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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Church Plants Gone Right! Interview with Matt Martin of NorthRock Church

From church plant to church planter, Matt Martin shares his story of operating with integrity as Executive Pastor at Northrock Church. For new and growing churches, he offers advice to challenge church leaders and congregants alike:

  1. Enjoy the journey. Note: this is difficult on days that seem like less than a victory. Make an intentional effort to avoid looking so far ahead that you miss what God is doing right in front of you. Not everything is a part of the highlight reel, but it is all a part of your story. 

  2. Celebrate milestones. Make time to celebrate milestones of all size and circumstance, thanking God for the opportunity to change lives. Your ministry is uniquely positioned to share the Gospel and make an eternal difference.

  3. Build up people, build up teams. In providing for those seeking a place of community and growth, continue to build up those that make up the ministry. When we focus on building the right people, the right things follow.

  4. Don’t quit. God is faithful. When we are intentional about sharing and staying true to the Gospel, He has a way of supplying everything we need to do so with excellence.  

Listen to the full conversation here.