Administration Matters

A bimonthly e-newsletter for ELCA congregational and synodical leaders. It addresses common, practical issues including finance, governance, risk management, tax, legal concerns and topics of interest about day to day operations and management in church settings.

Index of May 2019 Issue

Issue 64 of Administration Matters

ELCA Churchwide Assembly observers and volunteers
The 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly will take place Aug. 5-10 in Milwaukee, Wis. Each congregation of the ELCA may register one congregation observer. Congregation observers will be seated in the observers’ section of the plenary hall and have access to the ELCA Guidebook app as well as materials distributed on the plenary floor to voting members.

Are you interested in serving as a volunteer at the assembly? In the upcoming months, the Greater Milwaukee Synod will be recruiting about 600 volunteers to greet guests at the airport, help with worship services and work as microphone pages. Learn more.

Contingency planning for congregations
Your congregation is humming along, and out of the blue — the unexpected happens. It could be a decline in offerings, a long-term bad weather situation, a natural disaster or something else. It’s important to be prepared to respond to the unexpected. >More

Legal issues — background checks
Background checks are part of the screening process for new hires. Make sure to consult with reliable sources to ensure that these checks are a useful tool. >More

Reducing legal liabilities
America is more litigious than ever before. Knowing where your organization stands in terms of its legal liabilities will help you be prepared for potential pitfalls. Liability lurks everywhere, from everyday occurrences to more inherently hazardous activities. While you may not be able to avoid all legal risk or anticipate every legal threat, there are steps you can take to reduce liability. >More

Painting and working with chemicals
Painting may expose you to potentially hazardous situations, such as chemical use, climbing ladders, slippery surfaces and more. The guide below outlines some of the hazards associated with painting and provides information on how to work safely on your project and properly dispose of any waste. >More

The inherent risk of guest Wi-Fi access at your church
With the myriad of wireless devices in constant use, many churches provide Wi-Fi for the convenience of employees and guests. However, it is important that congregations assess the security measures that should be considered when providing this benefit. Should you find the resource below to be somewhat technical, we suggest you contact your IT support person to answer any questions. >More


Index of March 2019 issue

Issue 63 of Administration Matters

Two options for online giving for ELCA congregations ( and Vanco)

The ELCA churchwide organization has formed a preferred vendor agreement with Vanco, an eGiving software developer and payment processor serving more than 20,000 churches across the country. The agreement offers Vanco’s GivePlus suite of eGiving solutions to ELCA congregations. This announcement adds to the existing relationship with, providing congregations and synods with a choice in their digital-giving provider. The ELCA has negotiated special pricing for congregations that sign up to use either vendor. Information on the and Vanco solutions can be found on

Reminder: The ELCA Yearbook is now paperless!

To access the most current ELCA directory, visit with any web browser. Next, select a login provider and enter your credentials. Chances are you are already registered with one of our supported login-identity providers: Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Yahoo. If you have an ELCA login (ELCA community) account or an email address, you can also use that to access the directory. If you are a rostered minister or represent a synod, congregation or other organization with a listing in the ELCA directory, now is a great time for you to review your listing to ensure that we have the most up-to-date contact information. Please notify us of any changes by emailing

Let your plan members know you care

Remind ELCA-Primary health plan members that they can earn wellness dollars for using the groundbreaking 2019 Live Well tool to strengthen their physical, emotional, financial and spiritual well-being. This new online program provides nearly 100 guided activities and features a spiritual approach to wellness. >More

Split the tasks: How to keep money-handling aboveboard

One day, in the midst of leading a busy congregation, you discover that the congregation’s financial records don’t add up. It dawns on you that someone you deeply trust and have worked with for many years may be responsible. >More

Are voluntary donations to ministers gifts or taxable income?

Congregations should be aware of a recent U.S. Tax Court ruling on voluntary donations to ministers. In Felton v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo 2018-168, the court ruled that voluntary donations made to a minister in special contribution envelopes were taxable income, not nontaxable gifts. >More

Combat water damage with prevention

Water damage, whether from a natural disaster or plumbing issues, can ruin your floors, walls and ceilings. If you don’t get the place dried up quickly, you could face a severe mold problem and your furniture and other goods could be damaged beyond repair. Acting quickly and following the right steps can save your building from complete destruction and save your congregation from having to spend a lot of money on repairs. >More


Index of January 2019 issue

Issue 62 of Administration Matters

Most (but not all) congregations can avoid new nonprofit employee parking tax

A little-noticed provision of the 2017 tax reform created potential tax liability for nonprofits – including churches – that provide certain transportation fringe benefits, including parking and paid public transportation. This article provides a summary of the changes and some suggestions for minimizing or eliminating the liability. >More

Legal Checklist for Congregations Webinar

Congregations can unwittingly create legal issues and liabilities through inattention to basic requirements and details related to corporate status, taxes, property, insurance and abuse prevention. Many of these issues can be prevented by using an ELCA-prepared checklist of key items for congregations to address. Join us for a free webinar where the ELCA legal staff will discuss the checklist and best legal practices for congregations. This webinar will be of particular interest to rostered ministers and lay congregational leaders and staff, including congregation council members and officers, and church administrators. Webinar date: Feb. 21 at noon CST. Register here. Registration deadline is Feb. 15.

Tax reporting can be complicated

Portico offers the set of annually updated Richard R. Hammar tax guides at no cost to pastors and congregations participating in the ELCA benefit program. Federal Reporting Requirements for Churches helps congregations understand federal reporting requirements. The Clergy Tax Return Preparation Guide gives special attention to tax-related topics relevant to ministers. Updated versions coming soon. To access, log into your Portico member or EmployerLink account.

2019 IRS mileage allowance

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2019 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business and charitable, medical or moving purposes. Beginning Jan. 1, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) is:
• 58 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3.5 cents from the 2018 rate.
• 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 2 cents from the 2018 rate.
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
The business mileage rate increased 3.5 cents for business travel driven and 2 cents for medical and certain moving expense from the 2018 rates. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged. For more information, visit the IRS website.

Low temperatures increase the risk of damage to frozen sprinkler systems and plumbing pipes

Contrary to what one might think, losses due to frozen pipes occur more frequently in climates that are not normally associated with cold weather, especially when unexpected cold fronts sweep through a region. >More

Slips and falls

Protect your congregation from the second-leading cause of preventable injuries by inspecting your facilities and identifying key areas that may contain trip, slip and fall hazards. Inclement or changing weather conditions can increase the chance of an accident. >More

2018 ELCA annual report cover

The ELCA covers for annual congregational reports in 2018 are now available to order. You can also download them for free. >More