Church Executive, Digital Edition, September 2012

Page 1



hOW tO PreveNt






experienced church leaders say finding the right employees is probably not a job for the swift.


Develop a policy in the context of discipleship and full reconciliation.


the Ce iNterv ieW

By Ronald E. Keener

roy Gruber serves a multisite (three campuses) congregation of 1,800 people in a thriving evangelistic field – utah – where 49 percent of people within 20 miles of the church have no current involvement with faith of any kind.


Why a retail center could be a good investment for your congregation.


three churches find easy-to-use Web-based solutions to their room scheduling, facility management and online ticketing challenges.



By John Berardino

Some lenders want a say in how the church is managed and organized.




People want to know more about where their charitable contribution is going.

Parents and kids are hearing the same teaching at the same time.

By Jim Sheppard

By Ronald E. Keener




Church Executive (Copyright 2012), Volume 11, Issue 9. Church Executive is published monthly by Power Trade Media LLC, a subsidiary of Friendship Publications Inc., 4742 N. 24th Street, Ste. 340, Phoenix, AZ 85016. ™




Subscription Rates: United States and Mexico $39 (USD) one year, Canada $42 (USD) one year (GST) included, all other countries $75 one year, single issue United States $5 (USD), all other countries $6 (USD).


By Rez Gopez-Sindac

Reprints: All articles in Church Executive are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of the publisher. For reprints of 100 or more, contact Valerie Valtierra at (602) 265-7600, ext. 203.

38 Marketplace

30 4 | ChurCh exeCutive | 09/2012

Copyright 2012 by Power Trade Media, LLC. No advertisement or description or reference to a product or service will be Deemed as an endorsement, and no warranty is made or implied by Power Trade Media, LLC. Information is obtained from sources the editors believe reliable, accurate and timely, but no warranty is made or implied, and Power Trade Media, LLC is not responsible for errors or omissions. helping Leaders Become Better Stewards.

c h u rc h e xe c u t i ve . c o m









4742 North 24th Street, Suite 340 Phoenix, Az 85016 | 602.265.7600

Publisher/Editor in Chief Steve Kane, ext. 205 Editor ronald e. Keener, ext. 204 Executive Editor rez Gopez-Sindac Phone: 512.904.9007 Director of Sales Jennifer Owens ext. 202 Account Executives Julius tiritilli ext. 221 Maria Galioto ext. 201 Production Director valerie valtierra, ext. 203 Art Director renĂŠe hawkins, ext. 207 EDITORIAL ADVISORY PANEL Stephen Briggs

Associate Pastor of Administration First Baptist Church | hendersonville, NC

Denise Craig

Chief Financial Officer Abba’s house | hixson, tN

Mike Klockenbrink

Chief of Staff Lakeside Church | Folsom, CA

Dan Mikes

executive vice President Bank of the West | San ramon, CA

John C. Mrazek iii

CeO Building Better Churches | Colorado Springs, CO

Sam S. rainer iii

Senior Pastor First Baptist Church | Murray, KY

Mark Simmons

Business Manager Christ Community Church | Milpitas, CA

eric Spacek

Senior Manager GuideOne insurance | West Des Moines, iA

volume 11, No. 9


4742 North 24th Street, Suite 340 Phoenix, Az 85016 | 602.265.7600

Vice President Operations valerie valtierra Accountant Fred valdez


6 | ChurCh exeCutive | 09/2012


GooD ACCouNTING Dick Capin on church fraud: “The church’s misuse of resources breaks our hearts and impairs our message.” Accountability is God’s idea, not man’s, he says on memoir’s publication. Say “Church executive” and we hope you will think business. Say “CapinCrouse” and you will likely recall the public accounting firm that has served Christian congregations and ministries in fiscal and management matters over the years. the founder of that firm 40 years ago is Dick Capin, 88, who, looking back at church financial management, tells Church Executive: “While there has been significant progress in awareness about the need for accountability and financial integrity, and many churches are maintaining their operations within the highest standards and best practices, it is unfortunate that too often this awareness does not translate into sound policies and procedures that protect the church and the people involved from financial impropriety.” Capin urges churches to “be relentless and vigilant in their administration of the generous gifts of God’s people.” Dick Capin has released a memoir of his personal and business life titled Giving Account (as told to Bob Kelly of he has been engaged not only in

8 | ChurCh 8 | exeCutive ChurCh exeCutive | 09/2012| 09/2012

what the accounting profession calls “back-office work,” but also “up front” in organizations that have impacted the larger business sides of the faith. he was involved in the formation days of the evangelical Council for Financial Accountability and in expanding the breadth and depth of ministry support of the Christian Management Association (today the Christian Leadership Alliance). Now in “retirement” from the firm, Capin is consultant to leadership, staff and boards of the Billy Graham evangelical Association and Samaritan’s Purse — and “especially focused on identifying and responding to risks that could impact the ministry” of these groups. When Franklin Graham asked Dick and Jeanne to move to Charlotte to advise him on the operations of BGeA, the Capins were there within weeks, so strong was their desire to serve wherever they are called. Says one colleague, “the first question Dick asked was not what’s in it for me, or what’s the business reason to respond, but what is God doing and asking me to do?” that’s a key motivation for Dick Capin over the years, as he has looked to serve the church and Christ. Says Dan Busby, who heads up eCFA, “One of the key reasons i became associated with eCFA nearly 25 years ago is because of how God used Dick Capin.” Capin has been that sort of example and

mentor to many people. today the firm has 16 partners and more than 100 associates serving more than 1,000 not-for-profit organizations that include 300 churches, 100 international organizations, 70 employee benefit plans, and 60 colleges, universities and seminaries— making a huge impact for the faith. Says Capin: “Our prayer for every church is that it will be a beacon of light to needy souls just as the church was for Jeanne and me. the church was the source of our hearing the Word of God and receiving his abundant and eternal life by grace through personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” that’s a good accounting we can all strive for. Got a question or comment? email


19% 17%

visited website of a church they attend


Source: Grey Matter Research, May 2012

HOW ONLINE AMERICANS USE THE INTERNET FOR SPIRITUAL PURPOSES read religion-oriented blogs once a month or more

visited website of a church they are not attending

One out of 10 have “Liked” a church on Facebook or other social network site


follow a church on Twitter

WHY CHURCHES NEED FINANCIAL CONTROLS Gregory P. Loles, 53, Easton, CT, faces up to 14 years for stealing$2.1 million from St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church that was intended for scholarships and construction of a church gymnasium. Loles was a member of the church’s endowment fund board, which allowed him to divert funds intended for the gym and scholarships. One report said that Loles liked to race Porsches and spent $10 million financing his professional autoracing business. Charles and Adriane Gilford, who were pastor and first lady of Bethel

Institutional Missionary Baptist Church, Houston, TX, were indicted in June by a grand jury for allegedly gambling away nearly $430,000 in church funds. They are said to have spent the money at the Coushatta Casino near Lake Charles between 2004 and 2007 before leaving the congregation five years ago. Kimberly Ann Clark, 31, of Dickerson Run, PA, was charged with stealing more than $25,000 from a bank account of First Baptist church of Connellsville, PA, by electronically transferring funds to her credit card to pay per-

sonal debts. Patricia Ann Stanz, 61, of Toledo, OH, the former business manager for Gesu Parish, was charged with allegedly stealing more than $525,000 from the Catholic parish. She is accused of creating and signing 97 checks that she then cashed from the parish checking account. She is said to have used the money for gambling and personal expenses. Robert C. Drefs, 54, a volunteer bookkeeper who embezzled more than $50,000 from Messiah Lutheran Church, Elmburst, IL, was sentenced to three years in

prison in April. Drefs said he heard voices ordering him to steal money from the church whose books he was keeping. John Glenn Mertes, 40, of Burnsville, MN, a former youth minister at Mary, Mother of the Church, was accused of stealing $8,000; about 40 checks made out to the church were deposited into his own accounts over five months. Darlene A. Vodvarka, 57, admitted to embezzling $400,000 from St. Matthew Catholic Church in Milwaukee County, WI, having spent the money on herself and her family.

09/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 9



Lead Pastor | the heights Community | Ogden, ut

Roy Gruber serves a multisite (three campuses) congregation of 1,800 people in a thriving evangelistic field – Utah – where 49 percent of people within 20 miles of the church have no current involvement with faith of any kind. “My biggest underestimation in coming here was thinking that the LDS faith was merely a set of beliefs,” he says.

BY rONALD e. KeeNer

“it is that, but, even more so, it is a way of life, a culture. Mormonism exists as a way of life much like the Jewish faith includes culture and belief and it is difficult to separate one from the other,” Gruber, 48, says. You said that God is doing something special in Utah right now. In what ways? God is currently building his church in utah in ways never before seen here. evangelical churches in the Ogden area and the greater Salt Lake valley currently reach people with the Gospel like never before. utah exists as the “least reached” state in the country. Only 3 to 5 percent of people have put their trust in the Jesus of the Bible, but that sobering reality is changing. Churches used to exist with a survival mentality, seeking to maintain and not to lose numbers. today, a more missional approach of reaching out continues to grow. it’s not just one or two churches growing through conversion, but many churches of several different denominations. Do former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) move to evangelical churches? Many folks who grow up Mormons and leave their faith move into the growing group of those who have no contact with any church due to feeling “burned” by their experience. Many of those

SoMETHING SPECIAL IS HAPPENING IN uTAH Matt Roberts is lead pastor of The Genesis Project, a Church of God, Cleveland, TN, congregation in Ogden, UT. We as a congregation are especially sensitive to our community’s idea that religion comes with fine print. For this reason we go about evangelism by offering grace with no strings attached. This isn’t changing the Gospel, this is the Gospel. Jesus doesn’t require that we change in

10 | ChurCh exeCutive | 09/2012

order to come to him. We teach our people that it is their testimony, the life change that Jesus has worked in them, that is their most powerful witnessing tool. There is no argument or carefully crafted apology that can compare with a changed heart. Our only advertisement are the bright yellow T-shirts we wear when we serve our community with “no strings attached.” I don’t know how many times I have heard people who

are aware of our church because we have served them or a loved one in some way. Just the other day I met a cashier at a store. I was wearing my yellow T-shirt. She said, “Oh the Genesis Project. My daughter said you guys dropped off groceries to her house and you all were the nicest people she had ever met.” Conversations like that happen all the time.

Ross Anderson is teaching pastor at Alpine Church in Clearfield, UT, a nondenominational church with multiple campuses. More people are disaffected with Mormonism than ever before. Many of them are looking for a new expression of faith. There are more healthy, viable churches and more post-Mormon Christians than ever before in Utah’s history. At Alpine, our explicit target audience

who are not connected to any faith grew up in a church and have not given up on God, but they have given up on their church experience. What approach works in evangelizing Mormons? event evangelism does not work in utah, whereas a relationship found in community provides the ideal environment for people to discover who God really is and what it means to know him. What does work on a practical level are relationships with neighbors and coworkers. this relational reality exists around the world, but what is true in utah is this: Without relationships there is no More on mergers: Better Together outreach impact. the starting of new by Jim Tomberlin and Warren bird; churches also makes an impact. right now Church Executive article, June issue. there are a record number of church planters in northern utah and that is a wonderful and welcome development. What doesn’t work in reaching Mormons? What does not work is debating over quirky doctrines of Mormonism. Many LDS folks feel embarrassed by some of the previous or current beliefs of the church. it does not make an impact to win the “sprint” of momentary debates, but impact comes on the longer road of relationships. By definition, outreach through relationships is not a strategy but an everyday way to live out faith. Spiritual conversations happen easily in utah. in those conversations, speaking the truth in love helps us examine the differences in faith. Our Mormon friends sacrifice much to leave the LDS faith. A good amount of that sacrifice often includes relationships. recapturing the vision of >>

is these nominal and transitioning Mormons. We intentionally make our Sunday services a highquality gateway event to which our members confidently invite friends and relatives. Everything we do on Sunday has the Mormons in mind, so that we create a safe environment to which our guests will want to return. We remove from our meetings any cultural trappings that would create dissonance for our guests, while still preaching the Bible and the biblical Gospel clearly.

Our messages always point people to a relationship with Christ, but in terms that are intelligible to people from an LDS background. Paul Robie is lead pastor of South Mountain Community Church, a congregation meeting at three locations in Utah – Draper and Daybreak campuses in the Salt Lake City area and the Springs campus in St. George.

We are seeing for the first time LDS folks leave Mormonism and attend our church without being invited. We have a regular class of 15 or so each semester who are leaving Mormonism and want to transition into evangelical Christianity. We also see many leaving polygamy and we try to reach out to them and give them a place to recover and find God. We do not do “confrontational evangelism” but more of an “Invest and Invite” approach. Once our people have a comfort level

with a friend, it is normal for them to invite their friends to church with the confidence that their experience will be a positive one. We do not mention Mormonism directly in the messages, but we try to address the bad doctrine and experiences that most have known. Most of all, we provide a healthy, life-giving atmosphere where they are free to belong well before they believe.

09/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 11

biblical community fills the void often left behind for someone leaving the LDS faith. We also offer a class that respectfully compares the beliefs of Christianity and Mormonism called “Fresh Start.” This class seeks to provide a safe environment for someone to examine the differences in belief with the Bible serving as the final authority. Say you meet a Mormon in a

coffeehouse, what few things can you initially say about Christianity if they express interest? It can be helpful to share the human struggle. In Mormonism, there is little room for people to struggle and have issues. Yet, we all know that we struggle, and to share our own struggles with an LDS friend makes an impact because our salvation is not due to our spiritual progression

Gruber: Expect religion to come up.

and sin-free efforts. We also need to share God’s grace and not just leave it with our struggles. The solution to what ails us is not accomplished by us, but has already been accomplished for us by Jesus. Do you sense a “shading” of Mormon theology in order to fit into a Christian point of view? It is hard to know if there is a “shading” of Mormon theology as that hints at motive and we cannot know motives. There has been a change within the last generation of Mormonism toward Christianity. Joseph Smith claims that God communicated to him that all churches on earth were corrupted and he was called to reinstitute the true church on earth. For many generations, Mormons would not want to be included under a “Christian” umbrella. That has changed in our day, especially in the last 20 to 30 years. The change is clear, but the reasons for that we don’t know. How should a Christian relate to a Mormon friend, neighbor or coworker when religion comes up in a conversation? Expect it to come up! Mormon friends love to talk about faith. Respect them. Speak truthfully and honestly about beliefs. It’s all right to say “I don’t know.” Listen to your friend and truly seek to understand 12 | Church executive | 09/2012

them. Share your journey toward and within faith. Ask them if they have any questions about their own faith, as often this is the case. Study those questions to see the differences between the LDS faith and historical Christianity. How does your congregation mobilize thousands of people for ministry? the way in which this is happening is through small groups. Groups exist in the marketplace and in communities and through that vehicle, people are realizing they are “ministers,” that is, those who meet the needs of others. All of our groups have a three-fold purpose: (1) Grow spiritu-

Merger discussions are delicate and you are best served by someone who can be an impartial guide to all. ally; (2) Care about each other; and (3) Serve together. You lead a multicampus church. What does the future look like in reaching a wider region? there are currently three campuses within the heights Community. A vision for multisite was born out of a deeply held belief that more churches were needed in our area.

Church planting is one good way to address that need. thankfully, many church planters have come to utah in recent years. We believed that our contribution to the effort to grow the church here existed in multiple campuses. We possessed the resources and the passion to move in this direction. Another contributing factor was the sad reality of churches closing their doors. With vision and resources provided we were convinced that struggling churches could experience a whole new chapter of effective ministry. in 2010 God led us to merge with a church in our own association 20 miles south of us. We also began another Spanish-speaking campus in downtown Ogden, 10 miles to the north of the original campus. We believe God will lead us to more sites in the future. Multisite ministry changes the way you think and do ministry. Don’t dabble in multisite as we need to be “all in.” it is also wise to walk through the merger experience with a consultant. Merger discussions are delicate and you are best served by someone who can be an impartial guide to all. I understand you want to run the boston Marathon. How close are you to being ready to do so? My qualifying time for Boston is sub 3:25:00. this past May i ran the Ogden Marathon in 3:26:16, so i missed qualifying by less than 2 minutes.

09/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 13

Quick to listen,

slow to hire

Experienced church leaders say finding the right employees is probably not a job for the swift. By Rez Gopez-Sindac

cant had a good resume and the interview went well, but things didn’t work out as well as they had hoped. “Most of the time it was because we rushed the hiring process or we didn’t ask enough questions,” says executive pastor Jeremy Vanderlinden. “We’ve learned that it’s better to lengthen the interview process and not make a hasty decision,” adds Jane Gilbertson, the church’s HR generalist. Gregg Swadener, senior director of operations at Vineyard Community Church, Cincinnati, OH, puts it this way: “We strongly believe that if we don’t get impatient, [if we] do our homework and listen well enough, God will send us the right people with the right gifting to fill our open positions in a way that furthers our calling and His kingdom.” Swadener estimates that hiring an employee can cost from $1,000 to $2,000 or more depending on other costs like advertising or agency assistance. But the bigger issue, he points out, is what it costs to hire the wrong person. “That could range in the tens of thousands, depending on how long the mistake is accommodated,” he says.

Don’t cut corners

Why bad hires happen

Hiring the right way is a multistep process, says Glenn Wood, pastor of church administration at Seacoast Church, Mount Pleasant, SC. At Seacoast, the process starts with correctly defining the needs for the position. Then the position is advertised internally and, if needed, outside the church. Applicants are evaluated. Those qualified move on to the interview level. After this point, the list narrows to the top two or three candidates. More interviews follow. Next, the final selection is made. Then, finally, the chosen one gets an offer. Still, bad hires happen, Wood admits. “We were interviewing for an accounting position and found what appeared to be a great match. After they started, it became very evident that while the employee was qualified, they weren’t the best fit for the position. We both agreed it wasn’t a good fit and they left to find another position outside of the church.” As with most churches, Real Life Church, Valencia, CA, also has experienced a few situations where an appli-

Bad hires usually stem from one of the following mistakes, says Jerry Hurley, team development leader at, Edmond, OK: • A lack of clarity on deliverables for a specific role, making it more difficult to find the right fit. • Focusing more on experience and not paying enough attention to fit. • Loss of objectivity in the selection process. Hurley says loss of objectivity can come from perceived pressure to fill a position, becoming overly invested in a candidate too early, and not recognizing when personal biases come into play. The starting point to finding the right fit, Hurley adds, is a clear understanding of an organization’s values and key behaviors. “Too many churches don’t take the time to identify these critical components in the hiring process,” he says. Swadener, on the other hand, emphasizes objectivity and the spiritual factor when hiring employees. “You

Church people often are quick to admit that they’re not perfect. While the statement is true and may even suggest humility, when it comes to church business – such as hiring staff – it simply is not good policy. Unlike a secular company, a church carries the mandate to impact people’s lives both for the here and now and eternity. Borrowing from Jim Collins’ famous metaphor, if church is like a bus headed to its destination, it must seek to have the right people in the right seats, and it must strive to be the right bus for those people. A tall order, but it can be done. Five executive staff from four megachurches all agree: If church leaders make quality hiring decisions, they will find the right employees who will steer their imperfect churches in the right direction.

14 | Church executive | 09/2012

FIRST CHoICE: CHARACTER oR SKILL? Glenn Wood (Seacoast Church): Character by far; we can teach skills. Gregg Swadener (Vineyard Community Church): Skill can do the job without character, but the results will be diminished, and character alone without skill will fail. Both are critical. Jerry Hurley ( No question, character. Jeremy Vanderlinden (Real Life Church): Definitely character. Usually people with character have the skills necessary to do the job and do it with integrity. Our church would rather hire someone with more character than skill, because usually that person is willing to learn the skill and outperform in the long run.

us make sure we have multiple people providing input and having a say in the hiring of staff,” adds Wood. A pre-employment testing called the Achiever is the tool of choice for vineyard Community Church. According

to Swadener, it measures six mental aptitudes and 10 personality or behavioral dimensions and compares the results for a particular candidate to the results of others who have been successful in similar positions. >>

can certainly increase your chances of success if you objectively consider and honestly evaluate their core behavioral assessment, mental aptitudes, spiritual beliefs, where they are in their personal walk with Christ, do they feel called to the position and the church … ” Similarly, at real Life Church, the biggest indicator that a person is the right fit is their humility and willingness to take direction and coaching, says Gilbertson. “if they are teachable, most likely they will fit well in the job because their humble spirit comes through.”

Hiring tools are a big help Like most organizations, large churches use assessment tools and systematic processes to help increase their success in hiring the right people. At Seacoast Church, specific tools are used for specific positions. if it’s to evaluate an applicant’s software skills, the church uses totaltesting. com. At one point, when the church couldn’t decide between two qualified applicants, this tool, says Wood, helped them make the right choice. Wood says the church also has used a “roundtable” interview approach. Applicants are not only interviewed by the person they would be working for, but also by others on staff who might interact with the person. “this helps

09/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 15

Hurley: The starting point to finding the right fit is a clear understanding of an organization’s values and key behaviors.

“We believe the objective information we get from this tool significantly enhances our success in selecting the right person and not overlooking critical issues,” says Swadener. However, he quickly points out that the tool should be used to supplement good judgment and excellent interviewing skills. It should not be weighted more than one-third in the hiring decision, yet he adds, “We would be lost without the information it provides.” At, a multi-interview approach is also used, as well as tools and tests to evaluate an applicant’s personality, basic skills, cognitive ability, attitude and spiritual gifts. “Some of the tools can’t predict overall fit or effectiveness, but they help us make sure a person has the skills to perform tasks pertinent to their job,” says

16 | Church executive | 09/2012

Wood: We strive to make sure that if we have to let someone go, they aren’t surprised by the action.

Hurley. “For example, does a person interviewing for a role in finance have math skills?” And some tests and tools are very strategic and have a high correlation to long-term success and performance, Hurley adds.

‘Judgment’ day Now that you found the right person for the job, the challenge is how to check the employee’s progress and help them get to the next level of effectiveness. Performance reviews play a key role. “We give performance evaluations once a year in the fall,” says Real Life Church’s Jeremy Vanderlinden. He says evaluations are based on the previous 12 months of work and highlight specific events during the year, both good and bad. Vineyard Community Church, Seacoast Church, and also conduct performance appraisals annually. At Vineyard, employees complete a staff questionnaire and set their critical goals for the coming year. Both the employee and his or her director discuss the review and the questionnaire and reach a consensus on the employee’s goals. At, the evaluation has two components – half of the review is based on performance to measurable goals, and the other half is based on how the team member exemplifies important cultural values. Hurley says the church has developed an online performance management system called MyPerformance that they hope to make available free to churches soon. For Seacoast Church, performance evaluations are a time to ensure employees are meeting the expectations of the position and the church, says Wood. For Real Life Church, it’s usually a time to give a merit increase, “so our employees can leave the room feeling good about their accomplishments during the past year,” says Vanderlinden. All four churches put a high premium on recognizing and rewarding great employees. Wood says at Seacoast Church they give a monthly “You Da” award to employees voted by their peers. Prizes include movie tickets and gift cards. At Vineyard, outstanding performance by a staff member, volunteer or ministry team is recognized in their monthly all-staff meetings, says Swadener.

Swadener: the costs of hiring the wrong person could range in the tens of thousands, depending on how long the mistake is accommodated.

Gilbertson: We are very strategic about placing people where their strengths are.

vanderlinden: the biggest indicator that a person is the right fit is their humility and willingness to take direction.

We strive to make sure that if we have to let someone go, When it comes to disciplining nonperforming staff, they aren’t surprised by the action.” Wood says at Seacoast discipline is done in private. “We work to document the situation and keep the employee informed of the challengGraceful exit es we face,” he says. Grace goes a long “ultimately this could way at Seacoast. When lead to termination but it becomes necessary It’s better to lengthen the interview we try and work to corto let a nonperforming process and not make a hasty decision. rect the behavior without employee go, Wood says — Jane Gilbertson having to move to this the church works to find step. We have a culture a solution so they can of grace on the staff, which is sometimes a challenge move on and find another position. “this may include sevin getting challenging behaviors and situations properly erance pay, job placement, additional training, and similar documented, but we strive to make this a regular habit. functions to assist them. We work to make it more >>

09/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 17

than fair for the employee.” At Vineyard, if performance is an issue, the church initiates a performance development plan process. Swadener says this is a formal, documented process that describes what the issues are, what needs to change in order to be successful, what the time frame is for improvement to be accomplished and sus-

tained, what the church can do to help the employee with the process, and what the consequences of failure will be. If performance is an issue because the employee is not satisfied with their position, future opportunities – or for any other reason – Vineyard also does not hesitate to suggest, in a graceful way, that

“Real Life Church is a relaxed environment,” says HR generalist Jane Gilbertson. “People feel very comfortable when they come here.”

it can assist the employee in finding something elsewhere that is a better match for them. “We offer them resume assistance, job coaching or time off for interviews to assist them in the process,” says Swadener. echoes the same graceful spirit. Hurley says the church recognizes that not every employee is supposed to be part of the team forever. “If it comes time for a great person to leave our team, our goal is to help the team member transition in as healthy a manner as possible.” For Real Life Church, it’s important that the employee who is leaving leaves well. “We ask the employee to be considerate of God’s church and not create negativity that can impact the mission we are all trying to accomplish,” says Vanderlinden. CE

18 | Church executive | 09/2012

How to deal with


Develop a policy in the context of discipleship and full reconciliation. BY BiLL PriCe “Frank” arrived at our Celebrate recovery meeting on Friday night for his first visit. he looked vaguely familiar to a few members who became suddenly alarmed when they recalled seeing his face on the evening news several nights before. Frank had recently been released from prison, labeled a Level iii Sex Offender (L3SO), and the community was warned of his presence via the local newscast. Church members’ concern over Frank’s presence grew to the level that the ministry leaders approached Frank and asked him to leave the premises. this was done graciously, and perhaps anticipating their response, Frank agreed to leave. it was thanksgiving weekend when one of my staff called to

alert me to a growing firestorm. the director of the local ministry to ex-offenders, a ministry with whom our church has very close ties, was very upset.

Professed his faith i soon learned that not only had Frank made a profession of faith while in prison, but for the last year had been discipled by the chairman of our elder board. these men knew Frank well and joyfully anticipated his release from prison and his fellowship in the ministry of the church. they could not believe that a church otherwise known for its loving embrace of all seekers could have acted so thoughtlessly.

A PoLICy FoR THE CoNGREGATIoN AND THE oFFENDER Autumn Ridge Church has an L3SO Discipleship Plan that tries to take a responsible approach both to the congregation and to the offender. It explores theological, biblical and pastoral implications and deserves careful reading. For a copy write price.bill@autumn Excerpts follow: The response of church attendees Because of the nature of the ex-offender’s previous crimes, people’s initial response to the presence of an L3SO is fear … . In some cases fear of an ex-offender is unwarranted. The ex-offender may have completed their sentence and probation and have been released by the courts but still be under the L3SO designation for several years after probation. In addition, the person may have been involved in a successful discipleship relationship with a church for a number of years while labeled L3SO, but this

would not be generally known. While the fear response of the general population may be irrational, disproportionate or unwarranted, the fear is real and must be taken seriously by church leadership. While much of the ministry in this situation is directed toward fostering a discipleship relationship with the ex-offender, the leadership also has a responsibility to allay the fears of the congregation through accurate information and meaningful relationships with the ex-offender. Most every church that has an L3SO policy includes mentoring with a mature believer as a component of the discipleship process, even to the point of accompanying the ex-offender while on church premises. The purpose of the mentor and disciple being seen together is not to prevent the ex-offender from getting into trouble; it is to demonstrate to the congregation that the disciple has established a meaningful relationship with

22 | ChurCh exeCutive | 09/2012

the mentor. An important part of helping members of the congregation overcome their fear is to assist the ex-offender to re-establish trust with society. Forgiveness must be immediate, but from a practical perspective it often takes time to rebuild trust. Even though a sexual offender may have paid their debt to society they lose in varying degrees the common trust that society gives to each member. In doing so, they lose some of the common freedoms that accompanies that trust. The goal of this discipleship plan is to recover lost freedom and rebuild lost trust. Ministry to the ex-offender It is the purpose of Autumn Ridge Church to make disciples of all men, baptizing them and teaching them to follow the commandments of Christ (Mt 28:19-20). It is important for any ex-offender who desires to be a part of Autumn Ridge Church to

understand that the intentions of this policy are not meant to be condemning or demeaning in any way. If on one hand they have fulfilled the sentencing of the criminal justice system and are abiding by any prolonged requirements, and as well have truly repented of their sin and have expressed a desire to grow in faith, they will be welcomed into the fellowship of this church just as they are welcomed by a gracious God, fully justified by the atoning blood of Christ … . [O]ur purpose is to welcome the ex-offender, to help them grow in their faith, to protect them from the temptation to reoffend, and to establish meaningful spiritual and social relationships with the body of Christ; to allay the fears of the congregation, to teach the congregation to respond with love and forgiveness, to encourage them to build relationships with all who desire to grow in faith and to honor God in all ways.

“Aren’t we all forgiven sinners?” “No sin is greater than any other.” Phrases like these formed the conversations of the next several weeks as we gained a clearer picture of exactly what happened and why. those who knew Frank as a believer wondered why others had responded in such an unchristian manner. those who knew Frank only as a L3SO wondered why others seemed dismissive of their fears. in retrospect, the leaders of Celebrate recovery made the best decision they could at the time with the information available to them. in any case where the safety of those attending a church ministry is at stake, it makes sense to err on the side of caution. Our senior pastor met with Frank and his spiritual mentors to apologize and welcome him to the church. in the end the situation was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and identified the need for a policy to provide future guidance. i did some online research to see how other churches had dealt with this issue. What i found was truly surprising. the prevailing tone of many of the policies i reviewed reflected the justifiable fear of the congregation but seemed to overlook the needs of the ex-offender. Most of the policies rang with phrases like, “You will not go to this part of the building…” and “You must be within 15 feet of your supervisor…” and the like. upon reading the tone and stipulations of these policies, one wonders why an ex-offender would want to endure the humiliation of attending church. i understand the legitimate responsibility of church leaders to protect members and their children from predators, but it

seems logical that any offender with predatory intentions is not going to identify himself to church leaders in the first place.

Fears are considered the imbalance of many of the policies we reviewed led us to develop a policy that appreciates the fears of the congregation and the responsibility to protect vulnerable children and adults, but attempts to do so in the context of the discipleship and spiritual growth of the ex-offender. We refer to our L3SO policy as a Personal Discipleship Plan and we hope that this is more than mere semantics. We have many of the same requirements in place as other policies, but include these both to protect the ex-offender from false accusations and to protect the congregation. We assume that a L3SO who desires fellowship with the body of Christ has experienced true repentance and is eager to embrace a discipleship plan that includes spiritual mentorship, Bible study, corporate worship and authentic spiritual community. Our policy attempts to immerse the ex-offender in a gracious spiritual environment that leads to full reconciliation with God and the church. Our plan is not perfect, but offered for consideration of other churches looking for a model as they develop their own policies for the discipleship of ex-offenders.

Bill Price is executive pastor of Autumn Ridge Church, Rochester, MN. []

09/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 23


giving realities

By Jim Sheppard

People want to know more about where their charitable contribution is going. It has been four years now since the great economic adjustment of our generation. It was a perfect storm of a crash in the equity market and the housing market. Historically, we have had adjustments in the equity market and adjustments in the housing market, but we have not had large simultaneous adjustments. And, unlike other significant market adjustments, we have not yet seen a recovery. The impact has been far reaching. A lot has been said about the impact on churches. In reality, about one-third of churches are up from 20082009, one-third are down and one-third are flat. Despite 24 | Church executive | 09/2012

what many may say, the economy is not the main reason for that, except in a few cases. The downturn in the economy may have accentuated the effect on some, but internal factors actually have a lot more to do with the downturn in giving. The bigger effect of the economic adjustment has been on the mindset of givers. As the people in our churches think about their giving, their paradigm has shifted. Prior to 2008, money was “easy come, easy go.” Don’t worry so much about where you give it because you can always make more. Not true anymore, because our hard-earned

dollars are harder earned than ever before. As a result, donors are now much more careful in where they want their money to go. if you are planning an accelerated giving initiative of any kind – annual giving, capital funds, ministry venture capital or legacy giving – there are new realities in play. to optimize the success of any giving initiative will require taking these realities into account. Increased vetting of giving options. People are a lot more careful where they give in the post-2008 era. the tendency is to give more money to fewer, carefully selected choices. Givers will vet their charitable options according to criteria they have established, which will include, among others, transparency of financial disclosure and stewardship of resources. For example, does the church or ministry organization do a good job of stewarding financial resources? Portfolio management perspective. this one is huge. Prior to 2008, we saw this among highcapacity givers. Now we are seeing it at all levels. People are investing (i.e., giving) to churches and ministry organizations where the highest “rOi” is perceived. rOi is defined as impact. in other words, what results is the church or ministry organization getting? the big shift is that givers will move money from those they perceive to be “low performers” to “higher performers” in terms of impact. Churches cannot assume their people know; they have to make sure they have told the church’s story well and have clearly demonstrated the impact of their ministry. Reducing debt is popular – at least for now. this is the after-effect of seeing what debt did to people in the crash. For years, church members have had low motivation toward giving initiatives that were focused on reducing or eliminating debt. But now, reducing or eliminating debt is seen as a real positive and givers are motivated to invest in it. Transparency about finances.

historically, churches have not disclosed a lot of financial information. however, people now want to know more about where their charitable giving is going. they want to know how the church is doing – income statement and balance sheet. Churches do not get a pass on this, especially among younger donors. CE

Jim Sheppard is CEO and principal of Generis, a consulting firm in Atlanta, GA, dedicated to accelerating generosity for churches and ministry organizations. Sheppard is co-author (with Chris Willard) of the newly released book, Contagious Generosity: Creating A Culture of Giving In Your Church. [] []

09/2012 | ChurCh exeCutive | 25

Chain’s loss, church’s gain? BY rOB BAirD

Why a retail center could be a good investment for your congregation. had $3.5 million of additional equity funds invested by the Around the country there are areas where retail original buyer, was recently purchased from the bank for shopping centers were aggressively built during the past $3.6 million, including some improvement costs required. decade. Many of these centers are in extremely good locaCenters like this were typically built on the basis of tions and today can be purchased at prices that are siga return of 7 percent to 9 percent to the original buyer, nificantly below their current values and the costs it would with rents that allowed take to build the same for this return after structures today. operating expenses. With the bust of the This is ideal for any church that can see in the industry, this housing bubble in 2008, a the value of space and adequate parking is referred to as the commensurate effect was for its long -term needs. capitalization rate of the slowing of the retail return. economy. Food chains that are usually the anchor tenants of these centers quickly What’s an ideal investment? reigned in their expansion plans. in some cases where the key to a good purchase in a suppressed market is chains had built too many stores during the boom, Chapter to buy at a price with severely reduced occupancy, which 11 bankruptcy was declared. Subsequently, in the reorgaoffers in-place 7 percent to 9 percent return. if this type nization steps, many stores were closed. of purchase has 60 percent occupancy, with the vacancy these events left vacancies in many locations and filled over a two- to three-year period at market rates, the have created an important opportunity for investors to purgain in return on original investment can be substantial. chase excellent centers for a small portion of their original A retail center may be an ideal investment when a value or cost. As an example, a 67,000-square-foot center church has two fundamental qualities: that originally cost $6 million in development costs, and 1. The church has “patient money” funds to Continued on page 28 26 | ChurCh exeCutive | 09/2012

Chain’s loss ‌ Continued from page 26

invest. The money will not be required for the conduct of the church and can be demonstrated to the congregation as funds well used. A good purchase often requires an all-cash buy from the bank or the troubled owner in order to command the lowest prices. Depending on the size of the retail center to be purchased, can your church tie up $1 million to $10 million for a period of three to five years? 2. The church knows how to use this particular asset to meet the needs of their community. Examples are many, but among them are: (a) a clothing and household merchandize outlet for the needy; (b) a meeting place for gatherings that are not easily made available on the church campus; (c) a recreational outlet for teens and tweens; and (d) a Christian bookstore. Most shopping centers are considered to be triple-net investments, meaning the tenants pay a base rent and, in addition, contribute a proportionate share to the shopping center’s operating expenses, such as taxes, insurance and common area maintenance. A great value of a retail center is that it can be either self-managed or managed by a professional real estate firm. Also, the parking allotment is usually five or more cars per thousand square feet of useable space. This is ideal for any church that can see the value of space, with adequate parking, for many of its long-term needs.

28 | Church executive | 09/2012

Benefits to smaller churches A possibility may work for smaller or start-up churches in locations previously held by pharmacy stores or smaller businesses. Parking in these locations are too limited for a large church, but can be ideal for a smaller congregation that is favorably capitalized. Often, a church member may step forward to assist the church in buying a property in a commercial location that will improve in value over a longer-term hold. An agreement can often be worked out between the church and the provider of the funds that can protect each party and cover any risk. Most churches have members or attenders who are licensed real estate agents. However, a word of caution: If you want to invest in a retail center, look for a real estate professional who not only understands commercial investment, but can also relate to the investment goals contained in your church mission. Lastly, this article is not intended to discuss the issue of tax consequences. It is believed that a church would have to recognize the non-church usage as ordinary income, while any other usage by the church would qualify for its nonprofit status. This should be carefully discussed with church leadership and accounting or financial advisors. CE Rob Baird of Robert R. Baird Enterprises, Chandler, AZ, has 37 years of experience in commercial real estate. []

Software to the

By Rez Gopez-Sindac

rescue The ACS Facility Scheduler makes it easy for staff of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, NC, to book sports events, Bible classes and other activities.

Three churches find easy-to-use Web-based solutions to their room scheduling, facility management and online ticketing challenges. If anyone at First Baptist Church-Hendersonville, NC, needed to schedule an event and secure a space for an event back in 2001, the staff would have had to use a large planning calendar, write entries on it in pencil, and transfer the information to a Word document. Amy Parce, a student ministry assistant, says the method was cumbersome and time-consuming as “we are a big church with lots of activities and rooms. It was difficult to read the paper calendar and make changes to any event.” This prompted the church to purchase ACS Facility Scheduler, “a hosted, central calendar coordinator designed specifically to synchronize calendars and manage facilities across your organization,” according to the company website. “Now, only one person makes changes to the calendar,” says Parce.

30 | Church executive | 09/2012

That person is receptionist DeeDee Shehan, who is also responsible for tracking the use of the church’s five buildings. Keeping up with facility use would be nearly impossible without the ACS program, she says. Shehan is not the only one who appreciates the usefulness of the ACS Facility Scheduler. The maintenance and custodial departments also depend on it daily. They have to make their weekly and monthly schedules based on what rooms are booked at that time. This is how the process for booking a room at First Baptist-Hendersonville works: First, the request is put on a form. Next, Shehan takes the request to their weekly calendar meeting where the request either gets approved or denied. If approved, Shehan adds the event to the calendar. “I have a notebook full of all the upcoming requests that have been approved so I have all of the contact information on everything that is scheduled in case we need to make any changes,” she says. To explain the complexity of scheduling events, Shehan gives a specific scenario: One ministry has a banquet. They use the gymnasium to eat, after which they transfer to the fellowship hall to view some displays, and then they

move to the worship center to hear the guest speaker. This takes a lot of planning. Shehan says the custodial crew checks the online calendar ahead of time to determine how many people are needed to prepare the rooms and clean them after the event. Also, the security crew looks at the same calendar to know what time to unlock the facility and to do the rounds of locking up and setting all the alarms. When there is a big event at the church, Shehan says she can decide quickly, by looking at the online calendar, whether it is OK to book other events. Problems arising from overlapping or not having enough parking, equipment or things like chairs and tables can be easily prevented, she adds.

Managing resources faithfully

By using a scheduling software, problems arising from overlapping of events or not having enough tables and chairs for the children’s ministry can be easily prevented.

For Sean Moyer, facility manager at Savannah Christian Church, a light bulb moment came after learning that his assistant had been spending at least 20 hours a week just scheduling rooms. At the time, the church had one building and 37 reservable spaces and was building a youth center. >>

09/2012 | Church executive | 31

Moyer says he knew that as the church grew, managing the spaces and resources for various meetings and functions was only going to get worse. Immediately, he searched for a better way to ease the process and came across a scheduling and event management solution called Events Management System (EMS). The difference is night and day. What is most helpful, says Moyer, is that all facility reservations can be viewed via the church’s network in real time and on any computer or mobile device. In contrast, the old system was installed on only one or two computers, and the calendar had to be printed out “for the rest of us to see it,” says Moyer. Before Savannah Christian Church purchased the EMS software, room scheduling consumed most of the working hours of Moyer’s assistant. With EMS, all that responsibility is put on the requester. “They input all the information that we require, as well as times and contact information. It only gives them the option to request a room that is available for those times,” says Moyer. Only staff members are allowed to request rooms. This puts the responsibility on

32 | Church executive | 09/2012

Air is cooled only when rooms are in use, saving Savannah Christian Church energy, time and labor.

their respective ministry and prevents unauthorized use. And if the room is left in a disorderly manner, Moyer says it’s easy to know who is the responsible party. “A process that took at least 20 hours a week for 37 rooms now takes about an hour a week to handle 120 rooms in nine buildings on three campuses,” says Moyer. As far as managing resources, Moyer says EMS has been a stepping stone for his church. The room scheduling software alone saves

By using Events Management System (EMS), scheduling rooms for worship, events and fellowship now only takes about an hour a week to handle 120 rooms in nine buildings on three campuses, says Sean Moyer, facility manager at Savannah Christian Church.

Savannah thousands of dollars a year on manpower, he adds. But by integrating it with HVAC scheduling software, which automatically controls the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, Moyer says his church has taken stewardship one step further. Air is cooled only when rooms are in use, saving the church energy, time and labor. Previous to using HVAC software, Moyer says the church was running its HVAC units 515,424 hours a year. Now, it’s down to 128,856 hours a year. “Not only are we extending the lifespan by three years for every year we have the units, we also have been able to reduce our maintenance costs,” says Moyer.

70 percent of the tickets sold are through ServiceU Ticketing via online sales. The church offers free seating – which is on a first-come, first-served basis – along with reserved seating – which is almost always the best way to go. “ServiceU Ticketing has proven to us over time that they will be able to meet all the technological needs we may have as our church and productions grow,” Buoscio says. CE

Reaching its community effectively Phoenix First Assembly of God in Phoenix, AZ, is another congregation that stepped outside the box to provide efficient and convenient service not only to its members but the general public as well. The church hosts hundreds of outreach ministries, but one of its most successful events is “The Celebration of Christmas,” which has been going on for more than 30 years. A case study done by Active Network shows how the company’s 100 percent Web-based ticketing software, ServiceU Ticketing, has helped Phoenix First streamline the ticketing of nearly 24,000 patrons over nine performances. Richard Buoscio, director of facilities, says the church started using ServiceU Ticketing in 2004 and tested it on a very small area of seats within their facility. “Everything worked so smoothly that we slowly integrated the system into our entire event,” he adds. Despite increasing attendance every year since, Buoscio says the church has actually reduced its full-time ticketing staff from four to one. Having tickets available online has also been incredibly convenient for community members who no longer have to stand in line to purchase tickets, says Active Network. Although the church still sells tickets at their box office for people who don’t have Internet capabilities, more than

09/2012 | Church executive | 33


Children’s Ministry

Family approach fosters

shared learning Parents and kids are hearing the same teaching at the same time.

By Ronald E. Keener The approach to children’s ministry at Palm Valley Church in Goodyear, AZ, in the west valley of Phoenix, is like many other churches in one respect. They use their weekend services to structure an environment for kids who are geared to their age and development level. But what is different, and likely a growing movement in children’s ministries, is using the worship services to reach out to families by providing their kids a safe and loving environment, says Darius Sanders, family life pastor.

“Our approach is to not just grow children into spiritual champions, but to grow families. Our lessons are prepared beforehand and use ageappropriate levels of repetition to help reinforce the lesson being taught,” Sanders says. “Different styles of learning – verbal and auditory – are incorporated so that children with different learning styles get the opportunity to receive what is being taught in the way that reaches them best.”

Special for kids “Just like the main service their

parents attend, we want them to experience worship, a message and a creative element that’s been prepared for them,” says Sanders. Ministry leaders write their own curriculum and focus the lessons and the adult services on the same theme so that the entire church is learning the same thing at the same time. “Whenever possible,” says Sanders, “we try to match the series or theme that is being taught in the main service so that parents can easily connect what their kids are learning to what they also are learning. The

SERVING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS Melinda CampbellWeber says that with about one out of every 88 children being diagnosed with autism or a special needs disorder in America, families are being affected by special needs now more than ever. “The need for programs for these families in churches has now hit epidemic levels. Churches can no longer ignore the need,” she says. Campbell-Weber is the “Buddy” coordinator at Palm Valley Church and has two special needs children of her own. “In my conversations with churches around the country, I have found that

34 | Church executive | 09/2012

these families are becoming a priority to churches. They are finding that they not only need to service the needs that they did years ago (the sick, the homeless and those struggling financially) but are now needing to expand programs to help with families of special needs children.” She responded to questions about their program: What is the need in your church’s area? Every church, regardless of size, will likely have a least one family with a special needs child in it. Many times, families can’t go to church together because someone

has to stay at home with the child; they feel they have no other alternative. When I started volunteering last April, the Buddy program had already been in place for some time and there were about five children in the program. Today we have about 15 children in the program and are continuing to grow. How do you serve special needs kids at church? We pair each child with an adult volunteer. The child and volunteer attend the child’s service that best fits the child’s cognitive level rather than age level. At Palm Valley Church, we

want all of our children to be exposed to God’s word at the level that they can understand it most effectively. Therefore, each special needs child is placed in an environment where they can understand the lesson and also develop relationships with their peers. So in most cases, we place our special needs children in classrooms with other children to get the most out of their church experience. How do Buddies serve the kids and the parents, and what is a “Forever Buddy”? Buddies serve as a support system for our special needs

Each age or grade has a different comprehension level, and Palm Valley Church focuses its children’s ministry accordingly.

teaching is tailored to the learning level of each age group.” “Our goal is to help the kids we are entrusted with to learn what we are teaching regardless of what style of learning suits them best. We do teaching, singing, hands-on activities, and body movement we call dance parties, to provide multiple avenues for learning,” he adds.

Comprehension levels Each age or grade has a different comprehension level. Younger kids enjoy lots of activities and presen-

families. They often keep in touch throughout the week with each other, check in on their Buddy child (especially if there’s been an illness or surgery) and make plans for the coming weekend to make sure each of them will be there. A Forever Buddy means that the volunteer will be permanently paired up with the child as long as they attend Palm Valley Church and are in need of a Buddy volunteer. Are there a variety of needs among the kids? We have children with a vast array of special needs, from autistic, non-verbal and ADHD to more severe issues,

tations while those in kindergarten through third grade like some discussion. Fourth- and fifth-graders are engaged primarily through discussion and some activity. “As the kids age they are better able to express how they feel, ask questions and engage in conversation,” Sanders says. Palm Valley teachers have created what they call the “Pin Packet” for kindergartners through fifth-graders. It is a reward system that encourages kids to read their Bibles daily with their parents, furthering the family approach. Over the course of

such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, and children born suffering the effects of drugs from their birth mothers. Are you advocating for the kids beyond what you do in the church? There have been times when our volunteers have attended meetings at schools with our families and provided more of an “advocate” role when the children were not receiving appropriate services. We have also had volunteers spend time with families on a more social level, having lunch together or offering to babysit on special occasions.

a series, which could run several weeks, children need to read, memorize and share what they are learning. For their active participation, they receive a pin at the end of the series. As an incentive, those who earn multiple pins get to attend a party. The reading matches the reading plan the parents are doing. Sanders says that as a church, families are encouraged to reach together and journal on what they are learning using the acrostic SOAP, which stands for Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer. CE

What is done to give a breather to the parents/ siblings at church or during the week? By having a volunteer available for our special needs children, our parents are able to get a breather by attending worship services knowing their children are being cared for by a caring, specially equipped volunteer who knows their children and their special abilities. We also offer a “parents night out” event every quarter, where our special needs children and their siblings come to the church for a night of pizza, a movie, craft and story time. This also

provides parents time for a date night, errands, etc., for a few hours. What are the benefits of a special needs program provided by a church? With the divorce rate of special needs parents at around 90 percent, the financial and emotional strain can be overwhelming without the support of their local church. The benefits of a special needs program in churches provides that support system that these families are so desperate to find on a more intimate, spiritual level. CE

09/2012 | Church executive | 35


From large to larger By Rez Gopez-Sindac In the United States, there are 1,800 megachurches – those averaging 2,000 or more in weekly worship attendance – according to church lists compiled by Leadership Network. A 2011 study of 336 megachurches conducted by Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research shows that “megachurches remain one of the most robust religious organizational expressions within North America … with these churches averaging 8 percent growth per year for the last five years.” Tony Morgan, pastor of ministries at West Ridge Church near Atlanta and author of several books, including the e-book Big Churches Getting Bigger, says large churches continue to grow and thrive because “they are strategic in their approach to alignment, adaptability, leadership, and reach.” Morgan explains these four factors in his e-book (available at and shares with Church Executive some proven strategies to church growth and health.

36 | Church executive | 09/2012

What’s the biggest fear large churches have to overcome to continue growing? I think the biggest fear to overcome is the fear of losing control. If you feel like you have to control people and systems, that’s the moment you begin to die as an organization. Ironically, big churches tend to have fewer controls than smaller churches. Generally, they seem to have fewer rules, fewer committees and fewer meetings. That doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. It just means they’ve learned that they need to release people to be who God created them to be. What kind of leaders are effective in growing an already big church? Effective leaders in growing churches have learned to empower people. Real leaders have learned that ministry is bigger than preaching a message or singing a few songs or pulling off a great event. Real leaders empower people, using their God-given gifts, to engage ministry in the real world. You identified alignment as one factor that makes a church grow bigger and stronger. When does full alignment happens in a church. Alignment happens when a church not only clarifies its vision but also says, “This is the strategy we’re going to use to get that vision accomplished.” Many churches haven’t landed on a strategy. Because they’ve never done that, people are either left guessing what they’re supposed to do to support the vision or, worse yet, people start establishing their own strategies based on previous church experiences. Without unity, there will never be health and growth. Give an example of where a method is more important to a church than its mission. One of my favorite stories that Mark Beeson, the senior pastor at Granger Community Church, tells is about a church that used to sell peanut brittle to raise money. One year as the annual sale approached, there was an argument over which peanut brittle recipe they should use. The church ended up splitting because they couldn’t agree on a recipe. Needless to say, they lost sight of the church’s mission. Any time our methods get in the way of our mission, we might as well be arguing about peanut brittle recipes. What could lead to the demise of a big church? What are its vulnerabilities? My biggest concern for big churches is the issue of leadership development. There seems to be a lot of talk about leadership but not much leadership development is actually happening. For me, leadership development and mentoring and discipleship all blend together. We’ve stopped thinking in those terms. Instead, the focus is on transferring knowledge through services and events. That approach will not develop leaders. Because of that, I think the leadership transitions we’ll see in large churches in the coming decade will be very interesting to watch.


issues for megachurches By John Berardino

Some lenders want a say in how the church is managed and organized. Megachurches are usually defined as having 2,000 members or more, but when it comes to financing, a mega loan is defined as a loan amount of $5 million or greater regardless of church size. When it comes to financing, there is a limited number of lenders who are willing to make church loans – for megachurches it is even tougher. Other issues to consider: • Banks and credit unions are generally going to require that the megachurch move its banking relationship to them if they are providing the loan. • A megachurch is expected to have financials that are at a minimum CPA-compiled. • Any issues related to prior or current loan payments be addressed with a plausible solution. • A megachurch should be able to explain declining mem bership or income trends. Our firm once closed a $13-million loan for a megachurch in Philadelphia. They had been to every lender they could talk to and had been declined. The church was frustrated and looking for a solution when they found us. Earlier, the church was working with a national bank’s religious lending department and the loan was close to being approved. The church told us that before the bank would issue a formal commitment, they wanted the church to change the structure of their board of trustees and their bylaws to conform to their standards. The church was not happy about this request, but according to the bank this was not negotiable. The church came to us to get a loan, and about five months later they closed and the church broke ground on their new state-of-the-art sanctuary. There are things churches could learn from this story: (1) Traditional bank lenders on large loans will often want to have a say in how the church is managed and who can make decisions. If this does not work for your church look for other options. (2) Just because you have been turned

down for your loan does not mean that your loan cannot be done. It is important to recognize that lenders make decisions based on many factors unrelated to the church and some of these are out of the control of the lender, for example: Concentration issues – Many banks and credit unions have internal and external restrictions on how much money they can lend on a particular asset class. If the bank has reached its concentration on church loans, they simply are unable to make a loan. Legal and internal lending limits – Legal lending limits on a single loan are set based on asset size of the institution. But, generally, banks and credit unions have their own internal policies that are more restrictive than those set by law, so even though they may legally be able to make a large loan, they may have internal policies that prohibit a large loan. Reputation risk – The risk that a loan will go bad and that the lender will have to take back the property and there will be a long protracted battle, which will be in the local newspapers and other media. I once worked at a bank that had made a $3-million loan to a large church. The church never made a single payment. This is called a first payment default and almost always means fraud. At the end of the day, the bank decided to write off the entire $3-million loan instead of foreclosing on the church because the bank was afraid it would be crucified in the media for going after a church. Although it is still difficult for many churches to borrow the money they need, it is not impossible if they know where to go, are well-managed and with a plan that makes sense. CE John Berardino is president of Griffin Capital Funding in Fredericksburg, VA. []

09/2012 | Church executive | 37

MarketPlace Find your church resources here ‌

MarketPlace Ads come in a multitude of sizes to suite your advertising needs. Contact Maria Galioto for rates and art specifications: 800.541.2670 x201 or


38 | Church executive | 09/2012


b ookmarks