An Expensive Football

Years ago my church had an auction to raise money for a summer missions trip for the youth. It was a big event – it took two days to stage, the youth were waiters, we had a professional auctioneer (he donated his services), it was an event! One of the live auction items was a football signed by a nationally known coach who was a legend in the state. The football started at $100







At this point everyone dropped out except for one older man and a younger man whose 10-year old son was sitting beside him. The boy was incredibly excited about the prospect of getting this football.







The father bid again, $4,000

The other man bid $4,500


The father looked down at his son, shook his head and said he couldn’t go any higher. The son was crushed. He hung his head and was terribly disappointed.

The auctioneer awarded the bid to the older gentleman who came forward, wrote a check, and was handed the prized football. The man looked at the football and walked to the boy and handed him the ball. “It’s yours.” And he left.

This is a completely true story – you can’t make up this stuff.

Lead On!



When I was a poor college student I had barely enough to get by. I certainly didn’t have any money to tithe. And when the offering plate was passed, I wanted to give but I couldn’t. I had no financial margin in my life.

One Sunday morning I walked from my parking spot to the church and noticed on a ground a $10 bill. I put it in my wallet knowing I could use it for a meal or some expense. Before going too far I felt a nagging question (from God? Probably): why don’t you put this found money in the offering plate.

I sat through the service and when the plate was passed, I passed. The money never left my wallet. I felt guilty afterward – I was given money, I was asked to give it away, and I didn’t.

That was almost 40 years ago but I remember it quite well. The lesson I’ve tried to learn is to be generous whenever I can. Opportunities will appear out of nowhere and you’ll be asked to give. Do it – you won’t regret being generous but you will regret being stingy. I still do.

Lead On!


Free Stuff is now entirely FREE.

This is a website where I have posted scores of free documents, manuals, spreadsheets, etc. Over the 25 plus years that I’ve been a church administrator, I’ve created docs at all the churches I’ve worked at and now I’m sharing all those for free.

If you need a doc that isn’t in there, please let me know and I’ve probably got something I can get you or create pretty easily. Let me know via email.

In the meantime, download some or all of these documents. My request is this: if you find that these are really helpful to you, then please buy a gift card at the website ($25, $50, or $100) for however much you think it helped you. Donations such as these help me stay afloat financially.


Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Your Money is Waiting

When a vendor is overpaid, they are legally required to return it. Sometimes vendors can’t (or can’t be troubled) find the person or company that paid too much. In those cases, they send it to the unclaimed property division that each state treasurer has. The state treasurer holds on to the money until the rightful owner claims it. Texas alone has over $3 billion it is holding till it is claimed.

The process is quite simple. Enter “unclaimed property” followed by your state. Then, go to the state’s page and follow the instructions to search for the property. If you find something that you think is yours (either personal or your church), then complete the forms and send them to the state agency that handles these claims. It will take about four to six weeks to get your money.

If anyone contacts you saying they can get money for you for a fee, ignore them. They may have searched the web and found some money for you but you can do the same thing and it won’t cost you anything. Don’t fall for scams.

It’s your money and it’s just waiting there for you. Go get it.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Employer or Contractor?

This question comes up way too often. Churches want to classify people as contractors when they are really employees. I understand that it is a pain to get all the tax forms, set them up in the payroll system, and have the extra FICA expense. But there is not legal way around this.

A church contacted me about hiring an intern for a few weeks. The pastor thought it would be easy – bring the young man on board, pay him a flat fee for his work, and then he’d leave. Unfortunately, pastors and other church leaders do not fully comprehend personnel law and they can get the church in trouble.

Here is the IRS page addressing this.

Here is the page from the Department of Labor.

Each of them have lots of information and linked pages. Here is the key info from the IRS website:

  • The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work, not what will be done and how it will be done. Small businesses should consider all evidence of the degree of control and independence in the employer/worker relationship. Whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee depends on the facts in each situation.

The key issue is control. Does the employer control when, where, how, with what, why, etc. a person is doing their work? That is an employer/employee relationship. Or, does the employer give instructions as to what is needed and then receives a completed product at a future date? That is an employer/contractor relationship. For example: a church bookkeeper with an office in the church using church computer is an employee while the church’s auditor is a contractor.

There are some nuances to churches in particular.

  • Guest preachers or speakers are considered to be independent contractors because they created their content and the church didn’t dictate what they would say. That is also true for musicians who perform their own original music.
  • Musicians who play or sing pieces that others wrote and which the church asked them to play or sing are considered church employees. That is because the church controlled the time, place, instrument, and choice of music. The American Guild of Organists has an article explaining to their members that in most cases church organists (and paid choir members) are employees.

My request is for churches to be completely honest and aboveboard. Classify people as employees when in doubt. You’ll be able to sleep at night better.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Wills for New Families

Having a child is a major legal decision.

Most churches are great at helping new parents with new baby stuff: food for mom & dad, baby showers with gifts, support for mom (and dad) in the first few months, etc. Churches need to add a legal issue to this checklist – providing a resource for a will. There are a host of legal matters to decide when a child arrives. If both parents die, how is the estate divided, who is the custodian of the child(ren), should there be a trust, etc.

Almost half of all people do not have a will of any form. When they die, a judge will divide the estate among a prescribed list of family members. None of the money will go to friends or organizations they loved in their lifetime. When young parents die, the state will use all of the family’s funds to care for the children and will place the children with the family the judge feels is best.

Rather than leave it to a judge, young families should make those (uncomfortable) decisions themselves. Their church should have an attorney who will work with the couple before the baby arrives and draft a simple will. That will give the new parents a lot of peace of mind and the grandparents will greatly appreciate having that issue dealt with. Most young people have no idea where to go to get a will.

A church can cover the entire cost of a simple will (about $400 to $500), can cost-share with the young couple (or the grandparents), or have the couple cover that cost entirely. I can assure you that if grandparents are financially able, they’ll help with this cost and they’ll be exceedingly grateful to the church for helping with this. The important thing is to ensure that young families are addressing this issue and not ignoring it. This is an important legal matter and the church should help.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Anniversary Gift

R & C’s 50th wedding anniversary was approaching and R asked me about making a gift to the church in honor of their anniversary. C loved the children’s music ministry and had volunteered there for decades. R asked if he give the church $50,000 for their 50th anniversary and create a named fund to benefit children’s music. I told him I was pretty sure we could and after checking with the committee, it was authorized.

C was ecstatic. She said it was the best gift she could have ever received. Over the next several years, R gave more and at last count, the fund was close to $500,000 which is enough to fund the programming budget and part of the salary. R & C continue to worship there 10 years on and are very happy with their decision to fund this ministry of the church.

The agreement that R signed with the church contained the following phrase: “If the original purpose of the gift is no longer a ministry of the church, then the Endowment Team may distribute grants to similar purposes or, if those don’t exist, to other ministries of the church as requested.” This ensures that should the children’s music ministry no longer be part of the church’s strategy, the church can use this gift as it wants and needs without consulting the donor. This phrase should be included in all donor agreements.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Bequest Stories #4 – Building Improvements

Joe was considered to be your average church member in terms of financial assets but everyone knew that Joe loved his church. A few months after Joe died, the church learned that not only had Joe remembered his church in his will, but he was uncommonly generous. He gave the church an outright $500,000 and a few pieces of property; the total gift was about $650,000. Joe did restrict how the church could use the money – to pay for building maintenance and improvements.

In response to this gift, the church assembled a dozen leaders to discern the appropriate action. Over several months I worked with this group and we worked through the steps in this blog. The original church building was about 50 years old. A new worship center was built about 20 years ago but only cosmetic changes (paint & carpet) had been made to the original buildings since it was built. People had been making their own list for years but prioritizing that was tough. An early decision was made that we’d spend about half of it now and save the other half of the gift for future needs. That decision enabled us to focus on the high priority needs that also had significant savings on energy savings and/or visual impact.

The church spent $100,000 on retrofitting eight old bathrooms and another $125,000 on new windows. Guests and members had long criticized the condition of the bathrooms and how unappealing they were – the completely gutted and refurbished bathrooms are no longer a hindrance. The new windows improved the look of the building but also saved money every year. A few other improvements were made but the church still had over $300,000 to be used in subsequent years for new HVAC equipment, carpet, etc.

There isn’t a memorial plaque to Joe at the church; he wouldn’t have wanted that. His beloved church looks so much better and that is what would have pleased him the most. The church budget wasn’t stretched, the buildings look better than before, new people find the building attractive and clean, and members saw an example of how one person can help his church in his will. Joe was a great role model in death.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of