Church Business Meetings (part 3 of 3)

This the third part on church business meetings. In the first section I talked about how to make the membership reports more engaging; the second post was about church programs and reporting how they use their resources, both financial and people, to carry out the church’s vision. This post will be on church decision-making and voting.

Decisions: most decisions should be made at committee levels, since they have more time and information to get into the nuts and bolts of why a decision is necessary. For instance, financial decisions are the realm of the Finance Committee, decisions affecting the church’s staff are the responsibility of the Personnel Committee, etc. It is the duty of each committee to bring to the church a report (see part 2 in this blog series) detailing the actions and reasons. The committee can be asked questions, but the responsibility lies with the committee. If the church body at large disagrees with the committee, then the church body can vote to either replace the committee and/or overturn the committee’s action.

Decisions which affect the entire church body are the ones that should be intentionally brought before the entire church. This requires a lot of education of church members ahead of time. It usually means that information is shared at one meeting, time is built in for members to think about the decision and gain more knowledge, and then everyone comes back to a subsequent meeting for a vote. Asking members to show up at a meeting, get up to speed in 15 to 20 minutes and then vote is not reasonable. If a decision is important enough to be brought before the congregation, then it should be a deliberate decision and not a hasty one. Give people time and you’ll see the “wisdom of the crowds.”

Implementing all or parts of these recommendations will make church business meetings flow more smoothly, be more enjoyable, and lead to better actions by the church. Try to do one of these at a time and incorporate these ideas over a period of months, if not years, and then gauge the attitude toward business meetings.

 

Lead On!

Steve

 

 

Church Business Meetings (part 2 of 3)

This the second part on church business meetings and how they should change. The reason for the change is so the members and guests see the church as dynamic, not as static and boring. I believe that business must be engaging and not merely a recitation of fact and figures. Business meetings should consist of stories of people and how the church is helping them. My first post focused on the membership report. This post will focus on the programming reports.

Reports: the church is about the business of helping people see how much God loves them. The most common way churches do this is through their programming and activities. But if you’re not involved in one of those areas, you probably don’t know what is going on. Why not use the church business meeting to share with the entire church all of the successes (and failures) of the past and the exciting things that are planned for the future?

When the church’s financial report is given, the treasurer interviews ministry leaders saying, “The church has given you X dollars; can you tell us how you’ve used that money?” Then, the ministry leader talks about what they did with the money using pictures, music, children and youth, other adults, and any resource he or she has. The treasurer presents financial information about each ministry area and uses that a lead-in to ask what is going on with that money.

By the end of the business meeting, attendees have seen and heard what their church is doing, who is involved, how much money has been spent and for what, and what is going to happen in the next few weeks and months. Everyone leaves the meetings having been informed about events outside their areas of interest.

At every meeting, the reports from the main ministry areas are a must: missions, age-level programming (adults, young adults, youth, and children), pastoral care, administration, fellowship, and worship (the five purposes of the church). Then, reports can be given by other ministry areas as there is need and time.

One caveat: all reports must be engaging and the treasurer/interviewer must be energetic in asking questions and encouraging the presenter to be enthusiastic. Reading dry reports should not be permitted; the church must be an exciting place to be and the reports must reflect that.

Next post: decision-making!

 

Lead On!

Steve

Church Business Meetings (part 1 of 3)

Most church business meetings are boring – at least the ones I’ve attended. They typically consist of three distinct areas:

  • Numbers: someone presents financial numbers (without giving too much detail lest the audience doze off) and someone else reads a list of people who have joined or left the church
  • Reports: occasionally there is a report about some area of the church and usually these reports are read aloud from the information which is in the packet handed out to all attendees
  • Decisions: sometimes there is an item or two on which church members will vote based on a two-minute presentation

Then the meeting ends, and members leave with very little new information about what is going on in their church. I propose a new format which contains much of the same information, but the presentation is completely different.

Numbers: Every business meeting should have the “nickels and noses” reports (how many people and how much money we’ve got). Financial information, which can be very dry, must be presented to the church in a more dynamic way – more on that in the reports blog (part 2).

  • Membership data should be treated with sensitivity. Most people never know what a church does until they actually experience it, good and bad. What if we told members ahead of time how they can expect to be treated? I can also imagine how members might share that knowledge with other people who have a negative impression of the church in general and sometimes your church specifically. Here are ways to change the membership report:

o   For those who leave the church due to death, the business meeting should pause so that the minister or volunteers talk about the ways the church ministers to the dying and their families. This helps those who are hearing the informatlon to know how their church helps families at some of the worst and hardest times.

o   For those who leave the church to go to another church, someone should talk about how the church reached out to these people to ask them why they left and then explain the reasons, even if the reasons are painful and personal.

o   For those who join the church, there should be a celebration and telling of their stories. New members who are willing could be interviewed at the business meeting so that everyone can get to know something about them. A standard set of “get-to-know-you” questions can be created and given to them ahead of time. Caution: new members must not be forced into doing this – it should be optional, not mandatory.

o   Finally, each new member should be paired with a same-gender long-time member for a year in order to guide the new person through the idiosyncrasies of the church. This pairing will help the new member be integrated to the church and help retain them.

 

Lead On!

Steve

Protectiveness

One aspect of the life-cycle of churches has to do with their possessions.

  • Early on the church has almost nothing. The church is typically pretty open about sharing its resources (loaning chairs and tables for instance) with others.
  • When the church gets buildings and even more possessions, the church develops policies which guide when and how the building can be rented and items loaned. The ultimate goal is to protect the church from litigation, but these procedures usually evolve to protect the church from outside groups or non-members who might damage the building or items.
  • Finally, a church shrinks so that eventually everything it has is given away in its last act of generosity. Its possessions and buildings are sold or handed to another church.

All churches struggle with providing a balance between being generous with what it has to help its own members, its community, and other churches—being cautious so that what it has accrued over the years is not lost or damaged. That is a fine line to walk, and it requires a lot of active decisions.

I can’t offer an easy answer to this. I can ask churches to share as much as possible with others just as others shared with them when they were a young church. Don’t give everything away, but don’t be stingy either. Develop a balance by asking one question: What is the motive or reason someone wants to borrow or use something your church owns?

If it is meant to help one person have personal profit and it isn’t church related, then the church should walk away from that. But if the goal is to help the community or another church, then the church should seriously consider (but not rubber stamp) that opportunity. Be generous, but don’t give away everything. Don’t be greedy, but seek times when you can genuinely help others and other organizations.

Lead On!

Steve

 

Top 10 Ways to Help the Finance Office (part 3 of 3)

A colleague asked me how staff and lay members can help the church’s Finance Office. Here is my top ten list; yours may be different – let me know what I left out.

8. Forms are not evil

  • Most forms from the Finance Office are required by a Federal or State agency (IRS, Dept. of Labor, etc.) or by good accounting principles adopted by the Finance Committee.
  • If you don’t know how to read a form, the Finance Office staff can help you since we deal with these forms every day and you probably don’t see them very often. Please ask for help.
  • Turn in your paid time off (sick, vacation, etc.) forms regularly. Do NOT wait till the end of the year or quarter to do that.

9. Learn to read financial statements and read them regularly

  • You need to know what is being spent from your budget.
  • Some expenses are charged to your budget without your prior knowledge such as expenses for the copiers and postage meter – that’s another good reason to read financial statements.
  • Knowing the financial status of your ministry area will help you lead your lay member teams better, too.

10. Consider all payments you make to be open for others to see

  • When you spend church money, always ask yourself “Can I explain this expense to the average church member?”
  • All expenses should be for things that advance the cause and mission of the church. Anything less is poor stewardship.

A concluding note: The Finance Office does make mistakes, but we try to keep these to a minimum. Please help us by reviewing your pay stubs to ensure you’re getting paid correctly, reading your financial statements, and meticulously doing anything and everything related to finances.

 

Lead On!

Steve

Top 10 Ways to Help the Finance Office (part 2 of 3)

A colleague asked me how staff and lay members can help the church’s Finance Office. Here is my top ten list; yours may be different – let me know what I left out.

4. Paying speakers more than $600 in a year requires paperwork

  • If a person is paid $600 or more, the church must get his/her social security number and address so we can send him/her a 1099.
  • Because one person may be used by different departments in a year, anyone who is paid $300 or more in one check must complete a W-9 (which captures a person’s Social Security Number).
  • This is an IRS requirement. Don’t blame the Finance Office for this.

5. Account properly for any money you receive

  • NEVER keep money at your desk/office overnight. Please place it with the Finance Office for safekeeping and get it back the next day.
  • Use the deposit envelopes and fill them out completely.
  • Really, really, really look for ways to accept payments online (for registering for an event or payment for an activity or donations). Online payments are safer and you have a record of who paid what.

6. Fundraising is okay but there are steps

  • All fundraising must be pre-approved by the Finance Committee. NO exceptions.
  • This is to ensure coordination of fundraising, eliminate any timing conflicts, and avoid fundraising for activities not in keeping with our faith principles

7. Budget is a strategic exercise – and that is a good thing

  • ALWAYS be thinking about your budget for the next year in the current year. Ask questions such as what lines have too much or too little money; what lines can be consolidated or even eliminated.
  • Plan next year’s budget NOW (that means anytime during the year). Work with your lay leaders now asking them about their dreams and how they can be implemented.

Lead On!

Steve

 

Top 10 Ways to Help the Finance Office (part 1 of 3)

A colleague asked me how staff and lay members can help the church’s Finance Office. Here is my top ten list; yours may be different, so please let me know what I left out.      

1. Pay all bills on time

  • The church doesn’t want to be seen as a deadbeat, so get your bills/invoices to the Finance Office in a timely way so they can be paid on time.
  • The church has a Christian witness every time it pays its bills
  • If a payment is late, vendors will not want to work with the church and even tell others how poorly the church pays its bills
  • If a payment is on time or even earlier than expected, it generates good will and that is a good thing.
  1. ALWAYS attach receipts to EVERY bill to be paid. NO EXCEPTIONS.
  2. The Finance Office needs TWO weeks to process payments. This allows for sick or vacation time off in the Finance Office and for other crises that arise.
  3. The Finance Office can make emergency payments the same day, but that should be for benevolent or charity needs: medicine, housing, food, and gas for traveling to work.
  4. Fill out the payment request forms for all expenses. Make sure the following are on it:
  • Payee
  • Instructions for delivery (such as “give check to …” otherwise it will be mailed)
  • Budget account number
  • A BRIEF explanation of the expense
  • Dollar amount
  • Signature of authorizing minister

2. Using a credit card is convenient, but it has requirements

  • Every credit card expenses MUST have a receipt which is given to the Finance Office. NO exceptions.
  • Every credit card charge is posted into the financial database so that you can look back at your expenses to see what you spent money on.
  • For EVERY credit card expense, write in the budget line to which that expense should be charged.
  • Turn in all receipts as soon as you get the credit card statement.

3. Paying staff for work is a payroll expense

  • Unless you’re reimbursing staff for a work expense, all payments to staff must go through payroll. This even includes gift cards given to staff.
  • This is an IRS requirement. Don’t blame the Finance Office for this.

 

Lead On!

Steve

 

A Most Generous Search Committee Member

Several years ago a church found a dynamic youth minister they wanted to hire. However, that minister had school and housing debt which had financially strapped him. He wanted to move to his new location with his family, but he couldn’t afford a deposit on a house and he didn’t want to move to an apartment.

Then a member of the search committee stepped in. He’s not wealthy but he did have the financial leverage to help: he bought the house the youth minister and his wife were looking at and then let the minister live there on a rent-to-own agreement. Only a handful of people even knew about the arrangement, which allowed the new minister to have his privacy and dignity.

There are several lessons in this:

  • If you are a minister, please get out of debt as soon as possible. You should have, at most, housing and car debt. Pay off your school loans, credit card debt, and other debt/loans as quickly as possible. Actually, this is true for everyone, not just ministers.
  • Churches should help young seminarians with as many scholarships as possible. They’ve committed to serve the church, and everyone knows that ministry positions don’t typically have high pay scales. Churches can establish scholarship funds and endowment funds to help people, especially 20-somethings, go to seminary with fewer financial worries.
  • Establish financial practices in your own life which will allow you to take advantage of opportunities to help others and yourself when those times arise. If this committee member had poor financial habits, he couldn’t have helped the youth minister; but because he managed his money well for years, he could step in. Do the same in your own financial house so that you can be generous when the opportunity arises (when God puts those times right in front of you!).

Lead On!

Steve