Sales Tax Exemptions for Churches

Are churches exempt from sales tax when purchasing items? In most cases, probably not.

Perhaps the following questions/answers taken from The Louisiana Department of Revenue website will prove helpful:

Are sales to churches and nonprofit organizations subject to sales tax?

Yes, sales to churches and nonprofit organizations are subject to sales tax unless they are specifically exempted by statute. The designation of tax-exempt status by the IRS provides for an exemption only from income tax and in no way applies to sales tax.”

How do I get a sales tax-exempt number for a non-profit organization?

Non-profit organizations are not generally exempt from sales tax on purchases in Louisiana. The tax exemption applies to income tax for the corporation. For more information on exemptions for nonprofit organizations, see Form R-20125, Sales Tax Exemptions for Nonprofit Organizations.”

According to Page 5 of Form R-20125, Sales Tax Exemptions for Nonprofit Organizations, state statutes previously excluded churches and synagogues from paying sales tax on purchases of bibles, song books, and literature used for religious instruction, but a federal court issued an injunction preventing this exclusion in 2006. This publication states that “[u]nless and until the judicial injunction is lifted, these exclusions cannot be claimed. Churches, synagogues . . . will be required to pay the state sales or use tax on all of their purchases, including those previously excluded from taxation.”

Because this publication appears to have last been updated in 2015, ministry leaders are encouraged to consult with a locally licensed attorney or tax professional regarding whether the ministry is able to receive an exemption from sales tax on any purchases at this time.

Because tax laws can be very complicated, ministry leaders are encouraged to consult with a local CPA or tax attorney who can help them stay in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws.

Building a Disciple-Making Ministry

A book summary of “Building a Disciple-Making Ministry, The Timeless Principles of Arthur Flake for Sunday School and Small Groups” Compiled by Ken Braddy and Allan Taylor, LifeWay Press 2020

Churches, Sunday Schools and Small Groups are cautiously and slowly making a comeback after a difficult year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This short book revisits a tried and true process to enable SS/SGs to effectively reach people for Christ, teach people about Christ, and minister to people in Christ’s Name.

Arthur Flake was a businessman, entrepreneur, lay church leader, evangelist, and a “Sunday School Man,” who led Southern Baptists’ Sunday School Department. Flake was a trainer, editor, author, and a growth and change agent.

He developed what became known as “Flake’s Formula” for Sunday School, a five-step process for strengthening and growing small group Bible study and ministry.

They are:

  1. Know the possibilities;
  2. Enlarge the Organization;
  3. Enlist and train leaders;
  4. Provide space and resources; and
  5. Go after the people.

As church leaders make prayerful plans for their churches and small group ministries to resume effective work, this short book and Flake’s principles should prove helpful. I have limited copies of this book. If you would like for me to send you a copy, please email me at Jeff.Ingram@LouisianaBaptists.org.

Religious Freedom Webcast Recap

This past week on January 11, 2021, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, GuideStone Financial Services and Louisiana Baptists hosted a webcast on Religious Freedom During COVID-19 and Beyond.

The Brotherhood Mutual webcast panel included: Michael Allison, Vice President and Chief Counsel’ Steve Case, Assistant Vice President and Senior Corporate Counsel; and Kyle Johnson, Senior Corporate Attorney.

The past few years, particularly 2020, have brought dramatic changes to our nation, and our churches. It looks like 2021 will also be a challenging year.

The webcast covered the following areas of concern for churches:

  • Emerging Religious Freedom Issues for Churches and Ministries
  • How can a Ministry Protect its Religious Beliefs Against Legal Threats?
  • How can a Ministry Align its Facility Use with its Sincerely Held Beliefs?
  • How can a Ministry Address Employment Issues Related to Morals and Values?
  • What should Ministry Leaders Know About Gender Identity Issues?
  • How Concerned Should ministries be about Governmental Actions and Challenges?
  • If a Ministry is sued for Standing up for its Beliefs, will Insurance Coverage be available?

These are issues every church and ministry needs to address with their insurance provider, church by-laws, employee handbook, code of conduct, and other documents.

If you missed the webcast or would like to watch the 1½ hour presentation you may do so here.

Brotherhood Mutual has also provided an excellent and free pdf resource entitled, “Religious Freedom Protection: Shepherding Ministries in a Time of Change,” that is also available to download.

There are also many other free resources for churches and ministries at: www.brotherhoodmutual.com and LouisianaBaptists.org/about/directory/evangelism-church-growth/adults/church-administration.

If you have additional questions, please contact Jeff Ingram, at Jeff.Ingram@LouisianaBaptists.org or 318.449.4295.

Deep Discipleship

A book summary of: “Deep Discipleship: How the Church Can Make Whole Disciples of Jesus”

Discipleship is an area I have emphasized throughout my ministry and when I saw this book in a fall 2020 issue of Christianity Today, I ordered a copy and read it over the holidays.  Some of the main points in each chapter of the book are listed below:

  • Discipleship is not just a program but a total reorientation to reality. There are two main challenges to deep discipleship: self-centered discipleship and spiritual apathy. (A God-Centered Vision, Ch. 1)
  • The church is called to make disciples, and it is time for us to stop delegating our responsibility. Other organizations can come along side the church, but they can never replace the church. (The Church, Ch. 2)
  • Community is indispensable to discipleship, but community is not discipleship. We cannot be disciples of Christ outside the context of community. However, we can be in community that is not teaching us to be disciples of Christ. (Space, Ch. 3)
  • Instead of asking the question, “What do disciples want?”, we need to ask the better question, “What do disciples need?” (Scope, Ch. 4)
  • If the local church is not calling people to press forward, to grow, to strain ahead, we will lose them. One of the paradigm shifts we need in ministry is the shift from asking the question, “How do we keep disciples in the church?” to the better question, “How do disciples grow in the church?” (Sequence, Ch. 5)
  • Churches that are pursing a culture of deep discipleship are intentionally commissioning their disciples into the church, the home, their neighborhoods, the workplace, and the nations. (Send, Ch. 6)
  • We will never make deep disciples if we apologize when we ask people to make commitments. (Strategy, Ch. 7)

Initially, I was somewhat skeptical of the first two words of the title, “Deep Discipleship,” because of people wanting to “go deep into discipleship,” and neglecting other areas of the Christian life such as evangelism, worship, service, ministry, etc. However, after reading the book I felt English clearly made the point that discipleship encompasses all the spiritual disciplines and that obedience to God’s Word is the true test of maturity.

The author also emphasized the importance Sunday School/Bible study classes for everyone, Bible studies for men only and women only, and in particular contextualizing  a discipleship program for the church with specific goals and initiatives (Space, Scope, Sequence, Send, and Strategy).

January Bible Study videos now online

January Bible Study 2021 Preview Videos are now available online!

“Living with Assurance: John’s Epistles” is the theme for January Bible Study 2021. The focus of this study is on how a person’s understanding of Jesus impacts their daily lives in practical ways.

The apostle John wrote to combat false teachers who sought to mislead believers in the early church and continue to do so to this day. “Living with Assurance” will help your people live with assurance of their eternal life by living in light of their relationship with Jesus.

The epistles are outlined as follows:

  1. Fellowship with God (1 John 1)
  2. Remaining in God (1 John 2)
  3. Living as God’s Children (1 John 3, 4)
  4. Living with Love (1 John 3, 4)
  5. Living as Conquerors (1 John 5)
  6. Faithful to Truth (2 John)
  7. Hospitable to Truth (3 John)

We will not be having regional previews this year due to the pandemic. However, Dr. Philip Caples, Pastor, FBC Harrisonburg, LA and Adjunct Professor at Louisiana College, has recorded the previews for this study and can be accessed below:

The Leaders Guide and a Personal Study Guide for the “Living With Assurance: John’s Epistles” study is available for purchase at www.LifeWay.com.

If you have questions, please contact Jeff Ingram, Adult Ministry & Church Administration Strategist at Jeff.Ingram@LouisianaBaptists.org or at 318.448.3402

 

Critical Coverage Gaps

Does your Church’s Insurance Policy Contain Critical Coverage Gaps? An updated booklet by Brotherhood Mutual encourages churches and ministries to regularly review their insurance coverage in a rapidly changing world.

Consider:

Religious Freedom Protection: claims related to your church’s belief-based decisions and activities. Examples include refusing to marry a same-sex couple or limiting the use of your facility to certain groups.

Worldwide Liability Protection: are your short-term mission groups traveling outside the U.S. covered for medical expenses, as well as liability suits and hiring local legal counsel while overseas?

Sexual Acts Liability Protection: this would cover claims against your ministry or other innocent insureds related to a leader or worker’s sexual misconduct.

Security Operations Liability Protection: this includes claims against your church, its leaders and/or security team members when enforcing your security policies.

Traumatic Incident Response Protection: this would cover expenses your church incurs while responding to a traumatic incident; for example, counseling costs, legal counsel in responding to the media, victims, and to law enforcement.

Directors and Officers Liability Protection: offers protection for individuals, employees, volunteers, spouses of leaders for financial damages caused by alleged wrongful activities of church leaders.

Legal Liability Defense Cost Reimbursement: addresses issues like, lawsuit for breach of contract, employee claims of bodily injury not covered by workers compensation, and wrongful termination of an employee not covered by the policy.

Counseling Liability Protection: this covers claims against your church, its pastors, lay counselors, employees, volunteers in relation to counseling on your church’s behalf.

These would be good questions to ask your church’s insurance agent or broker to determine if your church’s current insurance coverage is adequate for the rapidly changing world we’re called to minister and witness.

This free resource booklet can be downloaded at brotherhoodmutual.com/gaps/critical-coverage-gaps.

If your church has questions regarding church administration issues, contact Jeff Ingram at Jeff.Ingram@LouisianaBaptists.org and at 318.448.3402.

Church Administration Resources are also being added here.

Rethinking Care Teams

Many Sunday Schools have organized the class to better meet the needs of the group. The goal of care teams usually centers on making sure specific needs of group members don’t go unmet, or they function as a tool for keeping up with all the people in the group. There is nothing wrong with these objectives, and they both have value.

Let’s look back at Flake for a moment. Flake emphasized that everyone can serve in some way in and through the Sunday School. What if we thought of care teams as a means of providing a vehicle for people in the group to serve as opposed to only as a way of discovering needs?

If we begin to think in terms of finding ways for people to serve, then we may also realize the fallacy of the teacher doing it all. We may be able to keep up with everyone in the group, but at what expense? We have people in the group who can serve, and we are cheating them out of the opportunity by not letting them do so. The greater goal is not about keeping up with the group. The greater goal is helping the people in the group develop and grow spiritually, and serving is a means of accomplishing that.

Creating Care Teams

Let’s look at the steps we may need to take to establish, re-institute, or redefine care teams.

We need to begin by defining what we are trying to do. In the past we may have defined the purpose in terms of keeping connected with everyone on the ministry list. Instead, we need to find a way of bringing serving to the forefront. We might use terms like providing a vehicle for serving, for making a difference in the lives of others, and growing through serving others.

The purpose of care teams is different from the prayer partners suggested in Chapter 2. Prayer partners are about building community while care teams are about providing a means for serving. Both involve prayer, but they do so with a very different focus in mind. We could combine the two with prayer partners being assigned within care groups, but doing so may impact the fostering of community within the group as a whole.

How can you redefine for your group the purpose of care groups in terms of serving?

After we articulate the purpose, we can then focus on the specifics. We need to define the expectations for each care group leader. Do we expect them to simply contact the people on their lists and offer to pray for them or will we expect them to do more? What do we consider a contact—text, call, or personal visit? We may want to incorporate a monthly prayer time at the end of the group time for care groups to pray together. If we do that, then potential care leaders will want to know that they are responsible for facilitating that prayer time. Communicating clear expectations to potential care leaders helps them know when they succeed.

Next, we can focus on determining how many care groups we will need. If we lead a co-ed group, we need at least two care groups, one for the men and one for the women. A good rule of thumb would be one for every four to seven group members of the same sex. The number of people assigned to each care group needs to be manageable and allow for more to be added as the group reaches more people.

Some may choose to exclude those who never attend, missionary members, prospects who have yet to attend, or those who attend every Sunday. It makes sense that we include everyone on the ministry list. The smaller the number of people we include, the less the opportunity to serve. We may want to create a care group made up of only missionary members (people who would be in our class if they were not teaching elsewhere), but we need to include them in some way.

If we have nineteen on our ministry list, plus four missionary members serving in other groups, we will need four to six groups (if starting with groups of seven, 19 + 4 + us = 24; 24 ÷ 7 = 3.4 so we round up to 4; if you start with groups of four people, 24 ÷ 4 = 6).

Once we know how many care groups we need, we can then consider how we will secure these care leaders. Every option comes with pros and cons to each. We can present the idea of care groups, asking for volunteers to approach us. Some who we never thought would be interested will express interest, which can be a pro or a con. We can identify people who could (and should) serve and approach them individually until we secure the number we need. This puts the burden on our backs, but we know the people we approach will be vetted. We might even consider a three or six month rotation system, giving everyone the opportunity to serve as a care leader in the course of one or two years. The only problem is not everyone will want to serve, so this leaves some holes. Some have even utilized an alternating month approach to involve more, but this also can create an inconsistent atmosphere.

What approach of selection do you believe will best serve your group and why?

While we are on the subject of rotation, we need to consider the length of time we are asking care group leaders to serve. Providing a set end date makes it more inviting for the recruit. In most cases, a commitment of one year works best. We can give them the opportunity to do it again after a year and may even give them a different group for which to care. If a group has a difficult time committing to a year, we might even consider a six-month commitment. The issue is setting a time that works for the group and then sticking with it.

How to Disciple Families

While it may be tempting to step aside from parenting and avoid conflict, the Brian Haynes encourages parents to do the hard things. The ultimate goal is to pass on a legacy of faith in God and strengthen the family relationship. Brian Haynes combines practical guidance and solid biblical truth to help parents who are navigating a challenging season of parenting. We know that we should make disciples, but how do we really do that in the context of family.

Session 1: An overview of how to begin teaching parenting and living in a biblical paradigm.

Session 2: Seven Milestones that should be recognized and celebrated in every home.

Four Church-Tested Ideas for Ministering to Widows and Orphans

As a pastor, one of my jobs is to talk with the men who have been nominated to serve as deacons. As a deacon myself, I know the dilemma that many men feel when they get the nod from the church as a candidate for deacon. Jeff, a young entrepreneur in our church reluctantly accepted the call of deacon. He said, “I don’t think I am qualified, I don’t think the timing is right for me personally, but I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that this is something God wants me to do.” Three months later he said to me, “I knew I’d be challenged but I’m realizing that God is doing something new inside me that I never would have experienced if I hadn’t said, ‘yes.’”

The role of a deacon began with a problem and therefore deacons are often thought of as fixers. In the narrative of the early Church, a number of widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. Someone had to step in to preserve the integrity of the gospel. That sounds like a hyperbole. How is a simple problem like food distribution threatening to the gospel? This problem posed a threat because Jesus cared so deeply for struggling people. Therefore we have to care for everyone in our church who finds a seat on the struggle bus.

Widows and orphans are real and symbolic reminders that our world is broken, that suffering and loneliness are palpable, and that the church has the great opportunity to reconcile, heal and transform their community through service and mercy. As deacons, it’s not that we have to do this. We get to do this!

Here are four ideas to help deacons fulfill the biblical mandate of serving widows and orphans.

Plan a Widows’ Banquet

Every spring, our church has a celebration for our widows. The deacons and their wives prepare, cook, serve, entertain and honor our widows. We decorate the Fellowship Hall and then each deacon couple will pick up the widows at their homes escort them to the banquet. The Widows’ Banquet helps us in a number of ways. For most of our deacons, this becomes an opportunity to get to know the widow, to understand their needs, to learn how to assist them and most importantly, to connect spiritually with them.

Mentor

Another mission that deacons impact in many churches has broad repercussions on the next generation. When we think about orphans, most churches would survey their congregation and say, “Looks like we’re all good on that front. No orphans here!” Look closer. Look into your community and you will find them. The orphans today are the kids in your church who have no spiritual father. They come to church without a dad. They suffer through the chaos and wreckage of a broken home. They are longing to connect with someone who can give them the blessing that their parents were never able to give them. Our youth leaders and Sunday School teachers were vital in assessing these needs. They challenged the deacons to develop a strategy to connect children and students with spiritual mentors from the deacon body. Every year we have deacons attending graduation celebrations after a number of years praying, mentoring and connecting with these students. I know a number of students who have received driving lessons, camp scholarships and scholarship recommendations. I can think of five students who went on to serve in full-time ministry and it’s my firm belief that the mentoring program was a tremendous part of their story.

Support young families in the adoption process

This cultural trend in many churches is cause for celebration. Young couples, burdened by the needs of orphans around the world are choosing to adopt. Often these adoptions are international. Deacons have a biblical challenge to help these inspiring members achieve their God-given mission. The financial toll can be overwhelming for many young couples. Our church and deacon body has joined them by helping them raise funds and celebrated the arrival of these new faces. This dynamic also helps our church family become multicultural. It makes our church look more and more like Heaven – all races, backgrounds and nations!

Partner with widows and widowers in ministry

Just last week I mourned the loss of a great prayer warrior. She was a 92-year-old widow in our church. Every Thursday I would get behind the wheel of her car as she would direct me to the homes of the elderly members of our church. She turned the afternoon into a prayer event as we visited and prayed. I thought this would be a ministry to her but was I ever wrong! Vivian was a blessing to me. Vivian threw all her energies into her new ministry of mercy and prayer. I remember her in the elevators of hospitals, in Bush Jewelers, and other places around town praying for strangers. She had a knack for discerning what was going on in people’s lives before she heard it from them. Vivian was an old school card-writer, spending hours purchasing and writing cards by hand and mailing them out. She wasn’t on Facebook. She didn’t need Facebook. She preferred face-to-face conversations. Vivian did as much if not more, than I did in ministering to her sisters grafted together through the loss of their spouses. I am sure there are Vivians in your church whose life will be extended because you partnered with them to minister to their friends.

Finally, get organized

Know what the plan for ministering to widows and orphans is. Create smart assignments for connecting deacons with widows. Chart out whom on your deacon ministry team would have the best success in mentoring to children and students. Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid overstating the plan to the church. Keep the plan soft-spoken. Otherwise it will sound obligatory or forced.
  • Encourage accountability. The main focus of every deacons meeting should be reporting, celebrating and praying about the ministry strategy. So many deacons meetings are derailed by petty issues! Keep the main focus of your Deacon Ministry Team about the task of service. Otherwise, you’ll miss the whole point.
  • Adapt the plan with time. Ministry to widows and orphans is fundamentally fluid. You’ll have to change throughout the year, so remind your Deacon Team to be flexible and adaptable so that you don’t have the same issues that arouse with the controversy of the Hellenistic widows in Acts 6.

Like Jeff, most deacons struggle with time demands, agendas, and priorities. Having a strategy in place allows us to do the work of a deacon, which ultimately will change the lives of widows and orphans and the deacon who is obedient to the call.

Prayer Boot Camp Resources

If you missed the Prayer Bootcamp, here’s some content to help you as you develop a prayer strategy in your church. These brief clips will inspire and aid you to begin making your church a House of Prayer.

For more resources visit: http://blog.lifeway.com/growingdisciples/

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