Are Dual Signatures Required for my Church?

church banking

Are Dual Signatures Required for my Church?

This is a question we run into quite often.

If not as a question, we have churches all the time telling us that they have dual signatures required on their checks.

While I understand that dual signatures may provide the appearance of security, I’d contend that it does very little to protect your church’s money.

I’ve been around several organizations myself and even served as treasurer of a few.  In those, we required dual signatures on the checks and at the surface, it seemed fine.  The problem was, dual signatures often caused more issues than they solved.

Now, I’m not trying to do away or say that you don’t need to have dual signatures on your checks.  I’m not even saying that it’s a completely bad idea.  However I could contend that with modern digital banking, online bill-pay and e-commerce, the days of requiring dual signatures are dwindling.

For most churches, dual signatures are setup only because that’s the way its presumably always been done.  Nothing requires dual signatures inherently just because it’s a church.  That is usually a requirement that gets put in the church’s Bi-Laws and that is usually only because “everyone else does it”.

Requiring dual signatures on checks can be a hinderance to your ministry.

Dual Signatures Can Be Problematic. Here’s Why:

1. I have never seen a dual signor say no

Usually, I see dual signatures as more of a formality to give the appearance of security.  In most cases, when a check requires dual signatures, the second signor barely gives a look even to the amount of the check they are signing.

2. Banks often overlook signatures

Most banks are going through checks so quickly that catching a check that doesn’t have dual signatures is often missed.  I’ve seen several checks clear the bank even when dual signatures were required.

3. Dual Signatures creates unnecessary bottlenecks

Often, when dual signatures are required, waiting for the second person to sign can slow things down for no reason.

Again, my intent

Growing Your Church Staff: Should You Hire or Rely on Volunteers?

Small Churches With Big Vision Can Have Big Impact.

But it takes more than one person to bring that vision to life.

Perhaps you are a visionary pastor. Your greatest desire is to see more lives changed by the power of the gospel. You went into ministry because you had a God-given calling and a passion for people. You have a vision to see God use your church to accomplish His mission. But there is only so much you can do alone.

Too many pastors and church planters try to save money by trying to do everything themselves. But it’s too much. And it’s not the most effective way to accomplish the vision. And in the end it can end up costing you more time, money, and diminishing your impact.

Big impact can only happen when a strong team is in place to execute the vision. And the challenge for pastors is figuring out how to build that team.

Should Your Church Staff be Made Up of Volunteers or Employees?

Perhaps the scenario we see most often in small and growing churches is the all-volunteer church staff. If you are in the early stages of planting a church, you simply may not have the funds to hire any help. In this case, you must rely on a team of volunteers to make things happen. This is sustainable for a season.

But eventually there will come a point where the current level of growth, effort and impact of your church will not sustainable through the efforts of volunteers alone. Either you, and/or your volunteer team will burn out. And the last thing your church needs is for you to get burned out and quit the ministry. We’ve seen this happen way too many times. 

Before you ever reach this point, you and your leadership team need to think hard about what type of church you want to be and the long-term investment that will be required to accomplish the vision of the church. You will need to determine what kind of church you want to be, and which leadership structure is right for your church.

But before we dig into the details of how to build your church staff, we need to address a common misnomer.

Cheap Doesn’t Equal Stewardship

It can be tempting to continue to rely on a team of volunteers to execute the mission of the church. After all, this feels familiar and it is obviously the cheapest option. Isn’t cheap the same thing as good stewardship?

Absolutely not. I’m not sure where these two ideas got intertwined. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t guarantee that it is the most cost-effective, valuable or the right choice for long-term sustainability and health. Cheap doesn’t always equal good stewardship. 

Building an All-Volunteer Staff

While volunteers are a vital part of the functioning of every church organization, there are some challenges that come with relying solely on volunteers to accomplish key ministry tasks:

  • Your volunteer may be willing, but not in the right position. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories about volunteers who were very willing to serve in a role, yet they were not suited or qualified for the given role. What’s more, the under-qualified individual may prevent the right individual from serving where they are most gifted.  

    This can lead to an uncomfortable situation if the volunteer needs to be removed from the role. Often pastors will avoid this confrontation and just work around the situation. This creates more work for everyone involved and is not healthy for the entire organization.

  • Volunteer responsibilities need to be managed differently. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has specific guidelines regarding the differences between employees and volunteers. While the guidelines for non-profit organizations can be interpreted broadly, this is something to keep in mind. Essentially the more say you have in what and how a person performs specific tasks, the more likely they are to be seen as an employee in the eyes of the law.
  • You are relying on their time commitment. Often, the volunteer’s schedule will dictate when things can get done. It is easy for the needs of the church to get put on the back burner. Things that are critical to ministry growth and success might not get done.

The biggest challenge to the all-volunteer staff approach is that the impact potential of the church gets limited. While we have seen a few churches sustain health and growth with only a team of volunteers, most churches eventually plateau (or begin to decline) unless they choose to invest in church staff. 

Is it Time to Hire or Outsource?

A great first step to increasing the impact of your church is to hire part-time help or outsource time-consuming tasks.

Think through how you currently spend the hours in your week. According to the Harvard Business Review, you can free up to 20% of your day by either eliminating or delegating unimportant and time-consuming tasks. What kind of impact could your church have when you are able to focus more on the mission and less on the administrative details?

Some of the most common tasks to outsource include:

What Happens Next?

We can’t tell you specifically what role you should hire for first and what you should prioritize because this is unique to each church. It depends on the specific giftings and weaknesses of the lead pastor, along with the vision and goals of the church. But here are some of the most common church staff roles that help churches make big impact:

  • Associate Pastor and/or Executive Pastor
  • Children’s Minister
  • Student Pastor
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Groups/Equipping Coordinator
  • Worship Pastor
  • Missions/Outreach Coordinator

We recommend sitting down with your core leadership team to dream together about the vision of your church and then sketch out a strategic plan and timelines to bring on paid support to help accomplish this vision. This will not happen overnight, but through setting goals, making informed decisions based on accurate numbers, prayerfully pursuing the vision God has given your church, and building a healthy leadership team, you will move towards big impact much more quickly.

Are you a small church who wants to have big impact? Give us a call so we can chat about how we can partner with you to grow your reach and impact. 

Before You Hire Your First Church Staff Member…Do This

If you are the pastor of a small church, you probably already know that there is a limit to what one staff member can accomplish for a church (at least without eventually burning out).

You’ve realized that there is a finite amount of time, but more tasks that need to be accomplished than can fit into that finite amount of time. Eventually there will come a point – if it hasn’t already – where you will need to consider whether to bring on additional help.

Many small churches and church plants will first try to make do with volunteer staff, but there are additional challenges that come with relying on volunteer staff for key ministry functions.

If you truly want to be a church that flourishes and experiences long-term health and impact, you will at some point need to invest in paid help. But before you bring on an additional paid staff member, there are a few things you need to consider:

1. Make sure you hire a church staff member for the right reasons  

Hiring that first employee is something that needs to be done with some forethought.

I’ve met several pastors that hired their first employee and in hindsight realized they did it for the wrong reasons. Yes, there probably was more work than one person could handle, but their motivation for hiring someone was really the belief that hiring an employee would mean that the church plant had somehow now “made it”.

In reality, when not done right, hiring that first employee can actually be a detriment to the church. After all, there are a whole new set of responsibilities and requirements that need to be considered once your church is designated an employer (more on this in a moment).

2. Make sure you hire the right church staff person for the right role

I’m sure you already know this, but never hire someone simply because you are desperate, and they are available. Conversely, don’t hire someone just because they are a good friend or a “good person”.

In the words of Jim Collins, “Leaders of companies that go from good to great start with getting the right people on the bus…and the right people in the right seats.”

The same is true for your church. If someone is not the right fit for the church or for a specific position, it can cause a great deal of harm. Before you hire someone, first think through the needs of the church. Then consider your responsibilities, giftings and skillset. Ask yourself:

  • What is currently missing/lacking?
  • What responsibilities should I offload?
  • Could I effectively solve these problem areas with volunteer help or by outsourcing? Or should I bring someone on in a paid capacity?
  • What are my areas of weakness and how could an additional staff person offset this?

If you determine that your church would be best served by an additional paid staff person, consider what characteristics would complement your gifts and personality traits. For example, if you are a visionary/dreamer, consider bringing on someone who is more detailed-oriented and gifted at turning dreams into executable plans.

3. Recognize that you will now also be a boss

Chances are you went into ministry because your life was changed by the gospel. You expected that life in ministry would involve preaching the word, discipling and encouraging others in their faith, and spreading the message of Jesus with your community.

My guess is that you didn’t go into ministry with the expectation that you would be operating the equivalent of a small business. And yet, as a church grows, the administrative responsibilities increase as well. Being a lead pastor involves not just shepherding people, but also leading the organization. When you hire additional staff, you become both a pastor and a boss.

In some cases, pastors specifically hire someone to oversee all the administrative areas of the church. They assume that by hiring an executive pastor, they will be able to solely focus on ministry.

However, as the lead pastor, you need to be aware of the health of your organization. Even if you aren’t managing the day-to-day details, you still need to have a pulse on how the organization is doing. And you are still ultimately the person that sets the vision for your church and that all other staff members answer to.

Besides, as a non-profit organization, there will ultimately be one person the IRS or state and local government looks to as the “manager” of the organization. As much as many lead pastors try to say they’ve delegated this role to someone else, at the end of the day it falls on them.

My encouragement to you is to not let this new role scare you. View it as an opportunity to grow in your skills as a leader and a disciple-maker.

4. Learn to lead your church staff team well

Even if you hire the right person for the right role, it does not guarantee ministry health and success. You will need to grow in how you lead and communicate with your team.

The moment you hire someone else, the structure of the organization changes. How you operate, make decisions and structure your day will need to change.

You will need to provide your staff members with consistent, intentional communication. This goes beyond just talking about job responsibilities and assigning tasks, but an ongoing dialogue that includes expectations and feedback.

Church staff check-ins

Set up a time to have a routine, intentional chat with each of your employees. In our company, I push to have a weekly “check-in” chat with every employee. Usually it only lasts 10-20 minutes, but these chats allow me to maintain the pulse of our organization. I get to know what’s going on personally with each person, while also keeping a handle on their workload and how they are doing. 

Church staff performance reviews

Secondly, you should have routine performance reviews. This is an area where many churches see problems arise. Let me describe a common scenario:

You hire a new staff member who excels at their job. Because they are a go-getter, as time goes on, they take on many additional responsibilities. As a boss, you are excited because it keeps more tasks off your plate.

Months go on and, because the work just keeps getting done, you never take the time to revisit the scope of responsibilities or hold a job performance review with the person.

Sounds great right?

It is. Until there is a problem.

I’ve seen things go poorly for churches in this situation several times. Either the staff member eventually burns out, or they begin to lead people toward a different vision. Instead of moving towards a united church vision under the leadership of the senior pastor, they end up sowing seeds of discord because the pastor and staff member are no longer on the same page.

Without consistent feedback, vision casting and dialogue with you, your staff members will eventually develop their own vision of where they think things need to go.

To grow a healthy church, you need a healthy leadership team pursuing the same goals. And a healthy team begins with how you lead your team.

5. Understand any new legal requirements and filings your church may be responsible for now that you have a church staff

In most, if not every situation, you as pastor are a “dual-status” employee. This means that you are considered a church employee for federal withholdings; but considered self-employed for SECA (Social Security and Medicare) withholdings.

Since you are already on the payroll, your church should already be filing proper documentation with state and federal authorities. However, if your church has not yet set up proper documentation because you’re the only person on staff, you will need to make sure you take care of all legal obligations before bringing on any additional staff members.

At a minimum, you should be submitting monthly or quarterly forms that detail payroll information for all paid staff members. This requirement starts the day your church begins compensating a person in an employment relationship.

NOTE: Before we move on, please know that it is NOT OKAY to circumvent filing payroll by paying someone as an independent contractor. The IRS has very clear guidelines and a person must meet specific criteria to qualify getting paid in this manner. Many churches mess up in this area of payroll. We don’t want you to get flagged by the IRS for mishandling payroll. 

Conclusion

We believe that churches are healthier and more effective when they have a strong leadership team. And a strong leadership team is made possible when your church is able to hire additional staff. 

If you’re concerned about managing the records and legal requirements as an employer, consider using our Simplify Payroll system. We’ll take care of all your filings and paperwork, so you never have to worry about doing it wrong. Our goal is to break down all the barriers that prevent pastors and churches from thriving. 

Bringing on staff members is an entirely new level of ministry that needs to be handled with forethought and planning. But when done well, hiring that next staff member will enable your church to impact more lives, while keeping you from burning yourself and your family out.


Finding Peace in the Pandemic

finding peace in leading in chaos

From time to time we ask a fellow pastor in the Oasis pastor support network to share a word of encouragement. Today’s post comes from Shayne Robinson, pastor of Redeemer Church Waterloo.

If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot.”

John Bunyan

I assume that we have found similar experiences pastoring through this Covid-19 season.

My heart has fluctuated from hope and anticipation for the future, to crushing uncertainty with discouraging rapidity. A heavy mix of emotions and weight stand on the shoulders of every decision. The lack or conflicting nature of information mix with my personality, struggles, and a healthy dose of input from every direction, and leave me feeling like I’ve just been choked out in an MMA bout… laying on the mat with my head spinning, gasping for oxygen, and looking for my opponent so I can rejoin the battle.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m the only one looking for a little peace in this pandemic ministry.

Finding peace in pandemic ministry

We have this tendency to buy into a concept that peace is the absence of war. We tend to think that if the war would just end there would be peace.

That’s simply untrue and we know it. We know there is something working far more insidiously against our peace than simply the outward circumstances of life, even if those circumstances include a pandemic.

No, the heart of the struggle is not the war but something which manifests itself emotionally as worry and anxiety, and physically as fight or flight. The heart of our struggle is fear and unbelief.

Two passages help us gain a better view of the peace we’ve been extended in Christ. The first, Matthew 6:25-34, deals with those things which affect our peace in the immediate sphere of everyday life; such as food, shelter, and time.

The second, Matthew 10:16-28, deals with wolves, betrayal, answering before rulers, persecution, and even death. I encourage you to go and look at these texts. Note which things threaten your peace and consider the peace that is offered in Jesus’ words.

We find a profoundly helpful framework in these texts and it revolves around this question: How does the Spirit of God work peace when our heart wants to buckle?

Here are three brief observations from Jesus’ words:

  • Peace is found in the knowledge of God’s character and nature
  • Peace grows as we apply that knowledge to the promises we find in scripture
  • Peace strengthens as we remember His greater purposes and work in this world

How are you doing, fellow pastor?

  • Is your lack of peace because you’ve been so busy living off of old knowledge of God?
  • When was the last time you spent time in the Word experiencing wonder at God?
  • Are you drowning in anxiety and frustration because you’ve not considered the promises of God?
  • Have you neglected looking to God’s purposes in light of who He is and what He has promised?

God’s peace is available both to you and the sheep you shepherd, regardless of season or circumstance.

I won’t pretend to have some mystically clear answer for what God is doing in this season, but I know He is at work. I cannot counsel on how and what to do for the church and people God has entrusted to your care. Yet, I do know that peace is a fruit of the Spirit which God has promised to work in the heart and life of everyone He has redeemed. It is available both to you and the sheep you shepherd, regardless of the circumstance or season.

I’ll leave you with a quote and my great hope that you would look to Christ and find peace in the midst of the remarkably valuable work God has called you to in this season. Grace and peace to you in Christ.

The fountain of Christ’s peace is everlasting; it is what no time, no change can destroy. It will remain when the body dies; it will remain when the mountains depart and the hills shall be removed, and when the heaven shall be rolled together as a scroll. The fountain of His comfort shall never be diminished, and the stream shall never be dried. His comfort and joy is a living spring in the soul, a well of water springing up to everlasting life.”

Jonathan Edwards

4 Keys to Manage Your Church Budget in a Crisis

church budget planning

One of these two things are true.  
 
You’ve seen a shift in your giving amounts over the last few weeks. You haven’t seen a shift in your giving amounts, but you need a plan for the potential economic recession that is coming. 

The fact is that the unemployment rate across the country is at an all-time high. A huge percentage of businesses, business owners and employees have been affected by this pandemic and we will see how those numbers play out for the economy over the next several months. This is why – regardless of what giving at your church looks like today – you need to have a plan for how you will handle a potential financial impact to your church.  
 
Here are four keys to help you analyze and manage your budget in a time of crisis:  

Have a good understanding of what your numbers look like 

With any roadmap, unless you have a good understanding of where you’re currently at, you’ll have a really hard time coming up with a route that gets you to your destination. The same is true for your church budget.

In order to make smart budget decisions, you really need to have a good understanding of your current situation. This includes knowing your current numbers, trends and balances.  If you don’t know your financial numbers, you really don’t know your church. 

 Yes, I will admit that there are some guys that focus too much on numbers and completely miss their mission. But what we see more often is the reverse – pastors that have lots of big ideas and passion, but just guess when it comes to church finances.

Without keeping a pulse on the financial health of your church, there is no way to make wise financial decisions, plan for the future, or determine how and where you can actually save the church money. Knowing your numbers is simply good stewardship.  

What does this look like practically?  

If you’re a Simplify Church Bookkeeping partner, this part is easy. Just by looking at the monthly reports we send you, you should have a good handle on how your church is doing financially. Additionally, your account manager is available to provide you more detailed information, answer questions and alert you to potential problem areas. We can also generate year-to-date (YTD) reports to help you better understand the story your numbers are telling. Using this service can save you lots of valuable time and effort!

Okay, but what if you’re trying to manage things yourself? Well the most important report you need to analyze is your Statement of Accounts (Profit and Loss) Report. This will show you in detail what you took in last month and what you spent.  Some financial software solutions also offer the ability to match those numbers against your budget, so you can see how that your actual expenses are trending against your budgeted plan. 

You will want to review these reports for the last couple months, as well as look at your YTD trend. If you budget on a calendar year, you can look at the amounts from your first quarter as well. Obviously a lot has changed in the past several weeks as far as giving and income goes, but you want to understand what your expenses and income looked like before the crisis, so you can begin tracking any changes to that trend. Ask yourself, “What story are these numbers trying to tell me?

Analyze your critical expenses  

There is a very real chance that giving and income will go down for your church, either now or in the coming months. The good news is that without meeting physically, there are quite a few operational costs that should go down as well.  

Renters: If your meeting space is no longer open to public gatherings, you may be able to save on some rent expenses. Contact your landlord to discuss your options. 

Property Owners: If you own your building, you can keep the thermostat down and not heat or cool the worship center. 

Maybe you provide snacks, donuts and coffee during Sunday morning worship. While probably not a huge expense line in your budget, this is one place you can save a few dollars when cash flow gets tight. 

Go through your expenses line-by-line and see what you do not need or any expenses/services that can easily be cut out. Perhaps you have some subscriptions to a service that you aren’t really using. 

This is the time to determine which church budget expenses are critical and which ones are nice-to-haves. Understanding your critical expenses will help you analyze where savings can be found in your church budget. 

Things like payroll, insurance, and other fixed ministry costs will be much more difficult to cut during this time. If you haven’t already applied for the Payroll Protection Program to help offset payroll costs, watch this video to see if this might be a good option for your church.  (Yes, I know the funding ran out…but more funding will hopefully be available soon).

Pro Tip: if you own and have a mortgage on your building talk to your bank. They may have options available to you to help offset your payment during difficult times. Many banks offer interest only payments to churches during slow giving times.  Remember, you never know until you ask. 

Call your congregation to generosity 

Talking about generosity is one of those areas many pastors shy away from. Now is not the time to neglect talking about generosity. In fact, it is a disservice to both your people and your organization if you don’t talk about generosity in this season.  
 
It is much easier for us all to prioritize giving in seasons of abundance. Prioritizing giving to God in seasons of uncertainty and turmoil requires more faith and trust, but often leads to more opportunities to experience God’s faithfulness along with greater freedom and joy.  

Remind people each week how they can give – via online giving, text to give, or by mailing a payment to your church. You can also make it easy for people to drop off payments if you don’t have online giving options. Let people know that you have setup a convenient drop box to drop off their tithe payments.   

If you haven’t yet set up online giving at your church, now is the time to get started. And once people set up recurring giving, it makes it simple for them to continue to give generously (and it makes it much easier to predict your monthly income). Setting up online giving is quick and easy to do, especially if you use a system like Simplify Give. 

Beyond explaining the various ways to give, part of the discussion needs to be a reminder of why giving is crucial to the church, especially during a time when you’re not meeting together corporately. Explain how the funds are being used and how the church still is able to continue to function and to meet tangible needs through the generous donations of members.  

For a more in-depth discussion of this topic, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on How to Talk About Giving & Create a Culture of Generosity in your church. You can access your FREE copy here. 

Prepare a church emergency budget 

Once you’ve analyzed your numbers and you know where things are at, it’s time to put together an emergency or contingency budget that will help you navigate through the next few months.   

  • What purchases were you planning to make in the next few months? Can any of those be delayed? 
  • Which expenses will help you move your church forward during this digital season?  
  • Which expenses are not serving your church right now? 

As you evaluate your expenses, think through you church vision/mission and strategic goals. Which expenses will help your church continue to grow? Which items fund your growth engines? Do you need to reevaluate any of your growth engines or goals?  

If you’re not sure why I’m bringing up the topic of growth engines and goals, check out this post on the seven “deadly sins” of church budgeting (and what to do about them) or this post on church budgeting 101.  

Now put your emergency budget together.  This is your financial plan to help your church not only survive this crisis, but to be ready for what comes next. You may never experience a dip in giving, but now you have a plan in place. As I’ve said many times, a budget is just a plan. But it’s an important one.  
 
It is fear of the unknown and uncertainty that breeds stress. When you put a plan in place, you relieve stress and better position yourself and your church to ministry to people during this very uncertain time.  

Look to the future 

In this season, many people are feeling confused and afraid. What better way for the church to show up than as people who are not operating out of fear, but out of faith and as good stewards of the resources God has given them. When your church has a solid financial foundation, you can focus your time and energy on being a light and a beacon of hope in this season.  

Not only that, you can position your church for whatever comes next. We don’t know when this season will end. What we do know is that once the guidelines on social distancing relax, there will be great need, but also an open door of opportunity. Will you be a church prepared to lead and serve and love through recovery and revitalization? Or will your church be focused on recovery yourself?  

Here’s another question: Do you want to figure this all out on your own? Or do you want to partner with a team of church financial experts to help you manage your church finances and plan for the days ahead?  

Our done-for-you payroll, bookkeeping and online giving services will take the financial burden off your shoulders and give you peace of mind. If you’re not confident in your numbers or you’re wasting valuable time trying to figure it all out, schedule you free consultation call today.  

Because this is also true: Taking time to make wise strategic and financial decisions now will help you navigate the days, weeks and months to come.  

How to Help Your Church Go Digital, Part 2

Congratulations! For many of you, you made it through your first week of doing church online!

It took some creativity and ingenuity, but you made it happen. And that’s something worth celebrating.

So my guess is your thinking, “What now?”

Many states and localities have now issued “shelter in place” orders, so you and your staff and volunteers are probably trying to navigate working from home. 

Are there best practices for church leaders seeking to work remotely? How do you stay connected? How do you collaborate? Manage projects? Communicate? 

Here are Simplify Church, we’ve been working as a remote team for more than a decade now. We partner with churches all over the country to provide financial management services, so it just made sense to allow our team of Simplify Account Managers to work remotely as well. The convenience and flexibility of this set up has truly served both our company and our employees, and I believe it has great potential for your church as well.

With this in mind, here are a few tips, ideas and best practices to help you navigate the next several weeks of working remotely with your ministry staff and leaders. 

KEEP YOUR STAFF AND LEADERS CONNECTED

Overnight, we’ve all gone to a virtual environment. Last week you may have chosen to cancel your staff meeting or your elders meeting or your Sunday planning meeting.

While this is okay for a week or two, it’s not a sustainable way to keep an organization connected. You still need to be in regular contact with those on your church leadership. You can do this via:

Slack – This free messaging service is a very popular way to communicate virtually via instant messaging and group chats. Instead of an email inbox, you have direct conversations with others in dedicated spaces called channels. Pro tip: organize chat channels into broad categories to keep the discussions relevant. 

Zoom – After using several tools and testing them out over the years we’ve landed on Zoom as our app of choice for video calls with those outside our organization Zoom makes the process simple and easy to setup a new call, invite others and collaborate together in a virtual meeting. Zoom offers a free option with time limitations or a simple single user price for $14.99/month.  Single user just means that you have one login. So long as that one individual can schedule the calls (even for others), then that option is viable for a church.

Microsoft Teams – If you already have Office 365, you have access to Microsoft’s chat and video conference tools via Microsoft Teams. In fact, here at Simplify Church, we recently made the switch from Slack to Teams for our internal communication, primarily for the ease of use of Teams Meetings. This system is very simple to use, but if you don’t already have Office 365, it’s probably not worth the subscription in lieu of using Zoom. 

GoToMeeting – A great tool, but not as easy-to-use as Zoom. They offer a similar service to other video conference options. Admittedly, I have not looked into their system after transitioning to Zoom from the simplicity they provide. 

Google Hangouts – If you’re a Google Apps user, then you have access to Google Hangouts. This is a viable option even without the Google Apps setup so long as all users have a Google ID (anyone can set up a google email address for free) and use that to login. Note: there is a bit of a learning curve for this option. 

Email – While I would absolutely recommend you incorporate one on the above tools, in the short term you can stay connected via email. You will just need to remember that it is important to err on the side of over-communicating rather than to under-communicate and risk miscommunication.

KEEP YOUR CONGREGATION CONNECTED

I was listening to a podcast targeted to small business owners the other day. But as soon as I heard this suggestion, I knew it was just as applicable to churches.

The podcast host made the statement: “The businesses that survive this pandemic will be the ones that find a way to stay connected to their audience.”

Now, replace business with the word church.  

This is exactly what will set apart the churches that come out of this crisis stronger from the ones that will end up closing their doors.

Yes, it will take creativity and ingenuity, but one of the best things you can do for your church is lean into this new era of digital connection.

You must find a way to keep your congregation connected. An easy way to do this is to encourage all of your small groups to continue meeting virtually via Zoom, or apps like WhatsApp or GroupMe. 

Stay tuned. We’ll be sharing some more ideas for creatively connecting with your congregation in the weeks to come!

HELP FACILITATE YOUR STAFF WORKING FROM HOME

Let me first address a common concern/myth I hear from those resistant to virtual workplaces. It’s the myth that given the opportunity to work from home, people won’t actually work. 

In over a decade of working with staff remotely I have found the opposite to be true. In fact, often remote staff work MORE than they’re supposed to (which is why it’s important to encourage your team to develop healthy work/life boundaries). 

To be fair, there have been a few instances where an employee took advantage of the situation. But I’ll be the first to admit that it was a hiring issue, rather than a virtual employment issue. I simply hired the wrong individual and they took advantage of the flexibility we offered. 

Working from home is not the issue; it is how we lead and facilitate a remote team that makes the difference. 

Communication

The best piece of advice I can give is to maintain intentional communication with your remote staff and team members. Being intentional means that you reach out to them periodically. Check in and see how things are going. Communicate with them even more frequently than you normally would in an office environment.  

Set up consistent video calls with the team. These calls may be project-related, or they may simply be a chance for people to connect with one another. It’s all about keeping people connected in this new reality, when they may not be used to working from home. 

Pro Tip: If you’re going to use a system like Slack or Teams, you can set up a “check in” channel so that people can let everyone know when they are available or stepping out. I'd also recommend setting up a “virtual water cooler” channel to give people a place for non-work-related discussions. This helps foster community, collaboration and helps people feel like it’s more than just a place for transactional discussions.  

While I’m sharing suggestions that we’ve learned from years of remote work, it is also important to keep in mind that this season is anything but ordinary. Many on your team will be home with children, since most schools are cancelled.

A virtual chat offers an outlet from that 5th episode of Wild Kratts playing in in the background. Also understand that your team members may be less productive and need additional flexibility and grace as they seek to both accomplish necessary tasks and teach/care for children. 

P. S. As the leader, your staff and volunteer leaders are looking to you for guidance and direction. In times of stress and uncertainty, it can be helpful to have a person or a group to process with. You also have the opportunity on calls with your team to help them navigate the days ahead and be the voice reminding them that our security is found in Christ alone! 

Tools

Beyond simple communication, you’ll need to find a system that works for your organization to manage projects and collaborate with team members. Here are some options:

Project, Task Management 

Trello – basically an online dashboard of post-it notes. You can share your Trello board with others and track project progress as you move cards along the lists that you have pre-defined. This is a very helpful tool for managing projects and other needs for your staff. 

Asana – Free online project management software. Asana is a bit more robust than Trello in that it already has some pre-defined ways of doing things. You can setup projects, invite people, track progress and to-dos and set deadlines.   

Basecamp – a paid online project management tool, but at a nominal cost. Basecamp is great as the company itself has written several books about the concept of remote work. If you’re looking for some resources or tips, they have written extensively about it. Here is a piece they wrote about internal communication for remote workers. 

Online Collaboration 

Most of the project management tools listed above will have some cloud storage and collaboration systems built-in, but here are a few other options to help your team share files: 

One Drive – Part of Office 365, OneDrive allows you to share documents and work collaboratively on them. The benefit for many churches is to always have one version of the document so you can be sure you’re always working on the latest draft.  

Google Drive – very similar to One Drive except using Google’s infrastructure. 

Evernote – this is a little less robust from the features of Word or Docs, but still gives a method for cloud storage and collaboration. 

Dropbox, Box – both options are a cloud storage system.  These are great for times when you need to access a file from multiple locations. Neither of these system have online collaboration features, however, so you’d need to use Office 365, Word or Google Docs/Sheets to collaborate.  

REMEMBER THAT SPIRITUAL CONNECTION IS POSSIBLE, EVEN WHEN PHYSICAL CONNECTION IS NOT

Right now as a church leader, you should be encouraging your staff and congregation to stay home and help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.

But as you do that, you may feel a sense of confusion or loss. The Church has always been about connection, community and reaching out to meet needs. What should the Church look like in this season? 

The good news is that this crisis is simply a reminder that the Church was never about a building; it was and always will be a movement of people. The even better news is that God is not at all limited by our physical distancing. 

A pastor in our Oasis pastor networking group shared recently that he was able to lead a member of his church to Christ over a Zoom call last week. The mission and the message of Jesus and the movement of his Church continues, regardless of what workspace we use or how we gather together. Isn’t that a wonderful thought! 

I’d love to hear how your church is navigating the move to collaborating remotely. If you have any questions or we can help your church out in any way, drop me a line Josh@simplifychurch.com

5 Helpful Responses to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) For Your Church

In the last 48 hours, the feelings of many Americans about COVID-19 and the impact that it has on their personal lives has shifted dramatically.  

 Across the country, events and gathering spaces are closing in an unprecedented way. Schools are shutting their doors, churches are cancelling services and many Americans are being asked not to come in to work or to try to accomplish all their tasks from home (while simultaneously teaching and caring for their children).  

This can cause a lot of fear, anxiety and stress for many people, both inside and outside of the Church. Here are five actions your church can take to respond to this crisis in a healthy way.

1. Start With Prayer

Enough said.

2. Plan, Not Panic

We should absolutely take COVID-19 seriously. It does not do our churches any good to pretend that this virus will not impact all of our members in some way. A feeling of panic comes naturally to people. What is needed is not panic or a reactionary stance, but rather to prayerfully and thoughtfully make a plan for the ways it will impact our congregations. 

  • Is there a better way to encourage greeting one another that limits physical contact? 
  • What if your Sunday service does not meet?  
  • Should you gather in smaller groups? 
  • Do you have a way to digitally stream your Sunday service? 
  • Should your small groups still meet?  
  • Should your youth or children’s programming be altered in some way?  

What is right for one church, may not be right for another. This is why approaching all of these questions with an attitude of prayer and seeking the Lord’s guidance is so important. People want to know that those in leadership are trustworthy and are making wise decisions. By being proactive and communicating your plans and actions, you continue to build that relationship of trust and help prevent people from moving to a sense of panic.  

3. Encourage Generosity

Our response should not be to hoard resources, but to consider those around us. Encourage those in your congregation to continue to give and live generous lives. Encourage people to continue to give to your church as well. 

As a church leader you may be concerned about the financial impact to your church. 

If you need to forgo meeting together on a Sunday morning, do you have a way that people can still fund the mission of your church? Make sure that you have digital giving options for your members AND make sure they know how to do it. If someone regularly gives on Sunday morning, they may need a simple tutorial of how to set up online giving. 

This is also an opportunity to encourage your regular givers to set up recurring giving if they aren’t already doing so.   

4. Promote Being a Good Neighbor

In this season, there are many people that are feeling even more fearful, stressed, isolated and confused. Many will face significant financial stress and it seems all of us will face a shortage of toilet paper.🤷‍♂️

Encourage those in your congregation to be a light and a good neighbor to those around them. It is about being intentional with our words and actions. Have groceries delivered to a friend in need. Call/text friends and family to check in on them. Be intentional about meeting needs and looking for opportunities to share the hope we have in Jesus Christ.  

5. Spread Faith, Not Fear

God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).  

During trying times and events that affect our nation as a whole, people tend to lean into anything that can give them a sense of peace and security. It is our responsibility and opportunity as Christians to be open and available. We can show how our faith prepares us to handle uncertainty, knowing that God is in control and has a plan for us even when we don’t see it. 

Be confident, be strong and courageous and be available to minister through this time. This is a huge opportunity to offer hope and to “care for the least of these.” 

Every church will have to take measures to deal with this unprecedented time according to their own best judgment and the advice of the local authorities.  The church can be a beacon of hope during this time so keep your eyes open to opportunities that may exist to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  

2019 W-2’s Are Ready!

To access your W2 for 2019 use the instructions below.

The W2s are posted both to the administrator login as well as to the employees’ individual logins. Here is where you can find the W2s in DNet:

If you are receiving this email, your organization’s 2019 W2s have been uploaded to our DNet Portal. The W2s are posted both to the administrator login as well as to the employees’ individual logins. Here is where you can find the W2s in DNet: https://d21.darwinet.com/550D2/

For Employees:

After logging in, in the left hand menu, click on Payroll -> Payroll Info -> W-2 /1095

This screenshot is from a test system, so no W2 has loaded, but your employees will see a line item listed for 2019 with an Adobe PDF icon that they can click on to view, download or print their own W2.

For Administrators:

Administrative users can access each employee’s W2 by browsing to Employees -> List. Then, choose an employee, and click on Summary ->W2/1095-C

Again, this is test data, but when you click on W2/105-C it will open the same screen that the employee sees above, where you can click on the Adobe PDF icon to view, download or print the W2.

You will need to print and distribute the W2s for any inactive employee or employees who do not have access to the DNet employee portal by January 31.

Please let your Account Manager know if you have any questions.

2019 Year End Information

As we work to complete 2019 for your church there are a few items that you’ll need to consider. Your Account Manager will be in touch with you as well to help finalize items.

Contributions

Shuree, our contributions manager has sent out a few emails detailing the process of what we can provide to you as far as sending out your contribution statements that are managed through the portal.

We provide three simple options to deliver your statments.
Email: The portal can send the statements as an email attachment to your donors.
In-House Printed Delivery: You can print and distribute those statements from the portal in-house.
Done For Your Mailing: We can send the statements on your behalf to the donors. We’ll print the statement, a basic color pastor’s letter (No photos), and stuff, stamp and send to your donor. We charge $1.00/statement for this service.

Just let Shuree: shuree@simplifychurch.com know if you’d like us to handle that process for you.

1099-Misc for Independent Contractors

Your account manager can provide you a list of payees who have received over $600 in non-reimbursement payments for the year so you can verify if any need a 1099. If they’ve already been identified through the portal then your Account Manager is aware, however, we’ll need an updated W-9 from each person with their information. You may download the IRS W-9 form here and please forward to your Account Manager.

Please notify us if you want us to process 1099-MISC forms on your behalf to those individuals. We charge $25/person for this service.

You can let your Account Manager know that you’d like us to process those for you.

Year End Reports

Let your Account Manager know if any year end reports that you’d like to have. We’ll be processing and delivering an Income and Expense Report, Balance Sheet and Budget Report in most cases but please let us know of anything additionally that you’d like to have.

Budgets?

If you’ve not already done so, please send your 2020 budget to your Account Manager. We’ll use that to update in Quickbooks and the Portal for you. If you have removed or added new line items, do us a favor and highlight those for your Account Manager.

Need help building a budget? We put together this Budget Builder Course to walk you through the process. Click here to see more about the Church Budget Builder Course.

Continued Partnership

Thanks for your continued partnership and allowing us to serve your church. If there’s ever anything we can do to make your life easier when it comes to bookkeeping and managing the finances, please let us know!

2019 Christmas Schedule

Merry Christmas from SimplifyChurch.

Our offices will be officially closed Wednesday, December 25, 2019. Our staff will be on limited availability for Thursday and Friday (Dec. 26 & 27), but will be available via email during those days.

Check requests received after 10:00 am CST on Tuesday December 24 will be processed as volume dictates. Should you have a check request that needs to be sent out for sure on the 26 or 27th, please make note in the memo field of the Portal Request so your Account Manager can process accordingly.

We’re so thankful for the partnership in ministry. Take some time this Christmas season to relax and remember that Jesus is the reason we work so hard to reach our communities.

Merry Christmas,

Josh and the SimplifyChurch Team