a comprehensive training program designed to help prevent child abuse in churches, makes him uniquely qualified to address the laws that churches nationwide must know, the prevention plans they must make, and the responses they should give if allegations ever arise.

Space is limited for the webinar, so sign up today.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. With state legislatures, such as Georgia's, closely scrutinizing their abuse reporting laws, it's a prime opportunity for churches to assess their current practices and identify potential vulnerabilities. To go deeper on the ways churches can protect the children in their care, check out the following resources:

Continue reading Free Webinar: Child Abuse Reporting in the Aftermath of Penn State...

April 12, 2012

Redeem a Church Conflict by Listening to a Lawyer? Really?

How church leaders should respond to a lawsuit.

Editor's Note: This guest post by David V. Edling first appeared on redeemingchurchconflicts.wordpress.com. It's related to the forthcoming book, Redeeming Church Conflicts, co-written by Edling and Tara Klena Barthel and scheduled for release in May from Baker Books.

_________________________

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.

Tara and I define “redeeming church conflict” as:

Continue reading Redeem a Church Conflict by Listening to a Lawyer? Really?...

April 5, 2012

Is a Confession to a Pastor Always Confidential?

Michigan child-rape case spotlights clergy-penitent privilege.

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A child sexual assault case in Michigan has garnered national interest in recent weeks because the evidence used to bring criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator included testimony from his pastor.

A county judge deemed the inclusion of the pastor's statements to be a violation of the state's clergy-penitent privilege laws, and tossed it out from the county prosecution's case against the man. The suspect, who is accused of raping a girl when she was 9, faces a mandatory 25-year prison sentence if convicted.

The prosecution appealed the county judge's decision based on two factors: One, the suspect's alleged confession was given to his pastor in the presence of the suspect's mother, thus reducing expectations for confidentiality. And two, the pastor requested the meeting, not the suspect, suggesting the suspect wasn't seeking spiritual counseling when the meeting occurred.

This case once again illustrates the challenges with understanding how clergy-penitent privilege works. Richard Hammar has written a few times about the clergy-penitent privilege on ChurchLawAndTax.com, including a case in Florida in which the privilege didn't apply, another case in Rhode Island in which it didn't apply, and a Q&A about the difference between privileged and confidential communications. These articles are critical first steps for pastors to understand how clergy-penitent privileges work, as is a thorough reading of applicable state laws.

For more help, the first volume of Pastor, Church & Law by Hammar includes an extensive checklist that pastors and church leaders can use before any potential communications that may involve a confession.

April 3, 2012

A Breakdown of Salaries and Benefits for Senior Pastors

As church income and worship attendance increase, so do pay and benefits.

Editor's Note: The 2014-2015 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff is now available. This resource details pay and benefits data for 14 church positions, including two new ones—part-time musician and part-time childcare provider. Each position is analyzed based on a variety of criteria, including education, experience, church size, and geography. The resource also includes step-by-step worksheets to help churches tailor compensation based on their unique circumstances. In the weeks and months ahead, watch ManagingYourChurch.com for graphics and short articles highlighting trends and other broad developments from the latest data.

The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, Christianity Today's bi-annual survey of compensation levels based on 4,600 participating churches, shows senior pastors' salary and benefits at an average $82,938 this year. This represents a 2.7 percent increase from the $80,745 average reported in 2010.

Senior pastors rank at the top in total compensation plus benefits for church staff. (See the "Top 7 Paid Full-Time Positions in Church.")

In general, as church income and worship attendance increase, compensation and benefits also increase.

While a salary in the $80,000 range looks good on paper, actual take-home pay for pastors may be much different, perhaps far less. The average base salary of a full-time senior pastor ranges from $33,000 to $70,000. Eighty-four percent of senior pastors say they also receive a housing allowance, which accounts for $20,000 to $38,000 in added compensation.

The graphic below highlights the breakdown of salary and benefits senior pastors receive.

Continue reading A Breakdown of Salaries and Benefits for Senior Pastors...

March 26, 2012

Churchgoers Restrain Gunman During Sunday Service

Quick action helped prevent a shooting this past weekend.

A man armed with a shotgun entered worship services Sunday at a church in South Carolina. Quick—and courageous—action by attenders helped prevent a shooting.

The Huffington Post reports churchgoers watched through the church's windows as the 38-year-old assailant approached the building; half a dozen attenders responded when he burst through the doors, the website said.

As the man was led away by police he told reporters his children were recently taken away from him and he was "trying to get someone to listen to him," the site said.

Because of their accessibility, especially on weekends, churches sometimes receive visits from people who are troubled or upset. In a few instances, those people intend to do harm. Leadership teams can prepare ahead, though, to try and defuse a potentially dangerous situation. ChurchSafety.com offers the following preparation tips from its Confronting Gun Violence at Church training resource:

Continue reading Churchgoers Restrain Gunman During Sunday Service...

March 20, 2012

What Is Your Hope for the Church?

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).

March 13, 2012

Is Income Exceeding Expenses at Your Church?

Study shows more churches have experienced deficit spending.

Findings from the 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff reveal that the overall percentage of churches operating in the black—income EXCEEDS expenses—declined in almost every region.

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Continue reading Is Income Exceeding Expenses at Your Church?...

March 8, 2012

Needed Church Decisions, Unavoidable Risk: Part 1

Leaders sometimes need to make tough—even risky—decisions to keep the church unified and healthy.

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Editor’s Note: Today is the first of a three-part series looking at the ways difficult decisions must be made in churches.

Church institutional decisions may involve finances, facilities, or personnel, but their common denominator is that if ignored, the church will fragment, go bankrupt, suffer serious decline, or fail to realize its full potential.

Perhaps the toughest of these decisions is related to personnel, particularly when a staff member must be fired. There's risk in letting someone go.

Drexel Rankin, minister of Carmel (Indiana) Christian Church, remembers firing an organist:

Continue reading Needed Church Decisions, Unavoidable Risk: Part 1...

March 1, 2012

Proper Payroll Withholdings Critical for Churches

Those who don't do it right face stiff penalties.

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.

Continue reading Proper Payroll Withholdings Critical for Churches...

February 28, 2012

IRS Releases Latest "Dirty Dozen" Tax Scams

The 12 illegal or false claims that churches and leaders should avoid.

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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":

  • Identity Theft
  • Phishing
  • Return Preparer Fraud
  • Hiding Income Offshore
  • "Free Money" from the IRS and Tax Scams Involving Social Security
  • False/Inflated Income and Expenses
  • False Form 1099 Refund Claims
  • Frivolous Arguments
  • Falsely Claiming Zero Wages
  • Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions
  • Disguised Corporate Ownership
  • Misuse of Trusts

The IRS' full list includes full descriptions of each scam and warning signs to observe. For more help with taxes for churches and pastors, check out the 2012 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.

February 21, 2012

Congress Extends Payroll Tax Holiday Through 2012

Churches must verify employee withholdings are correct.

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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.

February 15, 2012

Extension of Payroll Tax Holiday Appears Likely

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.

Check ManagingYourChurch.com and Church Finance Today for additional updates.

February 7, 2012

The Top 7 Paid Positions at Churches

Across all paid church positions, men are paid 28 percent more than women.

Editor's Note: The 2014-2015 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff is now available. This resource details pay and benefits data for 14 church positions, including two new ones—part-time musician and part-time childcare provider. Each position is analyzed based on a variety of criteria, including education, experience, church size, and geography. The resource also includes step-by-step worksheets to help churches tailor compensation based on their unique circumstances. In the weeks and months ahead, watch ManagingYourChurch.com for graphics and short articles highlighting trends and other broad developments from the latest data.

Which positions in the church pay best for men and women?

Results from Christianity Today's biannual survey of 4,600 churches nationwide, which are featured in the new 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, reveal the top 7 paid positions based on gender.

Continue reading The Top 7 Paid Positions at Churches ...

January 19, 2012

Part 2: When Raises Aren’t Possible for Church Staff

Three more ways churches can reward employees.

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Editor’s Note: In Part 1, Bloomberg Businessweek columnist Liz Ryan shared with ManagingYourChurch.com’s Matt Branaugh the first of several ways that churches can reward and recognize employees when raises aren’t possible (as the 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff highlights, raises are hit or miss, depending on place, position, and person.) Today, she shares three more ways, plus some thoughts about the how and why of implementation:
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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.

Continue reading Part 2: When Raises Aren’t Possible for Church Staff...

January 12, 2012

Part 1: When Raises Aren’t Possible for Church Staff

One workplace expert offers several ways to honor employees.

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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 Staff highlights, 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:

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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?

Continue reading Part 1: When Raises Aren’t Possible for Church Staff...

January 11, 2012

Supreme Court Affirms 'Ministerial Exception'

Employment disputes between churches and clergy can’t be reviewed by civil courts.

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.

Check back for more updates here regarding today's development, as well as new updates on ChurchLawAndTax.com and on our sister site ChristianityToday.com.Richard Hammar also will provide complete in-depth coverage on this decision in the March/April edition of Church Law & Tax Report.

January 5, 2012

How Much Are Pastors Earning These Days?

Survey shows an average increase of 2.7 percent in pay and benefits.

How much are the pastors of Protestant churches nationwide earning these days?

The chart below shows the national averages for compensation and benefits earned by full-time senior pastors, based on Christianity Today's biannual survey of 4,600 churches nationwide. The survey provided valuable, detailed data on 13 church staff positions (including compensation levels based on personnel characteristics like years employed, denomination, region, gender, and education) for the 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff.

Among the findings of the survey: Senior pastors reported salaries and benefits that, on average, were 2.7 percent higher than those reported for the preceding 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff:

Continue reading How Much Are Pastors Earning These Days? ...

December 13, 2011

The Top 10 Church Management Articles of 2011

Church leaders followed these stories most this year on ManagingYourChurch.com.

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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:

10. The Pluses of Google+ for Church Leaders by Margaret Feinberg (July 18, 2011)

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

9. A Pastor’s Thoughts on Knowing What People Give by Larry Osborne (May 3, 2011)

In this guest post, Pastor Larry Osborne shares about a situation that changed his thinking about whether a pastor should know what people give to the church.

Notable reader comment: “To me, what was done with the information presents a better arguemtn for why pastors don't need to know than why they do need to know.” —John

8. The Church Bulletin as a Tax Tool by Richard R. Hammar (November 1, 2011)

How churches can use their bulletins at the end of the year to provide timely, helpful year-end tax reminders and guidance to givers.

Notable reader comment: None.

Continue reading The Top 10 Church Management Articles of 2011...

November 24, 2011

Cartoon: Pastor Hides Staff Turnover

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If you need human resources materials for your church, see The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, and the staff section of ChurchSafety.com cover a variety of topics specifically geared toward church staff.

October 27, 2011

Is the Church Treasurer Really the "Worship Pastor"?

Why word choice may undermine tithing and other acts of worship.

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Editor's Note: Dan Kimball originally wrote this piece for his blog Vintage 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.

Continue reading Is the Church Treasurer Really the "Worship Pastor"?...

October 4, 2011

Religious Employment Under High Court's Focus This Week

No review of World Vision case; 'ministerial exception' consideration next.

Editor's Note: The Christianity Today Liveblog, a sister site to ManagingYourChurch.com, covered Monday's important religious employment case development at the U.S. Supreme Court, and briefly previewed Wednesday's Supreme Court review of the ministerial exception. Both will be of significant interest to churches regarding employment matters:

Among Monday's many Supreme Court actions, the justices opted not to hear Sylvia Spencer et al v. World Vision, a case that had potentially significant implications for religious organizations' hiring practices.

The Supreme Court's denial of certiorari lets stand an August 2010 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of World Vision ...

Continue reading "Supreme Court Won't Hear World Vision Hiring Case" on the Christianity Today Liveblog.

For more background on the ministerial exception case slated for the Supreme Court's consideration on Wednesday, check out these articles from ManagingYourChurch.com and ChurchLawAndTax.com:

September 29, 2011

Staying Afloat Amid Information Overload

Can church leaders get much-needed breaks in a communications-saturated world?

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The flow of information never stops for the Rev. Dr. Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president in the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

He fields up to 150 emails a day. He spends afternoons trading text messages about the church’s strategic plans. And he once tuned in to a conference call via cellphone while cutting the grass.

On a recent night, he and his wife had climbed into bed to watch TV when he heard the telltale ping of his cellphone from across the room.

He hopped out of bed, retrieved an email, fired up his laptop, and went to work responding.

It was past 9:30 p.m.

“It’s like an addiction,” Adams said. “I’m so driven by the customer service component of what our office is supposed to provide that I want them to have an immediate response.

“I am a digital media boundary failure,” he added, with a laugh.

His experience isn’t unique, and it raises questions for leaders of Christian institutions: Is it possible to serve the church’s mission and still give your mind, body and soul a much-needed break from the seemingly unending flow of information?

Can you be an effective, responsive leader without being plugged in all the time?

And when you are plugged in, are there strategies for managing the wave of information coming at you so you can avoid drowning in it?

Continue reading Staying Afloat Amid Information Overload...

September 19, 2011

Who Owns a Pastor's Sermons?

Most clergy are shocked when they learn the answer.

Most clergy would be shocked to learn that their sermons are works made for hire that are owned by their employing church, and that their sermons cannot be used in any other churches with which they are later employed without the permission of the church with which they were employed when the sermons were created. This can become a contentious issue in the case of clergy whose sermons are recorded and sold publicly by the church.

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Are Sermons Works Made for Hire?

Are a minister's sermons works made for hire that are owned by the employing church? To the extent that sermons are written in a church office, during regular working hours, using church secretaries and equipment, it is possible if not likely that they are works made for hire since they are created by an employee within the scope of employment.

The argument could be made that sermons are works for hire even if composed by ministers at home, during "non-office" hours, since they comprise one of the most important functions that they perform on behalf of their employing church and congregation.

What this means for you and your church:

Continue reading Who Owns a Pastor's Sermons?...

August 25, 2011

One Solution to Education Cutbacks

As schools continue cuts, your church faces an incredible opportunity for service.

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Editor's Note: As a follow up to our posts, "What's a Congregation Worth?" and "Church Giving on the Rebound?" we came across this article by Dave Staal on our sister site, BuildingChurchLeaders.com (Dave also played an integral role in the development of our Reducing the Risk resource). It's a timely read as the back-to-school season arrives:

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.

August 22, 2011

When Someone Disrupts the Church Service

How to respond to a disruptive—and possibly dangerous—person.

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The feature article this week on ChurchLawAndTax.com, a sister site of ours, looks at the delicate balance between ministry and safety. In "Dealing with Dangerous People," we go deeper into how church staff and lay leaders should approach an individual who may pose a threat to the church.

The article is timely for a number of reasons, including an incident last week in which an intoxicated man disrupted a church service in Louisville, Kentucky.

The types of threats addressed in the ChurchLawAndTax.com article include:

Continue reading When Someone Disrupts the Church Service...

August 8, 2011

Before You Hire, Pick Up the Phone

How one pastor could have easily avoided a hiring mistake.

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Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary, a new book by James Emery White (Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2011):

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:

Continue reading Before You Hire, Pick Up the Phone...

July 18, 2011

The Pluses of Google+ for Church Leaders

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.

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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:

Continue reading The Pluses of Google+ for Church Leaders...

July 5, 2011

Social Media Agreements—A New Normal?

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.

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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.

Continue reading Social Media Agreements—A New Normal?...

June 14, 2011

More Analysis on the Pastor Housing Allowance Challenge

Supreme Court ruling may hurt standing of FFRF's case.

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Last month, Richard Hammar wrote an article detailing new developments in the constitutional challenge to pastoral housing allowances under way in California.

In a separate case in Arizona, the Supreme Court ruled the plaintiffs there lacked standing for their case to proceed. The logic applied in that situation likely will apply to the plaintiffs challenging the pastoral housing allowance in California, Hammar says (Hammar further explains the ruling's meaning and how it may prevent the Freedom From Religion Foundation from successfully advancing its case to trial).

The defendants in the housing allowance case likely will file a motion for its dismissal. If the motion succeeds, it will thwart what had otherwise become a growing concern for religious communities, churches, and pastors across the country.

In the latest issue of Christianity Today, a new article also examines the development in the Arizona case, quoting Hammar as well as several other religious and First Amendment experts, including Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett and University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock. Garnett reinforces Hammar's analysis; Laycock says the decision, though helpful for the defendants in Arizona (and likely California), may create a "squelching" affect for any future cases arguing violations of the Establishment Clause, according to the article.

May 31, 2011

Maintaining Balance with Church Management Work

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:

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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.

May 26, 2011

Using Social Media During Disaster Relief

How one church leader became a believer in Twitter.

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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.

Continue reading "How I Became a Twitter Believer" on our sister site, GiftedForLeadership.com.

May 23, 2011

Better Minds, Better Church Office Management?

Julie Bell believes mind management improves teamwork—and discipleship.

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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”?

Continue reading Better Minds, Better Church Office Management?...

May 3, 2011

A Pastor's Thoughts on Knowing What People Give

Facts and assumptions about a good--but complex--question

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Editor's Note: In November, TheYourChurchBlog.com published "Should Pastors Know What People Give?" It generated numerous responses, some in favor of the idea, some opposed. We recently came across another viewpoint on the question by Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in California and author of Sticky Church.

Larry permitted us to offer it today as a guest post:

One subject that’s always good for a little controversy is a discussion of whether or not a pastor should have access to congregational giving records. Years ago, I was a proud, card-carrying member of the “I-don’t-know-who-gives-what” tribe. But I changed my mind after being challenged and realizing that:

  • I had a hard time explaining why a pastor is any different from other ministry leaders (think missionaries, parachurch ministries, Christian media, seminaries, and the like).
  • I had a hard time explaining why capital campaigns are different. No one seems to object to the pastor knowing about large commitments and gifts to a building project. So how is this different than gifts to the general fund?
  • I found nothing in the scriptures supporting my viewpoint. Frankly, all the verses I used to support staying in the dark could just as well be applied to missionaries or anyone leading any ministry—even the church treasurer—something that no one I know of advocates. The idea that a local church pastor is somehow different is simply not Biblical.
  • Even though I took pride in not knowing, I still made subconscious assumptions. I couldn’t help it. It’s human nature. But once I had the facts in hand, I was amazed at how inaccurate most of my assumptions were.

Awhile back, I was discussing this with a group of pastors at a gathering I was hosting. The very next day I had an experience that showed once again why having the facts is always better than making assumptions—and how having the facts radically changes (and should change) the way we deal with individuals.

Continue reading A Pastor's Thoughts on Knowing What People Give...

April 25, 2011

Why Churches Should Take the Lead Preventing Abuse

What we can do to keep kids safe.

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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.

Continue reading "Are Churches Leading the Way in Preventing Abuse?" on our sister site, GiftedForLeadership.com.

April 21, 2011

Supreme Court Tackles 'Ministerial Exception'

High court will examine rule's scope.

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:

April 13, 2011

Free Tickets to Cultivate11

Upcoming event will cover ins and outs of church communication

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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.
What Cultivate Isn’t

Continue reading Free Tickets to Cultivate11...

April 7, 2011

Screening and Selecting Children's Workers at Church

There's no substitute for a good screening program.

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Editor's Note: April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. For churches, one of the first measures that can make a difference for their children and youth is the proper screening and selection of the paid staff and volunteers who work with them. To that end, we offer this free article by Laura Brown from ChurchSafety.com:

Carefully screening people before allowing them to work with children in your ministry costs little, but it can increase safety greatly. Here's why.

Background screening can:

  • deter child predators from applying to work in your ministry, reducing the likelihood of child sexual assault.
  • demonstrate that your ministry has taken reasonable care to safeguard its members.
  • reduce your liability in court if you should accidentally hire someone who commits a crime.

Continue reading Screening and Selecting Children's Workers at Church...

March 30, 2011

Church Giving Begins to Rebound?

6 in 10 churches held—or gained—ground in 2010.

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Since the recession in 2008, many U.S. churches have seen a decline in giving. But the tide may be changing. The third annual State of the Plate constituency survey of 1,507 churches revealed that 43% of these churches experienced an uptick in giving this past year (up from 36% the previous year). Overall, 6 in 10 churches reported giving that was flat or up in 2010—encouraging results given the nation’s stalled economy.

Smaller churches (under 249 people in worship attendance) saw giving declines (40% in churches under 100 people and 43% in churches with 100-249 people). Giving dipped most in Southeast states, rather than among Pacific Coast states as it did in previous years.

Continue reading Church Giving Begins to Rebound?...

March 28, 2011

Handling Leases for Car Allowances

Accounting for this type of option for vehicles.

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Question: Our church provides an auto allowance budget line item for vehicle expenses for our pastor. The pastor leases a vehicle that he uses for church-related business. He has asked to use the budget line for reimbursement of the expenses associated with the leased vehicle's use.

The pastor submits receipts for expenses associated with the leased vehicle for reimbursement (i.e. lease payments and maintenance). What are the IRS guidelines in such an instance?

Answer: “If you lease a car that you use in your ministry, you can use the standard mileage rate or actual expenses to figure your deductible car expenses. You can deduct the part of each lease payment that is for the use of the car in your business. You cannot deduct any part of a lease payment that is for personal use, such as commuting. You must spread any advance payments over the entire lease period. You cannot deduct any payments you make to buy a car, even if the payments are called lease payments. If you lease a car that you use in your business for a lease term of 30 days or more, you may have to include an inclusion amount in your income for each tax year you lease the car. To do this, you do not add an amount to income. Instead, you reduce your deduction for your lease payment.

Continue reading Handling Leases for Car Allowances...

March 15, 2011

Illegal Immigrants in the Church

Walking a 'fine line between compassion and conformity'

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Late last year, we released "Illegal Immigrants in the Church," from Church Law & Tax Report. In it, Richard Hammar and Ann Buwalda, an immigration attorney, review the details on what churches need to know about immigration law as it relates to welcoming undocumented immigrants into church and recruiting them to work or volunteer. They explore commonly asked questions by churches, and provide information to help churches understand their legal responsibility towards undocumented immigrants in church.

In February, this question surfaced again when Christianity Today asked three distinguished voices about how churches should respond to illegal immigrants who are in their midst.

Below are excerpts of the responses from Mark DeYmaz (directional leader at Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas and coauthor of Ethnic Blends: Mixing Diversity into Your Local Church), M. Daniel Carroll Rodas (distinguished professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible), and Matthew Soerens (U.S. church training specialist for World Relief and co-author of Welcoming the Stranger), as well as links to their full responses.

Read their takes, then tell us how your church is addressing this question.

Continue reading Illegal Immigrants in the Church...

March 10, 2011

Why the National Church Compensation Survey Matters

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.

March 8, 2011

Can Social Media Get a Church Sued?

Recent Twitter mishap in Indiana underscores the need for clear policy

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Recent incidents involving alleged misuses of social media in both the public and private sectors have government officials and business executives scrambling to implement social media policies for employees.

Church leaders should take the opportunity to do the same before a situation arises, casting negative light on their congregations, or worse, landing them in court.

Indiana's deputy attorney general was fired after making controversial remarks through his personal Twitter account and blog, according to a USA Today article (The Nonprofit Quarterly also blogged about it last week). Jeff Cox "tweeted 'use live ammunition' in response to a Mother Jones tweet that riot police had been ordered to remove union supporters from the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison," the USA Today article explains.

The article continues:

"Corbin, the attorney general's spokesman, said the agency has no formal rules on social media but is developing them. He said the employee handbook, however, is clear that employees should conduct themselves in a professional manner during and after working hours."

A few days later, Inc. magazine's website published "How to Avoid a Social Media Lawsuit," which includes links to resources and books that can help organizations craft effective social media-use policies. Some of the more notable liabilities, according to Inc., include:

Continue reading Can Social Media Get a Church Sued? ...

February 24, 2011

Pay Raises for Pastors and Church Staff in 2011?

Increases may come at many American companies. Will churches follow?

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A recent Wall Street Journal headline immediately caught my eye: “Higher Pay Gains Seen for 2011.

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:

Continue reading Pay Raises for Pastors and Church Staff in 2011?...

December 30, 2010

TheYourChurchBlog.com's Top 5 Posts of 2010

The key law, tax, finance, and safety issues readers cared about this year.

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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:

5. Should Pastors Know What People Give? This post--which generated a high number of comments--raised the question based on how three different churches say they address it.

4. A New Tool for Calculating Church Staff Salaries. Personnel expenses make up a significant portion of church budgets--sometimes 50 percent or more. As a companion tool to our 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, we developed a free worksheet that actually walks church leaders through the process of determining a fair pay range for each pastoral and staff position at their churches.

Continue reading TheYourChurchBlog.com's Top 5 Posts of 2010...

December 20, 2010

10 to Remember From 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.

Continue reading 10 to Remember From 2010...

November 30, 2010

A Theology of Workflow

Matt Perman on how Christians should think about productivity.

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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.

This article first appeared in our sister publication Christianity Today. Click here to continue reading it. For more on productivity and office dynamics, check out the 2011 Church Office Planner and "Managing Church Calendars," an electronic training resource.

November 18, 2010

A New, Free Tool for Calculating Church Staff Salaries

Step-by-step worksheet helps pinpoint appropriate pay ranges.

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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.

You can find The 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff and accompanying free worksheet for calculating church staff pay at http://store.churchlawtodaystore.com/20cohaforchs1.html. The free worksheets are the third order button listed.

November 2, 2010

Should Churches Block Staff Access to Facebook?

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.'"

He shares more in this video:

Facebook One Another from Evan McBroom on Vimeo.

October 28, 2010

How One Church Responded to a Sex Offender

An open-door policy still comes with its costs.

Last month, we highlighted Sex Offenders in the Pews, Marian Liautaud's article in Christianity Today that is based largely on research we conducted earlier this year. This week, Leadership Journal, another one of our sister publications, published "Sex Offenders: Coming to a Church Near You," Marian's article about this topic from the view of church pastors and staff members.

Of particular note: A small church in the Northeast worked hard to integrate a convicted sex offender after his release from prison. After numerous meetings with families, the pastor decided integration could work--and could reinforce the church's redemptive mission. It's a theme that emerged from our research (nearly 8 in 10 church leaders say they're open to a sex offender's attendance, with proper supervision and appropriate limitations in place).

But in the case of this church in the Northeast, such an approach still comes with its costs:

Continue reading How One Church Responded to a Sex Offender...

October 18, 2010

30% Discount on Church Law, Tax, and Finance Resources

Sale in honor of church administration day on October 21.

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Our friends at the National Association for Church Business Administration have designated Thursday, October 21, as "National Church Administration Day." As NACBA explains it on its website:

"The idea behind National Church Administration Day is for seasoned church leaders to share their expertise with anyone – whether clergy or laity – performing administrative duties in any congregation, with the goal that all churches become more effective and responsible."

In appreciation of church administrators, Christianity Today International’s YourChurchResources.com store is offering a 30% discount from now through October 21, 2010, in honor of National Church Administration Day. Customers can apply the 30% off promotion code “cad30off” when they place their orders for any products at YourChurchResources.com.

YourChurchResources.com continues to be the trusted source for financial, legal, tax, safety, risk management, and employment products specifically tailored for churches. Top sellers include the 2011 Church & Clergy Tax Guide, the Essential Guide to Church Finances, The 2010-2011 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff, the Essential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches, and the 2011 Church Office Planner.

Additionally, YourChurchResources.com offers hundreds of church and ministry assessments, training tools, and downloads.

October 14, 2010

One Church, Many Congregations

One movement reminds us that church collaboration doesn't have to be hard.

One Church, Many Congregations

A recent article from our sister publication, Leadership Journal, covers the rapid growth of Christ Together, a network that developed in the Chicagoland area after pastors of several different congregations saw an opportunity to partner with each other to pursue ministry opportunities.

As the article states:

"Scott Chapman has been part of this group from the beginning, when he began to feel his church was called to make a greater impact among its neighboring communities. Around 2002, Chapman explains, 'The Chapel began to understand that we were supposed to live like Jesus: to go into our community, feed the hungry, comfort the hurting, and lead the lost back to him. In other words, we were not called to be a church in our community so much as to be a church for our community.' The trouble was, the church quickly became overwhelmed by the need they encountered. With 6,000 people meeting in several locations, The Chapel is a large church with substantial resources. But it wasn't enough. Chapman soon realized that 'no one church, no matter how large and influential, can reach their community alone.' To truly reach the entire city with the Good News, it would take more than one church. It would take the Church.

Continue reading One Church, Many Congregations...

October 7, 2010

Small Churches = Big Impact

Ed Stetzer interviews Brandon O'Brien about his book, "The Strategically Small Church"

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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?

Continue reading "Small Churches = Big Impact" on our sister blog, Out of Ur.

September 28, 2010

Case Threatens Pastor Housing Allowances

How a California court may alter a long-standing ministry benefit.

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Earlier this month, we covered eight federal issues that local churches should watch closely during the remainder of 2010 and into 2011, according to recent remarks from Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Busby, one of our editorial advisors, is based near Washington, D.C. His role at the ECFA includes advocating on behalf of ministry interests on Capitol Hill, so he’s uniquely positioned to see national tax and finance developments unfold that can influence church leaders.

We took notice when we heard the first item on Busby’s list: a California lawsuit, filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation Inc., challenging the constitutionality of tax benefits associated with the housing allowances that churches provide to pastors.

The significance of housing allowances isn’t lost on church leaders. For decades, churches have used them to recruit and retain pastors. It’s an especially handy tool that churches with limited means, especially small congregations, can use to lure a gifted person. And at a time when the country slogs out of a multiyear recession, it’s perhaps as useful of a benefit as ever. The down economy has challenged weekly giving and strained budgets for many congregations, making pay raises remain small, even nonexistent in some places.

As Richard Hammar notes in his 2010 Church & Clergy Tax Guide:

“The three most common housing arrangements for ministers are (1) living in a church-provided parsonage; (2) renting a home or apartment; or (3) owning a home. The tax code provides a significant benefit to each housing arrangement … The rules … represent the most significant tax benefits enjoyed by ministers.”

Given the importance of housing allowances, we asked Hammar to give us a deeper sense for where the California case will land.

At the moment, the signs aren’t favorable. Church leaders should begin thinking now about a future in which housing allowances for pastors do not receive federal tax exemptions.

Continue reading Case Threatens Pastor Housing Allowances...

September 7, 2010

Why Church Leaders Should Take the Risk of Embezzlement Seriously

7 reasons to protect against fraud.

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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.

Continue reading Why Church Leaders Should Take the Risk of Embezzlement Seriously...

August 31, 2010

ChurchSafety.com’s Top 10 Training Resources

What other church leaders are reading and using to keep their congregations safe.

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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:

10. Confronting Gun Violence at Church

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.

9. Screening Underage Workers

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.

Continue reading ChurchSafety.com’s Top 10 Training Resources...

August 26, 2010

The Your Church Blog's Top 10 Posts from Its First Year

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

Continue reading The Your Church Blog's Top 10 Posts from Its First Year...

August 24, 2010

People You Don't Want in Your Ministry

How pedophiles exploit churches--and what to do about it.

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Like a triple espresso on an empty stomach, some news stories make my hands shake.
In our paper yesterday, I read about a Boy Scout camp director recently arrested for possession of child pornography. The FBI raided the camp to confiscate his computers. This man also worked at a YMCA.

Get ready to tremble with me.

Leadership from both organizations described how he passed extensive criminal background checks. One group performs them periodically and requires annual youth protection training. The suspect worked there for seven years. A senior leader remarked that, unfortunately, no manual exists for them to see exactly what a pedophile looks like.

By now, you likely see the connection between this news story and your ministry. You perform criminal background checks (right?), you conduct child protection training (right?), and the potential still exists for the wrong people to make it into your ministry.

Continue reading People You Don't Want in Your Ministry...

August 19, 2010

A Fast (and Free) Way to Assess a Church's Health

Discerning a church's spiritual vitality beyond "nickels and noses."

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"Recent church assessments, such as Natural Church Development, Church Health Assessment Tool, Transforming Church Index, and REVEAL's Spiritual Life Survey, are very helpful—if your church has the time, money, and motivation to hire a consultant and/or get people to take surveys," Kevin Miller recently wrote in Leadership. "Many pastors, though, need a measure that is free and simple, more complete than weekly attendance but just as easy to determine."

Miller, the former publisher of Your Church who now serves as assistant pastor for a church in Wheaton, Illinois, set out to do just that. Inspired by the story of Virginia Apgar, the anesthesiologist who developed a five-point check for newborns (which is now largely credited with radically reducing infant mortality rates in the United States), Miller developed two different "Apgar" scores that churches can use.

They're free, and provide instant results.

The first, based on Acts 2, can be taken here: http://bit.ly/cTKOB8

The second, based on Revelation 2, also can be taken here: http://bit.ly/cTKOB8

What's your church's Apgar? As church administrators, executive pastors, or pastors, do you find this way of assessing your church's vitality a helpful alternative to the "nickels and noses" (budgets and attendance) approach commonly used?

August 17, 2010

Bothered by the Business of Church

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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.

Continue reading this post at GiftedForLeadership.com.

August 12, 2010

Can Google Hurt a Church Leader's Job Search?

Weighing online realities about our reputations--and ourselves.

I keep my CV updated. People often need it to introduce me for conferences. The strange thing is, in this era of shared information, I often do not know where my work has been published. My mother recently let me know that I had an article in an Assemblies of God journal. I had no idea. The viral nature of our information is the magical part of the web. But there are difficult things about it too.

I have friends who make sure that they are on top of each time someone is talking about them on the Internet. I'm not so vigilant. I usually run into stuff by accident, and recently there has been some rather strange things popping up. A "heresy hunter" has been trolling my information. He finds it offensive that I am a woman minister, so he writes unflattering portrayals of my work, peppered with name-calling. The site looks legitimate, and the blogger maintains that he is the pastor of a church, but when you try to look up the congregation, it's actually a Chinese restaurant. As a writer, I shrug and think, Any publicity is good publicity. But as a pastor, I'm not so sure. As church leaders, what we do hinges on our reputation.

This experience has made me wonder: what happens if someone on a search committee Googles the name of a candidate who has been attacked by a vicious blogger? How much will that weigh on the committee's decision? We can usually control what sort of information we put on the Internet about ourselves, but we cannot control what people say about us. We also have very little legal recourse in these situations (to dig deeper, see Daniel Solove).

How do we lead religious institutions in the Google generation? There are a few possibilities:

Continue reading "Search Committees and Google," at Off the Agenda, our sister blog. This article originally appeared in Faith & Leadership (reprinted by permission).

August 5, 2010

When a Staff Person Isn't Doing the Job

Steps to follow before taking drastic measures.

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.

Continue reading When a Staff Person Isn't Doing the Job...

July 29, 2010

5 Ways to Develop Better Interns

How churches can commit better to the internships they use.

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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.

Continue reading 5 Ways to Develop Better Interns...

July 20, 2010

Should Churches Increase 2011 Budgets?

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.

July 13, 2010

Impact of Health Care Reform Issues for Nonprofits

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Editor's Note: Richard Hammar reviews the 2,500-page health care reform legislation that President Obama signed into law in March 2010 in the feature article of the July/August issue of Church Law & Tax Report. Rich's health care reform analysis also is available for individual purchase in Health Care Reform: How the new laws will affect your church--Feature Report.

H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Reconciliation Act, P.L. 111-152), is a massive overhaul of the U.S. health care system affecting nearly all taxpayers, many employers, and many elements of the health care industry. The Reconciliation Act modifies legislation signed into law on March 23, 2010 that contains the bulk of the health reform law, H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Health Care Act, P.L. 111-148).

The federal health care reform law and other recent tax acts will have a substantial impact on churches and ministries. Here are the main issues you may wish to consider:

1. Which organizations are subject to the employer mandate to offer "minimum essential coverage" under a health plan? Only an "applicable large employer" (employing an average of at least 50 full-time employees during the preceding calendar year) is subject to the requirement to offer coverage beginning in 2014. Most small organizations, since they have fewer than 50 employees, are thus exempt from the employer requirement.

Continue reading Impact of Health Care Reform Issues for Nonprofits...

July 8, 2010

Is Your Church Giving Raises This Year?

How different churches plan to approach pay increases in 2010.

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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:

Continue reading Is Your Church Giving Raises This Year?...

July 1, 2010

Part 4: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well

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 to Your 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:

Continue reading Part 4: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well...

June 24, 2010

Part 3: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well

Forming an effective team to implement vision.

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.

Continue reading Part 3: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well...

June 22, 2010

Healthy Board, Healthy Church

Every church needs a strong board, united in purpose.

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Many churches are afflicted by "dragons," well-meaning saints who, one way or another, undermine the ministry and sap the vitality from a congregation. To make a church healthy, the place to start is by building a healthy board. Cohesiveness among the spiritual leaders of the congregation is a healthy core for healing the rest of the body and for fighting the infectious attitudes that spring up from time to time.

Some pastors go too far and "stack" the board with friends who can be trusted never to disagree.

"Every member of my board is someone I've personally led to Christ, and I've never had trouble with them," boasted one prominent Southern pastor to a group of seminarians. "I held one man in my arms as he went through delirium tremens. Now he's on my board, and I can count on his vote. He owes me."

Such crass political maneuvering is not only repugnant, but in the long run, runs against the pastor's best interest. The best board is not one where everyone plays follow-the-leader. A board that always votes unanimously the pastor's way will only be as strong as the pastor's personality. When the pastor is overwhelmed, run down, and needing guidance, a collection of clones won't be adequate.

At the same time, healthy boards are united in purpose and plan, respecting one another's differences. The strongest board is a team of coworkers willing to honor God not only with their decisions but the decision-making process. Their relationships are as important as their righteousness, and the relationship between pastor and board is cemented with trust; without that, the pastor's ministry will inevitably come unglued.

Continue reading Healthy Board, Healthy Church...

June 17, 2010

Part 2: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well

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 to Your 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.

Continue reading Part 2: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well...

June 15, 2010

Making Smartphones Smart for Ministry

Useful apps for the iPhone and other phones church leaders use.

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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 (Wired recently 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.

Continue reading Making Smartphones Smart for Ministry...

June 10, 2010

Part 1: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well

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:

Continue reading Part 1: Doing Staff Reorganizations Well...

June 7, 2010

6 Questions to Ask in a Coaching Relationship

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.

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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:

Continue reading 6 Questions to Ask in a Coaching Relationship...

May 11, 2010

8 Resources for Peacefully Resolving Church Conflicts

The definitive collection to guide leaders before, during, and after turbulent times.

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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:

Continue reading 8 Resources for Peacefully Resolving Church Conflicts...

May 7, 2010

Your Church Celebrates Four Awards

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);

In the EPA's "Higher Goals" categories:

  • David Harbaugh, fifth place, for his cartoon, "Church Collateral," which you can see here:
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We're humbled by the recognition, and thankful, too. We pray this work honors the Lord and serves church leaders like you well.

April 15, 2010

Blending Business Wisdom with Spiritual Wisdom

The corporate world says "get the right people on the bus"--but spiritual leadership requires something more.

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"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.

Continue reading Blending Business Wisdom with Spiritual Wisdom...

April 8, 2010

Re-thinking The Ways We Hire Church Staff

What happens when we let gifts and relationships define our organizational structures?

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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.

April 7, 2010

Learning from Lean Staffs during Lean Times

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 Leadership journal, 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.”

You can read the full article, which details the survey’s key findings, and you can read the full, 46-page report for free (note: free registration is required).

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).

March 30, 2010

Does Strategic Planning Contradict the Holy Spirit?

What the Bible teaches about how churches plan.

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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?

Continue reading Does Strategic Planning Contradict the Holy Spirit?...

March 25, 2010

What Will the New Health Care Bill Mean for Churches?

Churches count the cost of coverage.

(Editor's Note: Since this post publishes, we've since released "Health Care Reform: How the new laws will affect your church.")

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.

March 11, 2010

How Finance, Sexual Wrongdoings Challenged One Church

A pastor's worst nightmare leads to a new beginning.

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My lawyer said, "Just follow my lead and answer the questions he asks, and everything will be okay." I clung to his advice as I entered the smartly decorated boardroom lined with towering bookshelves. The first thing I noticed was the videographer and stenographer setting up their equipment. Then the opposing counsel, who to me represented evil incarnate, walked into the room.

"Please state your full name for the record." His tone and mannerisms suggested this was strictly routine. For the others in the room, this was just another work day. They pushed buttons on the camera, they typed on the stenograph machine, they served coffee, they represented their clients—this was a 9-5 job for everyone in the room. Everyone, that is, except me.

I cleared my throat and said, "Ralph Webster Neighbour III."

"I am sure your lawyer has explained to you the deposition process, but let me explain it again for the record …"

There was that phrase again—"for the record." I thought: This is high stakes. The church's reputation and my future are on the line here! I also knew this deposition was just the beginning; we would walk at least another year through this legal maze.

I couldn't believe this was happening to me—a seventh generation pastor. But here I was, giving a deposition in a sexual misconduct lawsuit. This was not what I signed up for!

This article first appeared in Leadership journal. The full version is available at LeadershipJournal.net. For additional resources on embezzlement and sexual misconduct issues for churches, please visit:

- Secure Your Church Finances
- The Essential Guide to Church Finances
- Sexual Harassment in Your Church
- Boundaries for Healthy Church Relationships
- Child Sexual Abuse Response Plan
- Safe Mentoring Relationships
- Reducing the Risk, a child abuse prevention training program for church leaders.

March 9, 2010

Leading a Holistic Church Staff

Focusing on individual gifts may yield better results.

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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:

Continue reading Leading a Holistic Church Staff ...

March 4, 2010

Is God Calling You To Move?

Determining God’s will for your next job.

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A man 3,000 miles away whom I had never met, the chairman of a pulpit search committee, came to the point quickly on the phone: Would I consider meeting with his group to discuss becoming senior pastor of their church?

This unexpected phone call propelled me into a deep, soul-searching phase. Without any prior experience, I was suddenly faced with one of the most difficult decisions of my ministry career: Should I stay or should I go?

Continue reading Is God Calling You To Move?...

February 19, 2010

Responding to Negative Coverage in the Media

Two church communications professionals offer tips.

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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:

Continue reading Responding to Negative Coverage in the Media...

February 18, 2010

Church Finances Remain Pinched in Early 2010

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.

Nearly 800 churches have responded so far to the second annual “State of the Plate.”

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.

Continue reading Church Finances Remain Pinched in Early 2010...

February 11, 2010

Stetzer: Churches Struggle with Fostering Young Leaders

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.

This article first appeared in our sister publication Leadership journal. Continue reading "Good News, Bad News in Raising Leaders," on LeadershipJournal.net, where the full version appears for free.

February 8, 2010

How One Question Can Make the Recession an Ally

A Harvard concept may help churches clarify, prioritize

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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.

Continue reading How One Question Can Make the Recession an Ally...

January 27, 2010

Top 10 Leadership Books from 2009

Useful titles for the inner and outer lives of church leaders.

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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.

The top inner life book for 2009: Knowing Christ Today: Why we can trust spiritual knowledge, by Dallas Willard (HarperOne).

The top outer life book for 2009: Deep Church: A third way beyond emerging and traditional, by Jim Belcher (IVP).

To view all of the Golden Canon Awards, pick up a free trial of Leadership Journal or see the entire list of winners on LeadershipJournal.net.

"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."

January 6, 2010

New Survey on Church Staffing

Understanding how lean personnel costs are--or aren't.

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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.

January 5, 2010

What Volunteers Want

Keeping your crew content isn't as hard as you think.

The red leather Bible on my bookshelf evokes twinges of regret. It belongs to Steve, a seminary student who volunteered on our youth ministry team nearly 15 years ago.

As a full-time intern, I was responsible for growing a ministry to a large suburban high school. I had recruited Steve and I admired his heart for God. Together, we decided he would focus on building relationships with the senior boys. Steve was older than most of our volunteers and loved basketball, so we thought he would have natural credibility.

Steve gave it his best shot. He showed up for athletic events, attended our programs, and joined in training sessions. By the middle of the year, however, I could tell his enthusiasm was waning. He showed that hangdog look of someone who feels defeated. He made less time for students. He skipped our end-of-year picnic.

Just before that, Steve had left his Bible in my car by mistake. Long after the picnic was over, I realized that I still hadn't connected with Steve to return his Bible and to thank him for his service. By that time, summer vacations were underway, Steve had finished seminary, and I had no way to find him. His Bible still sits on my bookshelf.

While he probably shared some responsibility, I have come to believe that I bear ownership for Steve's decline in morale. I simply didn't understand volunteers.

Today I still wrestle with the question of keeping volunteers happy and productive, even though I'm now a volunteer. I have the privilege of leading a ministry in our church that is almost entirely led, funded, trained, and staffed by volunteers. I have a deep appreciation for the unpaid workers in the Kingdom. I want to keep them motivated and connected. I am on a personal quest to discover what volunteers really want.

To continue reading this article from our sister publication Leadership journal, click here.

December 21, 2009

Your Church's Top 10 Articles of 2009

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.

As a not-for-profit ministry, Christianity Today International is thankful it's in a position to help you answer these questions through Your Church, YourChurch.net, and TheYourChurchBlog.com, as well as Church Law & Tax Report, Church Finance Today, ChurchSafety.com, BuildingForMinistry.com, and YourChurchResources.com.

It's our desire to help you keep your church safe, legal, and financially sound. Here's looking forward to 2010!

And now, the Top 10 most-read articles on YourChurch.net during 2009:

10. Why Church Secretaries Quit

9. Virtual Sanity

8. E-give and Take

7. Unoriginal Sin

6. The Technophobe's Survival Guide

Continue reading Your Church's Top 10 Articles of 2009...

December 17, 2009

The Top 10 Church Administration Posts for '09

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.

Here's the Top 10:

10. How to Interview Your Next Church

9. Report: Giving Steady at Two-Thirds of Churches

8. Prevent Volunteer Burnout

7. Free Excerpt: The Essential Guide to Church Finances

6. 5 Leadership Books Worth Reading

Continue reading The Top 10 Church Administration Posts for '09...

December 1, 2009

Resolving Conflict in the Church Office

5 ways to biblically approach a disagreement

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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:

• Money
• Power
• People

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:

Continue reading Resolving Conflict in the Church Office...

November 24, 2009

5 Leadership Books Worth Reading

Among the crowded field of books on leadership, some stand out.

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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:

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1. Leadership Without Easy Answers, by Ronald A. Heifetz

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.

Continue reading 5 Leadership Books Worth Reading...

November 23, 2009

Is It Time To Build? 10 Questions to Ask

Key questions an administrator or executive pastor should consider.

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In early 2008, we made the decision at Fairhaven Church to move forward with an $8 million construction project, even as the signs of recession popped up everywhere. Reports of other churches delaying or canceling plans for expansion were easy to find. We concluded that we should move ahead carefully, yet confidently.

Why? What questions did we wrestle through that led us to conclude that moving forward was the right decision?

Below are 10 questions to help you galvanize the issues that are important in balancing the uncertainties of the economy with the need for building expansion:

Continue reading Is It Time To Build? 10 Questions to Ask...

November 17, 2009

Prevent Volunteer Burnout

Three biblical models for lasting, effective ministry.

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Josh was one of the most zealous workers we'd seen at church, but I realized he was three steps beyond "weary in well doing" when I read his letter: "My walk with the Lord is nonexistent. I've allowed the pressure of church work to crowd out time with God. Now it seems impossible to get back in touch with him. We've also gotten seriously into debt, and I've been trying to do 'ministry' while working five part-time jobs. I'm short with my wife and kids, and we're having problems. I'd like to talk to you."

To keep volunteers from stagnation, frustration, and burnout, I'm learning from several examples in Scripture.

Nehemiah: Create Systems

Jim, who was in charge of our buildings and grounds, once planned a church workday. Several dozen people sacrificed extra sleep for thankless toil. But I was disappointed to find that Jim hadn't organized the activities. A hallway needed painting; there were no paint cans, brushes, or drop cloths. Floors needed mopping; one old mop and pail occupied the janitor's closet. Most of us stood around trying to look busy, thoroughly frustrated. And only two people showed up for the next workday—so I was told.

Nehemiah went about it differently. He created systems. The projected wall was divided into manageable sections with clearly defined tasks. Some were stationed as watchmen, others as soldiers. Others provided food. Workers hauled off debris as it accumulated. Everyone understood his or her part, and the wall went up.

Continue reading Prevent Volunteer Burnout...

November 11, 2009

Church Budgets: How Much for Staff, Buildings, and Ministry?

An executive pastor suggests a different analysis of expenses.

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Paul Clark, one of Your Church's contributing editors, wrote an interesting post this week on his blog. Paul is an executive pastor who at one time spent several years in a managerial role with General Electric. His business background gives him an interesting perspective on how churches operate.

This week, Paul challenges three common questions often asked among church administrators: What percentage of a church's budget should go toward personnel expenses? Facilities? Ministries?

He writes:

"Those are great questions, but they are a bit narrow in their scope. The reality is that a church budget is a reflection of the overall strategy and focus of the church in a given calendar year. That focus can change from year to year and consequently, the budget percentages will change accordingly."

Paul then illustrates what he means, making the case for projecting expenses further into the future to truly understand overall budget ramifications.

Earlier this year, Your Church did a comprehensive survey with church leaders regarding church budget priorities.

The average breakdown in expenses for church operating budgets, based on responses from 1,168 church leaders:

- 38% toward salaries and wages
- 12% toward buildings/facilities
- 8% toward utilities
- 7% toward ministries and support

Our survey participants mostly hail from small- to mid-sized churches; organizations like NACBA and Leadership Network, both of which typically survey larger churches, report salaries and wages, on average, take up 45% to 50% of church operating budgets.

Like Paul asks, how does your church assess these expenses, and how those expenses reflect--or don't reflect--the church's direction now and in the future? Is an analysis like Paul proposes more instructive for current and future church budget planning?

November 9, 2009

How to Interview Your Next Church

A seasoned executive pastor shares how he learned about his next job.

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!

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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.

Continue reading How to Interview Your Next Church...

November 5, 2009

10 Questions to Ask About Your Church’s Communications

Use these to help determine direction and strategy in the year ahead

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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
communicating?

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?

Continue reading 10 Questions to Ask About Your Church’s Communications...

November 4, 2009

Top 5 Reasons Churches Wind Up in Court

Current legal trends that can help your church assess its vulnerabilities.

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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:

Continue reading Top 5 Reasons Churches Wind Up in Court...

November 2, 2009

Simple Tips to Prepare for a Pandemic

Guidance for churches as the H1N1 virus spreads.

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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.

From there, check out our electronic training resource, "Preparing Your Church for a Pandemic," on ChurchSafety.com.

Continue reading Simple Tips to Prepare for a Pandemic...

October 27, 2009

Fast Ideas for Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers

Ideas from churches at the Cultivate Conference to recruit--and keep--more help.

I'm live at the Cultivate Conference '09 in Chicago today (see my other updates on Twitter: @MattBranaugh). This gathering of a couple of hundred church leaders primarily focuses on communication inside and outside of church walls, but one of the breakout sessions in the morning looked at how to recruit and retain volunteers to fulfill various roles, including graphic design work, web development, and other strategic communication roles that churches often don't have the budget to cover.

Jami Ruth from Granger Community Church and Blair Farley from Mariners Church hosted the workshop. Here are several ideas worth noting in your church's efforts, courtesy of Jami and Blair (and some of the conference participants who shared ideas):

Continue reading Fast Ideas for Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers...

October 12, 2009

Engaging Congregation Members in Community Ministry

How the right planning and logistics can maximize effectiveness.

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All around the United States, congregations are reaching out to their neighbors with creative community ministry programs. Churches are providing after-school and job training programs, developing affordable housing, offering medical care, opening day care centers, and distributing food and clothing, among many other outreach efforts. In my experience, getting congregation members involved in community ministry programs is the key to their success.

The best community ministries that I have seen have “bubbled up” right out of the congregation. A small group of people may come forward with a vision for providing an after-school program, for example, or starting a free legal clinic (as was the case in one of the congregations where I served as a staff member). When people do come forward with an idea like this, it’s important for staff and lay leaders to take them seriously, and consider what it would take to move forward. Not all ministry ideas are good ones, but over the years, I have found that God can move a congregation forward into new ministry by giving vision to a small group of laypeople.

Here are several ways to develop the planning and logistics that helps shape the churchwide strategy on community outreach:

Continue reading Engaging Congregation Members in Community Ministry...

September 30, 2009

Should Your Church Hire a Sex Offender?

A small Kentucky church recently did. What are the implications?

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A church in Louisville, Kentucky, generated local and national media attention earlier this month, not because it allowed a convicted sex offender to attend its services, but because the church pastor decided to hire and ordain one.

WHAS-TV, a local television station, as well as CNN and newspaper wire services, covered the story when it first emerged. On Wednesday, the story picked up new steam when the Associated Press wrote its second piece about the situation (it was picked up here by MSNBC.com). During the past week, I’ve left three voice mails for Pastor Randy Meadows on the church’s main phone line, hoping to learn more about his decision, and the circumstances surrounding it. My calls haven’t been returned.

We know the following facts:

• The City of Refuge Worship Center, a small, independent congregation based in downtown Louisville, ordained Mark Hourigan on September 13. The church’s website shows he is the music minister and leader of the church’s “Pride Committee.”

• Hourigan, 41, is listed on the Kentucky State Police’s Sex Offender Registry. The site lists Hourigan’s offense as “Sexual Abuse 1st Degree,” and also notes he faced two counts. His victim was an 11-year-old boy, according to the site.

• Media reports indicate the abuse took place in 1993 and 1994. The AP’s first story, quoting an interview between Hourigan and CNN, said Hourigan told the cable network he completed a sex offender treatment program and was upfront with Meadows regarding his criminal past.

• According to the AP, “ ‘I don’t take anything lightly when it comes to someone’s past,’ Meadows told CNN. But he added, ‘God gives everyone a second and a third and fourth chance.’ ” Meadows also told the network that Hourigan will sign an agreement not to minister to children.

• The ordination drew protests from at least one abuse victims group, and the departure of at least one church deacon, who disagreed with the decision, according to media reports.

Undoubtedly, a church faces numerous challenges when a sex offender begins to attend. In ChurchSafety.com’s “Dealing with Dangerous People,” an electronic training resource, the tension that arises with a sex offender’s attendance at a church is best summed up in this way:

Continue reading Should Your Church Hire a Sex Offender?...

September 22, 2009

Raising the Bar in Tough Times

How church administrators can prove—and increase—the worth of their roles.

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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:

Continue reading Raising the Bar in Tough Times...

August 28, 2009

Pinched Paychecks

Survey: Pastors, church staff nationwide see slight pay declines.

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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, and Leadership, 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.

Continue reading Pinched Paychecks...

August 28, 2009

4 Reasons NOT to Cut Conferences

Why these events are important for your staff.

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During tough economic times, many churches are looking at cutting all travel for training and events, but that may not be the wisest decision. Here’s why:

Care. The church is about people caring for people, so your most important resource is people! They need to be trained and equipped to not only care, but guard and protect. They need to know how to identify young leaders and raise them up. They need to develop an eye for gifting and calling as well as those on the margins. Investing in people is one of the best investments you can make.

Creativity. Conferences and events are a great way to infuse your staff with engaging, innovative ideas and energy. Many events offer workshops and practical advice on how to handle the challenges of economy as well as do big things on small budgets. In addition, conferences often provide a gold mine of best practices. Skipping out may cost you more in the long haul.

Communication. Conferences and events provide your staff with a common language. Staff members sometimes struggle to put into words what they want to see changed or developed in their church. When staff members attend events together, they develop a common vocabulary and shared experiences, which are critical ingredients for innovation, growing a team, and developing a healthy congregation.

Close proximity. More conferences and events are looking for regional options in 2009 and 2010. Like Passion a few years back, more events, including Catalyst, are looking at more regional, coastal, and one-day events. That means you may be within driving distance to an enriching event—saving time and money. Keep your eyes open for events and conferences in and near your area and encourage staff to attend. In addition, keep an eye out for conferences and events that offer online attendance options or let you purchase DVDs and CDs to share with your staff.

More than ever, now is a time to embrace best practices, innovative ideas, and the encouragement of gathering with others facing similar challenges in ministry.