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ELCA Blogs

Index of the January 2015 Issue

Five things to remember about clergy housing allowance
Clergy housing allowance has been in the news and guidance for proper handling of the allowance is unique. Here are five items to help congregations and clergy administer the allowance in compliance with IRS regulations. >more

2015 Clergy Tax Guide and Federal Reporting Requirements for Churches
Filing taxes can be complicated, especially for clergy. Consider the Clergy Tax Return Preparation Guide offered by Portico Benefit Services. Download the guide for free on myPortico. Also consider the Federal reporting Requirements for Churches resource to help your congregation comply with federal tax reporting requirements. You can find this resource on EmployerLink. >more

Parochial reports 
There are good reasons to complete your congregation’s Annual Report, but here’s one. The Office of the Presiding Bishop is working with ELCA seminaries to implement ways in reducing debt pastors accumulate in seminary. This work has been supported by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, in part because this church could show trends in congregational membership and giving that can impact a pastor’s salary. How did we obtain this data? From the dedicated people who complete their annual reports. Thank you! Please complete congregational reports by Feb. 15, 2015.

Discounted software for religious organizations
TechSoup offers discounted computer software and services to non-profits by brokering donations from vendors. Religious organizations are not eligible for some of the offers, but a subset of the TechSoup catalog is available to faith-based organizations. For example, Intuit has extended their eligibility requirements for their QuickBooks software to include religious groups (e.g., congregations and synods).> more

Winter checklist
While you can’t change the weather, you can minimize some of winter’s biggest threats to your facilities by taking several basic steps now to prevent damage. >more

IRS mileage allowance
The Internal Revenue Service has issued the 2015 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. >more


Index of the November 2014 Issue

Issue 37 of Administration Matters

Congregations rethink the tradition of gift-giving with ELCA Good Gifts
The average American spends over $700 on Christmas gifts each year. But when we think about the best gifts we have given or received, it is often not the gift itself but the meaning behind the gift that makes it significant. ELCA Good Gifts are a unique way to put the meaning back in Christmas shopping. With more than 50 different gift-giving options at your fingertips, changing the world has never been easier. >more

Why should congregations prepare Narrative Budgets?
Each congregation has a story to tell about how it responds in thanksgiving to the call to serve God’s people. A narrative budget integrates dollars, people and ministry to tell the story of a congregation’s mission and ministry. >more

Candle fires
Candles and fire prevention – keep your church safe during the Christmas and Advent seasons. >more

Reviewing your ministry’s finances is easier than ever at MIF Online
Does your congregation or ministry have investments with the Mission Investment Fund? MIF has introduced a number of convenient features for those investors who use MIF Online services. Sign up for alerts, request balance transfers, download your account transaction history to Excel spreadsheets or QuickBooks and much more. If you are not yet an online user, call MIF customer service representatives toll free at 877-886-3522 to set up online access.  >more

Model constitution – what do you know about it?
Did you know that the model constitution for congregations requires establishing an Audit Committee? Or that the Congregation Council is responsible for the financial and property matters of the congregation? Take a look at the model constitution and see how it compares to your congregation’s. >more


Index of the September 2014 Issue

Issue 36 of Administration Matters

Health and disability contribution rates increase to meet community needs
Portico annually evaluates contribution rates for the ELCA’s self-insured health and disability plans. Due to higher than expected claims and projected increases in future costs, rates will increase for 2015. Sponsoring organizations can estimate their contributions online during open enrollment. >more

Youth Gathering registration to open Oct. 15
Is your youth group attending the July 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit? Registration for this event incorporating service, worship, study and fun begins Oct. 15! In preparation, Primary Adult Leaders may begin entering group information in the ELCA’s database on Sept. 15. Also this fall, congregations are invited to support the ministry of the 2015 Gathering by visiting the Giving Opportunities page at

New Stories of Faith in Action
Stories of Faith in Action features images and stories of people whose lives have been touched by ministries of the ELCA. This resource shows how your regular congregational offering, shared with your synod and the churchwide organization, is changing lives. Order today | Find resources

How to communicate financial information to your church
This article from Christian Computing Magazine offers some points to consider when deciding why, how and when to communicate financial information to members of your congregation. The author offers suggestions for providing information on congregational giving, the congregation budgeting process, designated giving, biblical teaching on generous giving and family finance resources. > more

Keep boiler, furnace rooms clean and well maintained
Using the extra space in your boiler or furnace room for storage can quickly become a major fire hazard. Keep these rooms free of clutter and learn to identify signs of trouble. > more

Mission Investment Fund is the ELCA provider for loans for building projects
The Mission Investment Fund (MIF), the lending ministry of the ELCA, specializes in financing church building projects and land purchases for ELCA congregations and ELCA-related ministries. MIF understands ministry needs and works with congregations and ministries to help create mission-focused financing plans, and their lending staff is adept at guiding borrowers through the loan application process. Because MIF’s mission is to assist congregations and ministries in building and growing, it offers consistently competitive rates and a variety of loan terms. > more


Index of the July 2014 Issue

Issue 35 of Administration Matters

Mission Investment Fund offers the expertise of church building consultants
Is your congregation or ministry considering a building project? The experienced church building consultants of the Mission Investment Fund can get you started in the right direction. MIF church building consultants help plan building programs that support the congregation’s or ministry’s mission. These experts evaluate existing facilities, encourage best practices in church design, suggest sustainable building practices and explain lending options. >more

Portico long-term care insurance opportunity
Thanks to the collective buying power of ELCA plan members, they and eligible family members can apply for discounted long-term care insurance through LTC Financial Partners and Transamerica. Having this insurance can help you manage the costs of long-term care should you need it in the future. Those who qualify will purchase directly from Transamerica; sponsoring employers won’t play an administrative or financial role. >more

Safety guidelines for offering Wi-Fi to your congregation
There are many benefits to offering free wireless Internet access to your congregation — but they don’t come without risks. Putting a plan in place to reduce those risks is one way to help ensure a safe and secure Internet experience for all. >more

A first aid kit can make all the difference
If well stocked and properly utilized, a first aid kit can help you handle a variety of minor emergencies. >more

Social Security tax for clergy
Clergy are considered self-employed for purposes of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applies special rules when dealing with clergy taxes and withholdings. >more

Online giving – automating our commitments
Online giving is a tool that can help us grow into habits and commitments. The ELCA is trying to encourage more congregations that are not already offering online giving options to take the plunge and get going. Funds have been set aside to cover the first year monthly fees for up to 100 congregations on a first-come, first served basis to start offering online giving through Vanco, the long-time partner with Thrivent in the Simply Giving Program. There are no set-up fees or long-term contracts to take advantage of this offer, which runs from July 15 through September 30, 2014. >more


Index of the May 2014 Issue

Issue 34 of Administration Matters

Campaign for the ELCA
Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, is the first-ever comprehensive campaign for our church, approved by the 2013 Churchwide Assembly in response to God’s call to love and serve our neighbors, to boldly respond to the needs of the world with a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It seeks to raise $198 million in support of new and expanded churchwide ministries above and beyond those supported by regular weekly offerings. >more

Ethics Policy for Congregations
Adopting an ethics policy is the best practice to help clarify fiduciary duties and address conflicts of interest or appearance of conflicts. >more

Tips for web managers – copyright
Copyright and trademark laws apply to online publishing. In order to use someone else’s work on your website you must get permission from the author or creator of the work. >more

ELCA Group Ruling Tax Exemption
An ELCA IRS ruling certification letter can be used when you apply for bulk mailing permit, state sales tax exemption, to receive grant or matching funds, estate settlement or simply for proof of tax exempt status. >more

Information Security Awareness
Security breaches and stolen personal information are in the headlines too often these days. To prevent your congregation from losing members data, review this updated guide to information security. >more

Reducing risk – cell phones while driving
Congregations should consider creating a “no cell phone use while driving” policy for all employees and volunteers that is more expansive than what state and local laws may already require.  >more


Index of the March 2014 Issue

Issue 33 of Administration Matters

Clergy Tax Guide now available
Clergy have unique tax considerations. Pass along the “Clergy Tax Return Preparation Guide,” offered compliments of Portico Benefit Services, to help pastors prepare their 2013 tax returns. >more

Don’t miss out on health plan discount
Remind those with ELCA-Primary health benefits to take the Mayo Clinic Health Assessment by April 30. If 65 percent of the eligible plan members and spouses in your synod participate, your organization will save 2 percent on ELCA-Primary health contributions all year long. >more

IRS requirement for churches
The Internal Revenue Service has issued a new regulation, effective Jan. 1, 2014, requiring any church organization with an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to notify the IRS of certain changes. >more

MIF KIDZ accounts
The MIF4KIDZ account is designed as a savings tool for youth from birth to age 16. Additional deposits can be made up to maturity, and the investments mature on the youth’s 18th birthday. >more

Establishing a secure process for collecting offerings
Congregations should work to ensure the safety and security of all offerings and collections.

Endowment Fund Pooled Trust historic milestone
The ELCA Endowment Fund Pooled Trust, Fund A, reached a new milestone on Oct. 31, 2013, with $500 million in total market value. These assets represent 41 synods, 566 congregations and 144 related ministries. Fund A is a commingled fund made available through the ELCA Foundation to eligible ELCA entities interested in professional investment management for their mission endowment funds. >more


Index of the January 2014 Issue

Issue 32 of Administration Matters

New Year’s benefit reminder
On the heels of Portico Benefit Services’ Open Enrollment in November, make sure your benefits are being delivered accurately. Confirm that your employee withholding is correct for 2014 and that Portico has accurate salary and payroll frequency on file.  >more

Victim of embezzlement? Do you know how to proceed?
It is important to consider all your options and get proper legal and accounting advice as you deal with the monetary loss and the devastating impact this situation may create. >more

ELCA endorsed property and liability insurance
Did you know that the ELCA offers an endorsed insurance program for its synods and congregations? Forty-eight synods and over 3,900 congregations already participate.  >more

Tips for employers who outsource payroll duties
​Payroll service providers can help employers streamline their business operations. Here are some steps employers can take to protect themselves when using the services of third party payers.  >more

Stay connected with stewardNet!
Subscribe to stewardNet for ideas, articles and resources to grow stewardship ministry in your congregation, delivered to your inbox four to six times per year. Sign-up here.

IRS Mileage Allowance Announced
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

For more information, read news release.