Friday, February 22, 2008

Can a Pastor have close friends?

How do pastors make and keep good friends? There are a couple of different camps out there ... one says that close friends are vital to ministry; the other says that pastors and ministry leaders need to keep their distance and avoid making friends.

Here are some of the reasons it is challenging for pastors to maintain intimate friendships:
  • Some pastors move often from church to church making it hard to develop lasting close friendships.
  • Most lay-people will say that they understand you are a “real person,” but many really don’t believe that. As much as they think they look at you as normal people, they still generally have higher expectations for you.
  • Because people generally have higher expectations of pastors, it is easy for pastors to blow their expectations.
  • Most church members talk differently to pastors.
  • When a friend who is a church member leaves the church, it is very hard for pastors not to take it personally. This can cause a pastor to fear future intimacy with church members.
  • In my experience, losing friendships can be as hard (or much harder) on the spouses than the ministers.
  • People like to talk about ministers. Because people are watching so closely, we often crave privacy. Without knowing it, we can “wall people out.”
  • Church members can be mean.

Any of these ring true with you?

Top 10 Leadership Mistakes

  1. Hiring Too Fast. Firing Too Slow. Every minute I delay in firing, I take away opportunity for God to work in that person’s life.
  2. Putting Projects before the People. Embrace the tension and find the balance between leadership and shepherding.
  3. Trying to Fix the Problem Rather than the Process. Ninety percent of the time it isn’t a people-problem. It is a process-problem.
  4. Delegating Tasks Instead of Responsibility. It is hard to delegate, because many times I (wrongly) think I’m the only one who can do it right.
  5. Assuming it is Always Black and White. Following rules is a lot easier than trying to deal with relationships.
  6. Not Following my Gut. When we stop listening to God, he stops talking to us (consider the 13-year gap when God stopped talking to Abraham).
  7. Dwelling on the Worst-Case Scenario. Worry might not be your issue, but everyone has an issue that can derail them.
  8. Waiting Until There’s a Problem to Provide Feedback. I have to discipline myself to encourage my team.
  9. Staying Busy. It is a lie, but I tend to think if I’m staying busy, I’m adding value to my organization.
  10. Spending Too Much Time on the Details Rather than the Dreams.

[You can read more, including some other great quoteables from Tony over at Tim’s And, you can get daily wisdom from Tony each and every day at!]

So… How many of Tony’s mistakes have you also been guilty of? And what can you learn from Tony’s mistakes?

Detoxifying The Church

[By Ryan Hale]

I'll admit it right now; the meanest people I've ever met in my life are Christians. And those people will manipulate everything and everyone to get some power in the church because it gives them an avenue of legitimacy to just run over people. Stories are legion of deacons who are almost the Anti-Christ in charcter and action. I remember one lady in particular . . . never mind.

All of those things wound people. It is real. It hurts. And it is killing churches because they are losing numbers every day.

The answer is that the church needs to seriously evaluate itself. It means taking a long, hard look at what it is, why it is, how it got there, and where it wants to go. It means detoxifying itself -- a very painful process. It means talking to the community, former members, people who dislike the church and even people who simply "heard rumors" and then face up to its image and history. For many churches, it will mean public apologies and private weeping over past sins.

[You can read his entire blog at]

Clergy, Tax, and Social Security

Prior to 1968 a member of the clergy had to elect to be covered by social security.

If you are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church, you are covered by social security and Medicare under the self employment tax provisions for the services you perform in your capacity as a minister unless you have requested and received a tax exemption from self employment tax. This is true whether you are an employee of your church or a self employed person under the common law rules.

Unless an ordained member of the clergy objects to social security benefits based upon conscientious or religious grounds he/she is subject to self employment tax. To object you must file Form 4361. The form must be filed before the due date of your tax return for the second taxable year in which you earned $400 or more from work as a member of the clergy. The social security self employment tax exemption is irrevocable.

What is duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church? The term duly ordained minister of religion means a person: {who has been ordained in accordance with the ceremonial ritual or discipline of a church, religious sect, or organization established on the basis of a community or faith and belief, doctrines and practices of a religious character}, {who preaches and teaches the doctrines of such church, sect or organization}, {who administers the rites and ceremonies thereof in public worship}, {who, as his/her regular and customary vocation, preaches and teaches the principles of religion}, and {who administers the ordinances or sacerdotal duties of public worship as embodied in the creed or principles of such church, sect or organization}.

Although as a licensed ordained, commissioned or licensed minister you are considered a self employed individual for social security purposes, you may be considered an employee for other tax purposes or putting it bluntly you are considered an employee by the IRS.

Self employment tax does not apply to any post-retirement benefits or the rental value of any parsonage or parsonage allowance.

Under these tax rules, you are considered an employee or a self employed person depending on all the facts and circumstances. Generally, you are an employee if your employer has the legal right to control both what you do and how you do it, even if you have considerable discretion and freedom of action.

If you are not considered an employee in performing your ministerial services, you will figure taxable net earnings on Form 1040, Schedule C. Figure your self employment tax on Form 1040, Schedule SE. If you earn or receive taxable income during the tax year that is not subject to tax withholding, or if you do not have enough income tax withheld, you may have to pay estimated tax.

The law requires all churches to apply for an Employer’s Identification Number (EIN) even if they do not have employees. Much like an individual’s social security number, your EIN (federal identification number) is used as an identifier on all federal tax returns and on all correspondence with the IRS. A State tax number should not be confused with a Federal Employer’s Identification Number (FEIN). Possession of an EIN is NOT evidence of tax-exempt status. You can apply for your EIN (Form SS-4) immediately from the comfort of your computer.

Background Checks

Screening youth and children’s workers is a hit-or-miss practice in today’s churches. One out of every four pastors (23%) admitted their congregation has little or no protective screening processes for the people working with young people. That equates to more than 70,000 Protestant congregations that do not give sufficient attention to protecting young people.

Slightly more than half of all pastors gave their church high marks for doing "thorough background or reference checks of the people working with children and youth" (57% said this description was a "very accurate" of their church). However, another one-fifth of pastors (20%) described their efforts as merely "somewhat" thorough.

Larger churches are generally more vigilant than smaller ministries. For instance, churches with more than 250 adult attenders were the most likely to evaluate workers very carefully (78%), while congregations of less than 100 adults were the least likely to engage in such practices (49%). About three-fifths of mid-sized churches (attendance of 100 to 250, 62%) said their church is well described by such practices.

Many other subgroup differences emerged when it came to doing a thorough job of evaluating children’s and youth workers. Congregations in the West (75%) were more likely than those in the Northeast (60%), South (56%), or Midwest (50%) to report strong levels of such screening. Churches comprised primarily of white attenders (54%) were less likely to report security screening than were congregations with primarily non-white individuals (69%). Churches led by a pastor who had graduated from a seminary were slightly more likely than congregations whose pastor lacked a seminary degree to pursue security measures (60% versus 51%).

In terms of age and experience, churches pastored by Baby Boomers (ages 43 to 61) more frequently took part in security checks (60%) than did Protestant ministries led by pastors from the Baby Bust generation (52% among pastors 42 or under) or those older than Boomers (55% among those 62 or older). Similarly, those in full-time ministry for fewer than 10 years were less likely to claim thorough worker-screening (50%) than were ministry veterans of 10 years or more (61%).