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 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


Index of December 2018 Issue

Issue 61 of Administration Matters

Inspire, thank and educate with Stories of Faith in Action

The newest edition of Stories of Faith in Action is out — and it’s packed with vibrant photos and stories to encourage giving! Mailed to ELCA congregations, synods and leaders in early September, this annual publication highlights the impact of Mission Support and the ministries it funds.

Visit now to:

  • Order free print copies (all you cover is shipping).
  • Download an electronic copy.
  • View video stories, bulletin inserts and other resources.

How to complete a Pastor’s W-2 IRS Form

Year-end is quickly approaching and with it, the task of tax reporting to the IRS.  Different rules apply when dealing with clergy taxes and withholdings.  The sample W-2 provided will assist congregations in completing W-2 forms for clergy.  >More

Help pastors tap the clergy housing allowance

The clergy housing allowance allows pastors to exclude a portion of their compensation from federal gross income if it can be justified to the IRS as spent on housing expenses. If congregations don’t proactively designate a portion of their pastor’s compensation as a housing allowance, your pastor loses an important tax benefit. Sign-in at Portico EmployerLink required. >More

Don’t be left in the cold — inspect your heating boiler

One of the biggest risks with boiler heating systems is that a problem will cause the internal pressure in the system to escalate to a point where it causes an explosion. This not only results in major physical damage to the facility but can also be life-threatening if your members or employees are in the building. The risk of this occurring can be greatly diminished with proper maintenance. > More

New video: Managing ELCA Benefits 101

A new 22-minute video by Portico Benefit Services, offered on EmployerLink, covers the basics of providing ELCA benefits — key terms, answers to common questions, and action steps to take each year. It’s a great introduction for new treasurers, office managers, plan administrators and human resource directors, and a refresher for seasoned benefit providers. >Watch

Winter checklist

Whether your climate is snowy or mild, it’s important to protect your church property during the coldest months of the year. >More