New health care reform law creates a tax credit for congregations

Most eligible churches, synagogues, and related organizations have already missed out on an new tax credit in the 2010 tax year, but should prepare to take advantage of it for the current year. The new credit, which will refund up to 25% of the cost of health insurance premiums paid by the congregation, is part … Read more

Green Eyeshades and Rose-Colored Glasses

Congregational budget-makers frequently divide into two camps that approach the task in different ways. The first camp is likely to include children of the Great Depression, experts in finance, elementary school teachers, and persons anxious about their own money situation. Their first priority is to make sure that the budget balances and that the congregation … Read more

Statement for my church’s fund drive

The stewardship committee at my church asked me to say a few words recently in behalf of the annual fund drive. It was interesting, having the chance to speak as a lay member. Here is what I found myself saying: When Chris asked me to speak this morning, she suggested I might talk about how … Read more

Making Do with Less

Our parents’ and grandparents’ memories of the Great Depression are not fond ones, but they came with a silver lining: when you’re making do with less, you learn what really matters. Having less is no fun, as many church executives are finding out. Unpaid pledges, unmet campaign goals, plummeting investment funds— the fiscal story over … Read more

That’s the Way the Money Goes!

“This congregation should run more like a business.” How can anybody doubt that? Businesses are among our most-prized cultural creations; successful business leaders are our richest citizens. When a governing board member holds up “business” as a model for the church or synagogue, the point can seem self-evident. Except that others grumble that the congregation … Read more

Conflicts of Interest

“Conflict of interest” is an ugly phrase, but it’s time to say it, lay it on the table, and deal with it as a normal part of life. Everybody who is not a hermit manages conflicting interests all the time. Congregations’ awkwardness and silence on the subject only makes us vulnerable. Many congregations accept practices … Read more

Pretending to be equal: Facing inequality can help raise money and promote justice

Reporting on a ravaged Mississippi town on the Gulf coast, the Associated Press said that “Katrina clobbered the rich and poor alike.” A cliché repeated often enough slips past the brain into the heart. We like the idea that in times of disaster all stand equally in awe before the powers that beset us. The … Read more

Snapshot of Church Finance

Some time ago, I created a financial self-evaluation tool for churches. I’ve been testing it informally ever since, and welcome further feedback and suggestions. If you use it, I hope you will post a comment here that will help me to improve the Snapshot. Some questions you might address include: How well do the “benchmarks” … Read more

A Soul Decision

I received a lesson in the relationship of faith and money the morning my oldest child was born. I was 29 and serving a small church in Florida; my wife was teaching at the nearby state university. For the first time in our adulthood we were enjoying financial stability and independence. We had purchased a … Read more

Ask Alban: Setting Up An Endowment Fund

Q: My congregation is expecting its first bequest. We would like to use it to establish an endowment fund. A stockbroker in the congregation offered to manage it for us, but we’re wondering if this is wise. We’re also worried that the endowment will have a bad effect on member giving to the church. What … Read more