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How to Help Low Performing Employees In Your Church
How to Help Low Performing Employees In Your Church 300 144 The Provisum Group

 

I sympathize with pastors who are faced with the issue of a difficult employee. On the one hand, parishioners often have affection towards the difficult employee who is in question. On the other hand, however, many parishioners do not always see the interworking of the staff and how an employee’s difficult and negative presence can be detrimental to the organization.

In the church, it is important for the pastor and leadership team to develop strength of character. Strength of character is especially necessary for the tough personnel decisions that often need to be made in order to strengthen the entire church. Far too often, a church keeps an employee on staff because it believes it’s easier to tolerate his or her presence. The church would prefer to suffer the damage until a dismissal is inevitable. In my experience, many church leaders have made the choice to tolerate the negative behavior of a staff member in the short run rather than endure the wrath of the church members they believe will lament the staff member’s departure in the long run.

Here an important concept to remember: low-performing employees affect new growth. I like to think of it as a variation of “opportunity cost.” While the retention of a low-performing church employee may not prompt many people to leave, the function of a low-performing employee is bound to prevent some first-time visitors from ever coming back.

Longtime members aren’t likely to pick up and leave just because the children’s area is a mess, for example; but someone who’s on the hunt for a new church home isn’t likely to choose yours if something as “minor” as the state of the nursery fails to meet their expectations. Fewer people quit the church because the worship is lame than don’t return for the same reason. Always remember to count the people who visited and didn’t return when you think about the “lots of people” who might leave due to the dismissal of an ineffective church employee.

Here is a truth for all church leaders to keep in mind: No matter what you do or how well you do it, some people are going to leave at some point. Don’t allow your desire to avoid the pain of “a lot of people” leaving to outweigh the wise decision to nip it in the bud. Your job is to be the voice of reason and focus on the vision as well as how your team is practically executing on that vision.

Using Empirical Evidence Can Help Prevent Unnecessary Conflicts
Using Empirical Evidence Can Help Prevent Unnecessary Conflicts 300 90 The Provisum Group

 

Empirical evidence is the key to keep a cool head in your church ministry. It actually helps prevent unnecessary conflict. Here’s why.

Those who conduct the business of church ministry have a God-given duty to be the voice of empirical reason at the table. Now, I want to be clear here: The foundation of the church is faith in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, and its primary goal is to see lives redeemed and transformed through salvation and through relationships in community. But someone has to be a standard-bearer for empirical reason, if for no other reason than to make sure it is not ignored.

Empirical data can sometimes lead a church to make decisions that are difficult. Some of these decisions can offensive to some. In these moments, it is important to remember the tried and true principle that an evidence-based decision making approach is always better than limited information and anecdotal experiences.

As believers in Jesus, our very existence offends certain people. If we want to offend no one, we must say little and do even less. There is simply no way you can lead a church without offending somebody. It is bound to happen.

Someone will get mad. We can’t afford to worry about offending our congregants, and we especially can’t afford to fear angering our staff members.

In the light of our tendency to make decisions based on desperation to avoid conflict, you should make a habit of reviewing the empirical evidence before deciding how to proceed.

How Churches Can Win with the IRS (Part 1)
How Churches Can Win with the IRS (Part 1) 300 200 The Provisum Group

Churches are not completely exempt from “rendering unto Caesar” what is due. If you are a pastor at church, you are not permitted to claim ignorance on these issues. It isn’t foggy. It isn’t unclear. The IRS has made known the laws and regulations for churches and will hold you to account whether you’ve taken the time to understand them or not.

First, when my organization, The Provisum Group, takes on a new church client, one of the first things we do is check to make sure that their IRS filings are current and complete. These IRS filings require yearly maintenance and contact with the federal government. Failure to do so can result in a forfeiture of your nonprofit status.

Second, we check expense reports and credit card statements because that’s what auditors do, and it is the number one area where abuse and neglect occur. The IRS becomes suspicious toward large purchases if receipts are not accompanying them. Only substantiated reimbursements are acceptable when a receipt proves the money was spent on materials pertaining to the exempted purpose of the organization.

Third, we check into one of the biggest areas of confusion and abuse: the purchase of meals. There must be a bona fide business reason or expectation of gain. If you are unsure about your church’s use of the meals practice is compliant with the federal government, please look into “de minimis meals” on the IRS website. It will help you know if you’re in risk for an audit.

More to come in part 2…

How Churches Can Win with the IRS (Part 2)
How Churches Can Win with the IRS (Part 2) 300 200 The Provisum Group

As we discussed in Part 1, Churches are not completely exempt from “rendering unto Caesar” what is due.

If you haven’t read part 1, start here.

We’re going to pick up where we left off.

Fourth, I closely check the church’s revenue. If the church is receiving income unrelated to the exempted purpose of the organization—income that is therefore taxable. This kind of revenue is called “unrelated business income” by the IRS, and it is taxable. Now, some clever pastor may argue that the gymnasium is being used for outreach. But he needs to make that argument with the support of an accountant and/or a lawyer, and he needs to hope he wins. If your building is rented for anything other than the purposes that qualify you as a nonprofit, it’s taxable. Returning to our example of renting out a gymnasium, the back taxes can add up to thousands of dollars. Failure to pay could result in your having to pay the tax plus penalties and interest, which could easily double or even triple the tax you owed in the first place.

Fifth, nonprofits and churches are not exempt from copyright law—or the consequences of infringement. You cannot broadcast music that is not in the public domain without paying royalties to the writers and the production companies. Whether it’s a song lyric, a movie line, an excerpt from a television show, or another type of media, make sure you pay for the rights to use it, if necessary. While this may not actually help you with the IRS, it will help you develop a sense of principles for the organization that will trickle throughout how the church completes its taxes.

Sixth, if you are a pastor or a ministry leader, don’t ask an employee to wash your car, clean your house, cut your lawn, watch your kids, walk your dog, schedule you a haircut, or do any other personal service on company time. If you do, you should pay him or her out of your own pocket. Even if the employee wants to provide the service, the burden, as well as the penalties, rests with the employer to follow federal wage and hour laws. Any employees who attend your church and desire to volunteer there must do so in a capacity that is unrelated to their salaried job. Otherwise, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor will view his volunteering as work for which he should be paid according to federal regulations.

If you follow these guidelines and try your best to honor the IRS, your church will have fewer problems. Even though it may seem taxing to follow the rules (see what I did there?), it is far less challenging and costly than to deal with the IRS on their terms. Do what is right and you will win with the IRS.

Mentoring: Where Young and Old Collide
Mentoring: Where Young and Old Collide 284 300 The Provisum Group

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain

Wisdom is the byproduct of experience. Experience is the product of many choices, mistakes, victories, and circumstances. In this life, we have a choice. We can learn from our own mistakes or we can learn from the mistakes of others.

The wise person will seek to gain wisdom from others to avoid unnecessary heartaches, mistakes, and bad choices. Wisdom is essential for success in your family health, work success, spiritual growth, and personal life.

Here’s a word to younger people. One of the best ways to gain wisdom is to identify and develop a relationship with an older mentor.

Why an older mentor? Just as you can look back and see how your life decisions have matured over the past ten years, a mentor can see patterns of behavior and trends in your life. Older mentors benefit younger mentees because they have more experiences and insights as well as the ability to give you a glimpse of yourself in the future—in a way that your peers cannot. They can help you think more clearly about the coming decisions you will need to make and can advise you on how to navigate them wisely and successfully.

Before you select a mentor here are a few helpful tips for you to remember.

  • Clarify Your Arrangement. When selecting a mentor, be clear about expectations. What will the mentor provide? How often will you meet? What are the areas you want to grow? Clarifying up front helps make for a better relationship long-term.
  • You’re Responsible. If you need a mentor, it is incumbent upon the mentee to develop the mentor to get what you need from a mentor. It’s important for you to figure them out—not the other way around.
  • Listen First. Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. As a newer person to the American workforce, seek first by listening and learning. Your mentor is not your counselor or psychologist. If you’re not asking good questions and listening, you’re probably doing it wrong.
  • Invite and Accept Criticism. Criticism hurts, but is sometimes necessary to receive it in order to grow. By inviting a trusted mentor to give you honest feedback, you will become aware of your shortcomings faster so that you can adapt and grow quicker.

Here’s a word for the more “seasoned” readers. One of the best ways to give wisdom is to identify and develop a relationship with a younger mentee.

Why mentor somebody younger than you? Mentoring is an opportunity to give away what you’ve learned over the years. Mentoring is not filling up all the needs of somebody. It’s simply giving away the knowledge and wisdom you’ve acquired. Most importantly, if older mentors don’t seek to give away what they’ve learned, who will give it away? If not you, who can mentor help the next generation? If not now, when?

Before you become a mentor to somebody here are a few helpful tips for you to remember.

  • Clarify Your Arrangement. When selecting somebody to mentor, be clear about expectations. What will you provide? How often will you meet? What are the areas you want to grow? Be very clear about what you can and cannot offer a mentee.
  • Empty Your Cup. Andy Stanley used to say, “Your job isn’t to fill their cup. Your job is to empty yours.” Give away what you have and feel no pressure to fill all the needs in all the different areas of their lives.
  • Keep on Learning. Even though you probably have more to offer a mentee, find a way to listen and learn about the mentee’s needs, values, and ways of relating to the world. This will not only help you improve your communication style, but it will help you stay in touch with next generation culture.
  • Give Clear Feedback. Develop an open and honest relationship with your mentee. Be willing to tell them the hard truth. In fact, I suggest that you only mentor somebody who commits to hearing criticism and feedback from you.

Whether you’re a mentor or a mentee, you have a unique opportunity to give and receive. You can use all that you’ve learned to increase the healthy and prosperity of your home, work, and relationships. When we give and receive what we’ve learned from others, we are participating and making a difference in our city and our world.

Three Hiring Strategies to Increase Business Expertise in Your Church
Three Hiring Strategies to Increase Business Expertise in Your Church 300 225 The Provisum Group

The church is not a business. The church just conducts business. This is a difficult reality for certain churches to grasp. Some church leaders want to believe that no business acumen is required for running a church. While minimal business involvement may work some missional-style expressions of church, there are still many other churches that require business expertise.

My advice: in order for churches to conduct business effectively, there needs to be at least one person on staff who knows how to conduct business. This may seem elementary, but you would be surprised at the amount of churches who do not have at least one person with the expertise necessary to thrive in the changing American church climate.

If you are a church leader and you know you need business acumen help, you may need to hire people outside the congregation to help. Here’s some hiring advice.

First, hire people with proven track records. Look for people who have experience in what you need them to do. When interviewing, ask experience questions. Also, take time to think about the particular experiences of a businessperson and how it can translate to the nonprofit world.

Second, hire people with solid reputations. Look for people who recommended by others and who have something measurable to show for their “experience”. Follow up with referrals provided by an applicant and ask probing questions.

Third, consider alternative hiring solutions when possible. At The Provisum Group, we offer accounting, IT administration, and communications and marketing solutions to churches and other faith-based nonprofits. We save our church clients because we are a virtual solution. My point is that there are lots of creative ways to invite business expertise into your church without breaking the bank.

May you be the kind of church leader who welcomes business talent into your church so you can lead more effectively.

When Business Acumen and the Pastor’s Vision Collide
When Business Acumen and the Pastor’s Vision Collide 555 417 The Provisum Group

If an undertaking is meant to create margin, someone at the table has to talk about such practical considerations as price, cost, and return on investment. A committee will tell you, “These are the must-have.” “This is a have-to.”

The voice of business wants to cut “must-haves” and “have-tos” in order to create margin that will enable the church to serve as many people as possible.

There is always a tension between vision and practicality, but both are necessary. Even the pastor who wants to keep his church broke—the pastor who keeps his members dreaming of things so big, they could never happen unless God showed up—has to take practical steps toward that which he is trying to accomplish.

The voice of business ought not to argue with he faith of the visionary, and the visionary might not follow the voice of business with exact precision; but they should honor each other.

Money may follow ministry, but margin pays for it.

Conflict Isn’t Always Bad
Conflict Isn’t Always Bad 1024 640 The Provisum Group

Conflict isn’t always bad. In fact, it’s often a catalyst for growth.

 

High-capacity leaders have a tendency to create friction with one another. Yet if a leader stewards this type of tension, it has the potential to lead to new growth in the organization.

But let’s be real here and say that human beings are emotional creatures. Somebody will always be getting mad about something. There are many leaders who avoid conflict entirely because they have never observed a healthy way to enter into healthy conflict.

If you plan to lead in a church, you must embrace the reality that there will be real emotions connected to the conflict. This doesn’t mean you should go looking for conflict, nor does it give conflict prone individuals the right to pick fights with each other. It simply means that as we live and work in peace with one another, we must be ready for anger and hurt feelings.

The question is this: how do we process our anger? Do we have a process for keeping “short accounts” with one another to keep the leadership team healthy? You need a plan for how you and your team will work through conflict. Conflict is coming. It’s inevitable. Do you have a plan?

To dive deeper in this topic, I suggest three resources.

My book of course, Minding His Business, is a great example of how I handle conflict.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when the Stakes Are High

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Patrick Lencioni

All three provide a great framework to do conflict well, and avoid the potholes of anger and bitterness.

May God give you courage to embrace and step into the difficult conversations in your life and your ministry.

– Don