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Developing an emergency operations plan for your church


The recent shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs reminded us again that even sacred spaces can be unsafe. We should also be reminded that congregations of all sizes and locations should take steps to address the possibility that unimaginable violence could happen. So how can we “expect the unexpected?”

Create an emergency operations plan (EOP) designed especially for your church. While sample plans may help identify the scope of your plan, your church is unique in its location, buildings, schedule, activities, and culture. Therefore, you must develop your own plan with the help of others.

In creating a planning...

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Nine-member Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Missouri playground case


By John Litzler

Today (April 19), the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is hearing oral arguments in one of the most important religious liberty cases of the last few decades. SCOTUS, which only had an eight-member court since Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last February, has a full bench for the first time in over a year. In January, President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. On April 7, Justice Gorsuch was confirmed just in time to begin hearing cases on April 17. This term will end in late June or early July when the Court recesses for the summer before its new term begins...

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What the new overtime regulation means for your church-Updated 11/29/16


The new salary requirement for an exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules for overtime pay will not take effect December 1.

On November 22, a federal judge from Sherman, TX, issued an injunction halting the enforcement of a change to the "salary test" for an exemption to the FLSA rules for overtime pay. Currently, in order to satisfy the salary test a "white collar" employee must make $455 a week ($23,660 annually). That amount was set to increase to $913 a week ($47,476 annually) beginning December 1. The district court ruling means that the salary test will not change, for the time being.

It is important for...

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What the new overtime regulation means for your church


On May 17, 2016*, the Obama administration announced that it will increase the salary threshold for determining if an employee is eligible for overtime pay to $47,476.00 annually. This is an increase from the current threshold of $23,660.00 and this new regulation goes into effect on December 1 of this year.

This new regulation doesn’t change the duties tests for the various current overtime exemptions (such as administrative, executive, professional), but it does significantly raise the pay threshold and the pay threshold must be met in order for the duties tests to be in consideration.

What does this all me to our Texas...

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Ministers, church employees invited to participate in 2016 SBC Church Compensation Survey


DALLAS — GuideStone Financial Resources, along with LifeWay Research and Baptist state conventions, have opened the biennial SBC Church Compensation Survey for 2016. Ministers and church employees are invited to participate in the survey, a resource used by churches of all sizes to determine fair wages and benefits. Survey participants will have the opportunity to enter for a chance to win an iPad®. The survey and complete contest rules are available at GuideStone.org/CompensationSurvey.

The survey's results will be made available in the early fall, in time for many churches considering their 2017 budgets. The survey is the...

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Sufficient unto the day


In college, my Greek professor had a standard answer when worried students started asking about the next exam. With a wry smile, he repeated, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." In other words, don't worry about that yet. (Or as some of us learned to interpret it, today was to be enjoyed because exam day would be a terrible day of judgment … ). Yes, it's biblical. See Matthew 6:34 in your KJV.

Just as students may worry over an upcoming exam, our uncertain world may cause infectious fear and worry within our churches. Severe weather, violence on church property and industrial disasters are all very real threats we...

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Texas Supreme Court tells Houston that citizens have the right to vote


The Texas Supreme Court has ordered the Houston City Council to either repeal its Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by Aug. 24 or put the ordinance to a vote during the city's November election. HERO amended Houston's Code of Ordinances to prevent all residents of Houston from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Court stated that, "though the ordinance is steeped in controversy, the legal principles at play are relatively simple."

The Houston City Council passed HERO on May 28, 2014. Houstonians have the right to dispute any ordinance filed by the Houston City Council by submitting a referendum...

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How the Affordable Care Act affects your church


As a convention, we seek to help meet the needs of our churches. As a church, you, in turn, seek to help meet the needs of your pastor and other ministry staff. One of the ways many of you care for them is through reimbursement for the premiums of health insurance policies. However, due to recent changes in government regulations through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), this may no longer be possible beginning July 1, 2015.

If you allow this practice, called Premium Reimbursement Plans, to continue after June 30, your church could be subject to a penalty under the ACA of $100 a day per participating employee. That could add up...

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What the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling means for Texas churches


On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the 14th amendment. The decision, written by Justice Kennedy, reflects a remarkable reversal in public acceptance of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Texas. Texas must also recognize the validity of marriages performed in other states. The decision has had an immediate effect as some county clerk's offices are already reporting they are open and ready to provide same-sex marriage licenses.

While some celebrate the decision as a victory for equality, many churches have expressed concern about how the legalization of same-sex...

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Child abuse is everyone's business


Country singer Kacey Musgraves' single, "Biscuits," is gaining popularity. The message of the song can be summed up in the line that advises, "Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy." It's a catchy and clever restatement of the familiar idiom, "mind your own business."

In today's society, we've heard so many variations of this phrase that many people behave as though nothing that goes on in other people's lives is anyone else's business. When it comes to child abuse and neglect, the adage simply doesn't apply. Christians should be at the forefront in reminding society that child abuse and neglect are everyone's...

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Legislature says “I Do” to Pastor Protection Act


On June 11, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called Pastor Protection Act that protects religious organizations and their employees from performing or participating in marriages that conflict with "sincerely held religious beliefs." The Christian Life Commission and its director of public policy, Kathryn Freeman, worked with faith leaders throughout Texas during the 2015 legislative session to get this bill passed.

The law will be added to Section 1, Chapter 2 of the Texas Family Code and will take effect Sept.1, 2015. The bill is timely because it comes ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage later in...

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Summer symbiosis: A guide to ministry internships


Summer is upon us. As I write this in mid-March, I'm interviewing candidates for a handful of internships within the Convention's communications department. While it takes time and energy to establish a perennial program, the payoff both for our department and the interns themselves is well worth the effort. Interns bring boundless life, energy and awareness to our team, they tackle projects in new and creative ways, and while they collect only modest compensation, the experience, school credit and resume bolstering they receive can be life-changing.

Here are some tips if your ministry is considering a formal internship program this...

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Prepare your church for same-sex marriage ruling


The U.S. Supreme Court is ready to consider the issue of same-sex marriage, and the court's eventual ruling could affect how the State of Texas defines marriage. If change occurs, it will affect the relationship of all Texas Baptist churches in their dealings with local, state, and federal laws.

The Christian Life Commission supports the biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman for a lifetime commitment. This has been the marriage standard for Christians dating back two millennia, and reflects an even longer biblical heritage.

On Tuesday, April 28, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider cases from...

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Guns in the Pews? Churches have the right to choose


Beginning January 1, 2016, Texans with a handgun license will be allowed to openly carry their handguns. Churches in Texas may prevent handgun license holders from carrying handguns inside church buildings as long as the church gives proper notice. Each church may decide for itself whether to allow:

  1. Both open and concealed carry of handguns
  2. Concealed carry of handguns but not open carry
  3. Open carry of handguns and not concealed carry
  4. No handguns regardless of whether they are carried openly or concealed

A church does not need to take any action if it wishes to allow handgun license holders to conceal carry or open carry in church...

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Good Legal Stewards


Once my wife and I were engaged we decided to attend premarital counseling. Years later, my misconceptions about counseling are still prevalent in society. I viewed counseling as unnecessary for healthy relationships. Inaccurate images from television and movies caused me to believe I should only attend counseling if there was a problem. I could not have been more mistaken. My then fiancé and I had a wonderful relationship, but I was unaware of how little I knew about how to protect our relationship and keep it flourishing. Through premarital counseling, I was encouraged to think about aspects of our relationship I had never...

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Child Safety Policy Manual


Having a Child Safety Policy Manual can be one of the most important steps a church can take in helping to protect its children and prevent liability. Here are a few of the major things to think about when creating a Child Safety Policy Manual:

  1. First, we recommend that you create a team or committee of highly qualified members from multiple professions (e.g. law, police, education, counseling, medicine, etc.) to craft a Child Safety Policy. These professionals will bring a wealth of knowledge from many different angles that will be crucial in setting forth a working Child Safety Policy.
  2. Second, look at what other churches,
...

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Major problems churches make when drafting Bylaws


Recently, we have had the opportunity to review several churches' Bylaws and Governing Documents for legal sufficiency. This is an important, but often overlooked area in many churches. So let's look at a few of the problem areas that I see for churches when dealing with their Bylaws and Governing Documents:

  • First, in many situations the original Articles of Incorporation/Certificate of Formation may have been filed many decades ago and may not conform to the present realities of the church's situation. One that I just looked at had been filed in the 1950s, and stated that the church would have a term of 50 years. Fortunately,
...

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Why does my church need bylaws?


Few pastors want to spend their time on such seemingly mundane things as bylaws and church governance. Most pastors would, instead, rather being doing the ministry activities to which they feel most called: visiting with families, praying with hurting people, preparing sermons, and mobilizing volunteers.

But when trouble strikes, the first thing many pastors think is: "I wish I had spent time drafting some better bylaws for our church!" Why? Because bylaws help lay the framework for what happens in the church--both during good times and bad.

A good way to think about this is that bylaws are somewhat like the rules...

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