30 May 2019

"No One Taught Me This in Seminary..."

David Newkirk

It’s about that time of the year when scared, excited, hopeful men and women parade across the platform wearing caps and gowns, accepting a document that denotes the completion of one chapter of their life and the beginning of another. 

Whether you are graduating this year or you graduated many years ago, the beginning of summer marks a time in our lives that we will remember strongly. As we look back and reflect on our education, I know that we all could come up with a list of “things they didn’t teach me in college or high school.” 

Those who are now endeavoring to do the Lord’s will in ministry find themselves in this same position. As they face new obstacles in the churches and ministries they find themselves called to lead, they also find themselves creating a list of what “they didn’t teach me this in seminary.”

When looking back on our educational experience, there are probably many things that we could think of that we did not learn in college or seminary. No alma mater could prepare us for all of the obstacles that we would face, but there are some obstacles that hit us a little heavier than others.

At StartCHURCH, we are constantly receiving phone calls from pastors and ministry leaders looking for help in certain areas that they don't feel equipped to handle on their own. Here are the top five things that lead us to hear callers say, “They didn’t teach me that in seminary.”

1. Church governing documents

They teach you how to study, know, follow, and proclaim the Word of God in seminary school, but they do not teach you about the importance of church bylaws and corporate policies. 

Ultimately, God is the One who will lead and protect His church, but we as His servants should be wise stewards of that which He has given us to oversee. We can accomplish this by establishing a set of solid church bylaws and implementing a set of key church policies. 

These two documents can be a source of great protection, or unfortunately, a source of problems for a church, depending on how well they are set up. Don’t rely on “hand-me-down bylaws” or “copy and paste bylaws.” Many of those starting a new ministry or taking over one do not realize that recycled bylaws are likely to be out of date and are often found lacking the necessary language to withstand today’s legal challenges. 

At StartCHURCH, we can guide you through creating a solid set of bylaws and core policies that help protect your church for years to come.

Strengthen Your Bylaws Today!

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2. Minister’s Taxes

You learn to give your life to the Lord, but you don’t learn about how your earnings go to the IRS. It doesn't take long to figure out that a minister can be one of the most taxed individuals or least taxed individuals in the United States. There are a number of tax benefits afforded to a licensed, ordained, or commissioned minister. Often, we find that pastors either are not aware these tax benefits exist, or they are not properly applying them. 

The two greatest tax benefits afforded to ministers of the Gospel include:

  • Housing allowance
    Many churches and pastors know about this tax benefit, but they are not properly applying it. Properly creating and implementing a housing allowance could save you thousands of dollars in taxes!

  • Opting out of self-employment tax
    Did you know that as a minister you are expected to pay 15.3% of your net earnings in self-employment tax? Ministers have the ability to opt out of paying self-employment tax on income received as a minister. If you're interested in learning more, give us a call at 877-494-4655.

3. Nonprofit compliance

You learn the importance of Godly leadership by being an example of a believer both in the church and in the community. However, you don't learn how to handle specified donations, a balanced board of directors, or the proper use of church facilities. 

There are many aspects of the daily operations of the church that ought to be overseen for proper “nonprofit compliance.” It's important that you, first of all, make sure that when people give unto the Lord through your church that their donations are truly tax-deductible donations. 

You should also make sure that the board of directors is operating in compliance by being balanced in the area of family relationships, business relationships, and compensation. Also, it is necessary to be aware of how your facility is being used so as not to generate unrelated business income, or worse, lose your nonprofit status.

4. Legal steps to starting a church 

They teach you how Christ built His church, but you’re not taught how to apply for incorporation, state sales tax exemption, franchise tax exemption, or 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

There comes a moment in the vision process, just after God gives you that burden to start a church, where it hits you that you just don’t know what is legally required to getting a church started. 

It’s essential that you establish a solid legal foundation for your church. Churches and ministry leaders are facing more and more legal opposition from hostile legislation. Because of this, we have created the StartRIGHT Service. Our specialists will partner with you to help you in accomplishing these goals to establish a good, solid legal foundation.

5. Pastor’s compensation

They teach you that the Bible says the minister of the Gospel is worthy of hire, but they don't teach you about all the ins and outs of what should go into a pastor’s compensation package. 

One thing that often gets overlooked when calling a pastor or accepting the pastorate position is how a compensation package is created. Often, there isn’t one even put on paper. This can lead to some problems if not addressed. It’s important that both the church and the pastor know what is expected of the pastor and what is included as part of his or her compensation. This can be accomplished through a job description and compensation package.

Some things to consider when determining compensation would be:

  • Salary
  • Vacation time
  • Use of the Church facility
  • Mileage Reimbursement
  • On-going education or conference expenses

We have helped thousands of pastors and churches create and properly implement their pastor’s compensation package, and we can help you, too. 

Get the guidance you need

Of course, we are grateful to our teachers, professors, and those who have gone before us. I know I greatly appreciated my experience in seminary school. Although seminary school and Bible college are excellent for equipping ministry leaders, they don't always teach you the administrative side of ministry that you need to know when it comes to running a church, or a ministry, for that matter.

At StartCHURCH we are here for you! You don't need to guess or wander your way through the areas I've mentioned above. Our services are designed to lift the burden off your shoulders.

Call us today at 877-494-4655 to learn how StartCHURCH can provide you with the assistance you need in these areas. Or, schedule a call below and one of our specialists will call you when you're ready. Plus, when you call us and mention this blog, one of our specialists will send you our free video course on how to plant a strong church.


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Raul Rivera

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