Blog

Last May I blogged about the health insurance credit available for small tax-exempt organizations under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  Several US churches applied for this credit as a result of this blog and received checks for thousands of dollars. Your church may qualify for this "health insurance credit" for 2011 also. The credit is up to 25% of the cost of qualifying health insurance premiums.  You may qualify if your church has: 

February 7, 2012 0 7 comments
Blog

Every church should have Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation. If you are an administrative leader in your church, do you know where to find a copy of your Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation?

January 23, 2012 0 3 comments
Q&A

I am helping Second Byron CRC emerge from a period of controversy. The council believes it will profit from talking in depth to persons who are leaving the congregation for other churches, and would like to conduct exit interviews in order to find out more about areas of church life they need to...

January 19, 2012 0 7 comments
Q&A

I haven't found a clear articulation of the following on the CRCNA or Network website. When Synod approves the Ministry Share assessment in June 2011, is the assessment and/or related budget for 2012 based on the active professing members over 18 count as of August 31, 2010 - or August 31, 2011...

January 19, 2012 0 19 comments
Blog

Late last year, the US Supreme Court announced that it would not review a lower court ruling banning churches from meeting in public school spaces in New York City.  Last week the US Supreme Court decided that religious employees of a church are not allowed to sue for employment discrimination.

January 16, 2012 0 2 comments
Blog

Gabe Lyons says that Christianity has an image problem.  Why do we care? Because what people think about Christianity affects how we interact with others.  How can we move to more accurately represent Jesus? Gabe challenges us to live our faith with true concern  

January 9, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Today I read a blog from Susan Nienaber at the Alban Institute that clearly communicated some healthy ways to handle controversial decisions in a church.  Instead of lining people in rows in the sanctuary and letting the most vocal air their beliefs, consider gathering a planning group of a few members to outline a process whereby people can gather in small groups and discuss the possibilities in a way that enhances dialogue, discernment, and better decision making.

December 19, 2011 0 2 comments
Blog

Here we are in the midst of the Christmas season. You’re well on your way with plans for Christmas. With just a few weeks left, are there still some things you can do to make sure your church has the best impact that it can? 

December 12, 2011 0 0 comments
Blog

Much has been written about the clergy residence deduction (CRD) which is available to clergy and other eligible individuals in Canada.  To be eligible, an individual must meet both a status test and a function test. 

December 6, 2011 0 6 comments
Blog

Bill Hybels is known for his quote "the local church is the hope of the world."  When you are dealing with church administration, you need to keep your focus in the right place.  All the budgets, forms,  procedures, programs,  and guidelines can become the main thing instead of Jesus... 

December 5, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

Did you know there are books written on the subject of taxes and ministers?  The annual paperback I most frequently recommend to a U.S. minister or church who is asking questions is Worth's Income Tax Guide for Ministers by B.J. Worth. 

November 28, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

 As a church administrator working with various teams, I would often see a need to write something down to clarify a mandate, policy, or how to.  The hard part was getting started. So I would often get a draft created and send it around to others.  This really helped us to clarify what needed to be  

November 14, 2011 0 0 comments
Blog

Do you provide some guidance for your leaders and volunteers in ministry as to what is expected of a Christian serving in your church? Our churches provide guidance for elders and deacons and staff members, but would it be helpful to have a covenant of expectations for others serving in ministry? 

November 8, 2011 0 2 comments
Q&A

Our church is gathering together years of of old policy statements and council decisions in order to produce a policy manual that works. But we're working in a vacuum. We'd really like like to see the manuals some other churches have put together. Will you send me a copy of yours? Hard or...

November 1, 2011 0 2 comments
Blog

Yesterday I worshipped at a new church plant that meets in a public school building.  Every Sunday, the setup/takedown team hustles to change this space from a public school auditorium to a place of worship.  As I sat there, I wondered about a recent article I read about the controvery over use of public school buildings for churches in New York City.. 

October 31, 2011 0 3 comments
Q&A

I am looking for a good sample policy for church volunteers that will set lifestyle and behavioral standards for our church ministries. Some things that I would want to include would be: membership in the church and active involvement in worship, moral standards, commitment to healthy...

October 26, 2011 0 10 comments
Q&A

The Supplement to the Church Order for Article 5 re signing of the Form of Subscription states that is "To be signed by professors, ministers, ministry associates, elders, and deacons when ordained and/or installed in office". (emphasis added) As I understand it, office bearers are ordained/...

October 26, 2011 0 3 comments
Resource, Video

It was suggested that more information was needed by the churches as to what is funded with Ministry Shares. A team of gifted communication leaders has just put together a mailing to more effectively communicate Ministry Shares.  Did your church receive your Council member packets this week? Did you check out the new Ministry Shares website  

October 24, 2011 0 5 comments
Blog

This past weekend I had the privilege of serving as a "Wheaties" adult leader for a weekend retreat ministry called "Teens Encounter Christ."  This student led ministry shows God's love in amazing ways to high school students and challenges them to grow in their faith through talks by students and other well thought out activities. What contributes to the amazing effectiveness of this ministry? The strong administrative backbone behind the scenes. Let me tell you more. 

October 18, 2011 0 0 comments
Blog

Your full-time administrative assistant at your church discovers she needs surgery and will be out for 4 weeks.  She has worked at the church for 15 years.  Each employee earns time off each year and she has 4 days available for this surgery. Does your church provide salary continuation coverage for her time off after she uses her 4 days of leave? 

October 10, 2011 0 0 comments
Blog

Every person needs to feel appreciated. Pastors, and their spouses, are no exception. I remember getting movie tickets in the mail. No note, just tickets. It brought tears to my eyes. A small thing? Some would think so, but to us it was huge.

October 4, 2011 0 3 comments
Blog

Does your church maintain a social networking page?  Do you post pictures or personal information on the church's website? Does your pastor maintain a blog? Do you rely on your computer network on a daily basis? Did you ever think that you might need a separate liability insurance to cover exposure related to these areas? 

September 22, 2011 0 0 comments
Blog

Pastor Van has served your church for ten years and now he has taken a call to another church.  What are some of the administrative details that need to be covered at this time of departure?  What does your church need to think about regarding closure of computer files? 

September 14, 2011 0 1 comments
Blog

The pastor of "Small Church" CRC is the go-to guy for everything.  He answers the phone, dusts his office, sets up chairs, prints the bulletin, and sees when things break or need attention. If you are a congregation with a small operating budget, how do you maintain the building, grounds, and other administrative needs of the church?  

September 12, 2011 0 1 comments
Q&A

In our Council, we're looking at establishing minimum pass vote percentages for various issues. One that has caused some discussion is the vote by the congregationn on office bearers. Currently, Council prepares a list of candidates to present to the congregation. The congregation then votes on...

September 10, 2011 0 16 comments

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As Melanie mentioned, the CRC denomination office hosts the PAR (pre-authorized remittance) program as a value-added service for Canadian churches. PAR is a no-cost, administratively effectively way to offer direct withdrawal giving to your local congregation.

Here's a link to the brochure,

http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/admintools/ParBrochure.pdf

or email par@crcna.org, for more information.

There is no provision or program to facilitate credit card giving for local congregations.

I like the idea of thinking creatively about how we can support the ministry of compassion and justice. Staffing, classes, resource materials, classical level initiatives.... all aimed at living justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. Willow Creek, CRWRC, the Canadian DMC, all are named here as resources, and that's only a beginning. But what, I wonder, will be our "tipping point"? What will it be that tips the CRC over into an exciting discovery of the depth and breadth of the potential of deacons? The momentum is building; what will turn it into an epidemic? Deaconal stories are out there, begging to be told. CRWRC is noting that giving for the Haiti quake is at a record breaking ten million dollars. The signs are all around us that the CRCNA has the potential to be a diaconal earthquake itself.

On the other hand CRWRC notes that global responses to the HIVAIDS epidemic are already starting to falter, and the epidemic is taking advantage of the opportunities. The world community committed itself to ten clear goals to reduce poverty.  That effort is falling behind.

 More and more CRC deacons are looking over the back fence and down the street and around the world. Deacons are needed to create a movement that gives the CRCNA its second wind on the humble walk of justice and mercy.  We've demonstrated that we can fly like eagles in the face of the quakes, the tsunamis, the storms.  Walking and not being weary in the daily commitment to justice and mercy is the challenge.  Deacons need to be at classes and synod. Deacons need to be leading congregations.  Deacons need to lead in the routines, in the daily disciplines of being church. 

Yes!  Let's think about how church administration can help us "take it up a notch"!

Great question. I have a guest writer already writing on this topic and there will be a article on this in the Church and Web network in the next month!

Sharon, great info. I'll pass it along to the person that is writing the article.

Diaconal Ministries Canada (DMC) has resources in its justice section that might be helpful for diaconates and churches. These resources provide a number of action items for 8 "people groups" that are often marginalized in Canadian society. Check out

http://www.diaconalministries.com/diaconalministry/justice.htm

Some classis have a group called "Deaconal Conference" that meets very month which specifically serves deacons. Classis provides the costs. In Canada all the Deaconal Conferences are associated with each other. Paid Staff provides support (Aprrox 2 per classis).

August Guillaume

The Church Finance and Administration Resources on the CRC web has a sample nomination letter for admin elders. See http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/admintools/NomineeLetter.doc
Sheri

Does anyone have a template for an elder/deacon nomination letter available to share?

I would like to see, if possible, resources for multi-site churches. Resurces such as systems used & even policies & procedures templates available. Accounting & administration becomes much more complex when dealing with numerous campuses. Any input related to this would be greatly appreciated!!!

Great ideas, Sheri! I've never thought of bringing in entertainment to show appreciation to volunteers.

Brookside (in the US) offered health insurance to those regularly scheduled to work 30 hours per week or more. It was set up that we would cover 100% of the individual health insurance coverage. If a person wanted family coverage, we covered 65% of the cost of family coverage over individual coverage. In the US, churches that are covered through the denominational plan now have an option for an HSA plan. If a church changes to this lower cost insurance with a higher deductible, then the cost structure to the employee may also change. Did your church change to an HSA plan lately? How did you restructure? What are you doing with coverage?

posted in: Health Insurance

I agree! I read it and then had everyone on our Transition Team do the same. It has been a central source of reference for us throughout the process.

We've gone to a process of selection by lot that feels pretty successful. Even though we're an average sized church, we've had a good response to calls for nominations, a good amount of people willing to serve after being nominated, a good number of ballots returned affirming nominees, etc. I'd be happy to share the policy/procedure documents if interested. We just selected new elders and deacons yesterday. It's so cool to see God's work in selecting people who we know are qualified, but who might not have been chosen in the past simply because they are less well known (or, dare I say it, "popular"?) in the church. These people have grown in their gifts, have been affirmed through their service, and have become more tightly knit into the life of the congregation. Win-win-win.... Go God!

We're a satisfied Servant Keeper subscriber too. Can't say a lot more about it, because I myself don't use it, but it's been the source of many reports over the past few years. We're going to start using a customizeable part of the program to record spiritual gifts soon this month, which will be a great asset as we continue down the path of being/developing a gifts-based ministries effort as part of the Natural Church Development planning we've done.

Regarding pastor transitions, I talked with Rev. Norm Thomasma who is the director of Pastor-Church Relations for the denomination. He suggested the book "The Elephant in the Boardroom" by Carolyn Weese and J.Russell Crabtree. The book looks at how Jesus dealt with transitions, talks about key players in a healthy transition, explains how various church cultures respond to pastoral transitions, and finally looks at the larger issues that should be addressed in an effective transition plan. Since so many situations vary in needs, he would prefer to discuss the scenario with the church and provide helpful suggestions. The Lombard Mennonite Peace Center also has a seminar on Facilitating Healthy Pastor-Congregation Relations that includes materials on "The Pastor's Entry" and "Bringing Closure to the Pastoral Relationship."

At Brookside CRC in Grand Rapids where I attend, we also wrestled with payment for staffing. Nothing was formally in writing, but we only paid leadership positions in ministry areas in addition to the lead organist/pianist for services. These positions are 20 hrs/wk or more.

Many people serve the church with enormous amounts of time and they are appreciated. I'm sure there are many people who give 5-10 hours of their time each week and some maybe even more in doing ministry as gifted members.

Pastors, worship leaders, and sound operators are all possible recipients of gratuities at our church for funerals. A fee is set for sound operators with our weddings and other rental events.

NOTE: This post about Classis Stated Clerks was moved to a new thread in the Classis discussion network.

I've used Salesforce a bit, but not as a church membership tool. Interesting idea, especially given all the plugins in the AppExchange. I look forward to hearing more!

salesforce.com is free to non-profits and we use it ifor membership and offering tracking. It falls under "cloud computing" which is mentioned by others. I plan to write an article on it for this network but thought I'd respond to this discussion, too.

By being "in the cloud", it makes it convenient for people working from their homes. You only get 10 free licenses but for us that is enough. The deacons use one login to record the offerings. Then I have the other licenses for myself, an office admin, the pastor, and others. It integrates with Google Apps and GMail, which is a nice feature, too.

You can also very easily export from Salesforce to Excel so you can do mail merges and so on.

I'm hoping to have the article up in a couple weeks but in the meantime, this is a link to the page about their non-profit donation program: http://www.salesforce.com/company/foundation/. You'll see the link to apply for donated licenses on that page.

We (Friendship CRC in Byron Center, MI) use PowerChurch. I researched the various options (about 4 years ago) and thought PowerChurch was the best software for our church for the money. We are very happy with it. We use it to print the church directory, for volunteer lists, event/room scheduling, contribution statements, membership reports, etc. We will be upgrading to version 11 this month. Feel free to contact me to schedule a look at how we use it if you want.

Since our weekly bulletin is very popular and is used a lot quite a few are printed. Our bulletin editor does sent it out on request by e-mail.
I keep an e-mail list for members and each member may ask me to send out messages. It can cover more detail for events, member's health news or other data found important to share this way. It has not been abused.
The church has gmail address where all members are welcome to access it. I ask all organizations which send letters, brochures, magazines etc to do this by e-mail. I can easily label each message and if required alert the person by e-mail if something important has come in. A short note in the bulletin indicates the source of messages received that week.
Although relatively few people access it, the material we receive is available 24/7
As we rent facilities, we do not have mail boxes, but almost everyone has an e-mail box.
Our web sites (public) contain our offering schedules with links to each organization we support as well as mandates of each committee with links to resources.
Our secure web site contains an updated e-mail list, duty roster, directory, and Elder group assignments. About 5% of our members access this material monthly.

posted in: Less Paper Less Ink

Our church prints the order of worship separate from the announcements. So emailing the announcement section would be perfect (keeping hard copies on hand for those that prefer it). Thanks for the great idea!

posted in: Less Paper Less Ink

We purchased Servant Keeper in 2007 and have been very happy with it. We can record giving, church membership statistics, elder visits, inactives, spiritual gifts, we can automatically move sunday school rosters to a new grade, etc. However it does take a little education and customization to make the program fit your church's needs, but we haven't begun to maximize the potential of this program. We can also import Quicken information for accounting purposes. If you are on a network, the deacons can have their own computer login and record their offerings, special offerings, etc.

As you can tell we really like the software and have not found anything we can't do with it. Reporting is done with ease (once you know how to report) and everyone is happy with the results.

The main thing is that ALL of our member's information is in one place not in different spreadsheets, and databases. You can export to an Excel database once you extract the information you are looking for. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.

Hi Lois --

I was doing a little comparative research for another purpose, and thought I'd share a few cost details I found.

1) CanadaHelps (www.canadahelps.org), for Canadian organizations only. CRC Canadian agencies used this method before we moved to Convio. "CanadaHelps assesses a 3% transaction charge on each donation. This 3% is deducted from the donation before being disbursed to your charity.... There are no monthly charges or set-up/registration costs. There is an additional 1% (for a total of 4%) assessed from donations to charities that haven’t signed up for Electronic Funds Transfer for donations." Canada Helps is supported in part by donations.

2) Network for Good (www.networkforgood.org). One-Time Account Setup $199.00, Monthly Fee $29.95, per Donation Fee 3%. US-based, although they can accept international transactions. No separate merchant account required.

3) MinistryGive (/www.ministrygive.com). Basic service (up to 70 transactions/mo) = $39 per month. $99 one-time set-up fee. They also require a separate merchant account, through which you would pay per-transaction fees.

There are many other options. These are just a few for which pricing information was readily available. HTH.

The Pastor Church Relations Office has materials on pastor transitions. Hopefully these will be available in the next several days. Stay tuned!

Canadian CRC churches usually keep membership records. This comes from our Dutch background where geneological data were kept by churches after the reformation. Likely the same reason US CRC churches still do that.

How long we will keep doing this is anyone's guess.

posted in: Retaining Records

Hi Sheri
Thanks for sharing this info. Can you tell me if this applies for Canadian churches as well or if it is different here?
Thanks again

posted in: Retaining Records

Sheri, I just had a phone call from a gentleman who is looking for a record of his baptism from the 1960's. Do Christian Reformed Churches permanently keep records of all the people baptized in their church?

posted in: Retaining Records

I would love to see any sample Pastor Transition Plans that might be available. In other words, what would be a set of guidelines/directives a church could/should go through when a Pastor leaves.

Great site - thanks!

John Hey
Friendship CRC

I found a policy/procedure that may be adapted to a church situation--check out this website http://www.uww.edu/icit/governance/policies/camera.html.

Is your procedure something we could add to Church Finance and Admin Resources on the CRC website for all churches to review? I would make it generic but it is always helpful to have a couple resources in each area available for churches to review. Select "contact me" in the upper right corner and we'll connect on your resource. Yes, relationships and encouraging others are so key to developing ongoing leadership in the church.

We are trying to improve the personal touch, no letters or emails just phone calls or personally talking to people and it works better. Still didn't get the required number of names.

Trying to encourage the development of relationships of potential council members well in advance of the nomination process so that the people who are nominated are well aware of what is involved.

I have a rather large and involved procedure I have developed and have approved by our executive council if someone is interested in seeing it. It is in its second year of use presently.

Having just joined this Network, I have been reading the discussions regarding Church Management software. We use the product called LOGOS II - also we use LOGOS accounting - so the two products intergrate in regards to contributions. We have a third product as well, LOGOS Scheduler - where we schedule all church events and rooms. We are very happy with this software, the ease of use, and the product support. As with all software, it does have its moments, when you think you have done everything right, but the report doesn't come just as you thought. LOGOS II allows you to put in any kind of criteria and it will format a report for you. I would only suggest this software for medium to large churches. Thanks for letting me chime in.

Thanks Sheri - I am nativigating through this. I will look at what you suggested.

posted in: Retaining Records

In Canada there is an organization called canada helps and they facilitate online giving among other things. Anyone can go to their site to look you up and donate, but to make it easier there is a "button" you can put on your website. If you are registered there is a 3% service fee and if you are not registered it is 4%. They deposit to your bank account monthly. More info can be found at www.canadahelps.org

Our intention is to enable this with a statement of care that says we don't want them to go into debt while using online giving.

We also are part of the PAR program with the CRC.

I've been the LAN Administrator at Brookside CRC for nineteen years. We use Microsoft Office 2003 with the Office 2007 Compatability Pack. We use QuickBooks for the church's financials, payroll, and accounts payable.

For anything else that could be considered a database function, I've put together an integrated system using Access. Since I work as a programmer in my regular job, this was a natural extension of my Brookside responsibilities and perhaps makes our situation a little unusual.

Member and visitor information, for both families and individuals, is central to the system and is available to be used throughout the system. That includes attendance for members and visitors, contributions, denominational reporting, telephone directories, photo directories, council reports, gift and service information, and separate Youth Ministries information. We can expand the functionality however we choose at any time. An example of this is an interface for the church administrator that supports the annual budget creation process.

Each staff member has an interface on their desktop that I call their "Data Mine". They can use it to extract information for themselves using Access's easy built-in filtering and sorting capabilities, eliminating the need for writing a formal report. If they want to spruce things up, they can bring their mined data over to Excel, and make their own "report" with titles, headers, footers, totals, or whatever they want. They always have the option of having me create a formal Access report for ongoing use as well.

We do have a large collection of formal reports available for regular use. The Access report writer allows quick creation of any report we might want to add to the permenant collection or any ad hoc reports that might be needed. Mailing labels are an example of a report that can be done either ad hoc or as a permenant report.

We've also created systems that are independant of membership data. A system for the pastor to keep a history of his sermons is a good example. It allows sermons to be classified by a series they belong to, the scripture passage, Heidelberg Lord's Day, and Belgic Confession, and the date. I mention this system to illustrate that with Access, you can create whatever you need for any purpose.

Cloud computing definitely opens up opportunities for churches.

For readers that may not be certain what cloud computing is I thought it might be helpful to give a quick overview.

Cloud computing is not brand new but it is taking off in the tech world as a way for small to medium businesses to be able to take advantage of robust technology with less capital investment. Cloud computing can present some great opportunities for churches for the very same reasons.

There are a number of ways that cloud computing has been defined. SaaS (software as a service) is another term that is sometimes used inter-changeably with cloud computing. The difference between this and the "standard" way of computing is that in the SaaS or cloud model you are leasing the software vs buying the software. You are cloud computing when the data and application that you use are housed on servers that you don't have physical access to. A service provider hosts and maintains the equipment and the application.

In general, cloud computing provides a number of advantages.
-- It allows users to access the information whenever it is convenient for them.
-- Typically upgrades are on-going and less cumbersome to apply. Often upgrades are seamless.
-- The backup obligations are put on the provider, rather than on church staff.
-- Hardware becomes less of an issue--it is more about what browsers are supported than whether you are using a PC or a MAC or what version of operating system you are using.
-- Compliance/regulations are often handled better by outsourcing than they are by keeping the data in-house.

When considering cloud computing there are some things to look for:
1) A contract that states that the information (data) belongs to the church and that obligates the company to provide you with the data in csv or text delimited format in the event of the termination of the contract for any reason.

2) A contract that specifies the data backup obligations of the company.

3) Encrypted access. This can be achieved in a variety of ways. The most common is SSL meaning when you access the site you do so via a URL that starts with https:\\ instead of the usual http:\\. Another way encrypted access may be provided is via Citrix--a client that you put on your PC or Mac that allows access into a network.

4) In comparing costs of on-line systems vs. in-house systems I have found that it helpful to
--include all the costs of an in-house system (remember you have to be backing it up)
--map out the costs for 3 years--the first year costs can be significantly different but looking at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year costs will often show you a more accurate comparison.

5) Verify that the security of the provider and the system meet applicable privacy and data security laws. Data that is most critical center around bank account and credit card account numbers as well as social insurance/social security numbers. If you aren't keeping this type of data, and if you don't provide vendors with your mailing lists, your data compliance issues are greatly deminished. If you do keep bank/credit card numbers, ask providers about security compliance. Good things to look for are CICA 5970 certification (Canadian accounting), SAS 70 Type II certification (US accounting) and PCI DSS or PA DSS (these last two apply to credit card transactions).

PowerChurch offers an on-line option as do many of church management systems. It may be worth taking a look at PowerChurch On-line rather than waiting on Google to be able to deliver a relational database.

Eva, you and I attend the same beloved Covenant CRC, and we've had considerable discussions around this one! At the risk of 'airing soiled laundry', I do want to respond, augment this important discussion and solicit feedback from others!

I understand PowerChurch is great for accounting etc. but unfortunately none of its stored information can be shared on-line by those who need access when the office is closed. Most Council members do their church work after hours, need the information 'now', and many (but not all) want to be empowered electronically. Also, PowerChurch does not permit flexibility in reporting: we can't even use it in the printing of the Church's Directory nor generate custom reports, and so you end up doing the Church Directory in a word processor. As a result, we now have several sources of church information that constantly need to be reconciled, kept accurate and in sync.

Coming into the mix is 'cloud computing', as with e.g. Google Docs (GD) that our church (and others?) are now using. GD is becoming increasingly important as our 'go-to', secure, on-line information source for local church business. Using it's 'shared folder' feature, it also will be the handy vehicle for succession of Council members and other key church players as they move through the various church roles. Happily gone are those thick Council binders that would get passed from outgoing to incoming Council and committee members, often not kept in very good order, depending on the diligence of the person you were succeeding!

Question: how does PowerChurch and my very favourite off-the-shelf database, FileMaker Pro and it's little sibling Bento, interact with this increasing reliance on 'cloud computing'? Answer: they don't!. Gone is the advantage of PowerChurch, Filemaker Pro and any other stand-alone software application. Hopefully Google soon will develop a relational database that can become the single source of our administrative information. Knowing Google's pace, that may be soon?!

In the meantime, since we've adopted 'cloud computing' as the way of our administrative future, we'll need to make do with the simple tools in the Google Docs 'toolbox': spreadsheet, word processing, presentation applications. Nevertheless, and hopefully soon, we'll see a Google Doc relational database with customizable reporting tools to do our finance reports, printing of church directory, etc., all from a single, accurate information source that resides 'in the clouds' and is accessible securely on-line by those authorized and need to know.

thanks!

A few years ago, we switched to a process whereby current elders and deacons meet with nominees to PERSONALLY delivery the nomination letter and discuss it.

That personal touch has made a pretty big difference compared to the old method of just sending the letters out.

Thank you very much for your reply, Sheri, I appreciate the examples and book suggestion.

Looking forward to see the growth of this site... lots of potential and a great start.

Thanks for all of the suggestions and comments! There's some great material here to review. I'll post here with what I/we find.

We use their tear off too and it works quite well. You have to make sure that guests are welcomed from the pulpit and encouraged to fill it out. We encourage our people to also connect with the visitors to encourage them to do the same. We don't get a lot of traffic since we're a little church 10 miles out of town, but we are getting guests that are beginning to return because of follow up.

My favorite resource regarding churches and charitable gifts is published by Zondervan each year--the Church and Nonprofit Tax and Financial Guide by Dan Busby (check out amazon.com). This book has a wealth of understandable information on a variety of administrative subjects for churches. A copy at every church would be very beneficial in running things properly.

If someone donates quilts to your crib ministry or a DVD player to your youth ministry, a thank you for the (name of item) donation is all that should be necessary from the church. The donor is responsible for valuing the item(s) given, not the church. If the value of the item is more than $250, check out further information in the above book.

"Donated labor" is not eligible for a charitable deduction. The carpenter would be entitled to a deduction for his out of pocket expenses including mileage. Dan Busby on p. 158 says "if the donated out of pocket expenses are $250 or more in a calendar year, the carpenter will need an acknowledgment from the church."

Duane,
Selecting software is work.

You aren't the first person to ask the question about the denomination supplying something. The denomination has looked at this on and off since the mid 1990s. Every time we have looked at it we have decided it is not the best use of our resources. A couple of the challenges that haven't changed over the years are the following:
1) How to create a piece of software that would be attractive to a fair number of our churches.
2) How to support the software, upgrade it, help churches migrate to it, etc.

In the past few years we have had more than one vendor suggest to us that we should purchase software that all of our churches would use (meaning a single database). Those suggestions have two big issues--big dollars, and big brother....

I think that Allen Deters hits the nail on the head when he points out that there is a lot of good software already out there.

It is difficult to know what software to select. It is kind of like having a cold and going to a drug store, there are so many over the counter cold medicines, it is hard to know what you should buy.

This is what I suggest you do to reduce the complexity that choice brings.

1) Decide what it is that the software needs to do for you. You can keep a list of "essentials", "wants", and "potentially desirable" features.

2) Figure out who is going to need to use it and where they are going to be when they use it. For example, as the council clerk--do you want to be able to do this from home? Is there a church administrator that also needs to get to this same software? Will you both ever be in it at the same time? These questions will help you get at things like number of licenses, number of concurrent sessions, on-line (cloud/SaaS) software verses software on a PC or server at church.

3) Take an inventory of what you are working with hardware wise. Will all those that use this be on Windows operating systems, some Macs? What versions of these operating systems? If you might be looking at an on-line solution--do the people who need to use it have internet access in the location(s) that it will be used. This will help you recognize if there will be additional costs associated with any given selection.

4) Try to gauge the level of expertise that you have available to you. How computer savvy are the people who will need to use the software? What other resources might you have available? Perhaps a member of your congregation would be willing to help out in implementing this. Maybe there is a user group you could join. It might be worth considering having a consultant who has done this type of thing before help with the implementation.

5) If you can, find out what other churches that are the size of your church are using. A look in the Yearbook will help you with that. Other churches in your community can also be helpful sources--they don't have to be CRC or RCA--if they are about your size, talking with them might be helpful. They can tell you what kind of expertise it took for them to put in a system, what they wish they had done differently, what is the best thing about their system.

6) With all of the above in mind start looking at some software packages. At this point you are looking for two reasons. First you want to become a little familiar with prices. Second, you might find out that you could really use something that you never thought of. A good site to check is shareware.com--use search for church membership software.

7) Set a budget for the project (add 20% to what you think it is going to be).

8) Find a way to document your discoveries when doing the above steps. Documentation will help you when you start comparing options. It will also help you in three years when you wonder why you made the selection you did. It will also be a starting point when you have to do it again in a number of years--and with technology--you will have to do it again.

That should put you at a better than average starting spot to actually start shopping for software.

If you think about it, it isn't much different than buying a car--you have to know what it has to be used for, how many people have to fit in it, how far and frequently it has to go, who is going to be driving it, and how much money you have to spend. Once you know those things, you are more likely to drive off the lot with the car you need rather than just buying the red one because it looked good.

Our church uses a tear off in the church bulletin. Guests are invited to place the completed form in the collection plate. A letter is mailed out the same week and staff will then contact those individuals that are looking for more information.
The process has been successful and we have been able to develop an extensive data base of those people searching for a new church or a church.
Members are also encouraged to seek out new comers and invite them to other activities.

We have used friendship registers at church for years and find them very valuable. A couple members take turns each week with entering attendance on the spreadsheet. In addition to guest information, we track member attendance also because we are a larger church. The elders then have information if one of the members hasn't attended in the last month.

Another church I know has a group of members come in every Monday morning and send out the guest letters after tracking attendance. Others have a team for visiting with fresh homemade cookies.

I don't know Duane. We have this tendency to reinvent the wheel using time and resources. I think most of the current software out there allow you to add your own fields which would help with specific CRC related stuff.

I added the clergy tax site to the website resources. I also referred to another great tool that every pastor should have on their shelf--"Worth's Income Tax Guide for Ministers." This guide comes out every year with an updated edition. You can order it easily from various sites including amazon.com.

Hi Steve,
I agree, facility management would be a great addition. I have a couple mandates for a Facility Renovation Team and Building Planning Team under Church Finance and Administration Resources. I have a few items to add in this area--practical things like a building use policy. Would you be willing to write an article for the site--maybe something similar to what you presented at the Worship Symposium? Let me know. Thanks, Sheri

Thanks for the feedback. I'll check on these sites and packages.

I keep thinking that since each year all churches in the CRC are asked to collect and pass along the same type of information such as births, deaths, transfers, baptisms, etc., we should be able to put our heads together to come up with a CRC piece of software. It could be web based, or stand alone, and include the fields that all of us have to collect anyway. Instead of each congregation trying to re-invent the same package by customizing some off-the-shelf piece of software, it might be nice if we could find some creative software writer in the denomination to help us put something together.

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