Tag: church finances

The high costs of an abuse claim: Five guidelines to help churches of all sizes

The high costs of an abuse claim: Five guidelines to help churches of all sizes

Prevention, right coverage are critical to protecting churches.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Church Finance Today

Sexual abuse of a minor is the number one reason churches end up in court. It’s a statistic that’s been true for a number of years, according to attorney Richard R. Hammar. And churches must do all they can to prevent this type of tragedy. But churches also must be wise and purchase the right kind of insurance that will help cover any legal action that might occur because of abuse or alleged abuse on their property or during church-related events, trips, or activities.

Based on interviews with church insurance experts, attorneys, and a risk management specialist, Church Finance Today offers five guidelines to help churches of all sizes make sure they are financially prepared should the unthinkable ever happen.

  1. Don’t assume your general liability policy covers abuse claims. It usually does not.

“Some churches may not be aware that their typical church liability coverage doesn’t cover sexual abuse or misconduct,” said Eric Spacek, risk management and loss control director for GuideOne Insurance.

Read the full story.

Sidebar: Interview with attorney Richard J. Mathews.

This article appears on the August 2017 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.

Let the buyer (and leaser) beware

Let the buyer (and leaser) beware

Six tips to keep your church from getting financially burned by copier costs.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Church Finance Today

“Buyer beware” doesn’t just apply to used-car sales.

At some point, regardless of size, most churches will find themselves in the market for a copier — and the selection process can be downright complicated and stressful.

Whether to lease or purchase? How to identify hidden costs in the fine print? What to do about pushy salespeople?

“It’s rough,” said Deborah Sutton, director of operations and chief financial officer for Miami’s multicampus Christ Fellowship. “It’s a lot of sales pitches with lots of discounts and lots of [savings] if you do it this way versus that way. And [copier salespeople] tempt you with refunds and things like that.”

Along with that, Sutton said many difficult and complicated details are tied into contracts.

Far too often, churches lock themselves into lengthy and expensive contracts without proper investigation and attention to details, explained Lisa Runquist, an attorney and editorial advisor to Church Finance Today.

“Then they find out that it is difficult to get out of the agreement at a future time,” Runquist said. “The bottom line is, you need to read what you are signing beforehand, rather than asking an attorney to read the agreement after you have [signed it and] figured out that it is not a good deal.”

Read the full story.

This article appears on the April 2017 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.

Five tips for professionals joining a church staff

Five tips for professionals joining a church staff

Experts emphasize the unique rules and dynamics churches face.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Church Finance Today

Jennifer Neal wanted to be successful — as a woman, as a mother, and as a financial controller at a multibillion-dollar company. “I was desperately trying to make my mark and have it all,” she said.

What Neal didn’t intend was for Jesus, as she put it, “almost taking a two-by-four to my head.”

But in 2012, when her church began looking for a director of finance, nine people emailed and encouraged her to go for it. Her career ambitions certainly didn’t include a ministry position. However, she couldn’t help but feel “the Lord was leading me to at least apply.”

After much time spent in prayer, and much deliberation over the benefits of a more stable schedule as she raised her three children, she embraced her new calling with the College Park Church in Indianapolis.

Although Neal took a significant pay cut, she quickly found fulfillment using her gifts to further God’s kingdom. “It just gives me a great deal of satisfaction in my position,” she said.

Even so, Neal readily admits that the differences between a church and a business can be overwhelming at times and the learning curve high.

Read the full article.

This article appears on the December 2016 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.

Where’s the money to fix this?

Where’s the money to fix this?

Six tips that will keep a church from breaking the bank on big-ticket fixes.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For Church Finance Today

Several years ago, members of the Bridge Church in Fresno, California, committed millions of dollars to a special capital campaign to upgrade facilities and expand parking lots.

But the church didn’t make a plan to set aside the future funds needed to keep its facilities running well.

“There had been pretty serious deferred maintenance for a while prior to that date,” recalled Dave Cowin, who serves as chairman of the church’s elder board.

When Cowin joined the elder board of Bridge Church in 2012, he proposed creating a capital reserve fund as part of the church’s annual budgeting process. The board chose to go with Cowin’s proposal. It was a wise decision that safeguarded the church’s resources and saved thousands of dollars for other ministry priorities just a few years later.

Like Bridge Church, many churches spend valuable time, energy, and money getting a building, but then neglect to plan — and budget — for the expenses needed to keep those buildings operating.

“They are more than happy to raise the money to move into a building,” said Tim Cool, chief solutions officer and project facilitator for North Carolina-based-Cool Solutions Group. But after they move in, churches “fail to plan for the fact that everything in their buildings has a natural life of deterioration.”

Read the rest of the article.

This article appears on the November 2016 cover of Church Finance Today, a publication of Christianity Today.

Continue reading “Where’s the money to fix this?”

Giving from the heart — with a click or tap

Giving from the heart — with a click or tap

E-tithing on the rise as more Christians contribute to the church online.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

When the collection plate is passed at the Figueroa Church of Christ in Los Angeles, it’s not unusual for minister James A. Maxwell to see members tapping on their smartphones.

Don’t worry: These tech-savvy brothers and sisters aren’t distracted. Rather, they’re contributing what they’ve purposed in their hearts via a mobile app.

“It takes just a matter of seconds,” Maxwell said of the digital transactions.

At a growing number of Churches of Christ nationwide, Christians skip taking cash out of their wallets or writing a check.

Instead, they use tools such as automatic bank drafts, debit card readers and even text messages to give to God electronically.

“While I sometimes worry about the example I set for others by not putting anything in the plate, I feel the automatic withdrawal is a huge blessing,” said Mike Avery, youth minister for the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the November 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

The growing need for cyberliability insurance

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The growing need for cyberliability insurance: How increased online and electronic activity exposes congregations to new risks.

In recent years, major data breaches involving millions of stolen credit card numbers have targeted national retailers such as Target and Home Depot. Experts warn, though, that smaller organizations — including churches — increasingly fall victim to cybercrimes and other online mishaps.

As congregations wade further into the world of technology usage, they handle rising volumes of sensitive personal data about staff, volunteers, and members — from payment information tied to “e-tithing” to Social Security numbers obtained to run background checks.

Churches also stream intellectual property on their websites, use email and social media to interact with both members and nonmembers, and publish or distribute prayer requests electronically that sometimes reveal private, confidential details of people’s lives.

All of this electronic activity potentially exposes congregations to greater liabilities, be it a copyright claim for a song distributed through online streaming or a libel claim after a disgruntled staff member uses a church-owned social media platform to reveal damaging information about someone.

Given these heightened liabilities, insurance carriers have responded by developing special “cyberliability” coverages — beyond prototypical general liability policies — to cover technology-related claims and damages.

This article appears online at ChurchLawandTax.com, a website of Christianity Today.

Continue reading “The growing need for cyberliability insurance”

Ministers and the student debt monster

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Ministers and the student debt monster: Christian universities tout efforts to make theological training more affordable for preachers.

Second in a series

Abilene Christian University says it’s taking steps to crack down on the tens of thousands of dollars in debt accumulated by many ministry students.

The Texas university implemented a 50 percent tuition discount for Bible majors two years ago.

Now, the ACU Graduate School of Theology is launching an “affordability initiative” that officials say will lock in a fixed tuition rate for individual students and cut the total degree cost by more than 40 percent.

“We know that ministers serve in contexts where they may earn less than other professions, and we are committed to helping ministers graduate with less debt,” ACU Bible Dean Ken Cukrowski said in a statement. “Doing so helps reduce the burden of financial pressures and allows ministers to serve more effectively in churches and other ministry contexts.”

Other universities associated with Churches of Christ say they, too, are confronting the debt monster.

Related interview: Q&A: Steve McLeod on preachers, student loans and our ‘debt-ridden culture’ 

The main story appears in the May 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.