Blog

The upcoming webinar "Clergy Finance: Pointers for Pastors and Church Leaders" is scheduled for Thursday, September 6, at 12 ET through the Barnarbas Foundation.  John Bolt, the Director of Finance and Administrator for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, will review taxes, housing, pensions, and retirement planning.  

August 27, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Cost considerations aside, the topic of insurance in a church setting can be a hot one. Some have the perspective that “with the Lord on our side, who even needs insurance?” Some arrive at the same conclusion by taking a pragmatic approach, determining that the risk is just too low and the premiums too high to warrant coverage.

August 6, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Are you interested in knowing more about the health insurance plan available to U.S. Christian Reformed Churches?  Check out the upcoming webinar that will provide more information on the plan.

July 25, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

The IRS is hosting a free webinar for churches and other exempt organizations on July 25 at 2pm. Virginia Richardson, a Senior Tax Law Specialist, will cover topics including: 

July 17, 2012 0 0 comments
Q&A

Is there a specific way I should be recording new baptisms and prof of faiths?

Is this just for our own records or do i need to submit them somewhere? 

July 11, 2012 0 2 comments
Q&A

At our church, we have a lot of volunteers who serve in mulitple ministries. For example, one person might be on the Nursery list, they might be on the list to serve at after-church coffee time, and might also teach in one of the children's programs that meets during worship. Each of these...

July 10, 2012 0 11 comments
Blog

On May 17, 2012, the US Tax Court filed a ruling that disallowed a taxpayer’s charitable donation to their church because the church “failed to provide a properly completed contemporaneous written acknowledgment of the contribution.” Does your church receipt letter comply with the IRS substantiation requirements? 

June 7, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Church Administration is a gift that takes a mix of science (procedures, processes, and techniques) and art (sensitivity to people gifts, needs, situations, and timing). If you have the gift or passion for administration please consider volunteering as a guide, regular contributor, or guest blogger.

May 15, 2012 0 0 comments
Q&A

I'm a church planter in an area with Army, Air Force, and Navy installations.  Recently connected with a new couple that just moved here.  They're not Reformed, but told me they had developed a relationship with a chaplain at their last post (Fort Hood) who they thought had attended CTS.  This...

April 27, 2012 0 3 comments
Blog

It is comforting to know we serve a God who promises to one day set us free from the boundaries of time. But, until then, serving God involves discerning how best to use our gifts and resources – including time. Many Christians choose to offer a portion of their time in the form of 

April 9, 2012 0 1 comments
Q&A

Using Turbo Tax, my housing allowance is placed on line 53 (form 1040) as a tax credit. A year ago, a tax preparer put it on line 21 as negative income (less $xxxx). Which is correct?

March 31, 2012 0 5 comments
Q&A

Our pastor retired and the name of the church he founded was also retired. The year prior to his retirement, the budget committee designated a lump sum retirement gift to appreciate his 30 years of sacrifice for God and His church. Is this appreciation gift from the church taxable? That is,...

March 19, 2012 0 5 comments
Blog

Bethany is a good employee.  She quietly performs her tasks, works her regular hours, gets along with others, and is responsible.  Joshua is a remarkable employee.  He gets the job done also but seems to excel on the job.  What are the attributes that make Joshua a remarkable employee and Bethany a good employee? 

March 13, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Book or eBook

A couple weeks ago a church called and asked for information on what annual filings are required by churches.  In response to that, I referred the church to a great resource from the IRS, "Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations." 

March 5, 2012 0 0 comments
Blog

Our church was hesitant to get into online giving, primarily because of some of the negative connotations associated with credit card giving. Our pastor asked us to explore the possibilities, and this is what we found:

February 21, 2012 0 5 comments
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

Pages

RSS

Interesting article.  I've used Salesforce at our company a few years ago, but not that extensively.  How would I sign up for the free version you're describing?  Is it the "Force.com Free" described on their web site or is there another version?

What about reports like directories, or membership reports such as what the denomination asks for every year, have you been able to extract that type of information?

Sheri - As always, thank you for the info and confirmation.

Yes, a gift in memory of someone would be considered a charitable gift.  The IRS requires receipting if the gift(s) total $250 or more.  Most charities provide a gift receipt and thank you with no distinction between the gifts under or over $250. If the donor contributes cash, the donor must have an acknowledgment.

I hope Microsoft does NOT have new types of documents! Do you know how miserable .docx is?
I change it to .doc to have other people have easy access for it.
Do we really have to purchase the latest software all the time?

Ok, me again, and I haven't gotten the book that Sheri suggested. Yet. Sorry.

But a small additional issue... I assume that a gift given in memory of the deceased, and paid directly to our church (for a specific fund), is tax deductible and therefore the donor should receive a contribution receipt (and thank-you) from us as a church.

Is this correct? I assume it is with what I have found, but I have also been told differently. ?

Thanks again for any help...

I really like the recently-released Office 2010. The ribbon feature is now consistent across all the applications (not just Word, Excel, PowerPoint). Most of the keyboard shortcuts in pre-2007 Office are still in effect in 2007 and 2010 (e.g. CTRL + I = italics; CTRL + P = print; CTRL + S = save; etc.).

The people at Microsoft Volume Licensing can help you save money buying Office 2010 (and other MS products) if you tell them you are a registered charity.

Stanley

Hi Tony,
At Brookside we also have tried various things to connect staff and church leadership. Our Worship Planner has attended some elder meetings as a way to report and connect on worship. Our Youth Coordinator and Care Coordinator have regularly attended our elder meetings and deacons meetings also to report and participate on a regular basis as appropriate. We are currently considering aligning two of our staff positions with 1) the deacon role and 2) the elder role and therefore that staff person would always participate with that leadership group. Great question. Have other churches tried a different kind of leadership team? The goal of Brookside in their staffing is to work with our Reformed structure in a larger church setting.

I'm not sure if this is what you meant by the 'qucik start card' but it helped me and helped a lot of my coworkers when we switched. If you can't find where a certain button/option is in the new version, this will greatly help you.

Also, there's no big changes in the user interface coming.

@aguilla The control panel confuses me still in 7/vista but I find that there are many things that are orders of magnitude better in 7. I can't wait till we roll it out at work.

Just a little warning about windows 7:

It is pretty bad regarding home network! Wireless access is fine. Wired access is not!

Where is the conflict with church order or is there no particular issue with the method used? I like the method's described above.

My church uses almost an identical process to Steve's. Except we have a tradition of the 5th graders pulling the names out. It's always fun having kids involved...and it's a little reminder that God works through all of us.

Our church has been using the system of casting lots for a number of years. The council still goes through the process before hand of finding eligible candidates for elder and deacon. The final names are submitted to the congregation 2 weeks before the meeting giving them a chance for input on the nominees. At the congregational meeting the members have the opportunity to mark a ballot either approving or disapproving the qualifications of each nominee. Then all the names are placed in 2 "hats", 1 for elder and 1 for deacon. The outgoing office bearers pick a name from the hat for their replacement. This process has taken away any feelings of favoritism. In fact, I was nominated several times for elder but was not chosen until the third time. Even though I felt dissapointed, I left with a sense that God wasn't ready for me to be elder yet. We have not had any problems that i know of using this system.
Steve

Last year our council placed before the congregation the question of casting lots. Before the question ever saw the light of day the council withdrew the question from the agenda because there reading of church order did not allow for the casting of lots. That is our experience.

At my church we are dealing with the same general area but from the nomination process. We use a fairly standard process which includes inviting and screening nominations and an election during a formal congregational meeting following a morning service. However, over the years, questions and concerns have been raised about our practice, at the last one triggered by the embarassment and hurt feelings by those nominees who were not elected. Can anyone out there in CRC land comment of the drawing of lots or other practices which work well for you?
LeoV

Sheri - that's just fine - hopefully it can be of help to others.

John,
Your "Pastor Transition Plans" details much of the discussion, leadership, and administrative process needed at a time of transition. Your document provides a sample to other churches. Thanks for your work on this. If you would like, I can add it to the "Church Finance and Administration Resources" on the CRCNA web.
Sheri, guide for the Church Administration Network

Free Church Database Option: I have looked into various church software options a bit but they were way above my price range. I thought about creating my own database, but it is above my expertise and most the Mac database software is pretty expensive.

I just discovered ChurchInfo @ http://www.churchdb.org/. IT IS FREE! I am starting to play around with it. It seems to have some of the functionality of the Servant Keeper / CCB. It has most of the stuff you would want to track (families, individuals, giving, events, attendance, check in / out, etc) and allows some flexibility. I can create new categories for my types of events. It is an internet based data base (MySQL) so you can either store it on your own personal online server (cloud) or store it on one computer. Either way, it allows multiple users with different levels of access. Because it is internet based is is cross-platform (Mac or PC). I am trying with info stored on my Mac right now for some future kid's events.

Honestly, it didn't come with a ton of installation instructions on the Mac end of things so it took me a while to figure out how to install it, but once I got it working it seem pretty user friendly. The PC installation process seemed much easier.

I highly recommend that anyone take a look at Church Community Builder (CCB). Their website is www.churchcommunitybuilder.com. Their offering incorporates a comprehensive membership database that operates via the web (cloud). Rosewood CRC has been with them for over 7 years. They are headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO

If you would like to search the 45 different companies offering an online solution, please go to
http://www.capterra.com/church-management-software and enter the specific features that are important to your congregation (see filter options on the left side).

We checked all of our wireless mics and found one that was in the 700 Mhx range. At this time Shure has a trade-in for up to $150 for replacement of the mics in this range. We took advantage of that and replaced the "offending" mic with a new one.

Go, katekooyman! Thanks for the reminder of the resource available in your office!

I'm a staff member who assists deacons!! :) As Congregational Justice Mobilizer for the denomination in the US, my whole role is to make it easy for folks to do just this kind of thing! If there are churches out there that are interested in some assistance, I'd love to see if I can be helpful. I know there are lots of resources out there, but the Office of Social Justice also has a lot to offer as far as education and opportunities for advocacy. www.crcjustice.org

Our church council recently struggled with a proposal to allow giving to the church via EFT and/or credit/debit cards. We ended up allowing EFTs and debit cards but not credit cards. The proposal was turned down because of a concern for credit card debt and church contributions adding to someone's debt load.

I know that neither the CRC nor the other charitable organizations to which I contribute seem to have any concerns about accepting credit card donations, and in fact they encourage it. (They get their money quickly, directly, and on time.) Does your church accept contributions via *credit card*? How did you get past the concerns that we had?

Canada has much the same rules. Does the contractor own the equipment he uses? Can the contractor choose the times he works? I am not an accountant so if someone needs more information an accountant is the best place to start.

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

Pages