NACBA Weekly Update
Dec. 24, 2010

New tax bill will impact nearly every church in the US
ECFA
A major tax bill was passed by Congress last week and was signed into law by the President. With the ink barely dry on the bill, this is an analysis of the provisions that will impact many churches, pastors, and other staff—including a significant change in payroll processing effective Jan. 1, 2011. Those who generously give to support churches will be heartened by the extension of federal income tax rates at their current levels for two more years. This provides some short-term certainty that may encourage giving. The extension of the provisions for tax-free charitable distributions up to $100,000 per tax year from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010 and through Dec. 31, 2011 may be helpful for church members 70-½ or older on the date of the distribution from an IRA. More

Survey: For many, Jesus isn't the reason for the season
USA Today
Come-all-ye-partiers trumps OCome, All Ye Faithful for more than one in three people asked about their Christmas activities in a survey by LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based Christian research organization. "A lot of Americans celebrate Christmas like they participate in yoga: unaware and unconcerned about its religious roots," says Ed Stetzer, LifeWay president and a Southern Baptist pastor. There are no statistics to prove whether LifeWay's snapshot of Christmas 2010 is part of a trend or a moment unique for its secular spin. But experts say it reveals several forces inflating a Santa balloon over the season.More

Church accountant accused of embezzling more than $2 million
Bellingham Herald
A woman who hosted formal tea parties for the women of Visalia First Assembly of God church in Visalia, Calif., was arrested last week on suspicion of embezzling more than $2 million from the church, where she worked as the accounting manager for 13 years. Sandra Arreola, 51, who moved to Palm Desert, Calif., last year, turned herself in Thursday morning to police in Visalia. She was charged with embezzlement, money-laundering and a white-collar crime enhancement. Her arrest came after an 18-month investigation. The number of churches victimized by fraud appears to have increased in recent years, said Phill Martin, deputy director of the National Association of Church Business Administration.More

Pastors are flocking to Facebook, Twitter
News-Press via USA Today
Religious social media use is flourishing, as much in smaller, more conservative worship centers as in the megachurches, says Sarah Pulliam Bailey, online editor of Christianity Today. Concern that social media media will detract from people gathering for worship together is vanishing, she says. "You have to proceed with caution like anything else," Baker says. "It's not Facebook that causes those issues, it's people."More

New families in church this Christmas?
Christian Computing Magazine
Around Christmas, many churches find themselves stuffed to the rafters. It's a great time to connect with new church visitors and to reconnect with returning members. As families flock to church to celebrate this special time of year, it may be easy to get distracted by the crowds and let security fall by the wayside. However, the busy holidays are an essential time to focus on the security of your children's ministry. There are many facets to a careful child security plan. Churches need check-in procedures that return kids to the correct adults at the end of services. The special needs of children, including potentially serious allergies, must be communicated to volunteers and staff. Churches also need volunteer and teacher screenings, as well as a well-thought-out plan for responding in an emergency situation.More

Camel's fall puts church in spotlight
Baptist Press
A YouTube video showing a Christmas pageant camel falling sideways into church pews has put a Baptist congregation in the national spotlight -- and given church leaders an unexpected media opportunity to discuss spiritual matters. Thankfully, no one -- not even the camel-- was hurt, but the event made Lula Bell, and the church, an Internet sensation. The clip has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube and been broadcast on "The O'Reilly Factor," "Today Show," "Anderson Cooper 360" and "Inside Edition." While some media members have been interested only in broadcasting the clip, others have interviewed senior pastor Jimmy Scroggins or worship leader Chuck Lewis, giving them a chance to spread the Gospel.More

4 simple things to consider as you plan church outreach
Resonate or Die
Most ministry leaders want to reach out and get visitors to come to their church. Here are four simple areas to consider as you plan church-based outreach.More

How to write your State of the Church message
LifeWay
The New Year is approaching and you may be considering a sermon on "making resolutions" or on "fresh starts." The author of this article encourages you to consider using the first Sunday of January to preach an annual "State of the Church" message. If you have never done this before, here are several practical suggestions.More

Divine generosity
Today's Children's Ministry
Giving, if you let it, will transform your soul. As a spiritual practice, giving breaks the strongholds of fear and worry. When we are generous, we wade into the abundant flow of God's grace. When we give without thought of what we'll receive in return, we reflect, with astonishing accuracy, divine generosity. We declare that our fear of scarcity will not rule our lives. We gain insight into how God feels when he gives to us. Is it possible that he delights in bestowing good gifts on his children?More

Nativity story told through social media goes viral
The Christian Post
A digital marketing company has produced a modern way of telling the nativity story that has caught on with millions of people. In tune with the social media era, Excentric – a Lisbon, Portugal, company – created a video that tells the Christmas story through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google, among other popular media tools. In the last week, the video has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube, with most of the viewers liking it. Miguel Figueiredo, president of Excentric, told CNN that he wanted to illustrate how social media tools can work. And he used the familiar story of Jesus Christ's birth to demonstrate so.More

Despite sour economy, religious card sales are up
Religion News Service via The Christian Century
The sour economy may mean fewer presents under the tree for many families this year, but one thing some Christians won't give up on is sending Christmas cards -- especially religious cards. "It's the whole message of Christmas," said Velma Fann, who returned to the Shrine of the Black Madonna bookstore in Atlanta this year to purchase her cards. "It's what Christmas is really about." Fann, who lost her writing job in October, said she doesn't have "gift money" for presents this year, but she's still sending cards that feature a trumpet-playing angel, not Santa Claus.More

Holy Land a theme park of Biblical proportions
NBC Chicago
In Orlando, America’s thrill ride capital, one theme park is making a killing — twice each day, except Sundays. At midday and again before the doors close for the evening, visitors to Holy Land Experience gather to watch a graphic re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Wearing a tattered robe and a blood-spattered face, a man portraying Christ lugs a cross on his back through a lifelike “Jerusalem Street Market” as packs of tourists in sunglasses scurry to snap photos. Mickey Mouse, this ain’t. And on Christmas Day, as many celebrate the birth of Jesus, the show will go on as usual, said park spokesman John Casoria.More

Church's Eagle Scouts soar into history
UMC.org
Twenty-one-year-old Terrence Juan Cochran’s pride was apparent as he looked at the 12 African-American teens making history for Troop 914, the Boy Scouts of America and St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church. “I never imagined we would get to this point,” said Cochran, a Troop 914 Eagle Scout since 2005, as he viewed the boys, their church mentors and family members gathered at the ceremony in which the 12 joined Scouting’s elite. The ceremony marked the second time ever this many African-American Boy Scouts were bestowed the Eagle Scout rank at one time, according to the Boy Scouts of America National Council. The Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon, senior pastor, said this is a milestone in one of the church’s most important missions.More