Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Minute on Recording Board Minutes

by Michael Martin

When the board meeting draws to a close, days or years later, what you are left with are the board minutes. What do your organization’s look like? Are they hardly more than an outline of the agenda itself, an exhaustive script of each and every spoken word, or somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes? Too many or too little details can make these records significantly less useful. What, then, should they look like?

A good place to start is to ask yourself this: Would someone who was not present at the meeting have a clear picture of the board’s actions and intent?

Board minutes are not only required, but they can become helpful tools for future generations of board members serving your organization. If needed, proper board minutes can also provide important legal insight into policies, intentions, and actions taken by the board. Sound board minutes can become a legacy as well as evidence of good faith in carrying out board duties.

Your board minutes are invaluable to your organization. Finding the right balance of what to include can be difficult. For more practical clarity, here is a sample set of board minutesHow do yours compare?

For more on board minutes, check out the video above and this knowledge center guide.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Unleash Your Board's Potential at an ECFA Governance Forum Near You

Could your board use an inspirational wake-up call? ECFA is pleased to announce a series of Excellence in Governance Forums, coming this fall, designed to help you take your church board to the next level.

These engaging and interactive sessions, being held at various locations around the country, will integrate biblical wisdom with practical governance best practices. Peer-to-peer discussions will dominate – not talking heads!

Based on ECFA’s unique, in-the-trenches research, observation, and understanding of the complex governance issues facing churches and ministries, ECFA will deliver fresh insights on governance topics – with a creative blend of learning methodologies.

Each one-day symposium will include content experts with new insights from three channels:
  • Research findings from ECFA governance surveys
  • Five recently-released governance books from ECFAPress
  • Hot-off-the-press results and statistics from ECFA’s new online board assessment tool, ChurchBoardScore.

We’ll also share what’s trending on critical governance issues.

The Excellence in Governance Forums are FREE for ECFA Member churches and organizations, and $199 for non-members (see special pricing for multiple people from the same church). FIND A FORUM NEAR YOU on the Excellence in Governance Forums webpage. We’d love to see you there!

Monday, April 22, 2019

ChurchEXCEL Top New Resources

With spring in full swing, we wanted to drop in with an update on a few exciting items for churches. ECFA has declared 2019 the Year of Excellence in Governance, and we are here to help with lots of new resources in honor of our 40th anniversary.

Because we believe that “as goes the board, so goes the ministry,” we are excited to announce a brand new self-assessment tool, ChurchBoardScore. This assessment is user-friendly and offers immediate feedback and practical steps for improving the effectiveness of your board. We invite you to share ChurchBoardScore with your board today.

Thinking ahead to fall, registration is now open for our Excellence in Governance Forums! These forums are thoughtfully designed with peer-to-peer discussions and insight form top leaders. With eight forums in eight cities, we would love to see you there.

For new resources addressing topics facing ministries like yours, join our free ChurchEXCEL community! All you need is an email address. ChurchEXCEL is home to a rotating library of free benefits, including Knowledge Center documents, eBooks, tax guides, and more, with new items added every month. We are passionate about helping churches excel in ministry, and it is our joy to offer these church financial resources to everyone. For those of you who are ECFA certified members, remember to log in at ECFA.church to access every ECFA resource for free at any time.

No matter your ministry size or role at your church, we seek to provide practical solutions and conversation-starting resources that are relevant to your ministry. In the meantime, check out a podcast, connect with us in person at a forum, or share ChurchEXCEL with a church administrator. Join us in making this a year of excellence!

Monday, April 15, 2019

How Effective is Your Church Board? ECFA Church Governance Survey

What are the best practices of effective church boards?

  • How much time goes into planning the future vs. reviewing the past?
  • What size is the board? Is the pastor also the board chair?
  • How does the board best support the church staff?

Dr. Warren Bird, ECFA Vice President of Research and Equipping, and the research team here at ECFA have recently released a brand new, just-for-churches survey designed to help church boards become more effective for their congregation, community, and ultimately, God's Kingdom.

The survey is tailored for pastors, board chairs, and board members to share their feedback on what "works" for your board, and what doesn't.

If you serve on your church's governing board, we would love for you, as well as your fellow board members to share your thoughts with us! If you’re willing, please take about 10-15 minutes to share your experiences on your church board, and consider forwarding the link below to the other board members to make sure they have an opportunity to take the survey. All feedback is confidential, and will greatly help US to help YOU and other churches as we learn what makes church boards thrive, and why.

Click Here To Check Out the Survey

We will give each survey participant a free summary of what we learn. Plus, as an extra incentive for survey participants, we will be doing random drawings for Amazon gift cards and other perks, so we hope you'll participate, and encourage your fellow board members to do the same! We are so excited about serving you through this valuable research.

Many Thanks!

Here's an easy cut and paste to share with others:

What makes great church boards great? Take the ECFA Church Governance Survey and you'll be the first to receive the free report with the results, as well as being entered to win Amazon gift cards and other great incentives. Take the 10 minute survey here: https://www.research.net/r/ChurchGov2019Pulse.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Lessons From the Church Boardroom – A New Book and A New Blog

Dan Busby and John Pearson deeply love the church and share a passion for Christ-honoring ministry at the board level. They’ve served on boards good and bad, they’ve heard tales from others, and they’ve immersed themselves in the literature of what makes boards work well. Their lessons, now brought together and shared in a new book from ECFA Press, Lessons From the Church Boardroom, are both tested for theory and tried by first-hand experience.

Lessons From the Church Boardroom will feel like it’s describing many of your own church board meetings. Disarming yet authoritative, enjoyable yet challenging, it quickly pinpoints an issue and then offers a better way to handle it. The bite-size chapters are certain to help anyone walk away with practical ideas that you can start using at your next board meeting.

In the book, Dan and John refer to the “church governing board” or simply the “board.” They are acutely aware that some churches have multiple boards, and that boards vary from church to church in both function and title. The book honors these differences. The 40 lessons shared will have meaning across denominational lines and within various governance structures.

As a companion resource to the book, which is available for purchase on Amazon.com or in bulk through ECFAPress, we are pleased to introduce a brand new blog written by John Pearson, along with guest authors who highlight key insights from the 40 lessons. Be sure to check out the Lessons From the Church Boardroom blog here.

We at ECFA are prayerful that this book and blog will serve as a catalyst for your church board to catch the vision for exceptional governance. We are hopeful that you’ll help foster a ripple effect of enriching boardroom experiences that honor God.

Like many, we believe that “as the board goes, so goes the church.”

Monday, April 1, 2019

Accountability for Large Church Pastors

With the power and influence God gives us, there is a responsibility to ensure that Christ remains at the center. What does that look like in practice, especially for pastors of large churches? It requires purposeful invitation.

In a recent podcast with ECFA’s Warren Bird, Matt Chandler of The Village Church talks through embracing the value of accountability in leadership.

Key to Chandler’s approach to accountability is inviting a “cross-section” of individuals from across the organization to speak into the lives of their three lead pastors. These men and women represent a variety of viewpoints and offer significant insight. This pool of trusted individuals sees their leaders and pastors in the thick of ministry. The questions and loving confrontations that result from these relationships provide the opportunity to address areas of concern. In this way, the senior leader is supported but also held accountable.

Purposefully inviting in people who can say “no” to senior leaders is essential. Systems of accountability prevent leadership and great decision-making power from being abused and misrepresenting Christ. For more about how to walk in accountability across the board - financially, spiritually, and more - check out the full Accountability for Large Church Pastors podcast here.

Monday, March 25, 2019

ECFA Joins Coalition in Call for Full Repeal of Nonprofit Parking Tax

In a letter dated March 1, 2019, ECFA joined a coalition of religious nonprofit organizations renewing the appeal to Congress to fully repeal section 512(a)(7) of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which places a burdensome tax on churches and nonprofits for the parking and transit benefits provided to their employees.

Drafted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and co-signed by a number of organizations of wide ecumenical scope, the letter seeks a swift response from Congress as churches and nonprofits face the task of filing the necessary 2018 documents to pay the tax.

The letter is addressed to Chairman Richard Neal and Ranking Member Kevin Brady of the House Ways and Means Committee, and marks the continuation of a campaign to repeal 512(a)(7), largely spearheaded by ECFA, which began in early 2018 shortly after the implications of the little known provision were discovered.

The letter acknowledges that while recent guidance from the Treasury Department on how to calculate the tax has “offered some relief,” the administrative burden on churches and nonprofits continues, and the tax will result in these organizations being “forced to shift resources from serving their charitable mission to dealing with paying this burdensome federal tax.”

Therefore, the coalition calls for a full repeal of section 512(a)(7) before the tax filing deadline for Form 990-T.

Read the Full Letter Calling for the Repeal of the Nonprofit Parking Tax Here.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Major Court Victory for the Ministers' Housing Allowance

Thousands of pastors and churches across America just scored a major victory in the latest court challenge to the ministers’ housing allowance.

More here from ECFA Executive Vice President John Van Drunen:

In its highly anticipated opinion on March 15, 2019 the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed a lower federal district court, which had ruled in late 2017 against the longstanding housing allowance for ministers. Instead, the appeals court likened the ministers’ housing allowance to other similar benefits in the tax code for work-related housing, finding the provision permissible under the First Amendment and well-established legal precedent.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), the group which brought this challenge to the housing allowance, did not indicate their intention to appeal the decision in an early press release reacting to the case.

Click here to read a more detailed breakdown of the court's opinion.

ECFA will continue to report any significant developments on the housing allowance in the News section at ECFA.church.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ministers' Taxes Made Easy - 5 BIG Changes from Tax Reform

As the 2018 tax filing deadlines approach, ministers and churches face not only the yearly task of managing tax issues specific to clergy, but also the added challenge of understanding what changes have taken place as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in late 2017.

ECFA recently tackled these challenges in a webinar entitled Ministers’ Taxes Made Easy. Highlights included discussion on 5 BIG Changes for Ministers as a result of tax reform.

BIG Change 1 – Doubling the Standard Deduction. The new tax law nearly doubles the standard deduction for 2018 and beyond to $12,000 for singles and $24,000 for married filing jointly. Given these much higher amounts, it is a sure thing that fewer ministers will itemize their deductions for 2018.

BIG Change 2 – Eliminating Personal Exemptions. The personal exemption of $4,050 for individual filers and dependents was repealed under tax reform.

BIG Change 3 – Disappearing Expense Deductions. Unreimbursed employee business expenses, tax return preparation costs, theft losses, and other miscellaneous write-offs were eliminated. Ministers should be sure their church-related expenses are reimbursed under an accountable plan. Unreimbursed expenses will have absolutely no tax value for 2018 and later years!

BIG Change 4 – Doubling the Child Tax Credit. The child tax credit is now doubled to $2,000 for each dependent under age 17. Additionally, up to $1,400 of the credit is refundable to lower-income taxpayers, and the credit is available to many more taxpayers due to an increased threshold of the phaseout.

BIG Change 5 – Eliminating Moving Benefits. Deductions for most job-related moves have been eliminated, and moving expenses paid or reimbursed by an employer are now taxable income. Church and ministry employers may now wish to help ministers offset some of the tax-related consequences of job-related moves.

The webinar also covered other relevant tax topics such as determining ministerial tax status, the minister’s housing exclusion, and understanding the differences between social security tax and income tax classifications.

Also check out the FREE companion eBook, Ministers’ Taxes Made Easy, a great resource for quick reference as you complete your tax filings.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Don’t Ignore Cracks in Your Board’s Foundation

Assessing Your Church Board in 6 Critical Areas

What happens to buildings with cracks in the foundation? No matter how magnificent the architecture, without the proper support, it’s just a matter of time before it all comes crashing down. The same can be true in our churches, especially our governance board.

We do well to focus on visible ingredients of growth and health—areas like strong Bible teaching, dynamic worship, and opportunities to engage and connect in community.

But do we overlook a foundational area—the role of the board in healthy, effective governance?

At the foundation, churches need effective boards that excel in six critical areas:

1. Spiritual atmosphere
2. Board-Pastor synergy
3. Intentionality
4. Faithful administration
5. Structure and style
6. Culture

This type of board won’t magically appear overnight. It takes time, intentionality, and equipping your board with the right resources to help them grow. That’s why I’m so excited about ChurchBoardScore™ – a free, online board self-assessment tool just launched by ECFA.

The quick assessment dives into six critical areas of board leadership outlined by governance experts Dan Busby and John Pearson in Lessons from the Church Boardroom: 40 Practical Insights for Exceptional Governance from ECFAPress.

Progress starts only when you are clear on where you are right now. You may discern that the board is underperforming in a certain area, but until the board has a laser focus on the problem, it will be difficult to take action.

That’s why the BoardScore™ assessment was created. But BoardScore™ doesn’t stop at simply pinpointing your board’s current strengths and weaknesses. Its most valuable features are the sound recommendations for improvement and links to related resources to help the board get started in areas that might need attention. Plus, we recommend retaking the assessment periodically to measure and celebrate the church’s progress.

We hope these free resources will bless and strengthen your church. Take the first step today towards better, more effective governance by accessing the free, confidential assessment at ECFA.church/Score. The investment in strengthening your church’s foundation will be well worth it!

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Council: New Release from ECFAPress

What does the Bible say about board governance? This often-asked question has puzzled board members for decades. The Council answers this question by starting with the Scriptures and ending with the Scriptures. 

Thanks to the deep dive that Gary Hoag, Wes Willmer, and Gregory Henson have taken into the Scriptures, the question has now been more fully answered than ever before.

According to ECFA President Dan Busby in his foreword to the book, The Council is outstanding for five reasons which rarely apply to a book:
  1.  Universal. This book applies to a broad spectrum of organizations. It is relevant for Christ-centered churches and other nonprofit ministries. It contains essential truths pertaining to organizations both large and small. The Council universally applies across denominational lines and is appropriate for churches whether denominational or independent. The book has universal application regardless of country or locality.
  2. Transformative. The principles embodied in The Council hold the potential to change the governance practices and outcomes for all Christ-centered churches and other nonprofit ministries. Every board can fine-tune their operations even if the board is healthy. The Council has the potential to enhance the trajectory of every board.
  3. Timeless. The Council is timeless. It is a principle-based text that will apply as much in the future as it does today. We are reminded of the parable of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew chapter 7. Jesus taught the disciples through this parable, saying, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock.” The authors of The Council have wisely built this study of biblical board governance on a solid foundation of scriptural truth that is unchanging regardless of culture or circumstance. After you read this book, you will be drawn back to it over and over as you desire to refresh your biblically-based mindset on board governance.
  4. Practical. The Study Guide in Chapter 7, "Tools to Help Overseers Think Biblically,” is crystal clear in providing a road map for boards to implement the principles in the book.
  5. Inspiring. Other authors have also urged prayer, the reading of Scripture during board meetings, setting aside time for silence, and welcoming all board members to share their thoughts. But The Council is unmistakably clear on these topics and communicates these principles in a new and inspiring way.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Relational Evangelism in a Shifting Culture

How can Christians effectively witness in an increasingly shifting culture? In a recent ECFA Excellence in Church Administration podcast, Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, shared a few thoughts on what it means to be individual Christians living missionally:

  • Think beyond the building. The days of inviting your friends to church to hear the Gospel from a pastor are over. Church will always be a place where we should welcome others, but people are more likely to engage in a conversation or grab a cup of coffee than come to church with you. 
  • Classification may vary. The nominal, or by-name-only, Christians and those who classify themselves as “none” in the religion category are merging. As this happens, we have a unique opportunity to make it clear what it means to be true Christians that center and shape their lives around the reality of Christ. 
  • Be on mission. Relational ministry and personal evangelism in work, family, and play has potential for meaningful impact. As ambassadors of Christ, we are called to share our faith in the tangible expression of our lives.

For more discussion on relational evangelism, join Ed Stetzer and ECFA’s Warren Bird for the Cultural Shift & The Church podcast.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Tackle a Church Building Project the Right Way

Whether your church building project is creating multiple sites or simply renovating your children’s wing, the factors that aid success follow a similar pattern. Here are a few takeaways for church leaders heading into an expansion project, from a recent conversation with Glenn Wood of Seacoast Church
  1. Start with prayer. Seek God’s wisdom and direction from the very beginning.
  2. Define the goal before the budget. It may seem counterintuitive, but rather than starting with a budget, define the need and scope of a project first. The budget will inevitably drive the project, but having the scope in mind will prompt discussions on what is most important to the ministry and assist with long-term goal setting. Be open to talking through options and finding what works.
  3. Build the teams necessary for your project. At this point, you will need input from the right people to influence the project. Depending on the needs and scope of your project, your teams may vary, but generally they will include a staff team (those at the decision-making table; detail-oriented leaders of the project), a professional team (these are the people who will be doing the actual work), and a volunteer team ("homegrown" people with specialized knowledge or helpful skill sets).
  4. Count the cost. Having a holistic understanding of the expenses is important and biblical. Consider peripheral expenses associated with your project, right down to the trash cans.
  5. Manage the details. As the project develops, detail-minded individuals will be required to keep the budget and scope on track. Build in time and resources for needs that arise.
For more insights and reflections from Glenn Wood of Seacoast Church, listen to the full Tackling a Church Building Project the Right Way podcast.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Insights on Receiving Non-Traditional Gifts

As giving in various non-traditional ways has become more popular, ministries should have a strategy prepared for receiving these new forms of generosity. We recently sat down with Dr. Jeff Steed of the Southern Baptists of Texas Foundation to discuss the issue. Here are a few notes for both givers and ministries to be aware of:

  • Beyond cash gifts, there are many opportunities for giving that can be advantageous to churches and ministries. Gifts of property, vehicles, stocks, businesses, etc., require special handling and consideration but can prove to be invaluable ministry assets.
  • Proper management can greatly enhance non-cash gifts. While not every gift can be received in its current form, many gifts can be significantly multiplied depending on how they are given and subsequently managed by the ministry.
  • Estate gifts and planned giving allow donors to leave a legacy with their final arrangements that honors what they valued in life.

To listen to the full discussion with special guest Jeff Steed, tune in here to the Insights on Receiving Non-Traditional Gifts podcast.

Monday, January 28, 2019

VIP First Look for 2019

What’s in store from ECFA in 2019, and what trends and developments do church and ministry leaders need to be aware of? As we kicked off Season 3 of our Excellence in Church Administration series, ECFA set out to answer these questions and more, in our VIP First Look for 2019 podcast.

In the 31 minute podcast, Executive Vice President Vonna Laue, President Dan Busby, and I discuss some important topics for 2019:
  • 2018 State of Giving Report – ECFA member ministries noted a 5.9% increase in giving in 2018, the largest increase in 5 years. Larger ministries experienced the highest increases, while smaller ministries experienced a decrease.
  • Court Challenges – The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) continues to challenge the minister’s housing allowance as well as Form 990 exemptions. ECFA is monitoring the latest developments in both of these cases.
  • Tax Reform – The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted for 2018 has implications for churches and ministries due to tax changes for individual donors, as well as in regard to the nonprofit parking tax.
  • Changes in the Accounting Standards – as Vonna says in the podcast, “If your financial statements haven’t changed to reflect the new accounting standards, this is the year it will happen."
  • 2019 is the Year of Excellence in Governance – Most organizations realize the importance of strong and effective board governance, but many lack training for their board members. As ECFA celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019, we’ve designated this as The Year of Excellence in Governance! This emphasis will include several new books and other resources being released, as well as a series of Governance Forums being held around the country in the fall of 2019.
  • New ECFA Resources – Not only is 2019 the Year of Governance, it also seems to be the Year of Abundance in Resources! From survey results and books to podcasts and webinars, ECFA has a wealth of new tools coming your way in 2019. Be sure to bookmark the ECFA Resources page for quick reference.

To hear more about each of these topics, please listen in to the full VIP First Look for 2019 podcast.

Monday, January 21, 2019

15 Trends for Leaders to Expect in 2019

Here at ECFA, 2019 is already into full swing, and ECFA President Dan Busby has offered some key insights for leaders of churches and nonprofits to watch for in the new year.

Here are a few that may surprise you....
  • The digital revolt will ramp up.  It is a seeming contradiction!  According to a recent Adobe Email Survey, over 50% of people want you to communicate with them by email (direct mail is the next popular channel, coming in at only 20%). And 38% would like emails to come even more frequently. But 59% of people do not want to give you their email address. Email is the original social network, but users now expect a consent-based use of their data. The second email they receive without their consent is considered spam.  
  • Hiring new or replacement staff will be done with more care.  “The cost of a bad hire is 15x his or her annual salary, so it’s important to get the recruiting and selection process right,” says Verne Harnish in his book, Scaling Up. When the economy struggles or declines, the importance of hiring quality people is multiplied.
  • More ministries will embrace the importance of excellence in governance.  The partnership between the board and the organization’s top leader, care in choosing board members, even more care in choosing the board chair, and the commitment to prayer and discernment are just a few of the 2019 emphases for ministries. ECFA will be conducting 10 Forums on Excellence in Governance around the country in the fall of 2019 to address this important issue. 

Check out the full list of 15 Trends for Leaders to Expect in 2019 and help keep your church prepared for what lies ahead. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Potholes and Diversions

“As Christ’s messengers, our lives and institutions are like the road between two cities. If that road is full of potholes and diversions, people will too often turn off and choose another destination instead. We must strive to remove those potholes and diversions, leaving nothing to stand between the message of Jesus Christ and a waiting world.

The late Mark Hatfield, long-time Senator from Oregon and someone who was very public about his faith in Christ, offered these insightful remarks on the occasion of ECFA’s 20th anniversary two decades ago. He emphasized our duty as believers and leaders in Christ-centered churches and ministries to clearly pave the way for the Gospel.

Senator Hatfield went on to compare ECFA’s ministry to a road crew, serving alongside our members “to ensure that business and financial matters do not become potholes and diversions.”

Fast forward another 20 years, and ECFA marks its 40th anniversary in 2019—now serving over 2,300 members committed to upholding high standards in governance, financial management, and gift administration. 

Thank you for your continued partnership with ECFA as we work together to remove barriers in reaching a world in desperate need of the Savior’s love. We pray that 2019 will be your most fruitful year of ministry yet.     

Happy New Year!

P.S. Continue to watch the blog and the ECFA.church website for more exciting new resources and announcements as we celebrate ECFA’s 40th anniversary in 2019 as the “Year of Excellence in Governance.”