Thursday, October 27, 2011


I'm totally convinced that a sitcom could be made about church life. And the kicker is that all the storylines would be based on actual stories submitted by church members and church staff. The problem is that most people would never believe these actually happened. Here are a few examples:

  • Follow that Pastor
    • A pastor performed a funeral. Afterwards, everyone proceeded to their cars to go to the cemetery. As is the custom, the hearse and all the mourners followed the lead car, the pastor's car. The pastor led the way and then completely forgot what he was doing and led the entourage into the parking lot at Wal-Mart. When he got out of his car, he realized he was leading the pack to the wrong destination.
  • Parking Problems
    • A minister parked his stick-shift car in the parking lot which had a slight incline to it. At some point the car slipped out of gear, and a few minutes later a staff person glanced outside and noticed three ladies by the minister's car. They were yelling for help as together they put all their strength in trying to keep the car from rolling down the parking lot into other cars. 
  • Bulletin of Evidence
    • A woman came to the church office asking for a copy of the bulletin for the previous Sunday, the Sunday after Easter. The church's custom was to print the names of all guests who attended the previous Sunday. She wanted the bulletin because it listed not only her husband's name but also that of his girlfriend. The wife had wanted to attend Easter with her husband, but he had preferred to attend with his girlfriend. The wife wanted the bulletin to use in divorce court!
  • Hijacked Website
    • A well-meaning member purchased a website domain name for her church. She not only created the website but also made email addresses for the staff to use. This volunteer ran the whole operation out of her house because the church didn't have the financial or personnel resources to run the website. After a few years, the church decided to take on the website. When a staff member went to the woman's house to talk about transferring the site, the woman very proudly showed the staff member not only the website but how she, a volunteer church member, was monitoring all the emails that the staff was sending and receiving. Oh MY!
  • We Have Liftoff
    • The spring-loaded candle on the candelabra was stuck, but the groom worked hard to loosen it so he could join his bride in lighting the unity candle. The bride was growing impatient as she held her candle. The groom's father stepped up and handed him the candle the father had used to light the groom's candle (and which the father had taken to his seat). The bride and groom then lit the unity candle, she put her candle back in its place, the groom placed his extra candle on the floor, and they began walking back to the altar. It launched. Very high. The spring-loaded groom's candle finally loosened, and the innards of the candle launched. Every eye watched it soar, and everyone heard it clang on the stone floor. The MOTB (mother of the bride) was aghast. The soloists stopped singing because they were laughing so hard. The minister couldn't gain his composure and guffawed four times before he was able to pronounce them "husband and wife."
  • Babies!
    • A baby was brought forward by his parents for christening during a hymn. When the minister uncovered the small baptismal font, he discovered it was dry as a bone. It had not been filled by the volunteer in charge of that. The minister motioned to the music minister to keep singing, and the minister disappeared. A couple of minutes later he came back carrying a pitcher of water from the church kitchen and poured it in the font. The baby was christened with no further delays.
I'd love to hear your stories. I'll put more on here, too. Who knows, maybe we can get someone in Hollywood to produce "Steeple Chase."

Lead On!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Church Violence Website

I found a website that deals exclusively with church violence, Church Crime History. I do not know this person so I'm not endorsing it but he has a lot of information and statistics. I believe that his purpose (and mine, frankly) is to make people aware that churches can have violence. Information is always good - information can be used to help members be more aware of what is happening in other churches. Share this resource with whomever you feel it would help to know about this.

Let me encourage church leadership to take some pro-active steps for safety and security. The depth of those actions is dependent on the church's budget and the perceived potential danger to the church and its people. Some actions won't cost the church a dime (such as setting up a Safety Officer Team) while others are much more expensive (such as security cameras). It is true that many of the items listed in Church Crime History could never be prevented - no argument there - but some precautions are always a good step in the right direction.

Lead On!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fundraisers for Youth Events

Fundraisers have two purposes:
  • To make money in an effective and efficient manner
  • To build unity among the participants and interested people around a specific goal

 All fundraisers need to have a balance between these two purposes and do it in a fun way (that’s the “fun” in fundraising). Too often, the group putting on the fundraiser focuses on one purpose to the neglect or even exclusion of the other purpose. That is not good and will harm future efforts. For instance, if you put on a concert and ask a bunch of people to work really hard in all the areas of the concert but then receive only $350 after all that effort, the volunteers will probably come away disillusioned about the results (but have good memories of the event). They achieved one purpose but nearly killed themselves without achieving the other purpose. On the flip side, if you put on an event and raise lots of money with little vested support, people may not feel as committed to the cause but feel incredibly proud of how much money they raised. Balance is good. Balance is key.

Another key to fundraising is to spread out the “ask” over a period of time such as several months. Some organizations do a “blitz ask” but they’ve done months of preparation (and received gifts during the prep time, too). Success is always, always a factor of how much effort you put into it. Every good fundraiser will require lots of effort on everyone's part - make sure that you get enough "return on your investment" to have made all that effort worthwhile.

Some fundraising ideas for youth events:
Penny War
  • Boys versus girls. Every penny placed in the girls or boys jar is one point towards them. Every dollar added to a boys' or girls' jar is a negative 100 points towards them. After a month of war, the winners will be decided by who has the most points. The loser will then have to prepare dinner for the winners.
  • This is easy to do and raises a few hundred dollars without a lot of effort. This is a good balanced way to raise money in that every week you can promote it and even have a running total. Frankly, I do suggest that the money jars are emptied each week for two reasons: to announce the weekly running totals to egg on each side and to not have money sitting around in a jar which can walk off.
 Spirit Nights
  •  I know that both Chik-Fil-A and Tropical Smoothie have spirit nights we can tap into where during a certain time period, receipts taken will yield a percentage (normally 10 to 15 percent) to the student ministry. TS will even let us host a plinko game which raises a lot of funds.
  • The secret to working with local vendors (and some companies will sponsor car washes) is volume. The kids are going to have fun at the store and that will build unity – that is certain. How much money is raised is entirely dependent on getting people to come and/or buy tickets ahead of time. Kids need to be "in my face” about buying tickets. This a good idea and it can be held multiple times between now and when you need the funds without getting old and stale.
Yard Sale
  • The church rents out parking spots in the parking lot where people can host their own yard sale on the church's property (the church makes money off the rent of parking spots). In another part of the parking lot, the church sells items that people donated for the yard sale (the church makes money off the sale of items). The church can sell concessions and make some money. There is always a fear of someone selling something offensive, but that can be addressed with the individual and you can let them know what we won't let them sell (like porn magazines or offensive t-shirts).
  • This requires a LOT of effort and extreme coordination. Advertising is the key, too - get the word out that there is a community yard sale and people will buy reasonably priced parking spots ($10 is suggested) if they know there will be crowds coming. This can be a huge unity event for the youth as they work ahead of time and spend the entire day helping. It will raise at least a couple of thousand dollars.
  • This is my favorite way to raise money for youth functions. People bring in items that are of good value – other items should go to the yard sale! In one evening, there is a silent auction followed by a live auction (with a real, live auctioneer). Every year I've seen this done, the church raises over $12,000. The youth sell tickets beforehand and they drum up interest; the youth spend the Sunday and Wednesday before moving items; a team of volunteers helps coordinate the event; the youth work the auction by serving food and telling their story from the stage while people mill around.
  • Asking people to sponsor a kid or part of a kid for a trip always works. By this I mean informing people how much it will cost and then flat out asking them to fund ¼, ½, or the whole cost of a trip. People will do that. Afterwards, you can have the kid(s) that got the scholarship(s) to write a thank you and say how much the trip meant to him (them).
Sunday morning doughnuts
  • Krispy Kreme will sell doughnuts on the cheap for fundraisers and then you can re-sell them on a Sunday morning by the box.
What other successful ideas have you been a part of?

Lead On!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Leap of Faith

For several years I have felt that my gifts and experience in church and non-profit finance could be used to help numerous churches and other organizations. In the 6 ½ years I’ve been at my current church, I’ve accomplished a lot in getting the church's finances and facilities where they need to be. I’ve helped the church operate more efficiently, effectively, and use technology better; I want other churches to use their resources in the best ways possible. I want to be able to offer my "services" to other places, so I need to make myself available. I believe this will free up some of the church's resources in order to hire a facilities manager and/or executive pastor--two positions which the church needs but doesn't currently have.

Because of this, I am resigning my position as Church Administrator of my church effective January 2, 2012. From now on, I am actively seeking a different challenge--and we (my wife and I) hope that will be as a self-employed consultant where I can work with multiple churches and non-profit organizations. 
One of the joys I’ve had in the past few years is authoring this blog on church finances, which has had over 2,000 hits (not bad for a site focused only on church finances). I know there is a need for my services, but it will be up to God and prayers for churches to be willing to accept some outside help with their internal finances.
So, in January 2012 I’m launching a career in financial coaching/counseling for churches who need sound financial advice (how to save money, how to bring in more money, how to make the finances and offices more streamlined, efficient, and effective). I don’t know of anyone else doing this (maybe there’s a reason for that!) but it is a passion of mine. In today's economic strain, churches must become even better managers of the resources they have.
As you can imagine, this is a huge step of faith for us as a family and for me as a professional. We ask for your prayers as we go through this change and for your creative ideas about places that might be able to use my expertise. Please contact me ( to discuss financial coaching/counseling for your church or organization.

Lead On!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and Church Mission Creep

Wow, everyone is writing something about Steve Jobs - I better join the parade before I get left behind. Well, sort of - I'm not a parade-kind-of-guy - more of a do-it-because-it-is-the-right-thing kind-of-guy. So, here's my angle on Steve's legacy and what the church can take away (the answer is "almost everything").

One of the things noted in several of Jobs' obits is the reference to his faith, Buddhism, and how he kept a very simple, if not spartan, lifestyle. Nothing on the walls of his house, a bare bed, little furniture, etc. He didn't accrue a lot of material things - even though his wealth afforded him that luxury. That same passion for keeping things simple transferred to his work ethic. Several months ago I read the story of the first iPad - the presenters explained how you could do something in about four or five steps. He handed it back to them and said, do in one step. They argued that the technology wasn't there yet but he refused to accept their response. A few months later they handed him the iPad that met his specifications - clean, simple, and easy to understand and use.

I have a passion for keeping things simple, too. Just ask my kids - "it must be in the recycle bin, I'm sure dad threw it away" is repeated often in our house (even when I'm not guilty!). Several years ago I worked for a community foundation where I got to manage $125 million (that was fun) and I learned about "style creep." Style creep is when you hire a fund manager to invest your money in a certain financial style (growth, value, mid-cap, small cap, etc.) and that manager begins to move the money away from how you directed into areas that are not of your choosing. If not watched, fund managers can really mess up your investments - read your investment statements.

Mission creep is when the church begins to lose focus on what it is supposed to do. The church starts out with good intentions and really plans well what it should do and how it should plan its resources (buildings, people, and finances) to meet that need. Then, somewhere along the way, someone comes up with a need and the church agrees to create a ministry to help with that need. Then, another need comes up and another one, and pretty soon there are dozens of needs and respective ministries. The church is now allocating closets, money, people, and scores of volunteers to take care of those needs. Guess what, you've been hit by MISSION CREEP.

You are no longer focused on the one (or two or three) things that caused you to come into being in the first place. The church decided to placate a few people by funding these extra missions. Now, I'm not saying these extra needs shouldn't be met, I just don't think that the church is the place to meet every need. I know there are other organizations out there that are meeting those needs. When a member comes requesting the church to create a ministry that will lead to Mission Creep, the church leadership needs to find a local ministry and then encourage that person to volunteer at that ministry. There is no need to duplicate things - it can only hurt the true mission of the church.

Be cautious about Mission Creep - keep an eye out for it at every turn because it is there. Help your membership understand why the church cannot do everything for everyone - that is the value of partnerships with local organizations/ministries. Keep your church laser-beam focused on keeping things simple and true to the original mission (see Matthew 28:19-20 for clarification). Do not succumb to Mission Creep (and RIP, Steve Jobs).

Lead On!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Safety Officers

Just over three years ago I established the Safety Officer Team at my church. No one asked me to do this, I realized the need for this after reading an article about the number of shooting deaths in churches. From 1999 to 2007, 41 people died in churches from gunfire. This does not include violent deaths at church-related camps or other properties nor does it include violent deaths by means other than guns (such as the poisoning of the church coffee pot in a New Hampshire church that killed one person). This figure does not include the scores of people wounded in shootings such as the two pastors wounded in September 2011 in a church in Florida.

Churches used to be considered sanctuaries (in every sense of the word). Churches are no longer immune from violence. Instead, churches must be proactive in protecting their facilities when so many people are present. Churches can do this in several ways:
  • Volunteers - these are typically members of the church who have had or are currently police officers. 
    • I  discourage the use of members of the military. I greatly respect members of the armed forces, but typically they are trained to shoot first and ask questions later; police are trained to ask questions first and shoot only as a last resort. 
    • Members who have neither police nor military training could be a risk the church should not take. My "risk-management hat" tells me that some untrained members may be either trigger-happy or trigger-reluctant and either situation can put people at risk.
    • Police (current or former officers) are probably the best way to go because of their training. This also gives police officer members of the church the opportunity to give back to their church using their professional training - something that many of them want to do but have never been asked to do.
  • Off-Duty Paid Officers - This is the best form of protection but it is also the most expensive. These officers can be either in uniform or in plain clothes or a combination. 
    • Some churches use traffic officers to help with getting cars out of the parking lot; those officers are the first line of protection for a church. Someone bent on harm may see a traffic cop and choose another, less guarded, site and bypass your location. 
    • High profile ministers usually have an officer that is assigned to be with the minister to ensure no one causes harm to him or his family while the minister is on the church's campus.
    • Paid plain clothes officers are usually used in large churches where an officer's presence is needed in a worship environment but where the church members do not need to be alarmed by the number of police. 
    • Sometimes a church will learn of a threat against a minister or the church itself. You need to decide how you'll address that threat and there isn't an easy answer. Every threat needs to be addressed individually.
      • Do you ignore it? A foolish action (in my book)
      • Do you bring in only volunteers? A good move but not far enough
      • Do you bring in paid officers in uniform? That is a great move but it does have consequences. The person making the threat may see the officer and decide to postpone the attack nor even cancel it. It may also alarm church members who are not used to seeing a uniformed officer.
      • Do you bring in a paid undercover officer? That is also a great move. It will not alarm church members but it does have the drawback in that the person causing the threat may continue with his (or her) attack.
  • Combination of volunteers and paid officers - This is probably the most efficient and effective method. 
    • It is an efficient use of church funds by using volunteers inside the church and a paid traffic officer. When (not if) there is a threat or there is a perceived need for increased vigilance, additional paid officers can be brought in.
    • It is effective in that the first line of defense is always the most visible officer - the traffic cop in the parking lot.
    • This is the way that I've gone to - I like and it works quite well. We've weathered 2 intentional threats and the heightened security around 9/11/2011. 

Below are the Safety Officer Guidelines that I created for my volunteer officers. My regular paid officer sees these guidelines, too. By the way, as my way of thanking them for their service, I meet with them once a year (the only official meeting I have with them). I invite them all, volunteer and paid officers, to lunch and I pick up the tab. I want them to get to know each other so that all the good guys to know each other - some churches are so large that police from different jurisdictions have never met each other. Take your volunteer officers to lunch - they'll enjoy it, you can take the opportunity to acknowledge and express appreciation for their community service, everyone will get to know each other better and you can remind them of why they are so needed and vital to the church.

Lead On!

Safety Officer Guidelines
  1. The purpose of the Safety Officers for our church is for passive not active threat assessments leading to actions only if absolutely necessary. Passive action means observing individuals but not approaching or engaging the individual unless a specific threat is noticed.
  2. Only trained law enforcement (present, former, or retired) should be included as a Safety Officer of our church.
  3. Safety Officers may carry weapons on church grounds but that is typically not necessary.
  4. Safety Officers may wear uniforms but that is not typically necessary.
  5. Safety Officers must know who else is a member in order to assist or recognize another officer during a crisis. 

  1. Whenever a Safety Officer is present at the church, he/she must consider him/herself to be “on duty” and available to respond.
  2. Safety Officers must be aware of individuals who have the potential to harm others. If a Safety Officer notices an individual believed to be a threat to others, he/she should approach the individual to determine the danger. If the danger is real, then the Safety Officer.
    1. Should summon on-duty officers (call 911)
    2. Maintain personal or visual contact of the individual until on-duty officers arrive
    3. Attempt to get other Safety Officers to help with the situation
    4. As a last resort, escort the individual out of the building if the person becomes disruptive
  3. Safety Officers should be aware that many times dangerous individuals want to gain a reputation or fame for themselves and their actions. The most prominent person in the church, and thus the most likely single target, is the senior pastor. If a Safety Officer notices an individual approaching the pastor during the worship service, the officer should walk forward to see if he/she can be of assistance.
    1. During the music – pastor may be approached by staff trying to tell the pastor some emergency. Only rarely will anyone else approach him.
    2. During the sermon – this is a high visibility time for an individual wanting to gain fame. Only rarely will anyone else be on the platform
    3. During the “altar call” – this time is when the pastor is most vulnerable since people are encouraged to come to him. Someone dangerous could get within inches of the pastor and not draw any attention.
  4. Safety Officers should not draw attention to themselves or their position unless a threat is imminent.
  5. Safety Officers should get to know each other and the church-hired traffic officer.
  6. The work of Safety Officers will go entirely unnoticed and unrecognized by the church. But please know that those people who are aware of your work greatly appreciate your service. It helps the staff and church do its work with peace of mind – thank you!
Lead On!