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Administration Matters

Index of the May 2024 Issue

Issue 93 of Administration Matters

Victim of embezzlement? Do you know how to proceed?

It is important to know what to do when your synod or congregation experiences embezzlement. Being prepared in some way will help you deal with a situation as difficult as this one. >More

Billions of federal dollars available for churches and nonprofits to go green

The Renew America’s Nonprofits grant aims to stimulate widespread energy improvements in the nonprofit sector to create a pipeline of energy- and cost-saving projects that will continue beyond the life of the grant. All applicants must have an active and registration in order to apply for a grant under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. You should register in these systems now if you think your congregation/organization may apply for a federal grant. >More

The warning signs of a mental health issue

According to a November 2022 blog post from Columbia Theological Seminary, the warning signs of a mental health issue include eating or sleeping too much or not enough, isolating oneself, having no joy in life or work, feeling helpless or hopeless, and increased or new alcohol or drug use. The top three things that improve pastors’ mental health are taking a sabbatical, joining a prayer or support group, and getting counseling, the post states.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Portico Benefit Services urges members to make use of their ELCA-Primary mental health benefits and support programs. The support programs include 24/7 counseling with a licensed Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor via voice, text or video; Learn to Live, which provides coach-supported, self-paced and interactive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) programs; and Being Academy, which offers faith-based education on mental health and other topics.

Guidelines for purchasing insurance

The ELCA endorses Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I., but this resource can help you understand and evaluate quotes for insurance coverage. >More

How to write a vision, mission and values statement

Creating a mission, vision and values statement provides the foundation for an organization’s business practices and decision-making. It gives a long-term view of what the organization wants to achieve and where it wants to be in the future, providing a sense of purpose and direction. >More

Index of the March 2024 Issue

Issue 92 of Administration Matters

You’re not late, everyone else is just early!

Final call for registration for the 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering, MYLE, and the tAble in New Orleans! Registration will close on April 15. Thanks to a generous donor, we are able to provide a waived registration fee (which includes program, housing and food) for our pre-events, the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event and the tAble! To learn more, visit:

Church Mutual update

The churchwide organization is aware of the difficulties currently facing the entire property insurance marketplace and the direct impact of insurers’ underwriting decisions. As you can imagine, Church Mutual is also directly impacted by these loss trends which influence their underwriting decisions regarding ELCA congregations and synods. >More

How to handle embezzlement

Anyone who is a victim of embezzlement experiences devastation on many levels. Trust has been broken and relationships are, no doubt, badly damaged. Steps must be taken to not only deal with the monetary loss but also the emotional and psychological impacts felt. >More

2023 tax guides are available through Portico

Two helpful tax guides are now available for church personnel. Portico Benefit Services provides ministers and congregations participating in the ELCA benefit program with access to tax guides:
• The Clergy Tax Return Preparation Guide by Richard R. Hammar gives special attention to tax-related topics most relevant to ministers.
• Federal Reporting Requirements for Churches helps congregations understand their federal tax-reporting requirements.
Both tax guides are available on myPortico and the Tax Filing Information tab on EmployerLink. If you’re not logged in to your Portico account, you’ll be prompted to do so.

Writing minutes like a pro

Minutes are a tangible record of the meeting for its participants and a source of information for future reference. Succinct minutes that capture the purpose of the meeting and its agreed outcomes are a record that can be referred back to and be used for follow-up purposes later. Good minutes are concise and to the point while including all critical information. >More

Tax guide for churches and religious organizations

Congregations and other religious nonprofit organizations are governed by special sets of rules and regulations. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides a summary of some of those laws in IRS Publication 1828 Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations. The topics covered include tax exempt status issues, substantiating charitable contributions, unrelated business income tax, and special rules on clergy compensation. >More

Index of the January 2024 Issue

Issue 91 of Administration Matters

Registration for the 2024 Gathering, MYLE, the tAble, and Young Adult Gathering is currently open!

The ELCA Youth Gathering and Young Adult Gathering will take place in New Orleans on July 16-20, with MYLE and the tAble taking place immediately before on July 13-16. We’re thrilled to be back in such a vibrant city filled with history, great food and inspiring music. We’re also excited to share that the first 1,000 people to register for the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) and the first 200 to register for the tAble, our pre-event for youth living with disabilities, will receive a waived registration fee for those events. To learn more, visit If you have any questions, email We’ll see you in the bayou!

January: New year checklist from Portico

What steps should administrative personnel take in January to ensure a smooth transition into 2024? Three things to check are that your withholdings are up to date, that compensation changes are recorded, and that your January bill is closely reviewed and is accurate. Church administrators can find detailed information on how to be prepared and record and pay bills with accuracy at EmployerLink.

Together we create Stories of Faith in Action

Across the ELCA we are connected through the stories we tell, hear and experience in ministry with, among and for one another. Our ELCA Stories of Faith in Action (SOFIA) are available to everyone at SOFIA ( Here you will experience a number of stories in action that lift up some of the vital ministries made possible by the generous Mission Support shared by the many ELCA congregations. Mission Support, which funds the ministries of your synod and churchwide organization, is available only because of the faith-filled regular offerings that individuals give to their congregations. This site also includes resources on how Mission Support funds ministry, as well as a devotion that can be used with SOFIA in council meetings, annual gatherings, Bible studies and wherever you gather to tell stories. We also encourage you check out, in the Mission Support tab, a monthly Mission Support Memo that includes additional stories, offers ways to engage and shares gratefulness! We are church together.

IRS issues standard mileage rates for 2024

In December the Internal Revenue Service issued the 2024 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. Beginning on Jan. 1, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) are:
• 67 cents per mile driven for business use, up 1.5 cents from 2023.
• 21 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes for qualified active-duty members of the armed forces, a decrease of 1 cent from 2023.
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations; the rate is set by statute and remains unchanged from 2023.
These rates apply to electric and hybrid-electric automobiles, as well as gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles.

Bring results to your doctor at your preventive appointment

Many of us use January as a time to take inventory of our well-being. Based on research by the American Medical Association, “arranging for tests to be completed before the next visit” saves time, saves money and improves care. You can schedule any recurrent or necessary tests, draws or scans a couple of months before your preventive exam (such as a mammogram, blood draw or bone density scan). This gives your doctor information ahead of time and may save you an extra appointment.

Why do you need a finance committee?

Does your house of worship have an active finance committee? Or is there one person who takes on the task of managing your money and the responsibility of paying your bills? Here are five reasons why it’s important that a finance committee plays an active role in deciding what happens to money your members contribute. >More

Index of the November 2023 Issue

Issue 90 of Administration Matters

Who would steal from us?

Misappropriation of church funds can engender a crisis of confidence in your congregation, so proper handling of donations is a critical responsibility. Keep a would-be thief out of the collection plate by developing the financial controls needed to prevent theft and embezzlement in your congregation. >More

Supporting our leaders with financial, emotional, physical and pumpkin spice benefits

Portico seeks to support its plan members’ whole-person health and well-being with benefit options for every season of life — including pumpkin spice season. This fall a dietician at one of Portico’s partner vendors, Burnalong, has provided recipes for three healthy alternatives to popular, crave-worthy but often high-sugar, high-calorie fall coffee drinks. Encourage your Portico members with ELCA-Primary health benefits to log in to Burnalong this fall and view the “Healthy Fall Coffee Drinks” video or participate in their choice of online fitness content to support their well-being.

Socially responsible banking supports our community of faith

Members of the ELCA Federal Credit Union enjoy many benefits, and membership is open to all ELCA staff, volunteers and congregational members. Spread the word by downloading and posting this flier.

Plan ahead for 2024 payroll withholdings

If you provide ELCA benefits through Portico and your employees changed their 2024 pretax retirement, supplemental life insurance or other voluntary benefit elections during Portico’s annual enrollment, you’ll need to adjust payroll withholdings for 2024. Starting with pay periods in January, the Payroll Withholding Summary on EmployerLink can help you determine how much to withhold from your employees’ paychecks.

Church Mutual offers armed intruder emergency service

Nothing is more important than the well-being of your staff, your volunteers and the people you serve. Protecting them from harm is your top priority, and the best way to do that is to plan for the unexpected. The new Pull for Police Armed Intruder Emergency Service, available at no cost exclusively to clients of Church Mutual Insurance, includes a device that, when activated, notifies local law enforcement of an armed intruder situation within seconds. >More

Questions to consider when writing a church job description

Employees go to work intending to do a good job, and knowing the specifics of their job helps them deliver. Ministries create systems to help manage employees, and the job description is part of that system. Employees must know what is expected of them and who to approach with questions or concerns. Job descriptions are essential tools that can guide employee performance and dictate daily activities. Churches have limited resources, so any salaried position must support the overall mission strategy. When writing a job description, answer the questions below to ensure that the job you’re creating truly supports the church’s mission. >More

Index of the September 2023 Issue

Issue 89 of Administration Matters

Register Sept. 15 for the 2024 Youth Gathering and related events!

Registration opens at noon on Sept. 15 for the ELCA Youth Gathering and Young Adult Gathering, taking place in New Orleans, La., July 16-20, 2024, and for the two pre-events: the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) and the tAble, for youth living with disabilities, both July 13-16, 2024. We’re thrilled to be back in such a vibrant city, filled with history, great food and inspiring music. This cycle we’re excited to announce that we will waive the pre-event registration fee for the first 1,000 people who register for the MYLE and the first 200 who register for the tAble.

To learn more, visit If you have any questions, email We’ll see you in the bayou!

Update your Portico benefits enrollment

This August the board of trustees for Portico Benefit Services approved rate and benefit changes for 2024. Sponsoring organizations and plan members have been notified by email. If your organization provides Portico benefits, visit EmployerLink to review your organization’s Decision Guide and Custom Comparison Report. Then, from Oct. 2 to Oct. 13, select your organization’s 2024 ELCA-Primary health benefit. >More

Laws and rights for employers and employees

Q. I recently read that my congregation needs to put up posters explaining certain laws to the staff. Where can I get more information?
A. Here and at the ELCA’s legal page.

What’s Your Church’s Money Story?

Now that your congregation has passed the midpoint of 2023, this is a good time to examine your financial health. Many congregations are experiencing their first full year in a post-pandemic environment. How do your organization’s finances look today? >More

Don’t Be Left in the Cold — Inspect Your Heating Boiler

One of the biggest risks of boiler heating systems is that some problem might escalate the internal pressure to a point where the boiler explodes. This not only results in major physical damage to the facility but can be life-threatening if your members or employees are in the building. With proper maintenance you can greatly reduce the risk of this occurring. >More

Index of the July 2023 Issue

Issue 88 of Administration Matters

Protect your church’s operating reserve

A well-designed contingency plan for a congregation maintains an operating reserve to cover the church’s expenses for at least four months should it experience difficulties and its income be drastically reduced. >More

Know when to retain or discard synod or congregational records

Congregations and synods must know which records and information they should keep and which can be removed. Some records need to be maintained permanently; others can be discarded periodically. >More for Synods. >More for Congregations.

Church building redesigned with MIF loan

Zumbro Lutheran Church in Rochester, Minn., had a “strong desire to redesign its space to be welcoming, leaning into downtown,” recalls the congregation’s directing pastor, the Rev. Rob Zahn. The Mission Investment Fund, a financial ministry of the ELCA, provided a loan for a redesigned sanctuary — with a stunning new cross and baptismal font — that is flexible enough to serve multiple purposes. New office space supports the work of several ministry partners operating in Rochester.

Why feedback matters

Critique, one might say, is critical to growth, particularly for those in ministry. “Critique is a key component of our staff culture,” writes one pastor on the Lifeway Research website. When you ask for feedback, you show that you are not only teachable and open to improvement but also humble, something Colossians 3:12 encourages us to be.

Portico Benefit Services recognizes the importance of active listening. Its new feedback platform, Portico Voices, was created to gather feedback from plan members and sponsoring employers so that it might improve its products and services. If you receive an email inviting you to join, and become part of the Portico Voices community, please consider signing up!

Five ways to keep your building secure

Every organization would like to believe its facility is safe from crime, but plenty of details can get overlooked when you develop a security plan for your building. There are many elements to crime prevention, but we have developed a list of steps to keep your building secure. >More

10 points to cover in volunteer orientation

The beauty of a church community is the abundance of committed people with a passion for helping the church achieve its vision and mission. Volunteers drive the church by donating the hours required to ensure that everything gets done. Many people use the volunteer experience to get to know other church community members. Creating a well-run program ensures a great experience for those volunteers, and a structured orientation process prepares them for their new responsibilities. >More