The Advisor

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Posted 4/10/14 at 9:16 AM | Raul Rivera

How the IRS Looks at a Pastor's Salary

She was dismayed when she got a letter from the IRS telling her that her $18,000.00 salary at the church was too high. After all, Pastor Geneva worked for the church and clocked approximately 40 hours per week as the pastor. She also spent time counseling and working hard to feed many homeless in New York City. So why was her humble $18,000.00 salary too high?

The board meeting

Earlier that year, the board of directors at their annual meeting approved her salary package. They felt good about it because it was a creative way to make sure that the church could also pay its rent and other important bills. Moreover, they recorded the salary approval in the minutes of the church and had them signed by two officers. Everything looked perfect. But then the letter came.

A little bit about unwelcomed news

Have you ever received unwelcomed news; the kind that completely changes your day? That kind of news seems to come when you least need it! Knowing whom my readers are, I can bet that unwelcomed news related to the church you started, or the church you took over, seems to come in waves. It can begin with low attendance and terrible tithes/offerings during a Sunday service, or unplanned events at a board meeting, topped off by a letter from the zoning department, and unforeseen problems with disgruntled church members...soon it can be enough to doubt yourself and encourage improper meditation. "Maybe God is telling me to quit," you may be tempted to think. FULL POST

Posted 4/3/14 at 11:42 AM | Raul Rivera |

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3 Safety Tips Pastors Never Think Of

Photo: Patrick Hoesly - Creative Commons

Key Point: Because of the continuing trend of lawsuits against churches, every church needs to develop a common sense safety plan to mitigate loss of property, injuries, and loss of life.

On a sunny afternoon in Florida, the sounds of children’s laughter could be heard in the church parking lot as they jumped in a rented bounce house. However, those sounds quickly turned to screams as an unexpected gust of wind picked up the bounce house, with children in it, and flung it against a light pole, coming within just a few feet of the lines carrying electricity. Thankfully, the children got away with only minor bumps and bruises. The church, however, learned a hard lesson that day: “what you don’t know about can hurt you.”

It is time to protect your church

Across the nation and the world, churches and other Christian based organizations have faced lawsuits, suffered injuries, and experienced loss of life and property due to smoke emergencies, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, violence, and false alarm panic. To protect congregations and staff, efforts need to be made to prepare the church to adequately respond to situations and prevent loss whenever possible. FULL POST

Posted 4/3/14 at 11:39 AM | Raul Rivera

When Your Church Doesn't Go As Planned

My life today is not what I dreamed it would be

My life today is not at all what I dreamed it would be. In fact, neither was the church I pastored. I had big dreams for my small Spanish congregation. I dreamt it would reach 1,000 or more members and that it would be a great force in our small town. I also dreamt it would have a for profit arm that would employ hundreds of people and families. Some of the dreams I had came to pass and many did not. But I never stopped dreaming. What I knew was that to stop dreaming would mean to stop living. It is your ever growing and evolving dreams that will take you from where you are today to where you will be tomorrow.

Don't dwell on your failures

Human nature tends to remember failure as final and because of it never fully recover from defeats in life. I know a pastor that has declared to never do cell groups in his church because he did them once and they failed miserably. Though the facts speak that cell groups can bring wonderful growth to the church, he will have no part of them. My question is, "How does one handle failure?" What do you do when your church does not grow for three years? What do you do when member participation seems to be diminishing? Like the pastor who vowed to never again allow cell groups in his church because of the potential problems they could bring, many pastors lead their church through the filter of past failures and they quit living for the present. They fail to maximize the wonderful opportunities that life brings. Lacking in confidence, they no longer believe that anything they try to do at the church will succeed, and they are usually right. FULL POST

Posted 3/27/14 at 9:16 AM | Raul Rivera |

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Pastor and Wife Arrested For Counseling

Photo: Wikipedia/Evan-Amos - Public Domain

Key point: Each state has laws that govern the reporting of the abuse of minors to the authorities. There are times when a pastor through counseling becomes aware of a child that is being abused by an adult. It is imperative that you know the laws of your state to know if you are required under penalty of law to report it.

Several years ago, a sixteen-year-old girl went to her pastors-Pastors Dan and Laura-and confessed that her father had been molesting her. After the pastoral husband and wife team counseled the young girl to best of their ability, they next confronted the father, who confessed to them that he had indeed molested his daughter. The repentant father asked his daughter for forgiveness, which she granted, and the family underwent a process of healing and restoration directed by the pastors. The father never touched his daughter again. Though it had been a very sad time for the sixteen-year-old girl, Pastor Dan and Pastor Laura felt that they made their best efforts to mend her broken heart and also reach out to the father with help and restoration.

When Pastor Dan started the church on July 11, 1996 only seven people made up the congregation, and Pastor Dan envisioned a ministry alive with unconditional love and grace to the world. That is indeed what he has seen. Thousands have come to the Lord. He and Laura have seen many miracles over the years as the ministry has grown to house a 22,000 square foot facility, with plans to expand. FULL POST

Posted 3/25/14 at 10:18 AM | Raul Rivera

7 Life-Saving Guidelines for Every Pastor

number 7
Photo: Patrick Hoesly - Creative Commons

Key point: The content of your church's legal documents really matters. The goal is not to just get approved by the state or the IRS, but rather to create a set of organizing documents that will protect your church's 1st Amendment rights and stave off lawsuits.

Starting a church requires faith. No matter how much you prepare, you never feel fully ready or capable. You simply believe, and then you take the step. What comes after that will challenge you like never before. At our conferences, we are priviledged to hear the stories of thousands of pastors and how they took their first steps.

The moment you say "Yes" to God's call in your life you are taking the faith step. It is a moment that looks different to everyone, but results in the resolve to do whatever it takes to pursue the vision God has placed in your heart. It is an exciting and special time, usually inclusive of family and friends, during which we proclaim our submission to God's will for our lives.

What to look for

The Bible talks over and over about your level of success being defined by those with whom you walk. This is very true in the area of your legal step. Get this partnership right, and you will walk with confidence; get it wrong, and you will be plagued with worry about the "what if's". FULL POST

Posted 3/20/14 at 9:51 AM | Raul Rivera

2nd Quarter Ministry Tax Calendar

Can you believe that the first quarter of 2014 is almost behind us? This year has started out amazingly well. By the end of the 1st quarter, we will have conducted 15 Ultimate Structure Church Conferences. A focus of our conference is to not only help churches and ministries, startRIGHTTM, but to also stayRIGHTTM. Many of the churches that come started many years earlier, but did not startRIGHTTM. When we encounter that, we first help a church GetRIGHTTM. Today's article is to help your church meet its tax deadlines. Please feel free to call our office if you have any questions.

March 17th: If you have non-ministerial employees, the February 2014 payroll tax deposit is due.

March 17th: Due date of the tax return for your ministry's for-profit arm.

March 31st: If you chose to file W-2 and 1099-Misc electronically, file them now. If by paper, the due date was February 28th. FULL POST

Posted 3/20/14 at 9:42 AM | Raul Rivera |

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Ministers and Public Insurance: Should I Pay the Self-Employment Tax?

Photo: US Government - Public Domain

Key Point: A minister can apply to become exempt from paying the 15.3% self-employment tax. Most ministers today that apply for the self-employment tax exemption will still receive the Social Security benefits, including disability and medical care if they follow certain steps.

Section 1402 of the Internal Revenue Code allows a properly ordained minister of the gospel to apply for self-employment tax exemption. Oftentimes, I hear ministers, CPAs, and tax professionals improperly refer to it as "opting out of Social Security." It should be referred to as self-employment tax exemption. The term "opting out" makes it sound like one is leaving the Social Security system; which is not true. During one of our conferences, I spoke to a minister who several years earlier considered applying for the exemption, but chose not to because he concluded that he did not have a conscientious opposition to Social Security. I genuinely admired his integrity and how he stayed true to his heart, but I also wondered if his decision was based on bad advice. I replied by saying, "When the topic on ministers and Social Security comes up during today's conference, listen to me teach then come talk to me afterwards. " FULL POST

Posted 3/12/14 at 11:01 AM | Raul Rivera

Ministers and Public Insurance

Key Point: A minister can apply to become exempt from paying the 15.3% self-employment tax. Most ministers today that apply for the self-employment tax exemption will still receive the Social Security benefits, including disability and medical care if they follow certain steps.

Section 1402 of the Internal Revenue Code allows a properly ordained minister of the gospel to apply for self-employment tax exemption. Oftentimes, I hear ministers, CPAs, and tax professionals improperly refer to it as "opting out of Social Security." It should be referred to as self-employment tax exemption. The term "opting out" makes it sound like one is leaving the Social Security system; which is not true. During one of our conferences, I spoke to a minister who several years earlier considered applying for the exemption, but chose not to because he concluded that he did not have a conscientious opposition to Social Security. I genuinely admired his integrity and how he stayed true to his heart, but I also wondered if his decision was based on bad advice. I replied by saying, "When the topic on ministers and Social Security comes up during today's conference, listen to me teach then come talk to me afterwards. " FULL POST

Posted 3/12/14 at 10:49 AM | Raul Rivera

New IRS Form Begins March 2014

Photo: Wikipedia/Joshua Doubek - Creative Commons

The IRS has added a new form that most churches will have to file every time there is a change to the church’s responsible party. Ever since 2010, when a new organization applies for a Federal Tax ID Number (also known as the Employer Identification Number), they must fill out Form SS-4. In that form, they ask for the name and Social Security number of the responsible party. This is usually the person who has control over the assets of the organization, which in most cases is the pastor, treasurer, or some other officer. Treasury Decision (T.D.) 9617 now requires that you submit the updated information of the responsible party in your church every time that person changes. To do so, you must use Form 8822-B.

Who is a responsible party?

How do you know who is the responsible party for your church? In most cases that person is the pastor, or some other officer of the church. The IRS defines this person as follows:

The responsible party is the person who has a level of control over, or entitlement to, the funds or assets in the entity that, as a practical matter, enables the individual, directly or indirectly, to control, manage, or direct the entity and the disposition of its funds and assets. FULL POST

Posted 2/27/14 at 9:20 AM | Raul Rivera

Pastor Guilty of Defamation From the Pulpit

Key point: There are times when a pastor, from the pulpit, deals with a difficult situation without knowing that he/she may legally be found liable of defamation.

I want to share with you some areas that pastor's rarely consider when it comes to the pulpit. Have you ever given thought to defamation? By definition, it is classified as anything you say or write about another that is found to be false, or that inures the other person. The definition sounds simple, but leave it to a court and the definition becomes much more broad. Many courts consider valid the argument brought up by some who say, "The church said it about me just to bring me injury." A church in Southern California and its pastor were sued for statements made concerning a woman whose actions were described as, "cursing, . . . being hateful as a human could be, . . .and acting as one of the major enemies of God's Church." The woman sued the church and its pastor in court for "defamation, infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy" and was awarded $260,000 in compensatory damages, and $1,000,000 in punitive damages.

What to do to avoid defamation FULL POST

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