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Valuable Information to Help You Protect Your Ministry

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As your partner in risk management I spend a lot of time doing research on various topics that I believe will benefit your ministry. Recently I came across an article on Church Executive  that struck a cord and prompted me to create some new policies and procedures for your ministry. I’m going to use some examples from this article, written by Crispin Ketelhut, to help explain how critical this in today’s modern ministries.

A church decides to hire a coach from the congregation for its intramural sports league’s youth softball team. It conducted an extensive screening process with professional background checks, an application process, reference checks and face to face interviews.

Once hired, the coach begins reaching out to the youth and “friends” the congregation’s teens using his personal social media accounts. A year after he was hired, Lena, one of the 15-year-old girls on the softball team, was hospitalized for attempted suicide. Her mother reviewed Lena’s cell phone and found dozens of inappropriate texts and images sent between Lena and the coach. She also discovered cyber-harassment from the coach via private messages on Lena’s social media accounts, threatening that he’d anonymously publish Lena’s compromising photos for the whole church to see. Lena’s suicide attempt was from an extreme coping response to the cyber-harassment and bullying from the coach. 

Eventually Lena’s mother sued the church for negligence, stating it was responsible and subsequently negligent in monitoring its employee and his technology devices – and that Lena’s physical, psychological and emotional trauma was entirely preventable.

I know you’re thinking, they did everything they were supposed to do, how could they be negligent?

It wasn’t what occurred during the hiring process that put the children and church at risk; it was what didn’t occur after.

Even though prior due diligence was performed, rules were never established prescribing conduct and policies weren’t written – nor were acknowledgement receipts signed and kept on file.  The coach had sole, unfettered access to the youth via the internet in intrinsically private electronic communications, without oversight or monitoring.

What should the church have done?

To protect not only the youth within their care, but also the volunteers who work with the youth and the church’s reputation and financial assets, the church should also have established the following polices:

A written communication policy that defines what is and is not appropriate communication methods for each method of communication.  I have created a sample communication policy which can be found in our Risk Management document library.

Permission Slips that denote what forms of communication are preferred by the parents when communicating with their children. If you are allowed to contact their child via email you should always CC their parents.  I strongly discourage communicating with minors via their personal cell phones. Instead I recommend you communicate via their home phone or their parent’s cell phone. In order to contact a minor via their personal cell phone, written permission from the parent must be obtained, and the parent included in all communications via group text.  This communication consent form can also be found in our documents library.

Checks and Balances. We live in an age of social media and most people belong to at least one platform. Many churches have created their own facebook page, and even created sub pages for their youth ministries. These systems are great for spreading announcements and event information to large audiences simultaneously. However, under no circumstances should an adult use their personal account to “friend” or contact individual youth group members. This opens up the door to private communications which cannot be monitored. Instead, create a Youth Group page for your ministry. You can set up multiple youth group leaders as “editors” on that account.  Your teens can follow the page, receive notifications of events/status updates and communicate via that page. In this scenario it is a public platform of communication because multiple adults have access to the information being shared and conversation being had.

I recommend you gather up the parents of the youth and your workers for a quick after church meeting in which you are going to do three things.

1.       1. Have every person who attends the meeting sign in. (This is your proof of them receiving the materials)

2.      2.  Distribute a communication policy to every youth worker explaining these are the new guidelines they are to follow.

3.      3.  Distribute a communication consent form to every parent. They will then select which forms of communication they approve of.

This helps both parties to be on the same page of what your ministry has deemed appropriate communication. After the meeting I would create a spreadsheet with each child’s name and their approved form of contact. I would distribute a “cheat sheet” to every youth worker so they know exactly how to contact the individual.

 

Churches can’t always prevent bad situations. But, we can at least create a safer environment where, ultimately, risk is lessened because acceptable behavior and expectations are clearly stated, and there’s less opportunity for grooming/bad actions to occur.

 

 

Clients: To download the Communications Policy & Consent form please visit our library. Simple log-in on the home screen. If you do not have an account, click the register button. From there select the Ministry Risk Management Tab at the top of the page and select Risk Management Documents. Scroll down to the Risk Transfer section and once selected each document will automatically download. 

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The moment we've all been waiting for is almost here! Our Free Risk Management Seminar takes place tomorrow!

Now I know you are all excited, but try and contain yourselves.  We have a lot of fun stuff planned not to mention our swag bags pictured above. Ok, yes I mentioned them, but they're really nice and will be filled with surprises.  So don't let the weather keep you from missing out on this wonderful event. Our motto, just like the US Postal Service, is that neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night....something something...we will be there! 

When: Friday, January 15, 2016

Location: Hope's Point Baptist Church - 1703 S Miller Avenue, Shelbyville, IN 46176

Schedule:  9:00 AM Free Breakfast 
               10:00 AM Kurt Williams, T&W Church Solutions 
               10:30 AM Mike Gleason, First Insurance Group 

Register

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When it comes to the construction industry, architects and contractors have been taught to distrust and even undermine each other to maintain control and protect their egos and pride. No wonder they are the second most litigated industry in the country. The result, according to Project Management Journal, is that over $.20 of every construction dollar goes towards claims and litigation. For the typical church building committee member, this cause and effect process brings about six phases of emotion and action: 

*Enthusiasm 
*Disillusionment 
*Panic 
*Search for the Guilty 
*Punishment of the Innocent 
*Praise and Honors for the Non-Participants 

The two top reasons for the above phases and possible litigation are poor pre-planning and improper budgeting. A lack of early expectation management can become a spiral of frustration resulting in poor quality and in the worse case, fractured fellowship within the church. Often the first step of this spiral is needing to reduce the square footage of the design or reduce the quality of the building materials used due to budget constraints. 


Life cycle costing is becoming is significant tool and should be taken into consideration. Over the course of 40 years, the life cycle cost of owning a church facility is 11% for actual construction costs, 14% for financing costs and 75% for maintenance and repair costs. What you thought was a great deal on low cost construction materials soon turns into a financial nightmare of repair costs due to poor quality. 

                                                                                   b2ap3_thumbnail_TW1.png

The stewardship challenge begins long before drawings are drafted. It starts with reasonable expectations set and understood by the Building Committee months prior to designing. It has been said that the only place that a church facility can be built ahead of schedule, under budget and with only the finest materials is in a Building Committee Meeting! The fact is that on every project there are three key components to balance. 

The desired size of the facility (square footage) 
The need to stay within a budget to building the facility (finances) 
The desire for the best materials used to building the facility

The challenge here is that the Building Committee must decide which two components are the most important. You cannot have all three! The difficulties that exist with these decisions can be manageable as long as the Project Team understands them early on in the process. A useful tool called Facility Modeling helps everyone understand the unique challenges that are before today's growing church. The following Facility Modeling Tool (based on national averages) can be used to get the Project Team started off on the right track. 


 

Funds Available for Construction 

Fundraising 

Typical fundraising will raise 3.0 times the annual budget, not including special gifts. Financial Institutions will lend approximately 70% of the three year commitments on a separate note. 

__________________ X 3.0 + _________________________  x  .70 = _______________________
(Last Year's Budget)                 (Fundraising Goal)                                 (Funds Immediately Available) 

 

Financing 

Church financing is becoming a very specialized industry. Financial Institutions will lend up to 3.0 times Last Year's Annual Budget. as long as the loan payment does not exceed 30% of the annual budget. 

_________________ x 3.0 = __________________________
(Last Year's Budget)               (Financing Available) 

 

Funds on Hand 

Money Currently in the Building Fund = __________________________________
                                                      (Building Fund) 

Funds from the sale of Properties or Facilities = ____________________________
                                                                 (Sale of Assets) 

Funds available for Construction 
________________________ + _______________________ + ______________________+ _________________________
(Fundraising Available)               (Financing Available)                 (Building Funds)                   (Sale of Assets) 

 


 

Amount of Ministry Space Needed 

Sanctuary/Auditorium 

Today's contemporary worship style and the extensive use of music and drama is requiring almost 15 SF of space per seat. This allows practical seating, aisle ways and space for a large platform area. 

________________ Seats x 15 SF/Seat = ____________________SF 

 

Foyer/Narthex 

In many churches the main foyer is used for banquets, classes, displays and is the primary area for meaningful fellowship. The recommendations is 1/3 the size of the main auditorium should be allocated for the foyer/narthex area. 

________________ Seats x 15 SF/Seat = ____________________SF 

 

Classrooms 

Learning areas are becoming the most versatile of all areas. This versatility accommodates changing ministries and sizes of age groups and classroom attendances. A general calculation of 18 SF per Sanctuary/Auditorium seat will provide the total square footage needed for classrooms. This calculation is based on a 50% classroom attendance. 

________________ Seats x 18 SF/Seat = ____________________SF 

 

Administration 

Individual spaces in the administration area can be: 

*Pastor's Offices 
*Secretary 
*Work Area 
*Library 
*Conference Room 
*Dedicated Storage Areas 

An average size of 200 SF can be used for each individual space to determine the square footage of the administration area. 

________________ Spaces x 200 SF/Space = ____________________SF 


Multi-Purpose / Gymnasium / Fellowship Hall 

If you desire a full size gymnasium, the size of the playing surface is +/- 60 x 100. This translates to 6,000 SF, which would seat +/- 400 at round tables. A half court gymnasium would be 3,000 SF and see +/- 200 people. Kitchen areas to support either option should be no smaller than 900 SF. 

Full Size Gym (6,000 SF)   = ____________________SF 
Half Court Gym (3,000 SF) = ____________________SF 
Kitchen Area (minimum of 900 SF) = ______________SF 


Cafe / Resource Center / Bookstore 

"Dedicated" and more intimate fellowship areas are becoming more important to foster relationship building and smaller group learning opportunities. About 2 SF per Sanctuary / Auditorium seat is suggested for these areas. 

________________ Seats x 2 SF/Seat = ____________________SF 

 

Youth Worship Center 

A space where a broad range of ages can gather for praise and worship, prior to breaking up for age appropriate teaching, requires 12 SF per Sanctuary / Auditorium seat. 

________________ Seats x 12 SF/Seat = ____________________SF 

 

Total Estimated Dedicated Square Footage

Total all of the above areas = ________________________ SF

 

Circulation and Restroom Areas

Approximately 20% of all dedicated space is needed for navigation of the facility. Building code often allows 4' hallways (for example); a recommendation would be to never make them less than 8'.

_________________SF x .20  = ______________________SF
(total dedicated )

Total Estimated New Construction Square Footage Needed =  __________________________SF  
                                                                                    (Sum of the two Blue totals above) 


Projected Cost to Build Facility 

New Construction 

Cost/SF for new construction is difficult to establish based on region, materials used and the use of volunteers or gifts in kind. The National Average to construct places of Worship is $100 SF. Contact a reputable builder and after giving a thorough description of your needs, ask what he thinks the building could be constructed for per square foot. You can also see various types of buildings and their cost per square foot at www.tw-church.com 

__________________SF of New Construction x $ ______________/SF = $___________________________

 

Fixtures, Furnishings and Equipment (FFE) 

The interior finishes, furnishings and A/V Systems that are going into today's facilities are even more difficult to estimate than the cost/SF for the actual structure. A good rule of thumb is 30% of the Facility cost of construction. 

$________________ X  .30 = $____________________
(Cost of Facility Construction) 

 

Site Improvements (General Earthwork, Parking & Utilities)

Site Improvements tend to be another of those line items that can fluctuate significantly based on geography and various challenges that each individual site presents.  Those challenges range from wetlands to hazardous waste. Always bring a site engineer into the early discussions of purchasing property; it could save you tens of thousands, or more. 

Parking 

The ideal ratio of one parking space for every 2 seats is recommended. 

______________Seats/2 spaces/seat x 200 SF/space (10x20) x 2.50 (ration of drive aisles) = _________________SF of Paving 

______________SF Paving x $4.00/SF = $_________________


General Earthwork & Utilities 

Excavation is estimated over the total area that the work is to take place. 

______________SF of New Construction + _________________SF of Paving = ____________SF of Excavation

x $3.00 SF = $_____________

Total Estimated Site Improvement Costs = $ _______________________________
                                                            (Sum of Parking, Earthworks & Utilities) 

 

Total Estimated Project Cost = $____________________________________
                                           (Sum of New Construction + FFE + Site Improvement Costs) 


Cost & Decisions 

As seen in the following graphic, when the least amount of resources are being invested, the Project Team actually has the most influence on the project design and construction costs. Time spent early in a planning process will directly influence the cost of the project. A myth exists that "value engineering"  (saving the church money) can take place after the design is complete. After the project design is complete the typical approach to "value engineering" is to decrease quality or decrease square footage. This chop and hack approach is not only contrary to positive momentum, but most importantly, it is contrary to the vision and mission of the church. Nearly 50% of America's churches have set plans hidden behind the Pastor's door that will never be built. On average, the other 50% that did build lost their Pastor within 18 months of the completion of their new facility. The number one reason for these disconnects is the lack of an integrated Project Team and a Discovery Process that guides that team carefully through planning each unique project. True value engineering and good construction decisions are made early in the process with a Team approach of Owner-Architect-Contractor equally yoked and in step, pulling toward the same goal. A good Discovery Process keeps the Project Team in step and protects the project from potential disastrous surprises.

                                             b2ap3_thumbnail_TW2.png 

Key Components of Discovery are: 

*Alignment of Facility Goals with Financial Capabilities 
*Alignment of Facility Needs with Congregational Needs and Involvement 
*Alignment of the Facility Location with the Challenges that the Building Site Presents 

F.W. Dodge, the largest provider of construction analysis and statistics in the United States and Canada, has verified that the average construction project is 30% over budget due, primarily, to beginning construction design prior to understanding (Discovering) the vision and mission of the client and project challenges that would have surfaced during a Feasibility Study. An integrated Project Team working through a comprehensive Discovery Process together makes good cost and stewardship decisions. 


Design & Functional Relevance 

A project team dedicated to understanding the church will focus on designing a facility around your ministry by actually connecting the facility design to your church's vision and mission. The graphs show that in a growing US population, despite significant investment in building and/or improving our places of worship, we are actually reaching less people. Good construction decisions begin by understanding who the church is, what the church's long range goals are and who is the target of the church's outreach? The Word of God never changes,; the way we convey God's word does. Creating an environment that reaches the firs time visitor and serves the long time member is critical. Designing relevant facilities where people can relax, can be themselves, can connect with others, and can become a part of the community is nothing new. 

                                                                       b2ap3_thumbnail_TW3.png

The projects that T&W Church Solutions design and build are very unique and they are passionate about each one. Good Construction decisions are made long before the "bricks and sticks" arrive on the job site. A good Design/Build Team can guide you through the process of Discovering the Facility Challenges before you, and Designing a Facility around your Ministry Discovering who the church is and following the Lord's leading will be a critical component for a successful project....long before the "bricks and sticks." 

 

 

Copyright Credit: T&W Church Solutions 

 

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!!  In keeping with New Year’s traditions today I thought we would talk about resolutions. I’m sure at some point in your life you have set personal goals, only one donut a day, and you may or may not have been successful in reaching them; but have you ever made resolutions for you ministry? Here’s why I think you should. 

Your ministry, like yourself, should be constantly evolving, changing and growing. However, you’ll never reach a goal you don’t set. Even if you’re only 70% successful, you’ve accomplished 70% more than you would have by doing nothing.

I have been working in the insurance world for over seven years now. When I first started my Dad had this dream of providing services to churches beyond anything that anyone else was doing in the industry. We wanted to be able to touch base with our clients on a weekly basis and partner with them in protecting their ministries. That was our goal. Over the years we developed a risk management manual, a website, risk management meetings, a new website and most recently a blog. We didn’t reach our goal over night, or even in one year. But each year we would listen to our clients and talk about what needs we could meet and work our way one step closer towards that goal.

So what goals should your ministry try and set?
1. You should appoint someone in your congregation to take on the role as your risk management supervisor. My dad likes to say that if a Pastor did everything he should do when it comes to the Church he would never have time to preach. So designate someone else to be our risk management contact for your ministry and we will work with them to help implement any policies and procedures you are missing.

2. Set realistic goals. Every Monday morning you receive an email with our latest blog post. Naturally this is the highlight of your day; you’re welcome. I try and vary the posts each month between a policy or procedure you should implement to just good information you should be aware of.  Set the goal of incorporating one new risk management procedure a month. 

3. Plan Ahead. At the end of the month your Risk Management Volunteer should look at the blog posts and decide which one they will implement in the upcoming month. Our Risk Management Document Library is full of sample forms and policies that will make implementation a painless process.

4. Be accountable. The easiest way to stick to something is to be accountable to someone else. Involve others in this process. Have all of your staff, and even members of the congregation subscribe to our blog. If everyone is aware of things that your ministry needs to be doing your ministry is more likely to accomplish those things.

5. Track Your Progress. Nothing is more satisfying that being able to but a check next to an item on your to do list! I’m guilty of making lists sometimes just so I can cross things off. Instant gratification! It’s also important to share you successes! I would love to hear from each one of you as you complete different sections of implementation! A happy dance will be done in your honor.

6. Stick to it. Experts say it takes 21 days for something to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. It won’t happen overnight but it’s important to be persistent. If you find yourself losing steam, don’t despair. Start over again!

 

I promise to do my part in continuing to provide you with relevant information and step by step instructions on how to protect your ministry in today’s world. If you’re looking to incorporate some new policies in your ministry and can’t find the document in our library, let me know! If you’re not sure what steps you need to take give me a call!

At the end of 2016 I’d love for each and every one of our clients to say “Our ministry incorporated 12 new risk management procedures!” 

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When you hear the words Lease Agreement what comes to mind?

Leasing a Car

Leasing a Building

Leasing Land

All of the above fall under the term lease. So how does this connect to your church?

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a church that owned a house and they leased it to a tenant. The church had this house insured at ACV (Actual Cash Value). The tenant burned the house to the ground causing $120,000 of damage. The Church’s policy only paid $80,000 because it was insured for Actual Cash Value instead of Replacement Cost. Now the church is left with a bill of $40,000 in order to rebuild.

How could this have been avoided? If the church had executed a lease agreement with their tenant requiring them to purchase a renters policy that policy would have included fire legal coverage. This means if the tenant burnt the house to the ground, the renters policy would have covered the claim and the church would not have had a claim at all.

In another kingdom far far away, a man inherited a large plot of land from his family. Hundreds of acres as far as the eye could see. He was not a farmer, so he decided to lease the land to a local farmer so he could plant and harvest his crop. One day while running his combine the farmer ran over a child who was playing with his friends in the cornfield. The child was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and the owner of the land suddenly found himself in serious trouble.

How could this have been avoided? The owner of the land did not add the vacant land onto his insurance policy; therefore he had no liability coverage.  He should have added the property onto his insurance policy, and then executed a lease agreement with the farmer requiring him to purchase his own liability policy and add him as an additional insured on that policy. By doing so, this would have prevented the owner of the land from being liable for the farmer’s actions simply because he was on his property. The farmer’s policy would have defended him in a lawsuit and no claim would have been filed against the Land Owner.

So what have we learned from these two stories? Whether you lease a house, a church, or vacant land you must exercise a lease agreement requiring them to purchase their own policy, and then to add you as additional insured. This prevents you from lending your insurance to others who are using your property. It also prevents you from being liable, as their policy will now defend you against any claim. Could your ministry survive a million dollar lawsuit? You won’t have to find out if you execute a lease agreement. 

As always, you can find a sample lease agreement in our Risk Management Document Library. Simply log on and go to Risk Management – Document Library.

 

 

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Last week we hosted our Annual Christmas Party. The day is filled with hourly give a ways, games, food and White Elephant Gifts. This year the first annual Pat Fisher Associate of the Year Award was handed out. Pat, one of our beloved employees, has won her fight against cancer after a very tough battle this past year. Her faith, integrity and dedication has been inspiring and there was not a dry eye in the house! Below is a glimpse of our Christmas Fun and we wish you all a Very Merry Christmas! 

 

 

                          

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Today I thought I would share my favorite rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas. I highly encourage you to incorporate this into your Christmas Programs! 

 

     

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Back in October we announced our new Risk Management Assessment Tool on our website.  The purpose of this is twofold.

1.       We want to help you evaluate where you are in the implementation process. This helps us know in which areas we need to assist you further.

2.       Once you have completed adopting all the risk management policy/procedures we will send you a certificate of compliance. We will also send that certificate to your insurance carrier. This allows us to market you as best in class, which may result in best in class premiums.

 


                                            So how are we going to help you check the boxes in all areas?

                                       b2ap3_thumbnail_Benchmarking-Logistics-020615.jpg

 

Some of you have already completed the Risk Management Assessment. That means that I have taken your information and created a custom schedule for 2016. Each month I will email you a reminder about an area you need to implement along with instructions and whatever forms are applicable. Some of you may only see 3 emails next year, because you have completed all the other areas. Some of you may see more. However, you won’t see any unless you take 5 minutes and complete the assessment!  

Take The Risk Management Assessment 

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“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”


Churches make contributions to missionaries in numerous ways supporting the spreading of the gospel. Unfortunately, many churches and their members are not familiar with the tax rules that apply to these donations.

#1 Direct Gifts to Missionaries

Church members sometimes send a check directly to a missionary. Occasionally they will even give a missionary an item of property, such as a car or home. These gifts are not tax-deductible by the donor as a charitable contribution. To be tax deductible, a charitable contribution must be to or for the use of an organization the IRS has recognized as tax-exempt.

#2 Gifts to Missionaries Acting as Collecting Agents

There is an exemption to the above scenario. If a missionary conducts a service in a church, and the church collects an offering on the missionary’s behalf, contributions directly to the missionary may be deductible as a charitable contribution if the missionary is acting as a collecting agent for his or her missions agency.

#3 Contributions to a Missions Agency Designating a Particular Missionary

Church members can get around the limitations of rule 1 by simply making their gift directly to a missions agency but designating a specific missionary to be benefited. This assumes that the missions agency exercise full control over these funds to ensure they will be used to carry out its purpose.

#4 Contributions to an Independent Missionary

Are contributions tax deductible if made to a local church designating a particular missionary not associated with any missions agency? According to the IRS, such contributions are deductible only if the church has full control of the donated funds and discretion as to their use, so as to insure that they will be used to carry out its functions and purposes. This means that the local church must assume the role of a missions agency and adopt procedures verifying that the funds are being spent to carry out its mission and purposes. How is this done? At a minimum, you as a church would need to do the following:

Require the missionary to complete a period activity report summarizing all missionary activities conducted for the previous period. This would include services conducting, teaching activities, and other missionary activities.

Require the missionary to complete a period accounting of the donated funds received from the church.

The church board should approve each independent missionary’s ministry as a legitimate activity in furtherance of the church’s religious mission.

Reconcile the expense summaries with the activity summaries.


Such procedures can become burdensome for a church, however rule 1 serves as a warning that contribution to local churches for independent missionaries are not tax-deductible without such controls.

 


Most importantly, a church that supports an independent missionary will need to issue him or her a 1099 form at the end of each year, reporting all distributions (assuming they amount to a least $600). This is not necessary for missionaries commissioned by or associated with recognized missions agencies and who will receive W-2 or 1099 forms directly from their missions agency. 

 

 

© 1997 Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

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With Thanksgiving quickly approaching I thought I would share a little history on the origin of the holiday we celebrate each year and the traditions we've come to love. For instance, that moment when the family is gathered around in the living room and smoke starts billowing in from the kitchen because the juice from the turkey pan has over flowed and is burning at the bottom of the oven. Or maybe that's just my family. Every year. We then open the windows and laugh at what we can see of each other through the smoke filled rooms. Although incredibly ridiculous it's one of my first thoughts when it comes to Thanksgiving, it's become a tradition. 

I hope you friends, family and love ones enjoy your Thanksgiving traditions whatever they may be. Although, hopefully less smoky. 

                                           

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Today I wanted to share some thoughts about securing your premises. Back in August I wrote a blog entitled Perception is Reality, which I have linked at the bottom of this article. In it I discussed some ways in which you can inexpensively install some security features around your building.

A/C units are vandalized for their copper on a regular basis. In fact, we just had a ministry last week that unfortunately had the copper stolen from their units. The average cost to replace is $5,000 per unit.

Put yourself in the position of a thief. Yes, I understand the humor in asking my Pastors to do so. In which scenario would you be more likely to steal?

A.      .An area with motion sensor lighting, security cameras and CCTV stickers.

B.       An area with no lighting or monitoring system of any kind.

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It is not in your budget to install a high tech, fancy schmancy video surveillance system. In fact, the last time you messed with any wiring at the church the baptistery lights now blink every time you use the microwave. Not to worry, I have some pretty exciting news.

What you may not know about me or my Dad is that we are inherently frugal. The Gleason gene cannot fathom spending money without a deal, or a coupon. I once was with my grandpa as he backed up on the interstate because he spotted an excellent fire log on the side of the road!  Aside from now wanting to hire me as your personal shopper, there is a point to all this.

I recommend that you purchase some solar panel motion sensor lights and install them around your A/C units. These range around $30 at Amazon, Lowes, Home Depot etc. They do not require any electrical installation. Simply screw in the solar panel and mount the light fixture. In addition, I recommend you purchase a fake LED security camera. These range around $8 per unit, and the batteries last around 9-12 months. CCTV stickers are also included for you to put on the side of your units.

Sunforce LED Solar Motion Light

Fake LED Security Camera

For less than $50 you can protect your A/C units with motion sensor light, security cameras and CCTV stickers just like in scenario A.  In 20 minutes your facility’s units will no longer be a prime target for copper theft. Just make sure you use proper ladder safety during installation or that may be the topic of my next blog.

Previous Blog Post: Perception is Reality

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De Escalation. When we hear this word it often triggers thoughts of extreme situations but in reality this is a word that we should put into practice daily. Learning the principles of de-escalation will allow you to remain in control at all times, support anyone, anywhere, with any issue and avoid the wrong response which can make the situation worse.

In order to be effective in a situation, you have to first manage yourself before you can manage other people. Airline safety instructions advise you to place your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. Why? You’ve got to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.  When hearing “remain in control of a situation,” many assume that means that you control the situation by controlling the other person. That is not true. You cannot control others, you can only control yourself. The way you remain in control of a situation is by controlling yourself. The key here is that when you change your own behavior, you change the outcome of the situation.

A common misconception of de-escalation is that you can learn a specific technique and it will always diffuse the person in front of you. Each person is different and therefore has different needs. You will be most effective when you can adapt in the moment to the current needs of the person in front of you. The only response that works every time is the right response for the specific situation.

One thing to remember is that behavior is a form of communication. It may not always be the best form, like the teenager acting out to gain attention, but it is a valid form of communication. To understand what a person is trying to convey you have to not only listen to their words but also listen to their behavior and their body language. 

“What is this person trying to gain? What is this person trying to avoid?”

While some people view self-defense as the most practical offensive approach, a physical intervention actually increases the risk that someone will get hurt. Studies show that a physical response to physical aggression increases the likelihood that physical aggression will occur again. So when is a physical response the right response? When that response makes the situation safer. If you’re going to respond physically because of the danger, the response should be done in a way that reduces that danger. If your ministry allows weapons on their premises (members with gun permits) it is important to know the regulations in your area and seek training. There are companies that offer training programs teaching alternatives to violence in self-protection and intervention. Many churches have partnered with their local police department or have officers who may attend the church that were willing to lead up the training and help create a policy and procedure for how the church would respond to a potential incident. 

Although I wish I could teach you the entire process and technique of de-escalation it is too much information for one blog post! However, I have attached a document you can download that was written by Service Alternatives Inc Training Institute. I highly recommend that you, and others in your ministry read this and discuss what training you can put in place to better serve and protect your congregation. 



De-Escalation-Principles.pdf

 

 

                                    

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November is here and with it comes the reminder to give thanks. While I try to be cognizant of expressing appreciation all year round, I really wanted to do something more this year. After doing some research, which by now you know I love I to do, I stumbled across a website called Any Soldier

The purpose of this website is for men and women of our military to submit requests for mail and care packages. The number one request is for letters. You can choose any branch of the military and from there request the address of the group you would like to fulfill. These boxes are shipped to either a base in NY or CA, so you do not have to pay international shipping. I come from a Navy family, so I chose to send a box to a Navy Platoon. Below is a picture of the items purchase for our care package. I asked the people in our office to contribute cards and letters as well. 

 

                                          b2ap3_thumbnail_Troops.jpg

 

I highly encourage you to consider expressing your thanks to the men and women who sacrifice time with their families to serve our country. This could be done with your congregation, youth group project or simply sent from your family.

There are times in all of our lives when someone reaches out and says I appreciate you, you're doing a good job, thank you. God seems to send those moments just when we need to hear them the most, and I firmly believe whomever you choose to reach out to is in need of hearing that. 

Count your blessings, name them one by one....now become a blessing to someone. 

 

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Today is a special bonus blog because we are announcing the winner of our $50 Gift Card for Pastor Appreciation Month! If you're thinking this could have been me, you're right. So stay tuned and make sure you enter in upcoming give-a-ways! 


                        

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First Insurance Group is excited to announce that we will be hosting a FREE seminar, The Missing Link in Ministries,  Friday, January 15th, 2016. 

It has been our goal for awhile to create such an event for Churches to attend and not only learn about the issues ministries are facing, but how to efficiently implement systems to eliminate problems and protect themselves. Hope's Point Baptist Church has graciously offered to host this event and we couldn't be happier to offer it to you. 

Why are we telling you about this now? If you're like me, you know an event is coming up and you were planning on registering for it at some point, but then the phone rang and someone asked you to do something and then you needed to stop and pick up groceries and weeks go by without you registering. In order to prevent you missing out an this important event, I am telling you now! Registration is free but spaces are limited so register today and add it to your calendar. We will send you reminders as the event draws closer. 

What Attendees Can Expect: 

9:00AM Free Breakfast (This already makes it worth attending) 

10:00AM Kurt Williams 

10:30AM Mike Gleason, First Insurance Group 


The Seminar is located at: Hope's Point Baptist Church - 1703 S. Miller Avenue, Shelbyville, IN 46176 

We understand that our clients are spread out over many states and you cannot all attend due to location. However, if you know of a church in the area you think should attend please extend an invitation. We are planning on hosting several of these in the future and if you would like to see an event like this closer to you, or you are interested in hosting a seminar please let me know. 

 

Click Here to Register 

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Sitting at my desk I was struck with the thought that today was a great day for a bonus blog. In other words, I couldn't wait till Monday to share this new feature on our website! 

We have added a Risk Management Assessment page to help us evaluate where each ministry is in the process of implementing the policies and procedures we discuss on our blog each week. Now, no one is going to get a bad grade and we promise not send a letter home to your parents. This is simply a tool that not only helps you evaluate where you are, but it also helps us focus on specific areas your ministry may need further assistance. When it comes to risk management, we are your partner and we consider it our job to help you in all these areas. 

So please take a moment and complete the assessment. It's faster than a game of 20 questions and can be finished in less than 3 minutes depending on how fast your mouse skills are! 

Take RM Assessment 

                                                                          

 

 

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Recently, many Christian Churches and ministries have found themselves in an uncomfortable position due to Microsoft’s user agreement for their Charity Program for Office 365. This Non Profit licensing requires them to certify they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation in their employment practices. On October 8, 2015, Microsoft addressed these concerns and posted changes to its policy on its website.  

Microsoft previously placed this restriction for its Office 365 charity program:

“Organizations that engage in discrimination in [employment practices] based on…gender identity or expression…[or] sexual orientation…other than as allowed by law are not eligible to participate in this program.”

In a conversation with Nick Nicholaou, the vice president of Microsoft was advised there were two reasons they might want to consider changing the wording.

1. Microsoft is a business with a conscience, and that’s good. But Microsoft was, with the existing wording, making it very uncomfortable for hundreds of thousands of Christian organizations to use its solution, and that may not be the business decision it indented.

2. Microsoft was pursing inclusion by excluding a large percentage of the population.

This month Microsoft added a statement to its website that says, “The only exception to this [anti-discrimination] policy is for religious organizations that are exempt from laws that prohibit such discrimination.”

Microsoft also added a three point FAQ that explained its intentions. The FAQ clarifies why Microsoft is excluding religious organizations.

This allows churches to act in accordance with their legally protected religious convictions and not feel required to certify something that may not be true for them. 

In today's society, religious freedom laws are constantly put to the test, as is apparent even when using software. This is just another reason why your ministry should update their statement of faith on the issue of marriage, human sexuality and gender based on your congregation's belief on these issues. We have a sample Immorality Resolution in our Documents Library provided to us by Christian Law Association that will help your church clarify its position. Simply log on, go the Sexual Misconduct section of the library and click on the Immorality Resolution to download. 

For those interested, the Office 365 charity program provides a variety of options. The two most commonly used by churches either reduce the cost from $8 per month per use to free, or, from more than $20 per month per user to $4.50 per month per user.  This is a substantial savings all ministries can take advantage of. 


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Here in town we have wonderful little bakery I tend to frequent far too often. I order a jumbo oatmeal cream pie, swipe my card on their tablet card reader, decline a receipt and head off to savor my 16oz cookie. Don't judge me, they are delicious! While the whole process is fast, simple and highly caloric, it is about to change. And if the bakery doesn't change, they could be faced with huge costs. 

Starting soon, credit/debit card companies will be issuing cards with EMV chips embedded in them. Come this October, those EMV chips will make buying oatmeal cream pies, or whatever you favorite vice, a completely different experience for both the buyer and the seller. This has to do with fraud. In the past, if credit card fraud occurred at a merchant the credit card company usually covered the cost. However, that is changing this year and according to recent surveys, 38% of merchants don't plan to do anything about it right now. 

On October 1st, if a merchant doesn't accept a credit card with an EMV chip, and the transaction is fraudulent, then the merchant will be liable for the costs. How does this effect you? If your ministry accepts electronic payments for daycare, school or offerings and your system doesn't accept EMV cards, you are at risk. Not only does this effect your ministry, but it will effect the members of your congregation who own businesses and I highly encourage you to share it with them. 

What are EMV Chips? These EMV cards are nothing new, they've been used in Europe and other parts of the world for years. It's an industry standard that is used to fight fraud. It takes a different kind of reader to process the card. You no longer swipe, but instead insert. When I was in Europe last year I did not own a EMV card and found it very difficult to make any transactions with automated systems. I could not purchase credit for the train, or rent a bicycle at the park. I know, you thought I was going to mention pastries again, but thankfully those establishments accepted cash! The benefits of the EMV chip is that it has encrypted data about the customer and the transaction which makes it much more secure because it's very difficult for someone to make a duplicate copy of a card and counterfeit it. 

EMV does work. Lost and stolen credit cards fell by 58% in the UK five years after the retailers adopted the technology. Canada, Europe, Asia and South America have all seen similar impacts on fraud. 

As a business owner, it is time to upgrade your systems. Popular favorite companies for small businesses such as Square and Intuit have upgraded their readers to process EMV chips protecting their clients with each swipe. I know it's another cost to you, but in the long run reducing fraud will reduce everyone's costs. 

 

Below are some links to EMV Chip Readers. 
Square Reader 
Intuit Reader 

                      

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Enter to Win a $50 Gift Card 

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AC Transit official pleads guilty to charges of embezzling from Oakland Church.

Man accused of stealing $150k from Victory Church waives prelim hearing, has bail reduction.

Woman pleads guilty to thefts from Columbia Baptist Association.

Ex-worker pleads guilty in Edmond Church embezzlement case.

Man charged with stealing more than $60,000 from central Minnesota Church.

Former Grand Rapids Pastor, church secretary will repay $220,000 taken from church, judge vows.

 

These are just a few recent headlines, but as you can see fraud within Churches has become a major problem.  

Churches play a vital role in the community. They open their doors inviting you into a safe, supportive and welcoming environment. Those placed in leadership roles are highly trusted individuals who have been pillars of the ministry for years, sometimes decades. Therefore when monetary irregularities begin to appear the Church is left in shock and disbelief.

How could this happen?
We had no idea they were capable of this.
I can’t believe it.

These are just a few common statements made upon discovery. However, there are things you can look for, and procedures you can implement that prevent these travesties from ever occurring.  

The following are things consistently observed when it comes to church fraud.

Of all the cases, 87% involved first-time offenders with no prior criminal records. Personal debt, medical crisis, or the unexpected loss of a spouse’s job creates unexpected pressure, with many rationalizing their acts as “temporary loans” that they intend to repay- but never do.

An average theft amount of at least $100,000, and usually between $200,000 - $400,000, all stolen over a period of several years.

At least two to four media headlines nationwide each month involving an arrest or prosecution of a bookkeeper, accountant, or pastor suspected of embezzling from their church. 

So what measures can your ministry put in place?

Consistently evaluate the pay structures of your pastors and staff, and watch for stressful events in their lives that could lead to heavier financial pressures.

Use internal controls to segregate duties and involve multiple people in all of the various steps involving money-from collections to counting to accounting to bill paying.

Don’t underestimate the value of internal and external audits. An external audit involving a qualified, independent outside firm requires time and money. Consider doing one about every three years because it helps ensure no gaps or loopholes have developed over time. Internal audits conducted by church staff and volunteers can be done on the years when an external audit isn’t done; these can simply review policies and procedures in place to make sure everything works right and looks right.

In our Risk Management Document Library under Church Polices you will find a sample policy titled “How to Handle Money.” This can help get your ministry started down the right path of protecting your assets as well as removing temptation from your members. If you're interested in additional reading, please check out this article Financial Fraud in Heartland Churches.

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