Monday, March 9, 2009

Financial Stewardship

If you've been on the fence about whether to open a Roth IRA, there are plenty of reasons now to tilt towards a Roth, financial advisers say.

First, account values are low. That's bad news, of course, for your overall net worth, but it also means a lower income tax hit when moving money from an IRA into a Roth. Once you've bit the tax bullet and converted to a Roth, your money can grow tax-free. (Any money you put into a Roth has already been taxed, and everything, including earnings, comes out tax free.)

Second, there's a special perk available only next year: If you convert in 2010 you can delay paying taxes for a year, plus take two years to pay the bill. "If you convert in 2010 you don't have to pay any of the taxes until 2011 and 2012," said Christine Fahlund, a senior financial planner with T. Rowe Price.

Third, starting in 2010, the income limit that prevented higher-income savers from converting to a Roth is lifted, thanks to the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, signed into law in 2006. (Until that rule change goes into effect next year, taxpayers with adjusted gross income higher than $100,000 can't convert to a Roth.) Note: This applies to conversions only; there still will be income limits on contributions to a Roth. See this IRS page for current contribution and conversion rules on Roth IRAs.

Fourth, many people expect income-tax rates to rise in coming years. "It's not a big reach to say that if you look at income tax rates now versus the future, they're probably going to be higher in the future," said Joseph Montanaro, a certified financial planner with USAA, based in San Antonio, Texas. USAA is a financial-services firm for military personnel and their families.
"Combine that with the fact that most of our portfolios have taken a beating," he said, and "you have the opportunity to convert to something that will hopefully rebound in a much more tax-friendly environment in a Roth."


A few more things you can do to help protect your church or ministry.

Churches can work to stop a shooter or anyone else intent on harming church members with the proper security measures in place.

Remember, although the church is "open to the public," the church is, in fact, private property. It is totally reasonable and appropriate to remove a disruptive person from private property.

The church should have a written security plan in place. When writing a security plan for your church, seek the help of professional consultants.

Identify the police and medical professionals who attend your church and can help in case of an emergency-your church's "emergency team."

The members of your emergency team should be properly trained.

Train your staff and your emergency team to recognize and deal with "danger threats." A danger threat is someone who poses or threatens to pose real and present danger to persons or property.

Danger threats are the types of people who:
- Have a weapon;
- Are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs;
- Appear to be mentally ill;
- Are homeless and appear to be unstable or aggressive;
- Are embroiled in a family law or child custody case or a lawsuit involving congregants or members of the staff; or
- Are hostile to the teachings of the Christian church or fiercely opposed to its political views.

Train your staff, your volunteers and your emergency team to recognize the behaviors of people who are danger threats to your church.

A danger threats' behavior includes:
- Display and use of weapons;
- Assault and battery;
- Robbery and burglary;
- Domestic violence;
- Sexual abuse;
- Verbal abuse, including hate speech and verbal threats;
- Violent political activity; or
- Unusual or aberrant behavior, including things such as:
-- Carrying a large bag into the church;
-- Wearing inappropriate clothing considering the weather conditions. For example, in warm weather a person enters the church wearing a long over coat and dark glasses;
-- A first time visitor insisting on sitting very close to the stage; or
-- Sweating profusely and not involved in the service.

Train your staff and volunteers on how to confront a danger threat in your church:
- Speak firmly;
- Speak respectfully;
- Speak in a way that is not embarrassing; and
- Speak in a way that leaves no room for negotiation.


Today's Quote

"Hurting people sometimes hurt people."

Today's Word

“He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort--we get a full measure of that, too. When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation… Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it… Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world--and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised.” (2 Corinthians 1, MSG)

If you’re going through a tough time in ministry, take heart. God has a plan, and you’re in it! The key is to run the race and to finish well.

What Will You Do About Church Security?

The Pastor killing yesterday is a very concerning and sober occasion for pastors and other church leaders to examine if they are in fact doing all they can to ensure the safety of their flock and church leaders.

Therefore, the following questions are offered in hopes of helping church leaders do all they can to ensure the safety of their church.
I want to stress that I am in no way seeking to criticize or call into question anything that the staff or leaders at First Baptist Church did or did not do. My questions below are in no way directed toward any single church or ministry. We offer them to help churches do all they can to ensure safety.

I am in no way critical of any other church on this issue and simply want to serve the safety of all those who gather for worship everywhere. As a general rule, if we are going to err, it is best to err on the side of caution and preparedness.

1. Does your church have a series of written, known, and practiced emergency plans? For example, if there is a fire, the children will need to be safely escorted out of the building. However, if someone pulls a gun, the last thing you want is to have the children taken outside into the open and instead the children’s ministry needs to be locked down for safety.

2. How secure is your children’s ministry? Are there security guards ensuring that no one but approved parents are allowed into the children’s area or can anyone walk in off the street and have access to the children? Is there a safe and secure check in and check out procedure for the children?

3. Does your church have security? Are there trained men who ensure that those who are dangerous, mentally unstable, disruptive, or violent are not allowed in the building and if they are in the building that they are escorted out safely?

4. Does your church have a warm relationship with the local police? Are you friends with the police officers in your area and can you reach them quickly in a crisis? Have they met with your church staff to inform you of what to do under various emergencies and what you can do to work with them to ensure the safety of your people?

5. Does your church have a policy for potentially dangerous people? For example, are registered sex offenders (including those registered at the highest level and likely to offend again) required to check in and be escorted on property, if they are allowed to worship at all? When someone is disruptive or dangerous, does your church have a policy for filing a restraining order to keep them from walking on church property? What do you do with threats that come in against the pastor or church?

[from Resurgence by Mark Driscoll]

Pastor Shot and Killed in the Pulpit

Church security has been addressed many times on this Blog. It is a growing concern regardless of the size of your church. For years, we have offered free security training materials upon request (, and church consulting services to teach or train onsite. After many incidences in America over the past five years, tragedy has struck again.

Yesterday a gunman walked down the aisle of an Illinois church during a Sunday service and killed the pastor, then stabbed himself and slashed two other people as congregants wrestled him to the ground, authorities said.

The local newspaper reported late Sunday a source close to the case confirmed the gunman as Terry Joe Sedlacek, 27, who developed mental illness after Lyme disease attacked his brain.

Sedlacek walked into the sprawling red brick First Baptist Church shortly after 8 a.m. and briefly spoke with The Rev. Fred Winters before pulling out a .45-caliber handgun and shooting Winters once in the chest, said Illinois State Police Master Trooper Ralph Timmins.

The gun jammed before the man could fire again, Timmins said. (The gunman had several loaded magazines.) Sedlacek then pulled out a knife and injured himself before churchgoers subdued him. Two parishioners involved in the struggle also suffered knife wounds, Timmins said.

Timmins said officials don't know whether Winters, a married father of two who had led the church for nearly 22 years, and the gunman knew each other.

"We don't know the relationship (between the gunman and pastor), why he's here or what the circumstances came about that caused him in the first place to be here," Timmins said.

The Rev. Mark Jones, another pastor at First Baptist, said he did not recognize the gunman, who he saw briefly before the man pulled out his weapon. Jones went into an adjacent room and did not see the shooting, though he heard a sound like miniature fire crackers.

"We have no idea what this guy's motives were," Jones said outside the church. "We don't know if we'll ever know that."

Winters was pronounced dead at Anderson Hospital, spokeswoman Natalie Head said. Two people who were injured at the church were flown to another hospital, Head said.

The gunman and one victim, 39-year-old Terry Bullard, were being treated at St. Louis University Hospital, spokeswoman Laura Keller said. Bullard underwent surgery for stab wounds and was in serious condition, she said.

Keller said the gunman underwent surgery Sunday afternoon but could not provide his name, condition or type of injuries.

The other victim, Keith Melton, was treated and released from Gateway Regional Medical Center, spokeswoman Kate Allaria said. A man who answered the phone at a listing for Keith Melton in Troy identified himself as Melton's stepson and said Melton had been stabbed but was going to be fine.

First Baptist had an average attendance of 32 people when Winters became senior pastor in 1987; it now has about 1,200 members, according to the church's Web site. Winters also was former president of the Illinois Baptist State Association and an adjunct professor for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, according to the site.

"Our great God is not surprised by this, or anything," Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association, said in a statement. "That He allows evil and free will to have their way in tragedies like this is a mystery in many ways."

The church sits along a busy two-lane highway on the east side of Maryville, a fast-growing village of more than 7,000 people about 20 miles northeast of St. Louis. A farm sits directly across from church, but subdivisions of newer homes can been seen from every side.

"Things like this just don't happen in Maryville," Mayor Larry Gulledge said. "We've lost one of the pillars of our community, one of our leaders."

Congregant Sharla Dryden pulled into the church parking lot for a 9:30 a.m. service in time to see "just a lot of chaos, lot of police, fire, and people just devastated."

"They just said there had been a shooting," said Dryden, 62. "I would have been devastated if anyone had been shot, but to hear it was the pastor was terrible. You just never expect this to happen at a church."

But Jeffrey Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network - a national organization that deals with security, safety and emergency planning for churches, schools and ministries - noted in a statement that while the shooting is a tragedy, it is "one that has been witnessed many times over the years."

Last month, a man shot and killed himself in front of a cross inside televangelist Robert H. Schuller's Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. In November, a gunman killed his estranged wife in a New Jersey church vestibule as Sunday services let out.

The Illinois shooting also follows an event in July, when a 58-year-old man opened fire in a Knoxville, Tennessee, church during a children’s play. Two people were killed and six wounded in that shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

In the Tennessee case, Jim Adkisson told police he targeted the church because of its “liberal teachings,” according to court papers. Adkisson pleaded guilty last month in a deal that allowed him to avoid the death penalty and will face life in prison without parole, court officials said.

Just this year, there have been 139 incidents in 31 states against Christian churches, schools and ministries.

The only recourse that churches have to is to acknowledge that it can happen to them and to be prepared.