Monday, May 21, 2018

Social Media, the Church, and the Law

Social media has greatly impacted the way we interact with one another and gather information. An active and accurate social media account makes it easy for your church to be found online and engage in further outreach.

For all its benefits, social media also introduces challenges that churches should be prepared for. Privacy, copyright infringement, negative comments, and even criminal activity are all issues that may arise from social media use. Your church should be aware of these potential pitfalls and have a policy that clearly establishes guidelines for your church’s social media presence. Adopting a social media policy at your church will help guide your social media use from the very beginning.

Creating a Social Media Policy for your Church

  1. State the purpose of the church’s social media accounts. Directly indicate that they are for the furthering of the church’s message and online outreach.

  2. Establish goals for using social media. Whether you are looking to find volunteers or engage potential members, be sure that your social media activity is in line with the mission of your church.

  3. Create a system for maintaining and monitoring social media accounts. Put rules in place for what can be shared and by whom. Be aware of what is being posted.

  4. Determine the roles and responsibilities of social media administrators. Designate individuals to keep your accounts active, accurate, and up-to-date

  5. Establish who is authorized to speak on behalf of the church online. Keep personal accounts of church staff separate from the church accounts.


Watch the full Webinar-On-Demand on this topic for more social media tips for churches.





Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, ChurchEXCEL!


ChurchEXCEL, ECFA's free resource community for churches is one-year-old this month! In honor of our first birthday, we are highlighting the Top Ten Most Popular FREE Resources. Have you seen them all?

  1. Financial Management Policies and Procedures Handbook - Easily customized for your church.

     
  2. 2018 Church & Nonprofit Tax & Financial Guides - Year-round reference guide for all your tax and reporting questions.

  3. Housing Exclusion eBook - Leverage this tax benefit.
  4. Governance Toolbox 3 - Conflicts of Interest - Engage at your next board meeting.
  5. Ministerial Expenses Webinar-on-Demand - Ministerial expenses can add up.
  6. Spanish eBooks - Same great titles, now available in Spanish (and Korean).
  7. ChurchPULSE eNewsletter - Top news items, blogs, and church resources.

  8. Large Church Trends Podcast - Insights from the recent survey.

  9. Cash Reserves eBook - How much is enough?

  10. The ChurchEXCEL app - All these great resources and more in the palm of your hand!



If you're already a part of the ChurchEXCEL community, we thank you! Be sure to visit ChurchEXCEL.org to access the above resources and to see what's new

If you're new to ChurchEXCEL, click here to sign up for free!

Here at ECFA, we are excited about all that ChurchEXCEL has become and want to make it even better. Your feedback is important to us! Share your ideas to be entered in a giveaway for a $250 Amazon gift card.

Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CE1Bday

We look forward to another year of serving church leaders. As always, we pray that this community is a blessing to you and your ministry. Happy Birthday, ChurchEXCEL!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Leadership Network 2018 Survey of Large Church Salary, Staffing and Benefits


After 17 Years of Studying Large-Church Salaries ….

Across 17 years of studying large-church salaries, Leadership Network receives continual questions like these:

  • Are we paying our staff too much or too little? 
  • How do we determine compensation for a campus pastor or an executive pastor (or another large-church role)? 
  • What are the trends in salaries and benefits for large churches like ours?

Good news: You can get dependable, current data through the feedback Leadership Network gives
(FREE!) to everyone who participates in their 2018 Survey of Large Church Salary, Staffing, and Benefits. But you need to participate by May 30 (midnight Pacific time).

Click this link to complete the survey, or just to learn more, including the list of helpful incentives for participants.

If you want a free sample of Leadership Network’s report from last time, just to see how much you would learn by participating, go to leadnet.org/salary.



Monday, May 7, 2018

Minister’s Compensation: The Tough Questions Podcast


Minister’s compensation can be a challenging topic, but you are not alone. Here are a few tips from a recent ECFA podcast, Minister's Compensation: The Tough Questions. Keep these objectives in mind when it comes time to wrestle this part of your church’s budget:
  1.  Take the “Big Three” into account. Social security, expense reimbursements, and the housing allowance are the three significant factors at play in minister’s compensation. Each can be leveraged for significant tax benefits. 

  2. Consider compensation studies in determining fair compensation. Compensation studies can provide helpful insight. Use them as general information rather than as a benchmark. Take a hard look at the church’s goals as well as the needs of the minister and his or her family.

  3. Designate a “champion” to communicate the minister’s compensation needs. This person can have open dialogue with the minister about his or her financial needs and present them to the determining body for consideration.

For these and more practical steps, tune in to the full podcast here.

Find more resources on minister’s compensation: eBooks, tax guides, and more at ecfa.church.



Monday, April 30, 2018

Creating a Safe Culture - Making Sure #MeToo Doesn't Happen In Your Church


The recent rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements reveal the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, and as further evidenced in the even more shocking #ChurchToo hashtag, churches are far from immune. A recent free ECFA webinar, co-sponsored by the Christian Legal Society, entitled “Creating a Safe Culture” addresses this sensitive yet crucial topic.

Hosted by ECFA Executive Vice President and Legal Counsel, John Van Drunen, and David Nammo, Executive Director and CEO of CLS, the webinar covers the basics of what every church should have by way of rules and administrative procedures to prevent harassment and assault against employees, volunteers, and participants, and to properly address situations that may arise.

John and David are joined by attorneys Sally Wagenmaker (Wagenmaker & Oberly, LLC) and Theresa Sidebotham (Telios Law PLLC). Here are a few highlights from the discussion…

On Why Creating a Safe Culture is Important:

“As Christians engaged in ministry, we must acknowledge our fallen condition, our sinful nature, our need for a Savior, and thankfully, the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ. We have people working together and doing ministry together, and there are many opportunities for misconduct, misunderstandings, and serious problems. The Bible says we are to flee from such conduct. Sexual harassment is unacceptable, especially in any church or ministry, and accusations of harassment are devastating, even if they are wholly unfounded.” – David Nammo

 “When you have a culture of accessibility, people feel like they can raise their concerns and not have things pile up – instead of the ‘me too’ and ‘me too’ which is the last thing you want to have happen…Like so many ministry matters, this really boils down to stewardship. How do we care for each other? And particularly recognizing that people are God’s most precious resource, we’re here on earth to serve Him, with each other, co-laboring for Christ.” – Sally Wagenmaker

On Anti-Harassment Policies

“[With a good anti-harassment policy] people can expect that the problem will be investigated with confidentiality, with no retaliation or backlash, and some remedial measures to fix the problem. The whole policy should reflect the culture of accessibility.” – Sally Wagenmaker

“Not only is it a great idea to have a policy for practical reasons, but it carries enormous legal implications and benefits for the employer.” – Sally Wagenmaker

**A sample anti-harassment policy is available in the handout materials provided when you view the free webinar-on-demand**

On Church and Ministry Standards

“For [church] employees, you can have Christian standards as a bona fide occupational qualification [BFOQ], not just what they believe, but how they act according to Christian standards.” – Theresa Sidebotham

“We want to be above reproach. Think about what your spiritual standards are – they are not going to be the same for every [organization]…but in this age of ‘#MeToo’, increased religious liberty challenges, and plain old risk-management, this is a great time for you to think through your biblical standards of sexuality and other forms of conduct.” – Theresa Sidebotham

On Avoiding Mistakes and Taking Next Steps

“It’s important to be very thorough and methodical in addressing each component of an allegation to review what has actually happened.” – John Van Drunen

“Pray for wisdom and discernment. Pray that God’s protection will be on those within your organization, but then be thinking through, ‘what can we do to create a safer culture within our church? Do we need to undertake training or clarify policies? Are things we could be doing better to create tone at the top, so that it is well-known within our organization how we handle these matters? Are staff aware of how leadership wants decisions to be made if a potential question comes up?’” – John Van Drunen

Churches must not only be vigilant and responsive to minimize legal liability, but also to prevent a culture which opens the organization or its leaders up to the accusation that inappropriate actions were allowed or even encouraged. We invite you to view the full free webinar-on-demand to dive in to more details on legal protections, reporting requirements, and investigation procedures as well as links to policy resources and sample employee handbook excerpts.



Monday, April 23, 2018

Preparing Your Processes for Growth! Interview with Amy Nikkel of Life.Church



“I am passionate about doing more than less, but I believe God wants more for each of us, and so it is reasonable to expect that he wants more from each of us.” - Amy Nikkel, Life.Church

In this podcast, Amy Nikkel offers practical tips for church growth, a thing she knows a thing or two (or four) about. She has been with Life.Church for the last eleven years and now serves as their CFO.

4 Practical Tips to Help Churches Prepare for Growth

  1. Create a simplified chart of accounts. Strive for a simple, yet intuitive structure that provides clarity to non-financial users. This will result in better reporting and more informed decisions.

  2. Focus on internal control rather than direct control.  Shape processes so that the finance team can steward resources and maintain compliance without the leadership touching every transaction. This kind of space allows for scalability.

  3. Measure data regularly. Tracking and considering data allows an accurate view of where you are and what success looks like. Be sensitive to where God is calling you but allow data to have a seat at the table as you are making decisions.

  4. Include, equip, and empower your ministry leaders to project for and manage budgets. The responsibility for financial management is imperative, but it cannot solely lie with the finance team. Organizational leaders must be included, so they must be educated to lead with vision. This will set your ministry up for success form the top down. 






Monday, April 16, 2018

10 Essentials of Church Accounting and Financial Reporting


“Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.” 1 Corinthians 16:1–4

Finances are essential to any organization’s ability to operate. Even the early Church understood this, as evidenced by the Apostle Paul, who stated both clear teaching on giving and explicit instructions regarding the administration of finances.

Nearly 2,000 years later, money is still a tool that allows us to carry out the ministries and programs God has called our church to do. To use that tool in a way that displays excellence and transparency requires skilled people, intentional processes, and appropriate church administration coupled with the oversight of the board. A key ingredient in the appropriate handling of finances is proper accounting and reporting.

This goal calls for engagement by everyone from capable staff to attentive pastors. The call for “approved” people handling money implies a credential that points to proven ability and trustworthiness. The fact that the Apostle Paul himself was willing to assist with the administration should inspire every pastor to get involved as advised. These 10 Essentials of Church Accounting and Financial Reporting, with some key insights from the recent webinar on this topic, point the way:

  1. Understand the Impact of the Numbers

    “It’s important to embrace a culture at the church that values the importance of proper accounting and reporting. Like any building that is set on a good structure, accounting and reporting lay the foundation for long-term ministry success.” (Michael Martin, ECFA Vice President)
    Though it can be tedious at times to require careful accounting and reporting from your staff, good planning now assures smooth sailing later.


  2. Basis of Accounting

    “The basis or system of accounting ultimately translates into the language in which numbers will be communicated to decision-makers, stakeholders, or other interested parties.” 
    (Michael) Churches may choose a cash, accrual, or modified cash system of accounting depending on their needs, the parties they are communicating with, audit requirements, and the size and complexity of the church’s ministry.


  3. Software

    “Assess what the most important features of any software are for your organization and then compare those if you are considering any change.” 
    (Vonna Laue, ECFA Executive Vice President) When evaluating your software needs, it’s important to understand the limitations of the programs available, consider using different software for different purposes, obtain adequate training for those using the systems, and keep the software updated as much as possible.


  4. Staffing

    “It’s not helpful to place someone in a position that they’re just not skilled for. It can be detrimental to the accounting and the financial reporting, and ultimately poor decision-making can result.” 
    For staff members and volunteers who have responsibilities in the areas of accounting and reporting, it is essential to consider each individual’s God-given talents and abilities, as well as providing appropriate compensation for staff and adequate training for all.


  5. Chart of Accounts

    “We need to understand what financial information we want to communicate, and that needs to be the basis for our chart of accounts.” 
    (Vonna) Start simple, and then review periodically and add complexity as needed. As new departments are created, or other changes to the ministry occur over time, the chart of accounts may need to be adjusted.


  6. Reconciliations

    “The point of reconciliations is to help us make sure that the information we have in the accounting system would agree with anything outside that system. The timeliness of this is critical.” 
    (Vonna) Items such as bank statements, broker statements, petty cash, and donor systems should be reconciled monthly, while other items such as payroll and fixed assets may be reconciled on a quarterly or annual basis.


  7. Records Retention

    “Keeping good records is important, not just from the perspective of making sure that leaders have the data they need to make decisions, but also from a legal perspective.” 
    (Michael) We recommend that churches have a records retention policy (a sample can be found here), which details what types of records should be retained, and for what length of time, depending on your church’s needs and local/state regulations.


  8. Internal Controls

    “Get the leaders together in your church and consider: What are the facility, legal, human resources, and accounting risks facing our organization? Prioritize those and then mitigate the most important ones.” 
    (Vonna) Within the area of accounting risks, aim for a segregation of duties in regard to custody, recordkeeping, and authorization, with at least two people involved between the three responsibilities.


  9. Financial Reporting

    “Financial reporting must be tailored for each audience.” 
    (Vonna) The ministry leaders, leadership team, finance committee, governing board, and the congregation each have different interests and different levels of involvement in the church’s finances, and the reports should be tailored accordingly.


  10. Involve a Third Party

    “We can be so focused on the details of what we are doing; it’s great to have someone from the outside take an objective look at things.”
     (Vonna) Assure that your church’s accounting and reporting are above reproach by involving third parties by way of an internal or independent audit, financial review, compilation, consulting, and/or an accrediting organization like ECFA.

To explore these 10 Essentials in greater detail, check out the 10 Essentials of Church Accounting and Financial Reporting Webinar-On-Demand and eBook. (FREE for ECFA certified members)
Have questions about how ECFA can serve your church? Give us a call at 1-800-323-9473 or email Michael@ecfa.org.