Friday, February 22, 2008

Child Safety and Background Checks!

Screening youth and children’s workers is a hit-or-miss practice in today’s churches. One out of every four pastors (23%) admitted their congregation has little or no protective screening processes for the people working with young people. That equates to more than 70,000 Protestant congregations that do not give sufficient attention to protecting young people.

Slightly more than half of all pastors gave their church high marks for doing "thorough background or reference checks of the people working with children and youth" (57% said this description was a "very accurate" of their church). However, another one-fifth of pastors (20%) described their efforts as merely "somewhat" thorough.

Larger churches are generally more vigilant than smaller ministries. For instance, churches with more than 250 adult attenders were the most likely to evaluate workers very carefully (78%), while congregations of less than 100 adults were the least likely to engage in such practices (49%). About three-fifths of mid-sized churches (attendance of 100 to 250, 62%) said their church is well described by such practices.

Many other subgroup differences emerged when it came to doing a thorough job of evaluating children’s and youth workers. Congregations in the West (75%) were more likely than those in the Northeast (60%), South (56%), or Midwest (50%) to report strong levels of such screening. Churches comprised primarily of white attenders (54%) were less likely to report security screening than were congregations with primarily non-white individuals (69%). Churches led by a pastor who had graduated from a seminary were slightly more likely than congregations whose pastor lacked a seminary degree to pursue security measures (60% versus 51%).

In terms of age and experience, churches pastored by Baby Boomers (ages 43 to 61) more frequently took part in security checks (60%) than did Protestant ministries led by pastors from the Baby Bust generation (52% among pastors 42 or under) or those older than Boomers (55% among those 62 or older). Similarly, those in full-time ministry for fewer than 10 years were less likely to claim thorough worker-screening (50%) than were ministry veterans of 10 years or more (61%).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Church Clergy and Taxes

Prior to 1968 a member of the clergy had to elect to be covered by social security.

If you are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church, you are covered by social security and Medicare under the self employment tax provisions for the services you perform in your capacity as a minister unless you have requested and received a tax exemption from self employment tax. This is true whether you are an employee of your church or a self employed person under the common law rules.

Unless an ordained member of the clergy objects to social security benefits based upon conscientious or religious grounds he/she is subject to self employment tax. To object you must file Form 4361. The form must be filed before the due date of your tax return for the second taxable year in which you earned $400 or more from work as a member of the clergy. The social security self employment tax exemption is irrevocable.

What is duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church? The term duly ordained minister of religion means a person: {who has been ordained in accordance with the ceremonial ritual or discipline of a church, religious sect, or organization established on the basis of a community or faith and belief, doctrines and practices of a religious character}, {who preaches and teaches the doctrines of such church, sect or organization}, {who administers the rites and ceremonies thereof in public worship}, {who, as his/her regular and customary vocation, preaches and teaches the principles of religion}, and {who administers the ordinances or sacerdotal duties of public worship as embodied in the creed or principles of such church, sect or organization}.

Although as a licensed ordained, commissioned or licensed minister you are considered a self employed individual for social security purposes, you may be considered an employee for other tax purposes or putting it bluntly you are considered an employee by the IRS.
Self employment tax does not apply to any post-retirement benefits or the rental value of any parsonage or parsonage allowance.

Under these tax rules, you are considered an employee or a self employed person depending on all the facts and circumstances. Generally, you are an employee if your employer has the legal right to control both what you do and how you do it, even if you have considerable discretion and freedom of action.

If you are not considered an employee in performing your ministerial services, you will figure taxable net earnings on Form 1040, Schedule C. Figure your self employment tax on Form 1040, Schedule SE. If you earn or receive taxable income during the tax year that is not subject to tax withholding, or if you do not have enough income tax withheld, you may have to pay estimated tax.

The law requires all churches to apply for an Employer’s Identification Number (EIN) even if they do not have employees. Much like an individual’s social security number, your EIN (federal identification number) is used as an identifier on all federal tax returns and on all correspondence with the IRS. A State tax number should not be confused with a Federal Employer’s Identification Number (FEIN). Possession of an EIN is NOT evidence of tax-exempt status. You can apply for your EIN (Form SS-4) immediately from the comfort of your computer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Faith Leader Urges Black Churches to Support the Sister Study


“When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, it affects her family, her church and the community in which she serves. African American faith leaders can motivate women to find ways to help prevent diseases like breast cancer that are plaguing our communities.

African American women should join the Sister Study so our young sisters won’t have to face the disease.”

Black History in the Making

Bishop McKenzie serves as the 117th elected and consecrated bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Her historic election in the year 2000 represents the first time in the over 200-year history of the A.M.E. Church, in which a woman had obtained that level of Episcopal office. In 2004, she again made history becoming the first woman to become the Titular Head of the denomination, as the president of the Council of Bishops, making her the highest-ranking woman in the predominately Black Methodist denominations.

Bishop McKenzie has been honored for her community service, outstanding achievement and being a religious role model by a number of diverse civic, educational, business and governmental leaders. She is also the National Chaplain for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. an international public service organization and life member of the NAACP.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Innovation in the Ministry

Innovation in the churches, is this possible? Can any church ministry have innovative ideas? Will it cause more problems than help? Without innovation what can happen to a church ministry? For one thing, without innovation, morale dwindles, it may cause of an organization or small group to die a slow, painful death. With innovation, it will enable a ministry, organization or small group to refocus on the very reason it was create. Innovation is like a breath of fresh air, eliminating the stagnation of a crusted environment.

As a leader, you must ask yourself these painful questions:
How do I find the time to implement innovative ideas?
What if I fail, how will others perceive my failures?
Is it really worth the effort to innovate?

As a leader you should make innovation a requirement. It is a tool used to repackage or to re-engineer stale processes that no longer are effective. Effective leadership in any ministry helps create innovative organizations. New ideas should become the DNA or culture of an organization. In other words, the big “I” should become a part of the character and personality of the organization. So the next question for leaders to consider is how do you develop a culture of innovation? There are six tips that a leader should follow.

1. Communication is key: involve staff members
a. Discus how you should meet the targeted audience.

2. Schedule a retreat for leaders
a. Get away for 2 to 3 days to strategize the steps for innovation.

3. Provide training, seminars and workshops for staff members and volunteers
a. Training is key to innovative success.

4. Develop strategic planning guide with board members
a. Create a vision: Where does the church need to be going?
b. Create a mission: How is the church going to get there?
c. Create goals: What steps need to take place to achieve success?

5. Attend conferences
a. Networking and sharing your ideas with others.

6. Talk to other leaders
a. Ask other leaders about the tools and practices they use to embed innovation into the culture of the organization.

Developing a new way of thinking requires patience, consistency and nurturing. The payoff may just win more souls to Christ. Now isn’t that what it is all about?