Not Leaving a Comment on this Stupid Blog

I read the stat logs (oof on me, throw that on the List right quick). I know how many of you there are out there. Look, here’s a dude on here just now from Raleigh, North Carolina who spent 5 mins 25 secs reading the List. Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, represent! Woh, wait a minute. I just realized why I recognize that town. It’s where I send my check to Sallie Mae every other month or so give or take a month or two. What sort of special bureaucratic hell have you guys get set up down there? Any chance you could, I don’t know, disappear off the face of the earth? Would consider that a total solid. Thanks in advance!

Let’s see… going down the list from today’s readers here… Tallahassee! Um, none taken on that last Florida post. Thanks for stopping in! We love Florida, for real. Except for every square inch of it we’ve been through. And also the other places we hear about in the news.

What else? London, United Kingdom (Learn how to tip you cheap pricks. Sorry, cheap cunts.); Stockport, United Kingdom; Alameda, California; Santa Cruz, New Mexico (I thought that place was just a made up state for the movies and for elections to get racists fired up at the polls, no?); Redmond, Washington; Wellington, New Zealand; Mannheim, Baden-wurttemberg, Germany (Love you miserable ill-humored stone-faced bitches over there, but you’re going on the List really fucking soon jsyk); Royal Oak, Michigan (are there any jokes about Michigan? What’s the point really, right? Be like making fun of sand or, like, a piece of bread? A sandy piece of bread? Do they even have sand there? Someone should probably look into this); Village Of Nagog Woods, Massachusetts… Los…

Wait a second. Village of Nagog Woods? That’s the fakest sounding town name I’ve ever heard in my life. What sort of happy little people frolic up yonder? Have you human like dwellings? How faired this moon’s crop good neighbor?

Actually, never mind cause I just found an entry from Stockton-on-tees, United Kingdom. Is that an ancient fiefdom or a white NBA point guard themed t-shirt company? Calling bullshit on that town right now. Nice try though.

Anyway, aside from a snooze-inducing geography lesson, the point here is that we all need to come together and share the special thing we have in common: we hate each other. If there’s one thing that people from around the world can agree on it’s that everyone else sucks. But, you know, in different ways.

On a related note, a suspiciously high number of people find their way to the List by doing a Google search for prison+rape+jokes. Um…

Fireworks are fucking stupid holiday reruns

Holidays are for food comas, and for me to re-post holiday themed list entries every year until it gets old.Check out this post from last 4th of July about all the amazing American shit you should be buying this week unless you hate your country, pretty sure it all still applies.

It’s kind of hard to capture in words the exact mix of solemn reverence and ass-kicking that goes into the 4th of July, so until I can get a picture up of my new tattoo of Ronald Reagan skateboarding over the Berlin Wall you’ll have to take my word for it. It’s kind of like an awesome blend of going out for drinks for some dude you kind of know’s birthday, 9/11 and the time Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star all rolled into one. Only with a lot more hot dogs on the grill.

And what better way to commemorate our American exceptionalism than by pretend-bombing our cities. Nothing like some just kidding explosions all across the sky to set the patriotic mood, right?

Personally, I’m hoping they do that one firework routine they have where it looks like a flaming flower in the sky. That’s kind of like my jam. Yeah, I know they’ve been doing the same one since Chinese George Washington invented fireworks 10,000 years ago, but you stick with the classics, right? You can’t improve on perfect.

They invented boning and barbeque back then too, and we still haven’t managed to update those things yet either. Unless you count bukake and potato salad. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty good way to sum up the 4th of July in general. Potato salad bukake. 

Half-Assed Costumes are bumming me out HOLIDAY SPECIAL CLASSICZ

But even worse than that is the half-assed Halloween guy rocking some last-minute high concept meta costume that he has to explain to everyone at the party. (Going to a party). You can’t just strap a cell phone on your dad jeans and walk around all night looking self-satisfied and say your costume is a Baby Boomer. You can’t wear your waiter apron and walk around asking anyone if you can get them another drink and say you’re going as a liberal arts major.

There’s a pretty simple rule at work here: If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. It just makes you look like you caved in to peer pressure at the last second and decided maybe your firm stand against dressing up isn’t so bad ass after all. Your whimsical Target employee name tag and shopping bag ensemble don’t make you look like a devil-may-care rogue deigning to play along with the proles on their silly holiday, you look like this guy I sat next to at a wedding recently rocking a Pittsburgh Steelers tie. You dressed up in order to say (to some invisible panel of judges who float through the clouds) that you dressed up, but you didn’t really dress up. In fact you look even worse than if you hadn’t done anything in the first place. Same idea behind the wrinkly khakis and blue oxford you wear to your business casual office. That’s the half-assed costume of life. The one where you show up to work every day pretending to be a dude who isn’t counting the hours until the sweet, merciful release of the big sleep.

Actually that’s a pretty good costume idea: a dead guy. I’ve got a gun you can borrow if you need one.

*Because people who read comic books and play video games are nerds amirite?

Asking About My Lunch While Im Eating It

Asking About My Lunch While I’m Eating It

Yeah, I know this here soup and half sandwich combo is incredibly exotic, and a real conversation piece, and I know it probably catches you off guard when I’m eating it at 12:30PM, but can you please refrain from asking me about my lunch when I’m in the process of eating it, because it gives me this strange impulse to throw my beef barley soup in your face, and the reasonable side of me knows that this would be impolite. And it’s really not so much the question itself as it is the peering that comes along with it. Like, stretching your neck up high so you can look into my soup container is completely unnecessary. So what started off as a pilgrimage to my cube to explain why you fucked up the TPS report (again) turned into a spectacular lunch show and tell. I know, I know, the sight of someone eating lunch at her desk has a tendency to stop coworkers dead in their tracks, but let’s move along people, there’s nothing to see here.

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Stealing content online makes you a brave freedom fighter

Whether it’s a mortgage on a house, a brand new car, season three of Friday Night Lights or that thirteenth beer, if I don’t have the money, I somehow pull my act together and move on empty handed. Why? Because I’m not an infantile On Demand omnivore incapable of satiating my demand for instant gratification. (Plus I need to save my money for gambling debts.)

No one cares about your half ass futuristic Robin Hood with a Mac book routine pal. We saw Fight Club too, yet somehow we managed to resist rolling that horseshit into a life of self-satisfied petty theft. You’re not some freedom fighter standing up to the corporate overlords every time you search for Family Guy episodes on bit torrent, you’re just an a-hole who’s too cheap to shell out a few bucks for the things he wants, and too greedy to not steal shit you will never, ever possibly look at twice. Homer Simpson with his hand stuck in the internet candy machine over here.

You know who else has a story about why the dirt they did wasn’t really illegal too? Every dude down at the courthouse.

Not that it’s wrong just because it’s illegal, mind you. It’s wrong because you suck.

Eating Lunch At Your Desk

Since I’m not qualified for any jobs other than folksy observational humorist on the internet (penis jokes) and underwear model, I haven’t worked in an office in like ten years. So it’s a little hard for me to relate to this bit. First of all, people still eat lunch? That is so cute! Anyhoooo, friend of the List debbiedavissq is fucking pissed at you guys,  so that’s good enough for me.

Quoth deborah:

Hey you, over there, shoveling that microwaved lean cuisine “food” into your face. You can’t take a ten minute break to eat your lunch away from your desk? Oh I get it, you are way busier than the rest of us. Us lazies need a few minutes to think about something other than how our jobs are crushing our souls. I know you are passionate about what you do, but guess what, your job is entering numbers into a spreadsheet and discovering the eccentricities that exist within Microsoft Office.  It won’t kill ya to take a knee for moment.

I get it, you want the boss to think that you are the hardest working SOB ever to step foot into this special office space.  You think that if you look like you are working the hardest it will be you who receives that long awaited promotion. Well you know what? It can be a little difficult to taste, chew and swallow while typing away on your computer. I have tried it, and now there are crumbs all over the place. Don’t you know that a messy cube leads to less productivity? I read that on the internet during one of my ten hourly breaks. So clean that mess up dude and get outside for five minutes, you are actually fucking yourself (and not in the good way).

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9 Ways to Make Space in Your Grief for Some Holiday Joy

Tears & Tinsel: 9 Ways to Make Space in Your Grief for Some Holiday Joy

YARDLEY, Pa. — If you’ve recently lost a loved one — and even if it happened not so recently — the holidays can be heart-wrenching. The stark contrast between glowing lights and the darkness of your sorrow is difficult to take. Frankly, you’d like to crawl under the covers and hide until Jan. 2.

But according to Susan Apollon, an intuitive psychologist who works with grieving people, it is possible to find some pleasure — even a touch of joy — in the holiday season.

“The holidays are painful if someone you love has recently died, or if you’re going through a divorce, or even if your child has moved away,” says Apollon, author of Touched by the Extraordinary: An Intuitive Psychologist Shares Insights, Lessons, and True Stories of Spirit and Love to Transform and Heal the Soul (Matters of the Soul, 2005, ISBN: 0-9754036-4-8, $19.95).

“Special days remind us of our loss,” Apollon adds. “Family is supposed to be together during the holidays, and when things aren’t the way they’re ‘supposed’ to be, of course it’s distressing.

“But you can get through the holidays,” she promises. “In fact, even if your grief is very fresh, you can create a space to celebrate in your own way.”

Here are 9 hints for making space in your grief for some holiday joy:

1. First, give yourself permission to cry. Apollon’s mantra on dealing with grief is “face it, embrace it, and replace it.” In other words, the only way to “get over” sadness is to experience it.

“If you need to cry, cry, even if you’re at a party and have to leave the room,” says Apollon. “You might even set aside an evening to get in touch with your grief. Fix the cocoa you used to drink with your mother or go through your photo albums. It’s healthier to feel the sadness and loss than to detach yourself from it. It’s right and normal to grieve; just don’t make it the dominant part of who you are.”

2. It’s OK to break tradition.It’s also OK to say no. You know your own limitations, says Apollon. If you simply can’t face hosting your annual holiday feast, complete with dozens of relatives, don’t try to soldier through it for the sake of your guests. People will understand.

In fact, it’s okay to leave town altogether. “Some people find it helpful to get away completely, to somewhere that doesn’t remind them of holidays past,” notes Apollon. “You might consider a tropical vacation, or you might take the time to visit a friend across the country. Doing something completely different can be a good coping mechanism, especially for that first tough year.”

3. Consciously attach a new meaning to the holidays. Holidays are difficult because they remind you that someone special to you — someone who should be there — is gone. In your mind, your daughter (or mother or husband or friend) is Thanksgiving or Christmas or Hanukkah. Without that person, family dinners and parties just don’t have the same meaning.

That’s why Apollon suggests you find a new way to connect with the person you’ve lost. “Buy the gifts that you would be giving to your lost loved one and donate them to a charity or volunteer in a hospital or soup kitchen,” says Apollon. “If you consciously guide yourself to attach a new meaning, one that still involves your lost loved one, you will find that you are able to create a new beginning for your holiday celebrations with that person.”

4. Honor your lost loved one in a way that feels comfortable to you. It’s usually better to acknowledge your loss than to pretend that nothing has changed. You might light a special candle for your loved one, hang a tree ornament in his memory, or bring out a favorite photo.

“Some clients actually set a place at the table for their missing family member,” says Apollon. “I’ve even had a few tell me they received a ‘message’ of gratitude from their loved one for acknowledging him or her! On the other hand, some people discover that the empty chair is more upsetting than comforting. Do what feels right to you.”

5. Invite your loved one to be a part of your holiday experience. Apollon means this literally, not figuratively. She suggests that you talk with your lost loved one and share your feelings with him throughout the holidays. Ask for guidance and help from the person. He will hear you and may even send a sign — perhaps a whiff of his cologne or a smoky image in a photograph or a synchronistic moment — so pay attention.

“There are many ways to communicate with someone who isn’t with us in the physical sense,” says Apollon. “Journaling your feelings to the person can help you release your pain and provide a greater sense of clarity. I often encourage my clients to verbally invite the person they are missing to be with them and to ask them for signs.

“However, don’t anxiously wait around for the signs,” she adds. “Ask and then let it go. Allow whatever happens to unfold naturally.”

6. If you don’t want to go all-out, do the holidays in a small way. You don’t have to decorate lavishly or bake up your usual six dozen secret-family-recipe homemade cookies to celebrate the holidays. Instead, put up a tiny tree and pop a pack of pre-made cookies in the oven.

“Recognizing the holidays in some small way can be healing,” says Apollon. “It’s a way of accepting the fact that life goes on and of giving yourself permission to enjoy small pleasures.”

Interestingly, says Apollon, some people who have passed on might want their families to adhere to holiday traditions. One of her clients dramatically scaled down holiday festivities the year her son died, setting a small, decorated tree on the table instead of putting up the usual big, lavishly appointed one.

“The son let her know right away that he wasn’t happy with it,” says Apollon. “For three mornings in a row, she woke up to find all the ornaments mysteriously removed from the tree and set neatly off to the side. Finally, she got the picture!

“Don’t assume you need to minimize the holidays as an expression of grief — your loved one really is present, and he may very well want you to keep things the way they’re ‘supposed’ to be.”

7. On the other hand, if you absolutely can’t find any holiday joy, go find some other kind. Maybe you’re too depressed or too angry with God to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah even in a tiny way. That’s OK, says Apollon. But don’t deprive yourself of all joy. Go to a movie. Meet a friend for coffee. Take a long nature hike with your beloved dog.

“The law of attraction says that if you want positive experiences, you need to do something that feels good,” Apollon points out. “Make it a priority to do something that brings pleasure, even if it’s not holiday-related.”

8. Learn to be conscious of the moment. Practice being fully present in the now; it truly is where joy resides. “Every day of your life, every moment of your life, you can choose joy or not,” Apollon reflects. “Of course, no one feels joyful all the time, but when we learn to live in the present — to really pay attention to how food tastes or what a child’s laugh sounds like or how the snowflakes look against the edge of the woods — we can savor moments of delight even in a time of grief.”

9. Realize that miracles really do happen at the holidays. Here’s the thing about the holidays, says Apollon: They really are magic. You knew this as a child but might have forgotten it. But spiritual occasions like holidays allow us to step outside the box we live in most of the time and let miracles in.

“Paradoxical as it sounds, grief and holidays are a lot alike,” she reflects. “They both help us detach from trivial things and focus on what’s important, what’s real. Open your mind and heart this year and see what happens. Maybe you’ll feel a sense of connection with your loved one who passed on, or maybe you’ll feel joy for the first time since your loss. Either one might qualify as a miracle.”

Remember, says Apollon, that the holidays won’t always be such a struggle. If you work through your grief instead of repressing it, you’ll find joy again.

“The holidays will never be the same again. That is true,” she says. “But life is change, by its very nature. Little by little you will form a new identity and learn to connect with your lost loved one in a different way. You’ll form new memories and new traditions.

“Grieving well can lead to spiritual growth, which means that life itself can become richer and fuller after a profound loss. You’ll never forget the person you lost, but you will find joy — even holiday joy — again.”


About the Author

For close to 20 years, Susan Apollon has worked as a psychotherapist, psychologist and healer, treating children and adults who are traumatized, diagnosed with cancer or other life-threatening illnesses, dealing with death and dying, and those who are grieving. She brings to her patients a gentle blend of warmth, compassion and wisdom gained from surviving her own illnesses and losses; her expertise and training as a wife, mom, teacher, psychologist, researcher, and student of energy, mind, and consciousness; and finally, her own intuitive development.

Coming from a family of physicians (father, brothers, aunts and uncles, and daughter, Rebecca), Susan’s intent is to heal (emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually), but at the level of the soul– — and always with love and compassion. Focusing on the many blessings each of us has, she guides her patients to the recognition that we are here to live life in joy and peace (to be happy) and that the resources for this are within each of us.

“Intention is everything,” she often tells her patients. “With love, clear intent and choice, transformation, healing and, very often, spiritual awakening, become our reality. And when this occurs, everything feels wonderful.”

Among Susan’s most treasured blessings are her husband, best friend and partner, Warren, a practicing orthodontist in Langhorne, Pa., whom she has known and loved for more than 40 years, and her two grown children whom she respects, honors and adores — David, a management consultant, and Rebecca, an emergency room physician. She has been in private practice in Yardley, Pa., since 1991.

About the Book

Touched by the Extraordinary is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers. For more information, visit

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10 steps for your churchs protection

by Robert Lovret, CPA, CIA

By Robert Lovret, CPA, CIA

members of their own religious affiliation, ethnic group or nationality,
affinity fraud con artists are taking advantage of their status as members of
the group to solicit investments in fraudulent schemes. Affinity fraud is so
widespread, it is included in the California Department of Corporations’ listing
of the top 10 investment fraud scams.

A recent example of affinity fraud is the Baptist Foundation of Arizona (BFA).
Targeting the Christian community, the BFA sold over $530 million in investments
to more than 130 churches and 13,000 individuals. Now in bankruptcy, the BFA is
under civil and criminal investigation by the State of Arizona, and investors
will likely lose a significant portion of their money.

Your church can avoid being caught up in affinity fraud by implementing these
practical steps:

1. Be cautious if the promoter of an investment opportunity tries to
capitalize on connections or leadership within your church or denomination.

A common affinity fraud tactic is to lull the church into a misplaced trust by
first selling to a few prominent members. Then, using their names, the con
artist pitches the scam to the church itself.

2. Be suspicious of returns that sound too good to be true. Early and
high returns on investments may be indicative of a “Ponzi” scheme,
which involves the use of later investors’ money to pay earlier investors. These
early investors often become unsuspecting–but enthusiastic–promoters of the

3. Adopt a church investment policy. Include in the policy specific
investment objectives, such as safety and liquidity, and the criteria to be used
in evaluating potential investments. The policy should identify the level of
investment risk your church is willing to take. It may identify particular types
of investments as acceptable and specifically exclude others.

4. Always get an offer in writing. A legitimate promoter is always
willing to provide detailed written materials that include the nature of the
investment, the risks involved, financial statements and the procedures for
getting your money out.

5. Make sure you understand the investment. You should be able to
explain to anyone in your congregation how it works.

6. Don’t rush into making an investment decision. If the promoter is
requiring you to make a hasty decision, it is likely that the investment is a

7. Check out the promoter and the investment through your state or
provincial securities regulation agency.
You can find their address and
phone number in the government section of your phone book or on the Web page of
the North American Securities Administrators Association (
Your local Better Business Bureau may also have records of complaints about the

8. Think with your head and your heart. Promoters of religious
affinity frauds frequently cloak the investments with the mantle of “good
stewardship.” Make the effort to verify any claims made by the promoters
regarding their giving.

9. Ask for professional advice from a neutral expert. An accountant,
attorney or financial planner can help you evaluate the investment. Be wary of
any promoter who discourages you from doing this.

10. If you have been the victim of an affinity fraud, don’t give a break
to a swindler who hides behind religion.
Con artists recognize that the
close-knit nature of churches makes it less likely that a scam will be detected,
and that victims will be more likely to forgive one of their own. Don’t allow
others to be victimized by letting an investment con artist off the hook.

By exercising caution in all of your investments, you practice good
stewardship and protect your church. As Paul taught, “Test everything. Hold
on to the good” (1Thes5:21).

Robert Lovret, CPA, CIA, practices in Santa Ana, Calif. He can be reached
at (714) 750-3303 or via e-mail at [email protected]

A classic interiorexterior material option for ageless appeal

by Bob DeCampo

By Bob DeCampo

Although Bethel White granite has been used in many different
building applications over the last 100 years, it has most recently found itself
to be in demand for exterior as well as interior construction of churches. The
stunning white appearance of this material, which is only quarried in the small
village of Bethel, Vt., by the Rock of Ages Corporation, has led to it being
specified in a majority of projects by the Latter- Day Saints of the Mormon
Church. Not surprisingly, the founder of the Mormons, Joseph Smith, was born in
the neighboring community of South Royalton, Vt. Even with this obvious
connection, the stone has come to earn its own reputation based on its quality,
durability and physical appearance.

Granite was first extracted from the Bethel quarry in the late 1700s for use
as millstones. Commercial quarrying of Bethel White for use as a building
material started around 1900, when two quarry companies–the E.B. Ellis Granite
Co. and the Woodbury Granite Co.–commenced operations on the site. In 1905, a
rail spur was added from the quarry to the main line, which allowed commercial
growth of the business. During the period immediately following construction of
the line, the quarry supplied granite for several major buildings including
Union Station (1907) and the U.S. Post Office (1910), both in Washington D.C.
Rock of Ages Corporation purchased the quarry from the Woodbury Granite Co. in
1958, but not before Bethel White granite had been supplied to produce the
Smithsonian Museum of Natural History as well as many banks, libraries and state
capitols throughout the country.

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, stone fell out of favor as a building material
and eventually production at the quarry dwindled to minimal levels. During this
time, the quarry operated only a few months a year. In the early 1980s, the
material was re-discovered by the European stone industry and exports of Bethel
White blocks gradually increased. During this time until the early ’90s, almost
90% of the material from the quarry was exported to Europe for building
purposes. In 1986, Bethel White was specified for the construction of the Mormon
Chapel in Friedrichdorf, Germany, which became the stone’s first application for
use in a religious structure. In 1991, the famous architect I.M. Pei selected
Bethel White for the construction of the Stone Tower project, another major
religious building located in Kyoto, Japan. Throughout the ’90s, Bethel White
has been specified for the construction of numerous temples and meeting houses.
The largest and most famous of these is the Bountiful Temple just outside of
Salt Lake City, Utah.

When deciding on stone as a construction material for a major project, the
church needs to take several factors into consideration. Of course every project
has budget concerns and constraints, but the reality of using granite, which may
have a higher up-front cost then other less expensive materials like brick or
wood, should mean lower maintenance and repair costs in later years. Today’s
technology allows for thinner pieces of granite or veneers to be hung on steel
framing instead of the large, heavy and thicker pieces used in early
construction with their thicker masonry joints that required maintenance and
replacement over time. By today’s construction methods, this approach results
initially in savings in the volume of granite required to complete the project,
plus a more structurally sound building. This fact, plus the durability and
beauty of granite, make a winning combination that saves money in the long run
while providing an outstanding building value. This is why it is extremely
important to select an architect with previous experience in designing stone
buildings. Work closely with the architect during the design stages and fill
them in on color shading and preferences. Then let them provide you with a range
of materials that fits this criteria.

It is also important to decide on a finish for the material selected, as
different finishes tend to make the stone appear lighter or darker in some
instances. For example, the finish of choice on most outside granite-clad
buildings these days is a thermal or flamed finish. This finish is achieved by
passing the slabs under an automatic torch system, which rapidly expands the
surface of the granite, causing it to spall away. This type of finish, while
rougher in appearance up close, tends to lighten the color of the stone and help
hide any unwanted defects that may naturally appear in the material. It is also
a very low-maintenance type of finish and quite rustic. If high-quality material
is used, and depending where the building is located, all that should be
required is a good pressure washing from time to time. Of course, larger cities
tend to have more airborne pollutants that can attach to any building surface,
not just granite.

A polished finish tends to darken the natural appearance of the granite,
making it important to select the installation location carefully. While this
type of finish is still used occasionally on exteriors, most polished work today
is found on the interior in the form of tiled floors, bathroom facilities and
various other applications, even altars. Granite is polished modernly these days
by using large automatic polishing machines. The slabs pass under multiple
polishing heads. Each head is equipped with abrasive bricks starting with a very
coarse abrasive brick followed by finer abrasive bricks until, finally, a
buffing brick is used to finish the process of closing the surface of the stone
and producing the mirror-like surface. Being a closed surface, the granite then
becomes less affected by airborne pollutants but also tends to hold moisture
longer. The result: after a lengthy rainstorm, the building with the flamed
finish and open surface will dry out and regain its natural appearance faster
than a building with a polished finish.

The other typical finish specified is a honed finish. Simply stated, this is
a duller version of the polished finish. The nice thing about these different
finishes is that they each give their own contrast to the same stone. So it is
possible to use a combination of finishes with the same or different materials
to establish an aesthetically pleasing visual contrast.

If you’ve decided your building will be clad in stone and you have some idea
about the different finishes available, then the logical next step is to select
the granite. There are as many colors of granite as there are colors of the
rainbow. Direct questions about the materials to your architect specifically in
regards to the American Standard of Testing Methods (ASTM) test results. The
ASTM sets guidelines for all building materials including granites. There are
strict ranges into which the granite must fall for approval. The architect
should be able to obtain these results from the quarrier who has tested its
granite in accordance with ASTM practices for such things as compressive
strength, flexural strength, water absorption and modulus of rupture.

Once narrowed down to a few granites, the architect should arrange to have
mock-ups made for inspection. These are designed to be representative of the
material as it would appear in a small section of the building. This gives you a
better example of the granite than just relying on a 12- by 12-inch sample. The
mock-up also acts as a control for the building, meaning that the material
supplied should match the mock-up as closely as possible. However, be realistic
because granite is a natural material; as such, it can and will vary slightly.
Understand that there is a certain acceptable range for the material and you
need to define this range from the beginning. This helps to eliminate
dissatisfaction or disputes after the stone has been placed on the building. The
mock-ups also give you a chance to see and feel the finish of the granite
firsthand. One word of advice, however: ask for building references. It is worth
the trip to inspect a building that was constructed with the same material
you’ll be using. Check the age of the building and look for signs of weathering.
How does the granite appear compared to the samples presented to you? This is
one of the most valuable things you can do when selecting the material that
will, realistically, last forever.

White granite has been said to have a calming effect over human nature and
seems to be ideally suited for religious buildings. Most of the greatest
churches in the world were fabricated with stone of some sort. It is a nice
feeling knowing that, as we enter the next millennium, we have built–and are
still building–more of these beautiful churches.

Robert J. Campo represents the Quarry Division of Rock of Ages
Corporation. For more information, visit

2006 State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey Results

2006 State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey Results

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Blackbaud has conducted its State of the Nonprofit Industry Survey annually for the past three years to gather and provide an overview of information that can help nonprofits better benchmark their operations. The 2006 survey focused on a series of timely issues critical to today’s nonprofits; it was structured to capture data in three main areas:

1. General operations (including staffing, budgets, and organizational challenges)

2. Use of the Internet

3. Accountability and stewardship

The survey was widely distributed throughout the non-profit community and directly to Blackbaud clients via industry newsletters and targeted emails. Seven hundred eighty-five respondents participated. The survey was distributed and administered online, so it is important to note this sampling bias.

Fifty survey respondents were from religious organizations, including ministries, churches, dioceses and other religiously focused nonprofits. Approximately 20% of these religious organizations have total annual revenues of less than $1 million, and almost two-thirds claim total revenues between $1 million and $10 million. This analysis provides a report about the results from religious organizations and comparisons with the more than 700 responses received from non-religious organizations.


General Operations

Religious organizations, like other nonprofits, report increases in budgets, staffing, and demand for services.

  • 69% report that demand for their organizations’ services increased from 2005 to 2006, and 6% reported a decrease (versus 72% reporting an increase and only 4% a decrease in the non-religious sector)
  • 44% expected their staffing level to increase from 2005 to 2006 (the same percentage as reported by the rest of the sector)
  • 57% said their budgets increased from 2005 to 2006 (vs. 66% for the rest of the sector)

In terms of functional areas, religious organizations are more likely to have paid employees who handle major gifts or planned giving than the remainder of the sector. They are less likely than other nonprofits to devote resources to endowments, marketing, and grants writing. A greater percentage of religious respondents reported having employees who work remotely.

  • ?? 90% have employees who handle major gifts (vs. 82% for remainder of sector)
  • 76% have employees who are in charge of planned giving (vs. 70%)
  • 60% have employees who work remotely (vs. 47%)

Religious nonprofits report that a larger portion of income comes from individual donations than other nonprofits report.

They are also likely to have fewer funding sources. Religious organizations are much more likely than other nonprofits to use recurring giving, online donations, and planned giving. They are less likely to focus on special events and product sales.

  • 79% use recurring giving (vs. 47% of non-religious respondents)
  • 80% accept online donations (vs. 59%)
  • 73% use planned giving methods (vs. 55%)

In terms of pressing issues for the non-profit sector as a whole, religious organizations rated accountability to donors much more highly than did non-religious respondents. The need to show impact and measure outcomes rated very highly as well, although not as highly as with the non-religious group.

  • 70% reported that accountability to donors is one of the most pressing issues facing the nonprofit sector (vs. 58% for other respondents)
  • 70% said that the need to show impact and measure outcomes is one of the most pressing issues (vs. 81%)

Use of the Internet

The Internet appears to be very important to religious nonprofits, with 94% saying that it is a critical tool in running their organizations. Even with the emphasis on the Internet, only 12% of religious respondents said their sites are very effective, indicating an opportunity for improvement.

Given the importance of individual donations, online fundraising is crucial for this group. They are much more likely to actively raise funds online than non-religious organizations. Religious groups receive a higher average gift from online (84% $50+) than offline (78% $50+), in contrast to non-religious respondents. Not surprisingly, the largest gifts are still made offline, which corresponds to the remainder of the market. Religious organizations rated middle-aged and high-income donors as more likely to donate online than did the other organizations.

Religious organizations primarily use their websites to educate the public about the mission, market the organization, and communicate with constituents. They are more likely than other nonprofits to use their websites to raise funds and create an online community.

  • 96% say online fundraising is very or somewhat important to their organization (vs. 87% of others)
  • 8% said online auctions are important (vs. 27%)
  • 38% said online polls/surveys are important (vs. 58%)
  • 68% said their web-sites are somewhat effective
  • 66% use their Web sites to raise funds (vs. 58%)
  • 32% use their Web sites to create an online community (vs. 26%)
  • 56% actively raise funds online (vs. 41%)
  • 63% said middle-aged donors are more likely to give online rather than offline (vs. 26%)
  • 37% said high-income donors are more likely to give online rather than offline (vs. 18%)

Accountability and Stewardship

All religious respondents say that donors trust that donations to their organizations will be spent appropriately, but 18% do not think the public trusts nonprofits in general. Although donors trust that donations will be spent appropriately, 38% are asking how donations are spent, which is a higher than the rest of the market at 31%.

More than 40% are seeing an increase in restricted gifts. Because religious organizations are less reliant on other funding sources such as government grants and foundation grants, they may be feeling more impact of restricted gifts. Of those that have noticed an increase in restricted gifts, 63% say they are having trouble getting funds for general operating purposes and 53% are specifically soliciting unrestricted gifts.

Religious organizations are similarly confident as rest of the market about adhering to donor intent, but a little less sure about the strength of their internal controls. They tend to be behind the rest of the sector in implementing audited financial statements, forming audit committees, and establishing whistle-blower procedures.

  • 18% of religious organizations do not think the public trusts nonprofits in general (same as non-religious group)
  • 38% indicate an increased demand from donors asking to be updated on how their contributions were spent (vs. 31%)
  • 43% are seeing an increase in restricted gifts (similar to rest of sector)
  • 64% are very confident in their organization’s internal controls (vs. 79%)
  • 87% have audited financial statements (vs. 95%)
  • 56% have formed an audit committee (vs. 75%)
  • 23% have whistle-blower procedures (47%)

To view the survey results in a downaload, printable PDF, log on to the Blackbaud website.

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Archdiocese Launches Child-Abuse Education Programs

CINCINNATI–The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati is starting child-abuse education programs for students, parents and teachers at its schools.

The archdiocese will pay the National Council on Child Abuse $50,000 over three years to develop the programs, according to The Associated Press. The programs will teach students to report abuse and help teachers recognize warning signs, church officials said.

“We think we can take a bad situation and do something positive with it,” said Eve Pearl, the council’s executive director. “We can use this as an opportunity to teach children how they can be safe.”

The program includes a parents’ workshop, three hours of teacher training, a half-hour discussion for elementary students and longer programs for older students.

“These programs are the cheapest, quickest, simplest step a diocese can take,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. “It’s sad that it takes a crisis of this magnitude in order to prod church officials to do such a simple, non-controversial program.”

Church officials said the program is not specifically designed to target abuse by clergy. The archdiocese has offered educational programs since at least 1993, when church officials approved their first Child Protection Decree.

“Prevention and education is part of the decree,” said Patricia Armstrong, the archdiocese’s assistant superintendent. “We were looking for ways to improve that.”

There are nearly 500,000 Catholics in the archdiocese, which includes 19 southwest Ohio counties. In 2001, 56,000 students were enrolled in the archdiocese’s 112 elementary and 22 high schools.

This article can be viewed online at

A Brighter Idea

A Brighter Idea
Retrofitting Your Existing System Cuts Costs, Gives More Light-Level Control

Want to improve your church lighting? Have multiple light levels at your disposal? Reduce your overall lighting costs? Then we’ve got news for you!

In the past, fluorescent lamps have not been amenable to much control, but all that has changed with Ambience, an eight-lamp fixture that regulates light levels at 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent (full-on). Technically, the control is not dimming because this system powers each lamp pair in a simple “onoff ” function when the operator selects a desired light level.

Jim Loughrey, president of Link Lighting and Controls, maker of Ambience, says the net effect is an apparent gradual increase or decrease of light output as each percentage level is addressed. The Link lighting system also is “smart,” he says, because an onboard chip rotates powered lamp pairs at low light levels. This feature keeps lamp life uniform across the eight-lamp fixture.

Individual fixtures may be electronically linked together so that one part of the church may be at a different light level than another.

For example, the chancel area could be at 75 percent or 100 percent while the nave might be set at 25 percent or 50 percent during a sermon or other presentation. These levels can be reversed when the congregation needs to read hymnals. “It’s like getting a theatrical effect with a very efficient and inexpensive system,” Loughrey explains.

Control is made possible with a simple wall-mounted multi-button switch. The operator selects the desired light level percentage and pushes the corresponding button. The controller delivers the command to however many fixtures are on the control circuit, and the light levels are set until another level is selected.

Does this mean churches must abandon their existing fixtures to get control? No. But it does mean they ought to consider retrofitting existing fixtures to be “smarter” setups. “We often find very elegant fixtures that simply need a better and more efficient lighting method,” Loughrey says. “To that end, we can either retrofit existing fixtures or supply new ones to complement church decor.”

How Much Can You Really Save?

Savings depend on a number of variables. As Loughrey explains, if you currently run tungsten lights at full-on with no dimming, your power savings will be significant. “Tungsten lights deliver about 90 percent of their output in heat,” he says. “That leaves only 10 percent for light. Fluorescent lights, by contrast, consume only 20 percent of the power required by tungsten bulbs for the same light output.”

In laymen’s terms, Loughrey says a church can expect to cut lighting power costs by 50 percent, comparing fluorescent to tungsten. Factor in the control capability of the Ambience system, and the savings increase. Illumination also is greater with fluorescents. Evidence suggests a church will get three times the light when comparing tungsten with fluorescents at the same power input.

Pastor Richard H. Strait of Chapel Heights Church in Eau Claire, Wisc., and the Rev. Pam Hiscock of Cedarcrest Church in Bloomington, Minn., say their new lighting systems were well worth the investment. And, they add, their congregations seem to agree. Now worshippers can see their hymnals and on-screen projections all at once. Plus, lighting can be set for dramatic effect, time of day or other parameters. Both Strait and Hiscock say the power savings will help repay the churches’ investments, and the overall appearance of each facility is much brighter than in the dark nights of tungsten lighting.

If all this sounds too easy, try replacing your tungsten lighting with compact fluorescent lamps. Chances are, you’ll see the light.

For more information, call Link Lighting and Controls at 800.522.1196 or log on to 

5 Strategies for Extending Church Invitations

by Mark MacDonald

Pastors all over the world have read the Scripture where Christ talks in a parable about the Kingdom of heaven. He describes the reigning ruler who throws a wedding party for his son. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We’ve prepared all the details and then we wonder how many will be able to come.

People are busy. We all have lives that are heavily involved.

The parable continues with the worst-case scenario possible. No one shows up. This is a disaster. The story goes on with repeated efforts to bring people to the banquet table. And then the monarch utters the memorable words, “Go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in.” And it works.

But how does this play out today?

We live in a busy world. There’s the desire to play golf on Sunday; the best news shows are on during “church” times, and then there’s the passion for just one day of the week to sleep in. We also have busy, important jobs; lawns needing mowing; e-mails that have piled up; and I won’t mention the Twitter feed that hasn’t been reviewed for days.

With all these demands on their time, why on earth would people want to go to church, let alone your church? Quite frankly, it’s an hour (or more) out of the week that is hard to give up. I hope I’m not convincing any pastors reading this to stay at home, although it may just be tempting.

Here are some lessons that can be learned from the parable in Matthew 22 – except I’m going to tell the story in simple, modern language. Because, as with all Scripture, it’s as relevant today as it was when written.

Once upon a time (this is the way we start stories that have a deeper meaning, right?), there lived a man named Pastor King. For several months, he looked forward to a very special event that was coming up in his church.

1. Make sure you have an event worthy of transporting people out of their busy lives. Remember, it doesn’t have to be on Sunday or even involve pews or praise choruses. In fact, you’ll be surprised how many unchurched people want to help in the community or build a missionary’s home. Some of the best “outreach” work that a church does happens outside of the building – or in your gym or multipurpose room.

The pastor spent a lot of time and effort preparing every detail of his event. He knew that everyone would enjoy it. So, he invited people that he thought would come. And it was a disaster. No one had time.

2. Everyone is busy, so don’t even expect that your own congregation will show up for your event. And even worse, don’t go out and try to get other “churched” people to switch to your church (just to fill seats). It’s not always the “expected people” that God wants at the bash. Identify your church’s strengths and then pray about who God wants you to minister to.

The best food was prepared and ready to be consumed. …


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Avoidable Mistakes in Church Building and Remodeling

by Paul F. Spite

It all seemed so cut and dried at the beginning. In fact, it seemed miraculous.

Building a new facility for the church body had seemed impossible. The normal methods and costs associated with such a project had initially seemed so intimidating. Then the committee members came up with bargains, ideas and shortcuts that would reduce the time, expenses, and legalities normally endured in physical expansion. You supported the decision to go ahead, even though it all seemed too good to be true.

It was.

Nowadays, frustration has mostly replaced optimism. The bargains that were promised have mostly evaporated. Attempting to bypass regulations has only succeeded in alienating the regulatory agencies responsible for the oversight of your project. Cost overruns have been forcing compromises in the scope of the project in order to stay within the approved budget.

Speaking of which, the monies that were promised for the building fund are not coming in as quickly as needed. The congregation is unhappy with the minister because project management responsibilities are interfering with his ability to pastor. He is not exactly happy either, given the difference between the time and money most of the congregation could contribute versus what is really being given. What went wrong?

What follows is a limited synopsis of a new resource from AFD Consulting. Written for pastors and building committees, it is entitled, Avoidable Mistakes in Church Building and Remodeling. It’s designed to help churches become aware of many potential bargains and shortcuts offered during the process of physical expansion. It should assist churches in realizing some of the benefits of these, while avoiding the many pitfalls that come with them. The intent is to prevent the work of the spiritual church from degenerating into the building of the physical church.

Pinpointing the Problem

The very first mistake that should be avoided is placing our goals and desires ahead of the will of God. If that occurs, we have no promise or assurance of God’s blessing on our efforts. The work of God’s church is supposed to be ministering to the temporal and eternal needs of those around us. The only real purpose of building should be to enhance our ability to fulfill the commandments the church has been given regarding those needs. It’s wise to examine ourselves as a church body in at least three ways before we pour time, energy and resources into building projects which might have no real relevance to our lack of growth.

The first area of examination is my personal ministry to God. Do I put His desires ahead of my own? Does His need for an eternal bride override my need for success in the eyes of this world? Do I take more pleasure in being in His presence and immersing myself in His Word than I do in any other type of entertainment? Does His approval mean more to me than that of anyone else? Do I seek the kingdom of God with more fervor than the acquisition of temporal possessions? Do the things that break the heart of God, break mine? Most important, am I willing to humble myself before His glory to obtain His blessings and healing for what ails my world, my church, my family and my life? The Great Physician makes house calls, but only for those who admit they are sick and call for help.

The second area of examination involves whether the body is fulfilling the commandment to love our neighbors. A ministry of love to others takes time and involves risk. When was the last time we opened our arms, our hearts, our schedules, or our pocketbooks to someone who could not possibly give anything back? How recently have we risked loving beyond reason and then being rejected, hurt and betrayed? Our Master did, just after He said, “Follow me!”

The third area of examination involves our ministry to one another. The love we show toward our brothers and sisters in Christ is what will really draw the lost to our churches. It’s the unusual that attracts attention. That’s why we should support one another in our ministries, work hard to spend time in fellowship, and keep so much of our focus on God that we fail to notice each other’s faults and failures.

Pruning is the business of the gardener alone, not the branches. There is strength only in unity. That need for unity might require subordinating our desires to those of our brother or sister. That submission is a pretty classic definition of love.

This examination of our ministries is necessary to ensure that our effort of physical expansion is worthwhile. Unless God builds the church, they that labor, do so in vain. Church growth does not occur because of larger facilities, but rather the opposite. Growth occurs as a result of the development of relationships between other members, those who are lost, our God, and ourselves.

God repeatedly expressed His desire to be worshipped, not in buildings, but in obedience, in spirit, and in truth. If working to fulfill His will is not the motivation behind our building programs, all we’ll accomplish will be the creation of newer and better clubhouses.


There’s no substitute for preparation before the launching of a project. Any craftsman, cook or worker assigned to a multi-step task can testify to that truth. The proper materials and tools must be on hand before the work is started. Missing ingredients make following a recipe difficult. Likewise, winging the expansion of churches results in disastrous building projects.

It’s wise to ascertain what steps and decisions will have to be made before starting out. All the costs of a project are not financial. The project will take its toll in stress, disappointment and frustration as well. Decisions will have to be made, from finalizing a budget to picking styles of door knobs. It’s prudent to anticipate these decisions and have a procedure for finalizing them set in place before they become of enough concern to turn the attention of the church to the building program instead of its ministries.

There’s a point in a project at which haste is important, but not in the preparation stage. Failure to properly investigate a site is usually costly. Discounting the value of what professional expertise can bring to your project should be done only after an informed discussion. Making sure there are enough financial resources available beforehand is Biblical wisdom and admonition. Before any attempt is made to launch a project, make sure the support of the people is behind the leadership.

Dragging a few sheep isn’t the same as having the flock following the shepherd. When those who love God have given sacrificially to His work, it’s imperative that those funds be used for that work. The only proper purpose for building is the betterment or addition of ministries that the church provides. The creation of a means of salvation was the primary calling of Jesus Christ. The meeting of the physical needs He encountered was His secondary work.

Fixing the social ailments of His community was of little importance, as evidenced by His words, “The poor, you have with you always.” Our priorities, especially when spending His resources, should be lined up with His priorities.

It’s important to determine beforehand exactly how much seating should be planned for, and why. Building either too large or too small can harm the church body. Growth occurs partly as a result of the way the leadership governs the church, and it occurs in stages. It can be, and often is, inhibited by crowding beyond a certain percentage of occupancy. A number of emerging societal trends are making it difficult to accurately anticipate growth. The best solution to finding the correct seating number seems to involve taking all the factors into consideration, including the budget, making the best guess possible, and then designing the facility with enough flexibility to permit necessary changes.

For the sake of the next generation, planning should consider the decades ahead, before designing for the present. This requires an analysis of the human and material resources God has blessed the church with. It’s surely His way of preparing the church for the work to which it has been called.

It also requires an honest appraisal of who the church really is and wants to become. Then, a master plan can be developed that fits and prepares for the ministries the church will be offering in its future. That plan will influence all of the present decisions involving current needs. In essence, an upcoming project is then treated as the first phase of a long-term plan for growth. That plan also matches facility growth to the growth of ministries as well as financial and numerical growth.

Guiding Concepts

As a church approaches the actual design of a facility, there are a few guiding principles that are worth incorporating. These are not as tangible as space needs, and they might be of little or no importance to most congregations. Nonetheless, in choosing to discuss these, a great deal can be learned about the attitude of the church toward worship and other functions of the assembly. Incorporation of these principles, when possible, will not create a financial burden, but will greatly enhance the spaces under consideration. They are as follows:

  • An inviting facility is one that has characteristics designed in to make members and visitors both feel welcome and at home.
  • Flexibility is the art of designing a building in such a way that it will not inhibit the performance of effective ministries, now or in the future.
  • Relationship between people is the glue that holds the church body together. The design of the facility can enhance or inhibit the ability of the users to visit and interact.
  • Electronics have become the primary medium through which the message of the church is delivered. Available and emerging technology should be considered for inclusion into the design.
  • If possible, the experience of worship should involve the physical senses, as well as the heart.
  • As members of our society demand and receive more and more personal space and identity, should this trend be encouraged or discouraged when planning church facility expansions?
  • Co-planning should occur as ministry leaders prepare growth strategies to be launched as better facilities become available.
  • The purchase of expertise can be both enjoyable and beneficial to the church as the complexity of projects continues to increase.
  • Paying careful attention to group dynamics can enable using the negative aspects and natural disruption inherent in building projects to restructure existing ministries, establish and cultivate new leadership, and effectively create a new church with a new base of founding members.
  • A careful plan should be laid out on how to best use volunteer help, should it become offered.
  • Motivating church members to sacrificially give is the surest path to financing a project. It results in blessings for the church and for those who are giving of themselves.


Many mistakes are made in planning and executing the first phase of facility expansions. Most of these, given enough time, can be recovered from. They are nonetheless painful.

Although traditional and desirable, the creation of space considered sacred and set aside for one use only seems to be a mistake best avoided. The creation of spaces used solely for worship tends to relegate the occurrence of worship to these spaces alone. Stewardship principles would seem to dictate that more is better than less in the use of resources given to God for use in His ministries. Therefore, it would seem that the more ministries that can be supported by space built with such resources, the better the church can fulfill its commission to minister to the needs of those around it. Especially if the creation of multi-use space makes the housing of all of the church’s ministries possible while reserving some spaces for single sacred functions means that some ministries will have no space and must be abandoned. Although there are attendant logistical, manpower,and storage problems inherent in the use of multi-purpose spaces, these are easily handled.

Not so easy to handle are the many rules and regulations that govern the creation or expansion of spaces for public use. Deciding that the church is above these restrictions will only lead to problems. While the ministries of the church might be constitutionally protected from the control of the government, the safety of the people using the church’s facilities is very much within the jurisdiction of the state. Submission, to those who have authority over us, is commanded by God.

Seeking ways to circumvent that authority dishonors the church in His sight and that of men.

The process of renovating a facility can also be fraught with costly errors. A decision will have to be made as to whether including an architect is necessary or cost-effective. If historic preservation funding is available and applicable to the project, will what is lost by accepting the funding be worth the gain? Volunteer labor might wind up costing more than the anticipated savings. Deciding to postpone certain renovation expenses can lead to very costly deterioration. Unforeseen costs of renovation will also impact the decision to upgrade a facility when such costs as the temporary rental of another facility find their way into the budget.

There are many small decisions that must be made in every project. Some may seem petty, but can’t be ignored. These include an analysis of the site for potential problems or concerns.

Requirements for parking areas, and the materials required for these, are contained within local zoning laws. Small items to be considered in the design of the facility, such as space for coat racks, will determine whether the building truly meets the needs of the users upon its completion. Even the choice of finishes for the walls, ceilings, and floors will determine the level of enjoyment of future inhabitants.

When it comes to considering costs, the most critical decision will be whether to build more square footage with a more economical level of finishes or to build less of a facility, but finish it as ultimately desired.

Sound advice should always be sought and heeded. Problems with sound occur first in failing to control the transmission of noise between spaces. They continue with the inability to control reverberation. These problems are sometimes worsened by the installation of an inadequate, cobbled together, or poorly designed sound system. Any one of these problems, much less all of them together, can negate the purpose of a project. How can the Word be ministered if the speech can’t be comprehended?

Money Matters

Funding a project is easily the most daunting and dangerous aspect of building expansions. It should come as no surprise that many mistakes are made in this area.

The first of these mistakes is made when the church exits the ministry and goes into business. Too many fundraisers make it difficult for the community to believe that the focus of the church is ministry to the needs of others. The effort to raise funds turns us toward self-sufficiency and away from dependence upon God to supply, much less determine our needs. Our business endeavors can also anger those companies in our communities that must compete against us, handicapped by having to pay taxes. Raising money can easily become a substitute for the work to which we have actually been called. If not carefully handled, the building of larger and better facilities can become the primary work of the church.

There are alternate approaches to funding growth that should be at least considered, even if they are discarded afterwards. The most scriptural is informing God of the need and waiting for Him to supply it by moving upon the hearts and minds of men. Another is for churches that are currently debt-free and expecting to grow in the future to begin making monthly mortgage payments to an interest bearing account. If the need for growth does not occur, the money can be sent to another congregation that has the need, but not the finances. Property and buildings can be designed to produce an income stream through rental to others. A final, interesting, and very Biblical way to fund growth is to continually split off and support daughter works until they can stand on their own financially. This is not popular in a society that judges the success of a church by the size of its congregation rather than its success in reaching the lost with the gospel.

The scriptures admonish us that we should count all of the costs before beginning a building project. The key to doing this successfully is to realize that there is a vast difference between the cost of a building and the cost of a project. Land costs, financing costs, regulatory fees, engineering, systems, landscaping, insurance, sound systems and other expenses can take churches by surprise. This is especially true when the budget was formed on the basis of a projected square foot cost for a particular building type.

Seeking the lowest possible price on every conceivable service and material that makes up a project seems initially to represent good stewardship. More often, it is also a recipe for disaster. It’s even worse when budgets are formed based upon the low end of estimate ranges, on donated materials, on free land, volunteer labor, and bargains. It can be guaranteed that the church will not settle for the quality level of labor or material that is represented by the lowest end of an estimated cost range. Free materials are usually worth what was paid for them. Verbal promises of bargain prices rarely materialize when the time comes to actually acquire the materials. Free land is usually undesirable for use by the donor and often for reasons which require heavy expenditure to overcome.

Finally, projects tend to expand in scope when probable bargains seem to have made more space affordable than expected. It is then difficult to cut back in scope in the middle of construction, when problems mentioned earlier begin to create financial constraints.

Making decisions that allow the church to just get by for now can be either beneficial or detrimental to a project. In areas such as room finishes, choosing cheaper materials with a shorter life expectancy in order to build more space makes sense. Installing inadequate equipment, such as HVAC units or sound system components, doesn’t make sense. If people are uncomfortable or can’t understand what’s being taught, changes will be made in short order. When that occurs, the initial expense of the inadequate systems will have been wasted. When choosing to compromise on quality on any part of a project, a realistic appraisal of the future ramifications should be made before a decision is made.

Package deals, design / build services, and turnkey projects are all offered to minimize the difficulties faced by churches striving to improve their facilities. All have some degree of value, and all have inherent flaws. These include the loss of the check-and-balance system in a traditional building process, as well as the loss of truly competitive bidding by subcontractors. It’s also difficult to ascertain the true cost of each component of the package. Nonetheless, the difficulties of these building processes can be overcome. If used carefully, package deals can be a real asset to churches.

Free or low-cost land can be a real blessing or a real problem to a church. Refusing an offer can be insulting to the donor and probably shouldn’t be done unless an obvious liability would transfer with the land. Then, if the land can’t be used directly by the church, it can always be sold to raise building funds. Any land purchase or acceptance is best done only after a thorough investigation of the property, its history, and its suitability for your intended purpose. Expenses necessary to make it really usable — such as culverts, drainage, etc. — should be added to the land costs when comparing and evaluating different site options.

Low-cost building shells are also an attractive concept that many churches consider in order to get a project quickly under roof. Metal buildings and pole buildings are prime examples of these structures. This are fine as long as the church doesn’t mind worshipping in a metal building or a pole barn. If that’s a problem, the cost of disguising the basic construction, and often being required to upgrade the building to meet minimum code requirements for assembly buildings, will change the price tag. Even so, low-cost pre-engineered shells also carry an inherent value in a savings of time that impacts financing costs, rental costs of intermediate facilities, and quicker occupancy, permitting the launching of church and ministry growth programs.

The easiest way to save money on a church project often seems to be the use of volunteer labor.

While this has value in leadership training and in fellowship, it rarely has long-term monetary value. Pastors can either minister to their congregations or manage construction projects, but not do both jobs at once. At least, not well. Asking tradesmen that are a part of the congregation to donate their labor and expertise is both insulting and punishes them for their loyal membership and support. Inexperienced workers can cost the church in accidents, damaged materials or equipment, slowing other trades, delaying project completion, and in the destruction of camaraderie if time isn’t evenly donated. If a construction loan has been obtained, payment of interest begins after the first draw against the loan. Any delay after that point by volunteer labor has a direct monetary cost. For these, and many other reasons, it’s best to decide beforehand to limit the use of volunteer help to tasks that are safe, independent of other trades, and enjoyable.

In Conclusion

The purpose of this work wasn’t meant to be overly critical or focus entirely on the negative. The subject matter just makes it seem that way. The purpose was to illuminate the path on which the race is being run. We rarely stumble over obstacles we see coming. Indeed, once seen, stumbling blocks over which others have tripped can become our starting blocks. The majority of pastors and building committees, despite a few mistakes, tend to complete projects well. They simply get up, dust themselves off, and keep running — a little more cautiously and a little more wisely, but looking ahead to a glorious finish.

# # #

Paul F. Spite is the principal of AFD Consulting in Cookeville, Tenn. He can be reached by e-mail or by calling 877.864.5734 or 931.528.4083.

2 Elders Resign at Coral Ridge Presbyterian


Though the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian was retained as senior pastor at the influential Coral Ridge Presbyterian in South Florida, a large contingent is upset, signified by the recent resignation of two elders.

The two have accused Tchividjian and his officers of retaliating against members who tried to have him fired, criticisms that he and other officials have denied. An effort to oust Tchividjian failed.

Tchividijian was officially called as the senior pastor earlier this year to succeed the outspoken conservative James D. Kennedy, who was very traditional in leadership and worship philosophy. Tchividjian seems to have a more modern approach, which has ruffled feathers in the church. Tchividjian is the grandson of famed evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham.

For more, visit the source.


Miami Herald: 2 Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Elders Resign

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Coral Ridge Presbyterian, Tchividjian Battle Internal Conflict

Billy Graham’s Grandson Takes Over at Fla. Megachurch

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April 15th has come and gone but its never to

by Attorney David C. Gibbs, Jr.

By Attorney David C. Gibbs, Jr.

During this time of year, many people breathe a sign of relief
and determine not to think about the IRS until next April. This is
understandable given the confusion and frustration that often surrounds this
area of law, but this is the time to make certain that personal and church
procedures are in place to prepare appropriately for next year’s tax filings.

1. Can a church “help” a minister by paying all or part of his
self-employment taxes?

Yes! Due to the fact that a minister must bear the entire 15.3%
self-employment tax burden himself, some churches have elected to pay a portion
or all of this tax liability.

Remember that any amount paid to a minister to help defray the higher
self-employment tax must be reported as additional income on any
quarterly filings with the IRS and on the pastor’s W-2 Form.

2. How should a minister’s parsonage or housing allowance be set up?

A housing allowance is a designated portion of the salary or
compensation package to which a minister can be entitled, free of income
taxes. However, it must be included with the amounts by which
calculations are made for Social Security or Self-Employment Tax purposes unless
the minister has previously been exempted from Social Security by a timely
filing of Form 4361 with the IRS. The housing allowance can apply to a
parsonage, rental home or apartment, or personal residence that is owned by the

The gross income excluded is the smallest of the following:

1. The amount designated by the church;

2. The amount actually used to provide a home; or

3. The fair rental value of the home, including furnishings, utilities,
garage, etc.

The pastor may still deduct the mortgage interest and real estate taxes on
Schedule A, even though all or part of the mortgage is paid with funds received
through a tax-free rental or housing allowance.

If the pastor owns his home, the housing allowance exclusion can take into
account the following expenses:

1. The down payment;

2. Mortgage payment to purchase or improve the home;

3. Real estate taxes;

4. Utilities (gas, electric, garbage, water, lawn maintenance, local phone
charges, etc.);

5. Property insurance;

6. Purchase and repair of furnishings and appliances;

7. Home repair and remodeling;

8. Homeowners association dues, if any;

9. Yard maintenance and improvements; and

10. Home maintenance items (light bulbs, household cleaners, pest control,

It is mandatory that a housing allowance be approved in advance of the need
because it is not retroactive! It is only effective from the approval date forward.
Any excess housing allowance must be listed as “excess housing
allowance” on line 21 of Form 1040.

Currently, the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals is
considering the case of Warren v. Commissioner of the Internal Revenue
. (The Ninth Circuit covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii,
Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.) The United States Tax Court
found in favor of Pastor Warren, who argued that the parsonage allowance statute
allows for actual housing expenses, if such actual expenses are greater than the
fair rental value of the home. The IRS, however, argued that the parsonage
allowance exclusion must be limited to the fair rental value of the home, plus
the actual expenses of utilities. When the IRS lost, it appealed to the Ninth
Circuit. Now, although neither Pastor Warren nor the IRS has challenged the
constitutionality of the statute, the court itself has hired a law professor to
provide the court with an analysis of whether the parsonage allowance violates
the Establishment Clause. The ultimate decision could affect every pastor’s
housing allowance.

3. Is the housing allowance available to retired ministers?

Yes! A retired minister may exclude from gross income the rental value of a
residence (plus utilities) furnished by the church as a part of his compensation
for past services, or the portion of his pension that was designated as a
housing allowance. In other words, the church can designate a part of the
pension it pays a pastor as a rental or housing allowance. This portion would be
excluded from both income tax and self-employment taxes.

IRS Publication 517 states that in the event of the death of the minister,
the church can continue the pension to the spouse, but the rental or housing
allowance would no longer be applicable. The entire pension would then be
subject to income taxes.

4. What is the best way to make a Christian school that is part of a
church ministry qualify as a 501(c)(3)?

If the school is a ministry of the church, the school should use the church’s
FEIN number on its checking accounts and on its payroll reporting forms to the

If the school uses a different FEIN than the church, the IRS will consider it
a separate entity, and the school would have to file the IRS Form 1023 to obtain
its own 501(c)(3) status.

5. Can church schools consider their teaching staff self-employed (1099

If the school determines the hours of work and the curriculum, and provides
the materials with which the teacher works, the teacher cannot be considered a
self-employed person. Self-employed persons set their own hours and usually work
for more than one entity in their field of expertise. Generally, church-school
staff should be considered employees with full withholding as applicable, and
given W-2 forms.

6. What benefits can be given to teacher volunteers and/or
monitor/supervisor volunteers in a Christian school?

Volunteers by law must be paid nothing in wages, compensation or
benefits. They can only be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses, such as
travel. If a church gives them anything, including free tuition for their
children, it has thereby just converted them to paid staff. Therefore, the rules
regarding minimum wages, tax withholding and so on must be adhered to for that

7. Can a church or Christian school that is a ministry of a church sell
property at a discount to its minister?

If a church elects to give or sell church property for less than its fair
market value, it must include on the W-2 Form the excess of the property’s fair
market value over the discounted or bargain sale price.

EXAMPLE: A church owns a parsonage that has a fair market value of $80,000.
The church sells the parsonage to the pastor for $40,000. The church must
reflect an additional $40,000 in income on the pastor’s W-2 form for the year
the parsonage was sold.

8. How can we best handle donations of non-cash property?

The charitable contribution substantiation rules in respect to non-cash
contributions are as follows:

1. Individual contributions of non-cash property valued at less than $500
will not be allowed a tax deduction unless the church gives the donor a receipt
on the church letterhead describing the donated item or items, the date of
receipt, and the name of the donor. No value should be attached to the
donated items by the church. The donor will attach a copy of the church letter
to his/her tax return, claiming a monetary amount on Schedule A of the 1040
form. The letter must also include the No Tangible Benefit Statement.

2. Individual contributions of non-cash property valued at $500 to $5,000
will not be allowed unless the donor fills out Section A, Parts I and II
of IRS Form 8283. The church will give the donor a receipt on the church
letterhead describing the donated item(s), the date of receipt, and the name of
the donor. Again, no value should be attached to the donated items by
the church
. The No Tangible Benefit Statement* must also be a part of the
letter or receipt. The donor will attach the church letter and Form 8283 to his
1040 tax form, claiming a monetary amount for the donation on Schedule A of the

3. Individual contributions of $5,000 or more non-cash property will not be
allowed unless the donor receives a receipt on church letterhead (as in 1
and 2 above). In addition, the donor must obtain an appraisal of the
donated property by a qualified appraiser, and complete a qualified appraisal
summary on the back of the Form 8283. The donor will complete Section B,
Parts I and II of Form 8283. The appraiser will complete Section B, Part
I, Line 5(C), and Part III of the 8283. The church will complete Section
B, Part IV of Form 8283. Again, the church should make no judgment as to the
value of the donated property since the church is not a qualified appraiser.

The No Tangible Benefit Statement reads as follows:

goods or services have been provided in exchange for your contribution. The
benefit to you consists solely of what the IRS considers ‘intangible religious
benefits.’ “

Attorney David C. Gibbs, Jr., represents the Christian Law Association, a
ministry of helps to Bible-believing churches and Christians. If you have tax
questions, contact a tax professional or call/write the legal missionary
ministry of the CLA: (727) 399-8300, P.O. Box 4010, Seminole, FL 33775-4010. Log
on to
more information.

Administrator Christine Spalding Is in the Business of Serving

Administrator Christine Spalding Is in the Business of Serving

by John Carlisle

Across the street from the west edge of San Diego�s Balboa Park sits St. Paul�s Cathedral, a stunning Episcopalian edifice. The oldest non-Catholic congregation in San Diego calls itself “St. Paul�s for the City,” and lives up to its tagline, often hosting community marches and providing services for the poor and homeless. The church is one body with many appendages, and one woman � whose own heart guides her leadership � never takes her hand off the
church�s pulse.

Christine Spalding, canon of administration for St. Paul�s, calls herself a “cradle Episcopalian,” born and raised in the church, even though it wasn�t St. Paul�s. She grew up and spent some time apart from church life, focusing on her career, coincidentally honing her skills to serve as a savvy church administrator. She spent 30 years working as a manager in financial services.

“God�s hand was in all of that,” she says. Even to this day, Spalding describes herself as tenacious and relentless when it comes to conducting business for the church � characteristics that are no doubt a by-product of years in the corporate arena. That sharpness is important, as St. Paul�s has plans to develop its adjacent lands into multiuse residential properties, a campaign for which Spalding has been at the front. She�s also a leader in facilities management, which is quite an undertaking for a campus of historic buildings and limited parking.

The 1,150-member church is currently undergoing a development project. Spalding is always reminding the congregants that the expansion is good and necessary, albeit inconvenient at times.

Spalding serves as the president of her local chapter of the National Association of Church Business Administrators. It was here that she noticed how important her presence as a woman is to the church-business community. “Of the first national conferences I attended, I was very surprised at how male they were,” she relays. “I belong to a denomination that ordains women. We believe in women�s ministries and contributions. It�s easy to forget how important it is for young women to see that.”

When Spalding was in her 40s, her mother died. It was an experience that served as a catalyst, drawing her back to church. “I had been away from the church for a long time before a friend invited me (to come to St. Paul�s),” she says. “It was our annual St. George�s Day celebration, which has bagpipes and it�s a big festival. People were friendly and nice, so I decided to come back the next Sunday, and I�ve never been away since.”

After reacquainting herself with worship, Spalding saw the opportunity to get active in the church. As the church expanded, the need for a full-time business administrator arose. In the past, a priest had handled those duties, but church officials were looking for someone with more time to devote and more business experience to share. Spalding�s spiritual gift of management was no secret, so she was offered the position and she accepted.

At 56, Spalding certainly wasn�t retiring to a cushy position in a church office. “There�s an expectation that working for a church is not like a �real job,�” she says. “I managed departments that had more than 100 people in them, and I�ve never worked harder than I work here.”

Spalding describes herself as fair, consistent and risk-averse � qualities developed from years of banking. She says the biggest challenge of her current position is money. “There are always more dreams in ministry than you ever have the resources to fund,” she says. “The second biggest challenge is time.”

But who better to help her with time struggles than her husband Robert, her daughters Lisa and Kelly, and her two young grandchildren.

“I can�t say enough about what a loving and supportive partner I have,” she shares. “His understanding of the long hours and commitments is so appreciated. It�s easier to see the needs for those things in corporate jobs, for men and women.”

To summarize her journey, Spalding points to Zephaniah 4:20. “I�m reminded of the verse, �And I will bring you home.� I feel like God has done that for me.”

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