Monday, September 24, 2012

EveryTHING Ends Up in the Trash

I have two kids: a teenager and a preteen. One of the lessons that I, as a parent, am trying to teach them is the lack of value of possessions. My wife are not wealthy, but we are blessed financially and can use our money to give our kids lots of things. However, we know that everyTHING we give our kids will end up in a landfill as trash. No exceptions - even our house will end up there at some point.

There is one thing that we can give our kids that will never end up in the trash: memories. Memories will last a lifetime. Memories are stories and when coupled with pictures, they are powerful reminders of days gone by. Those bygone days (like today) are not perfect, but they hold their value better than most possessions.

So a couple of years ago, we began carrying out what we feel is a much better investment of our money: going on trips in the US and internationally. We drove from our home in Virginia to Oklahoma for a family wedding and on the way back, we visited Ft. Worth, Oklahoma City, St. Louis, Louisville, Mammoth Cave, and other sights on the way. Last year we took a trip to Spain and visited Madrid, Granada, and Sevilla. We're already dreaming and planning more trips across the US and to Europe (our preferred international destination).

These trips are fun (my kids are great travelers), instructional and educational (they've visited the Gateway Arch and the Alhambra, learning about culture and architecture), and priceless bonding time (my kids get to see their parents in a different light in a different venue). My wife and I want to continue traveling as often as we can; we are blessed financially to be able to do this, and (more importantly) we consider it one of the best things we can do for our kids. Travel and memories are certainly better and longer lasting than a video game or clothes.

To etch these memories in our collective memory, my wife does something wonderful at the end of each year and special trip. She uses an online publisher to create a picture book. These picture or memory books are easy to do, relatively inexpensive, and they will be wonderful to look at years later.

I don't want to tell anyone how to spend their money. I will suggest you consider how you're investing your money in your kids and in the future. Are you putting it into assets that will wither up, break, and end up in the trash? Or are you putting your money in priceless, precious memories which involve spending time with your kids? You don't have to travel (that is our choice and we're grateful we can do that), but you do have to set aside time to be with your family.

Invest yourself in the future—in memories made with your kids and your family. You'll never regret it.

Lead On!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Using Church Money Wisely

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Malachi 3:10
Your congregation knows that the money they tithe to the church has several positive effects. First, it allows you, the church leader, to bless others, pay bills, maintain the church building or purchase items for the church. Additionally, your church members know that when they obey God and give to the church, the Lord will continue to bless them in return, according to His will.
Church members know that tithing is not only used as a blessing to the church leaders, but a blessing to the congregation and community as well. Just as we are to manage our personal finances wisely, church leaders must abstain from careless or unnecessary spending and make intelligent purchases for the church when necessary.
As a leader in the church, your members often look to you for leadership and guidance; if they see that the leaders of the church are spending their hard-earned money on extravagant items that are impractical for the church, one of two things will happen. They will either think that it’s in their own best interest to spend their own money frivolously, thinking that it’s more important to have finer things, or they will become frustrated or angry that their tithes were spent on superfluous or showy items.
Most churches must present any major purchases to a committee for approval beforehand. Although this process may seem tedious and trivial at times, these groups are in place to help you make wise purchasing decisions and avoid rash spending that could upset – or even anger—other members of your church. And when you are faced with gargantuan financial decisions, such as building an addition to your church because of growth in attendance, consulting with members of your building committee can be a tremendous blessing.
Another major purchase that churches must face from time to time is that of church furnishings. Chairs and carpet become worn, pulpit furniture becomes outdated and baptisteries need to be replaced. Or perhaps your church has expanded and grown out of its current furnishings. When your church is in need of new church furniture, don’t be afraid to shop around. Ask other leaders and members in the church if they have any suggestions or if they have a church furniture store in mind that they can recommend. Compare prices and quality before committing to purchase a specific chair, pulpit or baptistery. Remember that the cheapest piece of furniture on the market might not be the wisest decision, especially when you could have paid a little bit more for something that would last twice as long.
As leaders in the church, we must remember that it’s okay – and even encouraged – to lean on others for guidance, strength and wisdom in our roles. And when we can’t find these things in our fellow man, we always have our Lord and Savior to point us in the right direction.
Tina Pashley is a writer and church consultant for Gabriel Services and Church Furniture Store in Rocky Mount, Virginia.

Thanks to Tina for writing this guest blog.

Lead On!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Have you noticed? Young people today just don't have the same level of commitment to church as their parents and grandparents! They have no loyalty. They have no deep roots. They don't believe and support the one thing that their ancestors did - that bedrock commitment to their church. They really don't value investing themselves in a church, planting seeds into that faith community, and paying it forward to the next generation.

(Okay, this is where I insert a disclaimer to say this is not true but a massive generalization - please read on)

Of course they don't.

They don't because their parents and grandparents - the same ones who voice many, if not most, of those complaints above - taught them they don't have to have commitment to anything. I'm not blaming anyone, I'm just pointing out how this past two generations have been brought up by their parents.


That is one of the hallmarks of capitalism and one of the benchmarks on which this nation is built financially. You, the consumer, get to pick and choose.

So, flashback to your childhood and remember when you sat in the grocery cart as your mom turned the corner and enter Wonderland - the cereal aisle. Mom slowly pushed the cart and you began saying (or if you couldn't speak, you'd scream) what cereals you wanted. Mom ended up buying 2, 3, or even 4 different kinds of cereal because she knew you would switch every few days. And Mom didn't stick just to Kellogg's  brands, she'd even get General Mills or even the occasional off brand (which Dad usually ended up eating or maybe you gave it to the dog!).

Sure enough, over the next couple of weeks you'd have Cheerios for a few days, then switch to Fruit Loops, and then jump over to Sugar Smacks, circle back to Cheerios and finally you'd say you were tired of all those but you'd seen a new cereal on TV and you wanted to try that one so Mom might as well throw away all of the others and just go get the new one.

Kids learned that they can switch cereals on a whim. But also soft drinks, clothes brands, fast food chains, and any other consumer product out there. As an adult, we switch loyalties with car manufacturers (even though grandfather was a Ford or Chrysler or Chevy buyer) and even neighborhoods - I know of people who will move every few years when they grow tired of their home. Young people do the same with jobs. 20-somethings today will switch careers 7-10 times in their work life - that means that they will change job every 3-7 years.

Anyone who has been a child in the past 65 years (since WWII) has been raised in a culture of choices where they are in charge of making those choices.

So why do long-timers in the church get all upset when their kids and grandkids jump from one church to a different church to no-church and over to a church of a different denomination or no denomination. After all, it's what we taught them: "you don't have to accept what is in front of you," and "you have the power to change your circumstances and surroundings so do it."

Church-hopping today doesn't happen for only the same reasons as before. I think that our grandparents jumped to another church because of something that happened and caused them to leave. They take that frame of reference and apply to their kids or grandkids.

I think there are a multitude of reasons why people today leave church.
  • They don't like the programming or staffing
  • A friend invited them to go to another church
  • They want to experience and experiment with a different church
  • They're looking for a church with values that they have (at the present time)
  • They want a church that will be good for their kids even if there is nothing for the adults
  • They're seeking a church that is strong in one area of ministry or cause which they identify with
  • They've had a conflict with a lay member or staff leader
  • Or any of hundred other reasons
So what is a church to do. How do you address the issue of church hopping in your church? The number of responses is equal to the number of problems but here are a few prime answers
  • Do nothing - just accept that people will come and go through your church. Don't change anything and realize that the back door is just as wide as the front door and that many people will use both and a few core people will stay and help run things.
  • Focus on a few core principles that guide your church and which in turn limit the number of ministries you do and then do those few ministries extremely well. That means the people who do come will be inculcated into your few ministries.
  • Provide a variety of ministries so that you're trying to do lots of different things. This is what many churches do - focus on nothing and aim at everything. It works for a while but frankly it dilutes the power and ministry and energy of a church to focus on nothing and try to do everything.
  • Have a few compelling environments which attract people and make them stick to your church. These compelling environments will attract like-minded people so long as it remains a high-level of quality. This is simliar to #2 but that is focused on ministries and this point is on people-groups.
  •  Have several different worship styles within the same facility. That means building several worship centers or doing quick-changes; it also means a bigger staff. But the hope is that you can be a church where people can flit between worship and education venues all the while hearing the same message in a variety of methods.
OR, change the point of view of the people coming to church. That is MUCH harder to do. You see, everything I wrote above sees people coming to church as consumers. They aren't. And church leaders should stop treating members as consumer. Church attendees are to be givers - of their time, their talents, and their financial treasure. They are to be GENEROUS!

When you attend a wedding, you are not a consumer. You are there at the invitation of the bride or groom; you didn't just crash it. And the wedding is NOT about you - it's about the bride (sorry, grooms!). You are a participant - there to enjoy the party and to help celebrate a special day.

Worship is NEVER about the people inside the church. People are there at God's invitation (and we have no right to turn anyone - anyone! - away). Everyone must be there with the right motivation - not "to get something out of it" but to celebrate God and the life we've been given and in turn give away anything and everything we can to help others.

Yeah, changing members in a consumer-oriented culture into reverse-consumer (generous givers!) is not easy. But God doesn't do easy (or else he'd wipe us off the map - LOL) and God certainly isn't a consumer-God.

God does love and giving and celebrating and joy. We should and can and must, also.

Lead On!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Benevolence Gifts

A friend asked me what the IRS rules are regarding benevolence gifts to help people. I mean, if someone is in really, really dire straits, don't they get an exemption from having any tax consequences if they get some money from a church? In short, NO!
  • Payments made to an individual are considered taxable income - regardless of the reason. BTW, the IRS doesn't care what you call it - love gift, honorarium, salary, bonus, wages, stipend, gift card, etc. - to them it is all income, pure and simple, and is thus taxable as income.
  • If you pay someone $600 or more in a calendar year, then you must provide a 1099 UNLESS that is documented as a reimbursable expense such as mileage, travel, program expense, etc., etc. That means that all gifts and fees for services are considered taxable income. It doesn't matter how serious the need is by the person or family. If you give them $600 or more in cash, it is taxable income to them.
  • The only way around this is to make a payment on someone's behalf to another organization. This includes paying someone's mortgage, rent, utilities, car repair, medical bill, etc. The church gets the invoice from the organization and pays it directly. The money never goes through the hands of the individual - it goes from one institution to another institution, just like any other accounts payable paid by the church.
  • The IRS is concerned that all benevolent funds be under the authority and control of the tax-exempt organization and that the church not be used as a conduit for personal purposes or gain. Thus, you cannot give money to your family or anyone else by "running it through the church" or you'll jeopardize the church's tax-exempt status.
Lead On!