Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Church Business Administration Training Day 6

Financial Management/Accounting

Today's session took us through church accounting 101. We discussed fund accounting, church finance teams, charitable contributions, internal controls, payroll, cash management, audits, records retention, and risk management. One scripture which highlights what we do is found in 2 Corinthians 8:20-21. We intend that no one should blame us about this generous gift we are administering. For we intend to do what is right not only in the LORD's eyes, but also in the sight of others. Integrity in handling His finances is our calling!!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Church Business Administration Training Day 5

Strategic Planning

We had been asked to bring along a copy of our organization's Strategic Plan. The ERC Strategic Plan is very well structured. Dr. Ken McFayden (whose book, Strategic Leadership for Change: Facing Our Losses, Finding Our Future, is schedule to be out this fall) was our facilitator today. He was very knowledgeable about the whole complex strategic process. It was an amazing amount of information for one day....our brains hurt by the end of the day. In casting a vision, it is imperative that enlisting commitment from those involved is secured, implementation of the vision flows next, and then follow through. If any of these steps are broken....the vision is lost. Interestingly, most churches don't want leadership, they want management! There's a big difference. Leadership needs to be transparent, 'parking lot' meetings need to be brought to the table for transparency. Where there is no vision, people flounder. The Body having ownership is critical. Vision without buy in is like a bridge to nowhere! Goals are 'attainable challenges'....not things we're 'already doing or could easily have accomplished thru things we already do'. Accountability and responsibility go hand in hand. One suggestion was that governing boards receive an evaluation. Similar to employee evaluations, it would stimulate dialogue. There should be deadlines to the goals set. Three sources of energy for planning: Pain...Hope (hope hears the music of the future....faith dances to it!)....Vision (how does it align with God's vision). We have to discern God's leading through Scripture, prayer, learning. It should be joy-filled work for the LORD rather than feeling as if we're drowning in the mundane.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Church Business Administration Training Day 4

Christian Perspectives and Theology of Church

Our Christian Education Director, Stan Hargraves, presented today's teaching. It was very well done---informative as well as held our attention through video (awesome video by Dewitt Jones on focusing your vision) and 'Keynote' technologies (Keynote is Apple's version of PowerPoint). In the Church, are we able to appreciate someone elses perspective? One test for behavior at our meetings: If a child were to be here in this meeting today, what would they learn about Christianity? I believe that's a good goal for every meeting we lead or are part of....what would a child learn? Meetings could be always covered in love if this were practiced. Isaiah 55:6-9 (Seek the LORD while He may be found...call upon him while He is near....) God is over all. At our sessions over 2 weeks we come together as The Body of Christ....there are many different perspectives. There are Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Independents, Non-denominationals, and then one lone Church of God! At one point during our session we divided into groups to discuss: To what Christian tradition do you belong? What are the core beliefs? What celebrations and rituals are held? In our group there were 2 Catholic priests, 2 Presbyterians, and me (the lone Church of God!). We found that for the most part our core beliefs were the same! That was fun....there were more beliefs that tied us together than divided....imagine that, we all felt that was refreshing since we'll be spending eternity together!! But then the celebrations and rituals. The Protestant group's traditions weren't too different. Our ordinance of feet washing (which I love) was the most unique. However, the Catholic tradition washes feet on Maundy Thursday only in a different context (the priest washes a select group). One of the Priests was from Uganda...the Spirit of the Lord in him is so sweet. In his home country they have a wonderful tradition when someone is desiring to become part of the Catholic Church. At infancy the parents have the child baptized into the faith. But at Confirmation in Uganda the person desiring Confirmation must stand before the church, hold up the Bible and publicly proclaim that this is what they want. A proclamation that faith is now their own. He was surprised when coming to the US that it is not done here, I encouaraged him to bring it here! It is important to have a public proclaimation of a personal commitment to faith! We discussed the Catholic Eucharist. Even the struggle with understanding why the Protestant faith is not welcome to partake when visiting a Catholic Mass. The priests were so patient with us, and fully explained why. They believe that the sacraments are transformed into the body and blood of Christ....they are not the representation as we Protestant's believe. And since we do not believe this, we should not partake. I can respect that. It was a healthy dialogue. Perspective....can you appreciate another's perspective? God can.....in love.....shouldn't we?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Church Business Administration Training Day 3

Legal and Tax Issues

Day 3 brought part 2 of Legal and Tax --- all things judicial!! Wow...huge responsibilities to avoid litigation. It's interesting that 70% of the world's lawyers are in the USA!!! Isn't that stunning! Actually, if we were to adopt the UK's system, we would see a dramatic drop in suits. In the UK if you bring suit, and you lose, you must pay both party's legal bills! Our current 'sue happy' society confirms that we are on the wrong track and too consumed with litigation. Scripture warns us against it. We need to be smart so that we are not exposed. If a church were charged with 'gross negligence', your insurance will not cover the litigation. I thought that was alarming. What are some procedures to put into place so that we're less exposed to lawsuits? One item that our instructor, Rick Veit, Esq., said would be important to adopt is an 'Arbitration Clause'. This document forces parties to 'sit down and talk about the issues' rather than civil lawsuits that divide. Imagine that, the Biblical principle of sitting down with your brother when there is a problem---sounds like a good plan!!! Churches should be incorporated for protection. We need to be proactive when using volunteers. We should be screening ALL volunteers. Especially those that are working with our children. An eye opener was the fact that the majority of those who molest children are under the age of 18! So we should be screening everyone, no matter who they are to protect our children. We were given a vehicle operator questionnaire. This should be completed and then investigated to be sure that those that are going to be driving for the church are safe drivers. We are responsible if we have not done our homework on those we trust with driving responsibilities and some tragedy happens! A mindset of being proactive is crucial. Employee handbooks should be up to date and consistently given to all employees (even if you only have one employee!). In the front of the handbook it should state that this is not a contract and that all employees are 'at will'. Employment files should contain: tax forms, contracts, job offer letter, resume, and reviews. Consistent reviews should be performed. They should be conducted honestly, being careful to represent the actual performance of the employee. I-9's (immigration forms) are to be kept in a separate file. When needing to dismiss an employee, your termination checklist should include: why the employee is being terminated, was it for a violation of their contract or by-laws/constitution, do you have supporting evidence, has the church violated any anti-discrimination laws, has the employee received advance warning, did you give the employee the opportunity to reform their behavior, is the reason for dismissal consistent with the performance evaluation. In regard to activities at the church, are you exercising reasonable care in the supervision of church activities? Keep in mind who decides 'reasonable'---a jury! You don't want that. Therefore, have preventative measures in place. Some examples are: adequate numbers of QUALIFIED adults at church sponsored activities, have a 'two adult' rule when in immediate contact with children, institute a 6-month rule (they must be a member for 6 months before deciding their involvement), parental consent forms, written policies, adequate security (especially when dealing with children). We discussed who is responsible for reporting any suspicion of child abuse. You should have a policy in place for reporting child abuse. You should have a 'Church Computer' policy. As we move closer and closer to Jesus' return, these issues will become more and more difficult. It is our duty to proceed in a manor that honors God when contemplating the issues of law and how they affect the Church!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Church Business Administration Training Day 1

Theology and Ethics of Church Business Administration

Our first day started out a bit heavy. The presenter, Professor Tom James, was very good. We were challenged to think deeply for most of the day! We talked about the priority of grace, sin as multi-faceted corruption, the knowledge that God loves us, and that we need to act responsibly in absolute dependence of our Creator. Act always as if responding to God's prior action upon you--if we act on our own resources we'll fail. We were challenged to creatively administrate in our churches. What would that look like? My suggestion would be to wait and pray---not feeling rushed to a decision. A priority of intimacy with our Savior is imperative! And in our work, a thick skin is necessary. The Professor quoted Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'Testament of Hope' that can be such an encouragement to us today in the world's current condition. There is hope through the love of God. We need a spirituality of business because we need a way of orienting our administrative practices, a way of opening the mundane to the presence of the Spirit! How could this happen? Slowing down, making it habitual to spend intentional time in prayer, don't feel the need to rush to a decision. Prayer is crucial to the opening up to the Spirit of God, not only in the utterance of petition....but the practice of learning to hear and listen. Don't we want to see more of the LORD? He wants to be seen in and through us, even the mundane!!!

Church Business Administration Training Day 2

Legal and Tax Matters

Now before most of you tune this section out....don't!!! It wasn't a 'snoozer'!! It was enlightening, eye-opening, and affirming. As sick as it may sound, IT WAS A FUN DAY! Today's emphasis was tax matters pertaining to the church. It is CRUCIAL that our churches are compliant. It jeopardizes the Body as a whole when churches struggle with compliance when it comes to tax matters. Our speaker today was Rick Veit, Esq. He was awesome and his heart for doing ministry correctly was very evident. He comes from a family of pastors and knows the importance of handling the tax issues we face with integrity. He completely admits that most accounting firms are unfamiliar with compliance for churches and pastors. He lead us toward Richard Hammar's published works--Church & Clergy Tax Guide as well as his monthly periodical, Church Law & Tax Report. We discussed all the federal reporting requirements. Who can be considered a 'minister' in order to claim a housing allowance? Do they meet the majority of these requirements: Ordained/licensed, performs religious worship, administers the sacraments, manages responsibilities in the church, considered to be a religious leader. We discussed self-employed vs. employee. One interesting fact is that you are less likely for audit if you are an 'employee' rather than an outside contractor (self-employed). We defined income. Love gifts are income...Christmas gifts are income....retirement gifts are a 'fuzzy' area! Forgiven debts are income. Non-accountable reimbursements of business expenses are income. There needs to be an accountable plan established for the reimbursement of business expenses. We discussed at length the Housing and Parsonage allowances. The IDEAL clergy tax reporting arrangement would be: considered an employee, withholding of income tax as well as self-employment tax, accountable reimbursement plan for business expenses, housing allowance properly designated by a church board, and adequate retirement contributions. Rick would be an excellent resource to our churches. He would gladly come and teach to any seminary the proper management of church tax and legal requirements.