Budgets: To Cut or Not To Cut?

Dear Treasurers,

Over the next three months, Treasurer’s Corner will focus on working towards a balanced budget, concentrating on three important subjects:

  1. Cost cutting on budgets. Should this ever be considered? If so, why?
  2. Cost savings projects. What are these and why are they important?
  3. Cost cutting process and reviews. Is it short term or for the long haul?

This month I’ll start by considering whether cost cutting on budgets is necessary. What are the red flags? What are the reasons associated with such an action?

Firstly, I am a true believer in generosity and that our churches are all very generous. I have seen the faithfulness of our churches in their giving of tithes and offerings to support the work of the church and related ministries. In 2016, the total amount of tax receipted revenue reported to the Charities Directorate from all of the CBWC churches was $41.7 million. This is a huge financial contribution rendered by 158 churches to extend the Lord’s Kingdom on earth!

However, many churches are facing financial pressures for a variety of reasons.

  1. Reduction in memberships as members move away or transition elsewhere due to relocation and job opportunities.
  2. Loss of an important demographic of members as millennials transition elsewhere in search of jobs, or to find a new church where they feel more at home.
  3. Effects of the economic downturn that affects members’ ability to sustain their tithes.
  4. An aging membership that presents a challenging new environment to the financial support and well-being of the church at large, across all the church ministries.
  5. A shift in patterns of giving, either through traditional tithing with cheques or cash payments. Some churches have started using electronic payment systems such as EFTs, PADs, online donations, PayPal, email transfers, e-Push etc., to try to address the behavioural shift. Some have succeeded, while others have not. It involves changing the mind sets of the donors as well.
  6. An attempt to redirect the focus of the churches as to how best to do ministries and be relevant within their communities in our broken and fragmented world.

As good stewards, we are called to be aware of such shifts in the focus and culture that can have significant negative effects on giving. While waiting on these seismic shifts to settle down, there is a continuous need for the church to be vigilant and to balance the budget every year. Subsequently, there is a need to reconsider new creative ways of cost cutting, which will lead to sustainable budgets in the longer term.

Questions & Answers:

  1. What are the red flags towards a budget running into peril?
    1. Consecutive deficits incurred on the planned budget over a two-year period.
    2. Known revenue streams are drying up year after year.
    3. Uncontrolled expenses not approved by the finance and/or budget committees.
    4. Disbursement quota is not met, as planned out and approved by the Board.
    5. Gifts to qualified donees has reduced substantially.
    6. Staff costs has exceeded 55% of the approved annual budget plan.
    7. Delinquencies in making payments towards statutory deductions such as CPP, EI, Federal Taxes and Sun Life Pension Plan as required by law.
    8. Cash flow problems due to reduced revenue streams.
    9. Digging into reserve funds to top up revenue shortages.
    10. Having to consider major cost cutting exercises on yearly budgets to maintain a balanced budget, failing which will result in year-end deficits.
    11. Frequent disposal of assets to raise money for funding ministries.
    12. Increased borrowing and indebtedness to financial institutions to fund ministries, with potential failures in servicing the loans every month.
    13. Lethargies towards fundraising for ministry needs, experiencing both short- and long-term failures towards meeting fundraising goals.
    14. Intentional transfer of trust and/or designated funds to the general budget to fund the church’s operational budget to cover administrative costs.
    15. A volatile investment funds market, where monetary reserves are lost due the volatility of these markets, thus affecting the immediate and future returns on investments, to fund the plans of the church.
    16. Excessive spending on capital projects, resulting in project cost overruns and increased indebtedness on project financing requirements, creating a strain on the church budget.
    17. Lack of a legacy funding program within the church, to help build up trust funds for future ministry projects.

If you have experienced any of the above red flags, perhaps, it is time to take a closer look at the overall budget plan of your church, to see where cuts are required in order to create a sustainable budget for the year.

 

  1. I have always wondered about how the early church was able to balance their budget. What drove their generosity towards supporting their ministries financially? What kind of lessons can we learn from Acts 2:44 – 47 (NIV)?

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Obviously,

  1. Believers shared the goals and visions of the early church wholeheartedly. They were together in this. (Focus on the mission)
  2. Believers practiced common generosity to everyone, sold properties and possessions to help finance the needs of the church. (Practicing generosity)
  3. Believers met constantly and shared everything with anyone who had a need, within the community. (The church was relevant to the communities)
  4. As the believers’ needs were met, they rejoiced, praising God, and their generous provisions overflowed to all the people around them. (Outflow of God’s blessings)
  5. The end result was that the early church grew and multiplied as the Lord blessed them greatly! (Experiencing church growth)

 

Treasurer’s Corner February 2019 Issue | Click here to subscribe

New Year Checklist for Treasurers

Dear Treasurers,

Firstly, on behalf of the CBWC, we at the head office would like to wish you all a Blessed New Year and may this year 2019 be an exciting year for your various church ministries to thrive!

Below are some reminders which will be helpful for you to know as you enter 2019.

Changes in statutory deductions for CPP and EI when you calculate payroll 

  1. CPP Enhancement: 2019 is the first of the five years whereby CPP contributions will gradually increase every year until it runs its course in 2023. In 2019, the CPP contributions will increase from 4.95% to 5.10% on earnings between $3,500 to $57,400. By 2023, the CPP contribution rate will reach 5.95% with the increases paying towards the enhanced CPP plan. To read more about the changes, please click on the link below: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/publicpensions/cpp/cpp-enhancement.html
  2. EI: In 2019, EI contribution from employees will drop from $1.66 to $1.62 per $100 of insurable earnings. This will somewhat help to compensate for the additional CPP contributions required in the enhanced plan. To read more about the changes, please click on the link below: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/ei/ei-list/reports/premium/rates2019.html
  3. Canada Workers Benefit (Enhanced version of the Working Income Tax Benefit): 2019 will be the first tax year when low income employees will qualify for the more generous CWB program which assist low income employees to stay employed. Maximum benefits of $1,355 for a single person or $2,335 for a single parent or couple can be expected for those who qualified in the 2019 tax year. To read more about the CWB program, please click on the link below: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/programs/about-canada-revenue-agency-cra/federal-government-budgets/budget-2018-equality-growth-strong-middle-class/canada-workers-benefit.html

 Canada Summer Jobs Update:

  1. In 2018, the attestation for the Canada Summer Job program was viewed by many faith-based organizations essentially as a values test that infringed on the Charter-guaranteed freedoms of conscience, thought, belief, opinion and expression. Since then, faith-based organizations, both at the local and national levels, have raised this problematic attestation with the government and MPs. Because of the concerted efforts by the various groups in raising this concern with the government, the government has decided to remove the problematic values test from the 2019 Canada Summer Job program.
  2. The new 2019 Canada Summer Job program guide can be downloaded by clicking on this link below: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/funding/canada-summer-jobs.html
  3. Please kindly take note of the following datelines for the 2019 CSJ application process:
  • Applications are due by January 25, 2019
  • The earliest job start date is April 23, 2019
  • The latest job start date is July 23, 2019
  • The latest job end date is September 1, 2019
  • The latest date to submit a payment claim is 30 days following the completion of the CSJ-funded work placement.

For consideration:

  • There is still some ambiguity in the 2019 CSJ attestation that faith-based groups are questioning. For example, the requirement stated in the application that, “Any funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” However, we have been advised by the EFC and CCCC for our ministries to proceed to apply for the 2019 CSJ grant as deemed appropriate by each organization.
  • There are other phrases or words used in the 2019 CSJ application guide that appear to be an ongoing concern by faith-based organizations; if you require further information and opinions, please kindly contact the CBWC office for further clarifications.

 

CBWC The Gathering 2019

The biennial CBWC Assembly will be held from May 23 – 25, 2019 at High River Baptist Church in High River, AB. We look forward to seeing you there! Please be reminded to register early for this general assembly through this link below: https://cbwc.ca/assembly/

New rates for 2019 GWL Basic Life, Optional Life, LTD, AD & D, EAP, Dental & Extended Health Insurance Coverage:

The 2019 new coverage rates are available through J&D Benefits. If you have not received the new rates, please kindly contact the benefits administrator as below.

Linda Bissonnette, J&D Benefits

8901 Woodbine Avenue, Ste 228, Markham, ON L3R 9Y4

T.(905)477-7088 ext. 2222, Toll Free 1-800-218-7018

F.(905)477-2249, E. lbissonnette@jdbenefits.com

Please kindly take note that the Charities Directorate has changed the mailing address for the T3010 as follows, effective immediately:

Charities Directorate
Canada Revenue Agency
Government of Canada
105 – 275 Pope Road
Summerside, PE  C1N 6E8

There is no Q & A section for this issue. Starting in February 2019, a series of articles considering implementing cost savings measures will be introduced. The Q & A section will resume then.

Questions for the Year-End Treasurer

Dear Treasurers,

Another 10 days to go before Christmas hits the ground, by the time this article is published! As Christmas approaches, so does the year-end and there is lots to ponder for church ministries. Some of the questions that come to mind include the following:

  1. What about next year’s payroll statutory deductions? What are the new rates released by the CRA for 2019? To find out, please also read the Q & A section of this article.
  2. Is our new year’s church budget ready to rock and roll? Are we able to make ends meet?
  3. Are we ready with the tax receipting process to be completed by December 31st?
  4. Have we started to contemplate closing all the current year journals so that a seamless process towards year-end closing can be done in January of the new year (for those whose fiscal year-end falls on December 31st)?
  5. How about church staff performance evaluations? Are we due to review and renew staff contracts for next year?
  6. Have I sent in all the contributions deducted for the SunLife pension plan for staff? If not, do I need to catch up before December 31st? It is required by the provincial regulator in Ontario of the pension plan that all deductions must be submitted on time.
  7. Did I remit in all statutory deductions comprising of CPP, EI, Federal and Provincial taxes to the CRA on time? If not, do I need to deal with the outstanding amounts plus interest charged for late submissions?
  8. Did I remit all sabbatical leave fund deductions for pastoral staff to the CBWC? Do I need to catch up for the year?
  9. Have we sent in all church contributions to the CBWC for the current year? If not, do I need to recalculate the remaining amount that needs to be sent?
  10. Were all obligations to fund qualified donees met during the year?
  11. Have all Clergy Residence Deduction forms, the T1223E, been issued to the qualified pastoral staff yet? If not, can this be completed ASAP before year-end?
  12. Are you ready with the T4s and if the final payroll reconciliation being completed before December 31st?

The above questions are not exhaustive, but nonetheless provide us with some thoughts 10 days before Christmas! Lastly, I have some Q & A below that I would like to share with you as well. Wishing you and your families a restful and joyful season as we anticipate the coming of the New Year! Below is a Scripture verse to remind us the reason we are celebrating this season!

– Victor Ku

Questions & Answers:

Q: What are the 2019 statutory deduction rates and limits for CPP and EI?

CPP

  • Maximum Pensionable Earnings: $57,400
  • Basic Exemption Amount: $3,500
  • Employee and employer contribution rate: 5.1%
  • Maximum employer and employee contribution to the plan: $2,748.90 ea

EI

  • Maximum Insurable Earnings: $53,100
  • Contribution rate of $1.62 per $100 of insurable earnings
  • Maximum annual contribution for an employee: $860.22
  • Maximum annual contribution for employer per employee: $1,204.31

Q: How do you balance a church budget for the new year?

A: Be realistic in identifying all funding sources or revenue streams. Carry out historical analysis on the last three years’ revenue and compare the average numbers with your projected revenue estimated for the new year, to see if there are big variances. Adjust the new year revenue budget accordingly to reduce these variances, because chances are this will be the more realistic numbers to expect in 2019.

Review all expense line items individually, and review the last three years’ expenses by line items to measure variances with your new year expense budget. Discuss with stakeholders whether the line item expenses justify what the request is for? Questions on needs should be addressed with the individual ministries and logically defined in terms of sustainability and effectiveness. In most cases, a few rounds of discussion will be needed with those involved in the budgeting process to decide on the final budget, to be presented and approved in a congregational meeting.

Cost savings is an important part of the budgeting process that often gets overlooked in terms of its impact on balancing the budget. In the new year, we’ll release a series of articles to encourage a cost savings attitude for funding ministries. In the past seven years, CBWC has saved $529,086 from cost savings projects! This money then gets to be invested into key ministries of the CBWC.

This article was published in the December 2018 Treasurer’s Corner. Subscribe here. 

Year-End Checklist for Churches

Dear Treasurers,

As year-end approaches, the following is a list of actionable items to consider for your church if your fiscal year ends on December 31. If your church has a different fiscal year-end, this list is still useful for your consideration.

  1. Budget for the New Year. Most churches would have at least planned and prepared the 2019 Church Budget by October. If not, it is never too late to create the budget, have it adopted by the Church Council and approved by the congregation—preferably before the New Year kicks in. However, most churches have their New Year budget approved by the congregation in their New Year business meeting, often held at the end of January or early February.
  2. Prepare to issue new Clergy Residence Deduction forms, the T1223E for 2018 (if you have not done this yet) and 2019 fiscal year for ordained pastors and staff. For those staff who required deduction at source, the form T1213E should be issued at the same time for the New Year. Preferably, these two forms should be completed by mid-November of each year, as the CRA could take up to 30 – 60 days to approve T1213E applications.
  3. Tax donation receipts. If your fiscal year ends on December 31, please be reminded that your last date of issuing tax receipts should be December 31. Tax receipts issued after December 31 cannot be used by the church members to claim their tax credit for their 2018 personal income tax return.
  4. The year-end closing of church accounts. Steps should be taken to ensure that:
    1. All bank reconciliations are reconciled for 2018
    2. All receivables have been accounted for in the books and the bank account statements
    3. All payables for the year have been settled and there are no amounts owing
    4. All tax donation receipts for the year have been issued
    5. All cash take-ins have been deposited into the bank account and accounted for in the books
    6. Any surplus donations have been received before December 31 and tax donation receipts have been issued
    7. If the church accounts are to be audited in the New Year by an external auditor, all internal financial statements are prepared in advance of the audit, after the books are closed out
    8. In general, it is a good practice to zero out any trust accounts that have incurred a deficit for the year
    9. The T3010 needs to be filled in and submitted within six months from the ending date of the church’s fiscal year

Note the new mailing address for the Registered Charity Information Return (T3010):

Charities Directorate

Canada Revenue Agency

105 – 275 Pope Road

Summerside PE C1N 6E8

Please note that this change applies only to the information return. All other correspondence should be sent to:

Charities Directorate

Canada Revenue Agency

Ottawa ON K1A 0L5

Please also note that starting in June 2019, registered charities and their representatives will be able to complete and file Form T3010 online. To learn more about these service improvements and how you can prepare for them, go to Charities IT Modernization Project (CHAMP).

  1. Preparation of T4 and T4A income slips for church staff. As soon as the fiscal year has ended, T4 slips must be issued to all staff with an employment contract with the church. This would include all staff who have received employment salary from the church—all pastors, directors of ministries, administrators and summer camp staff. If your church has an extended ministry such as a day care center, the day care might need to issue their own T4 slips if they are a separate registered entity with the provincial authority. T4A slips need to be issued for staff who are registered with the CBWC Benefits and Pension Plan. The plan administrator, J & D Benefits Inc., will email the information required for the T4A slips from taxable benefits that are incurred by premiums paid by the church under the Benefits plan. The T4A slips should be completed by end of January.
  2. If you use a third-party payroll processing company, there is always a need to reconcile the last payroll within the payroll system if special payments or adjustments have been made on staff payroll amounts throughout the fiscal year. Please remember to check with your payroll service provider to ensure that year-end YTD payroll and statutory deductions for CPP, EI and Federal Taxes tally up with your payroll journals. If not, a reconciliation process needs to be initiated with the payroll service provider to ensure that your T4 information is correctly filled in and filed with CRA. This is to avoid any PIER notices being issued by CRA to your church in the New Year. Please ensure all T4 and T4A slips are filed on time, preferably by end of January.

If you have further questions or clarifications needed in closing out your church’s year-end activities, please contact the CBWC office for further assistance. Thank you, once again, for your generous service to serve the church and here is a scripture on good stewardship to encourage your heart, as we carry on for the Lord!

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col 3:23-24 (NIV)

Victor Ku

Living out Gratitude: Leaving a Legacy

By Louanne Haugan, CBWC Director of Development and Communications

I have had the privilege, since February 2017, of working in the area of Development, commonly known as fundraising. When friends first asked me about my new role and I told them jokingly that my responsibility was to ask for money, they were slightly horrified. But honestly, it excited me! And it was Henry Nouwen’s small booklet entitled A Spirituality of Fundraising that cemented in my heart and mind what God had already placed there; that in this role I have been given a gift. This gift is to invite fellow believers to join with God in seeing His kingdom come on earth through the practice of generous giving and living—a natural response to God’s gift of grace so lavishly poured out on us. I say giving and living because generosity is not just about money. It’s the way we live out our life, sharing our gifts and talents and homes and food—all that we have—with others! Jesus is inviting us to a life of gratitude where who we are and what we haveare gifts to be received and shared.

My pastor, Tyler Graftaas, recently did a sermon series on generosity and he pointed out that the word ‘to give’, ninety per cent of the time, is the word didomi which refers to God giving to humanity, God giving to His people, people receiving His love. Receiving is accepting something that is given to us which we did not earn or deserve—it’s not ours to take! We don’t take love from God, we receive it. And the ultimate expression of generosity modeled for us was in the gift of God’s son, Jesus, to take our sin upon Himself when we did not deserve it. If we are to be generous people, we must understand that we give because God first gave to us.

Secondly, we should be generous people because God uses our generosity to grow His Kingdom and lead others to Christ. A great example of this is found in Acts 4. Peter and John were arrested after healing the crippled man who had been begging at the city gate. They were brought before the council, where they were interrogated and threatened by religious leaders because they had caused such a commotion when they performed this miracle and healed the cripple. When Peter and John were released, they went straight to the other believers and told them what had happened. Then they all joined together in prayer as one in spirit in heart and mind and prayed for God to use them for His purposes and to show Himself powerfully through them. And God did just that; He moved powerfully through them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Then an interesting thing happened… generosity! In verse 32 we read,

“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. And with great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Acts 4:32

God had given them all they needed through the death and resurrection of His son, and so naturally, now they would give it all back!

So, when it comes to us, why does $100 at the mall seem like so little to spend, but when it comes time to put it in the offering plate, or when we are invited to participate in a ministry project, seem like so much? We like to weigh the costs and factor in time spent vs. investment returned. What’s in it for me? Will the people I’m giving this money to actually do what they say? But pause and think about this. Think about how God gives to us. He leaves the 99 to go looking for one lost—that’s only a 1% loss, and He leaves everything. There’s the parable about the woman who had 10 coins and one went missing. That’s only 10% missing, and she turns the whole house over to find it. Then there’s the father with two sons. One takes off with his inheritance, that’s 50% missing, and he waits and celebrates when the 50% is returned to him. God is all in – 100% invested in us. Shouldn’t we be fully invested in Him?

C.S Lewis writes, “Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.” 

So, why are we so hesitant to allow God full use of His resources? 
Our time, our giftedness, our finances. It’s really a matter of trust, isn’t it? We don’t like to admit it, but we struggle with trusting God, even when we read in Philippians, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

You have been given an incredible gift. It’s called your life. Each of us has the opportunity to live in the place of abundance where, as Henry Nouwen so eloquently put it,  “Every generous act overflows its original bounds and becomes part of the unbounded grace of God at work in the world!”

What is your God story? 
Is it shaping how you give back to God what you’ve received? Remember the word didomi?  We do not take from God. We receive from God every good and perfect gift. It’s His, not ours. Nothing that we build up for ourselves in treasure can be taken with us. We come into the world with nothing and leave with nothing.How will your story live out generously?

One way is through planned giving: leaving a legacy gift in your will for ministry to bless future generations. Maybe you or a family member has been greatly impacted by a certain ministry. Maybe a grandchild decided to follow Jesus at a local camp or on a SERVE mission trip. Maybe you came to know Jesus at a camp when you were a child or teen. Do you have a heart for welcoming newcomers to Canada?  Do you have a passion for planting churches or a desire to see local churches strengthened and resourced for the future? Perhaps you’d like to leave a legacy gift to your own home church! It is entirely up to you.

One of the biggest misconceptions about leaving a legacy gift is that only the wealthy can do it. The truth, however, is that everyone can plan a legacy gift no matter their current income or assets. And in fact, folks who may not have had financial means to give to their favourite cause during their lifetime, have the opportunity to leave a gift in their will that will leave a lasting legacy for future generations. Your money will be taxed and distributed after your death. With a will in place, you make those decisions yourself. With a planned gift in your will, much of the money that would go to taxes can instead be effectively directed to the ministries you care about. Our partnership with the Foundation allows us to facilitate enhanced giving options, too, such as the donation of securities and donor-advised funds. The Canadian Baptist Legacy team is here to help provide the best possible strategies for achieving your planned giving goals. We are also happy to come and visit your church to discuss how to start a Legacy program for your congregation. For more information, please see our brochure here.

God compares His kingdom to a mustard seed. Jesus said, “At the time of sowing, it is the smallest of all the seeds on earth. Yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.”  What a beautiful picture of what God’s kingdom is like, of what He can do with the resources we give Him. May we be open-handed with what we receive, and continually live in a spirit of gratitude.

Blessings,

Louanne Haugan,
Director of Communications & Development
lhaugan@cbwc.ca


This article was published in the October 2018 Treasurer’s Corner. Subscribe here. 

What Does a Productive Board Meeting Look Like?

By Sam Breakey, CBWC Church Health Strategist

This is the third of three articles in a series on Church Governance.

Most congregations have a senior church leadership team that meets monthly. Usually one or more pastors are joined by a group of volunteer spiritual leaders to guide the work of the congregation in what they see as Christ’s mission within their community. While congregations organise in different ways, their spiritual leaders are frequently called Elders or Deacons, but also may be called members of the church council or board.

The evaluation of a church board meeting is not a common practice, at least not formally. It is not unusual, however, for meetings to be reviewed in the parking lot, but the terms of reference usually relate to the spirit of the evening. Topics include dry points in the discussion, whether opinions were received openly, or the financial impact of a specific decision. Some boards now invite participants to offer feedback in the room, by placing two simple questions on the agenda at the end of the meeting: How did we do this evening? Do you have any comments to share about how we interacted with each other or about our productivity?

Effective appraisal also includes regular assessment of the role of the board. Review the minutes of your last six meetings and you will probably interpret that your board exists to address concerns that may have arisen since the last meeting and ensure the activities of the coming month will occur smoothly. This sounds more like management than spiritual leadership.

Fruitful church board meetings, however, ensure that the congregation’s appointed spiritual leaders focus on the future. These forward-looking discussions enable the pastor and their ministry team to pursue specific priorities. In addition, they ensure that necessary resources are made available to reach explicit goals within clearly established boundaries.  In short, the board members 1) discern with the pastor, the direction of ministry and 2) empower and guide the pastor, and their ministry committees, to bring about Christ-focused community changing ministry.

Board members that shape their meeting agendas around what they deem most important use their time together well. When you think of it, most boards meet 24 – 36 hours per year, a considerable amount of time in which to address long term ministry priorities.

One helpful way to ensure time for a future focused agenda is to divide the list into two parts – a ‘consent agenda’ and a ‘discussion agenda.’ This pattern requires that every board member receive a package of reports at least two days before its meeting, along with an agenda which identifies which items take place in which part of the meeting.

After the preliminary items (welcome, opening prayer/devotional, and acceptance of previous minutes) the chair will begin with a statement such as the following: ‘You have received a package of reports which are listed in the consent portion of the agenda.’ (Any item that the board is required to act on without resistance or follows from a decision of a previous meeting is part of the consent agenda).

The chair then asks: ‘Does anyone wish to move an item down from the consent agenda to the discussion agenda, for more in-depth discussion?’ If yes, that item is moved without immediate discussion. The reports sent in the board package are not presented or discussed further, including those from the treasurer and pastor. The chair then says, ‘We are now ready to approve the consent agenda. Is there someone prepared to make such a motion?’ After which, they move immediately to the discussion portion of the agenda.

Dan Hotchkiss, author of Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership* writes:

“The discussion agenda contains only two or three items, plus any consent items that have been moved to it. The result is that the board spends more time addressing topics that it has identified as important, no time listening passively to reports, and no time responding to issues that happen to arise during board discussion of the reports. The discussion agenda is the heart of the meeting and includes one, two, or (at most!) three important things that the board will have to accommodate before it adjourns. Ideally, these items will be so interesting and attractive that board members will look forward to them.”

One helpful way to engage people in discussion is to pose open-ended questions. Examples include:

  • Who are we?
  • What has God called us to do and be?
  • Who among our neighbours are we not reaching? Are we prepared before God not to reach them?
  • What difference should our worship together on Sundays make in the lives of those who attend? How can we track if that is happening?
  • What should we do going forward that is more important than congregational unity?
  • What guidelines do our committees need to have to be all working toward the same goal?
  • What boundaries does our pastor need to feel free within which to make courageous decisions on our behalf?

From these questions, an annual vision for ministry can be established, which will bear fruit when rooted in prayer. Before confirming the plan, invite the feedback of the wider congregation, and adjust as necessary, before inviting partnership in meeting those goals.

In summary, a key contributor to the productivity of a church board meeting, is its members ability to focus most of their time together on future ministry. What has your board has been focusing most on in the past six months? After reading this article, what first step could you take with your fellow members to help make your meetings and ministry more profitable in the future?

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why should church boards use the “consent agenda” model?

A: The most commonly reported reason is that it leads to shorter meetings and respects the time of volunteers, but the decision to move from a 100% “discussion model” requires a greater foundation.

The primary reason is that it focuses the work of the board on the gospel calling of the congregation. It is necessary to receive the reports of various committees and staff members, but taking time to discuss what people should already know before they get to the meeting is counter productive.

Third, the practice empowers those responsible for various portfolios – missions, finance, etc., to sense that their role is important to the mission of the church.

Fourth, it allows time for board members to grow together as spiritual brothers and sisters through personal sharing prayer, shared mission and prayer.

 

Q: It seems that preparation for board meetings that use the consent model is very important. How can we best set ourselves up for a productive meeting?

A: A minimum of three days before the meeting, a board package should be distributed so that each member has time to thoroughly review the information provided. It should contain:

  1. The upcoming meeting time and location
  2. A listing of the consent agenda items with all reports from individuals/groups that report to the board – e.g. minutes from last meeting, financial reports, committee reports, staff reports.
  3. A listing of the discussion agenda items (maximum 3 for each meeting). A page or two of background information to prepare members to contribute well to the discussion
  4. Those preparing reports shall be given limits on length of material shared and deadlines for distribution

Sam Breakey,CBWC Church Health Strategist
sbreakey@cbwc.ca


*Dan Hotchkiss. Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2016. Pp. 95-96.

 


This article was published in the September 2018 Treasurer’s Corner. Subscribe here. 

Two Contributors To Good Church Governance

By Sam Breakey, CBWC Church Health Strategist

As suggested in an earlier article, a congregation requires good governance (the skeleton), and a Christ-dependent gospel calling (the heart) to sustain vibrant ministry. In this post, I wish to identify twospecific characteristics of healthy church structure.

Become Moulded In God’s Image For One Purpose

Ryan Sandulak writes, “The local church is created in the image of God… and this image is fundamentally corporate in nature.”* Scripture tells us that God has been revealed to us in the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three persons cooperate as one being, towards one end.
Congregations follow a similar pattern. A church is not one person but is comprised of many people who function together, like a human body, toward a unifying purpose under the authority of Jesus Christ. While we identify various participants in this structure, (pastors, elders, deacons, members, etc.) each one is to be mindful of the other and those they are called to serve.

This ‘Triune God’ template is replicated in the triune local church. Biblically, a church is comprised of three entities that have equal influence while on God’s mission. In Baptist congregations we know them as Elders/Deacons, Pastors, and Congregants. Each one fulfills a role that requires collaboration with the others. Notice that when you read in the New Testament of pastors, elders, teachers, evangelists and prophets that they are always spoken of in the plural form. Spiritual leaders are intended to lead and serve in a mutually dependent relationship that reflects the cooperative interaction of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Churches that have clearly written guidelines about how the three parties make decisions and minister together have a solid foundation for impactful ministry. When this biblically-based church structure breaks down, congregational conflict increases and missional influence decreases.

Make No Room For Generalists 

Church members, staff included, tend to be generous people offering their insight widely. Congregational government infers that every matter must be important to every member, but, sometimes in congregational life there can be ‘too many cooks in the kitchen.’ One pastor I know rented scaffolding during his holiday and painted the exterior of the church by himself, because it wasn’t a priority to others.  Board members have been known to recommend which prizes should distributed at Sunday School picnics and many a congregant has second-guessed the colour pallet in the sanctuary. In each case, a party feels responsible for something beyond their responsibility.

As an example of role boundaries, let me offer terms of reference for your senior board team, be they Elders, Deacons, or Church Council. Dan Hotchkiss** describes four board priorities:

  1. Delegating authority with clear guidelines under which that authority can be exercised;
  2. ‘Controlling its agenda’ by focusing on the long-term future;
  3. Partnering with the pastor to pursue common goals and expectations; and
  4. Hosting future-oriented conversations.

Larry Nelson, a good friend and advisor to numerous Christian organisations, once told me that “leaders must know the boundaries within which they can work and be given complete freedom to authoritatively engage their role within those boundaries.”

In summary, church structure should reflect the three-way collaborative relationship of the Trinity. Pastors, church leaders, and congregants are called to pursue one mission by depending upon each other, under Christ. Further, each partner must know and be trusted to fulfill their specific roles without the intrusion of another.

FAQ: 
Q: What other characteristics contribute to the health of a church board?
A:
According to a study of 500 churches by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability***

  • Board members were chosen by someone other than the lead pastor.
  • Policies were in place—and the board had the ability—to ask an underperforming staff member to resign.
  • The board was able to challenge and correct a lead pastor when necessary.
  • An active strategic planning process was in place.
  • Time and energy were devoted to assessing risks and opportunities.
  • The board guided the staff with strategic—but not tactical—input.

Q: As a pastor, how can I know what I am free to do to fulfill my role?
A:
Seek answers to the following questions from your board:

  • What decisions do I have the clear authority to make where I do not have to tell the board?
  • What decisions do I have the authority to make, and will make, wherein I need to advise the board what I did or am planning to do?
  • What decisions MUST I get the board’s approval on before acting?

Q: How many members make up an ideal board?
A:
The median church board has eight members, including the Lead Pastor.

Q: How long should a board meeting last?
A:
When the agenda is future oriented, longer is better. Boards that meet for 21 – 40 hours per year to focus on their primary ministry calling, tend to be the most effective.

Q: How can we engage the congregation in a way that creates partners rather than micro-managers?
A:
Scripture teaches both the principle of spiritual eldership and the principle of the priesthood of believers. Healthy congregations practice both, rhythmically. Like tides that ebb and flow along a shoreline, congregational decision-making that honours the authority of spiritual leaders as well as the insight and confirmation of the wider spiritual family, will instigate decision ownership and unity. The greater the issue, the greater the impact of honouring both principles.****

Sam Breakey,
CBWC Church Health Strategist
sbreakey@cbwc.ca


*Ryan Sandulak. The Synergistic Church Booklet. Church Ministry Institute. www.churchministryinstitute.com p. 7.
**Dan Hotchkiss. Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2016.

***Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra. Governing God’s House: How 500 Churches Keep from Collapsing. www.christianitytoday.com August 2, 2016.
****Sam Breakey. Ebb and Flow Decision-making. www.flourishingcongregations.org August 17, 2016


This article was published in the August 2018 Treasurer’s Corner. Subscribe here. 

Why is Church Board Governance Important?

By Sam Breakey, CBWC Church Health Strategist

The term ‘congregational governance,’ for many, draws the same reaction as a cordial invitation to watch paint dry! While that may be so, figuratively speaking, governance is as important to the health and vitality of a congregation as a skeleton is to your body. Without an anchoring framework, the heart of a body or the mission of a congregation cannot intentionally pursue its purpose.

Church leaders of various denominational backgrounds agree that three partners cooperate in congregational leadership: God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Pastor (local and/or regional), and church members (elected church leaders and regular church members). They differ—sometimes significantly—in the level of influence each partner should have. If one is comfortable, theoretically, with the structure of their own church, there shouldn’t be any problem, right? After all, most of us don’t really care how other churches makes decisions and maintain accountability; we just care about our own. Yet, congregational life is not that simple. Two additional factors increase ambiguity even when we are familiar with our own fellowship’s way of exercising leadership.

First, culturally speaking, we live in a world that tells us that ‘where we are now’ is more important than ‘where we have come from.’ The rootedness that once contributed security and familiarity to our lives, now fosters a craving for something new. Working with churches across Western Canada, I often hear the phrase ‘we are not your average Baptist Church; our people come from many different backgrounds.’ They are regularly surprised to hear that the same phenomenon is just as evident elsewhere. Our hunger for new expressions of faith, movement from city to city for work, and our desire for programs that better serve the ages represented in our family, all contribute to movement from one church or denomination to another. Throw in some hurtful experiences, and each congregation now has a potpourri of decision-making baggage and processes that can contribute to misunderstanding.

Second, a church may have clarity about how its pastor, board, and congregation should interact but personalities and uncertainty interfere. People often have a better idea of what they can’t do than what they should do. In one context, the church bylaws clearly stated the roles of the pastor, the associate pastors, and the elected leaders, but had little to say about how they interact. Right and wrong assumptions were being made about who reported to whom, but there was no guidance on what to do when one party was at odds with another. They found themselves in an uneasy, unending dance. Staff and board members, and congregants require clarity about their roles. They must be clear about where they have freedom to act effectively, and what their illimitations are. It is not enough to say, ‘Well-meaning people will work it out through prayer and patience.’

Having made it this far into the article, I’m sure you can see how your personal and congregational endeavours have been impacted by poor congregational governance. Earlier, I mentioned the relationship between the human heart and the skeleton. If the skeleton of a church is good governance, the heart of a church is its unique calling, under Christ, to love, serve, and disciple, its community. A body without a skeleton is limp, but one without a heart is passionless. Both interplay to function in health as one body.

It is not uncommon for a passionate congregation to be held back by those nagging tensions that seem to pop up whenever progress is being made. A healthy church is one that is freed to pursue a clear unifying purpose through people and structures that serve Christ’s call. Good governance will be the pathway clearer for that call.

A follow up article on “The Characteristics of Good Governance” will be posted next month.

Sam Breakey, CBWC Church Health Strategist

sbreakey@cbwc.ca

FAQ:

Q: We are having problems in our church. Does CBWC have a church leadership resource that we can use to help us make unifying decisions?

A: The short answer is no; we do not have one specific resource that you can apply to every situation. We do however, have resources (plural) that will help you determine together what structure best reflects scriptural guidelines and the uniqueness of your congregation. Contact your Regional Minister for more information.

Q: We seemed to have lost our way. We are unsure about our future as a congregation and how we can reconnect with our community. Do you have any suggestions?

A: The CBWC Church Health Initiative is designed to help congregations regain their focus and calling to their community. For more information, contact our Church Health Strategist or your Regional Minister.


This article was published in the July issue of Treasurer’s Corner. Subscribe here. 

SaveSave

Agency Agreements Part II

In the last article, we discussed when the need arises for drawing up an agency agreement and the purpose it served. This month, we will be taking a deeper look into this document in understanding the technical requirements in signing such an agreement with another agent or intermediary that is not a qualified donee and not registered with the Charities Directorate of Canada.

To recap, an agency agreement should entail the following:

  1. the obligations of the agent to the charity;
  2. a funding schedule and the reporting obligations of the agent;
  3. the conditions of the charity’s involvement;
  4. the funds that will be made available; and
  5. the activities the agent is to carry out on behalf of the charity.

Obligations of the agent to the charity

Because charities must be able to demonstrate appropriate direction and control over their resources, the agent is bound by an agreement that spells out in written form all activities the agent will engage in, and how it will report back to the charity with details of the activities.

Funding schedule and reporting obligations of the agent

A detailed funding budget needs to be submitted by the agent to the charity on a yearly basis. Where possible, monthly or quarterly accounting details on the bookkeeping activities should be reported as well. The financial submissions should include a segregated report on the usage of funds given by the charity, whereby verification can be done if required. The intermediary takes special steps to separate the funds donated by the charity from other funding sources, so as to account for it when required. The charity should release funds periodically and gradually to ensure the agent complies with the terms and performance expected of the working relationship.

Conditions of the charity’s involvement

Any special conditions of the charity’s involvement should be highlighted in the agency agreement. Such conditions should be reviewed periodically to ensure full compliance. The charity reserves the right to withdraw funding support if there is a breach of the agreed to conditions at any given time during the review process.

Funds that will be made available

Funding arrangements should be discussed as part of the agreement before signing off. A list of funds required should be detailed in writing, with appropriate budget line items, to ensure clarity and transparency. This will help avoid unpleasant miscommunications and misunderstandings that can arise, especially when overseas projects are involved.

Activities of the agent, on behalf of the charity

The agent’s activities must comply with Canadian laws and laws of the country where the projects are being implemented. This is to ensure full compliance by the charity which must abide by the laws of Canada in carrying out only legal activities, whether it is approved in Canada or in another foreign country.

Questions & Answers

Q: Do you have a sample agency agreement for review?

A: Yes, a sample agency agreement can be downloaded from this link, with permission from the CCCC: https://cbwc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Agency-Agreement-Sample-Document.pdf

Q: Why must the charity be concerned over the details of the agency agreement?

A: The agency agreement serves to protect both parties, which have different expectations and needs. The charity’s chief concern is to have direction and control when such an agreement is signed. Hence, the agreement needs to explicitly detail the list of activities and financial reporting requirements. The agreement provides a way to monitor, through proper bookkeeping, all financial transactions from the charity that support the work of the agent.

Q: Is the agency agreement considered a legal document?

A: Yes, the agency agreement is legally binding between the two parties. If the charity loses direction and control over the conditions stated in the agreement, the working relationship/arrangements can be made invalid and the agreement will be null and void thereafter. Secondly, the agreement is the legal document that will show proof that the charity is in direct control of the partnership with the nonqualified donee, in case an audit is conducted on the charity by the Charities Directorate. Failure to have the agency agreement in place while working with a non-qualified donee will compromise the charity in a non-compliance position with the operating rules of running a registered charity in Canada.


This article was published in the June 2018 edition of Treasurer’s Corner. To subscribe, click here.

Agency Agreements

This article is adapted from archived Treasurer’s Corner articles, and Canadian Council of Christian Charities resources on agency agreements.

According to the Income Tax Act (ITA), a registered charity can only use its resources in two ways, whether inside or outside Canada:

  1. On its own activities (those which are directly under the charity’s control and supervision, and for which it can account for any funds expended); and
  2. On gifts to Qualified Donees

A charity usually carries on its activities using its staff (including volunteers, directors, or employees) or through an intermediary (for example, an agent or contractor). However, when using an intermediary, it must still direct and control the use of its resources. A charity cannot merely be a conduit to funnel money to an organization that is not a qualified donee.

(In this context, an intermediary is a person or non-qualified donee who is separate from the charity, but that the charity works with to carry out its own activities.)

 

What is an Agency Agreement?

An Agency Agreement is a document used to establish a working relationship with the intermediary or non-qualified donee. The definition will be outlined here, and more details on the contents and responsibilities that constitute an Agency Agreement will be reviewed in next month’s newsletter.

An Agency Agreement is a written agreement between a charity and an intermediary who provides services outside Canada. It helps demonstrate how the Canadian charity exercises control and direction over its own resources and activities for a particular project or projects carried out by an agent. Among other things, an Agency Agreement should include:

  • the obligations of the agent to the charity;
  • a funding schedule and the reporting obligations of the agent;
  • the conditions of the charity’s involvement;
  • the funds that will be made available;
  • the activities the agent is to carry out on behalf of the charity.

Questions & Answers:

Q: Must a registered charity in Canada only be allowed to make donations to another registered charity with the Charities Directorate, otherwise known also as “qualified donees”?

A: Yes, donations can only be donated to another registered charity within Canada, otherwise known as “qualified donees”. The Charities Directorate search engine provides an online access website to search out if a registered charity is indeed registered with the Charities Directorate and if the registered charity is still an active entity or if its charitable status has been revoked, because of past offences. The search engine is here: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/charities-listings.html

Q: Can a registered charity then support overseas mission work of another organization, that is not registered with the Charities Directorate in Canada?

A: No, such financial support is deemed unlawful for the registered charity in Canada, if the donations are sent to “non-qualified donees”.

Q: How does the registered charity mitigate in such a case when there is activity involved with a non-qualified donee?

A: In such a case, the registered charity can deploy its own staff to work on the grounds in the mission field in discussion or an intermediary can be established, commonly known as a third-party arrangement. The establishment of an intermediary will require a signed Agency Agreement with the mission agency directly working overseas.

Q: Can an Agency Agreement be used to deal with a “non-qualified donee” in Canada?

A: Yes, it is possible to establish an intermediary with the organization in Canada by using the proper Agency Agreement, under special circumstances. It is recommended that the registered charity must review such arrangements in greater details to abide with the written rules of the ITA in this case.

We will examine the technical requirements of an Agency Agreement in next month’s issue of the Treasurer’s Corner.


This article was published in the May 2018 edition of Treasurer’s Corner. To subscribe, click here.