Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tax Savings Provide Stewardship Opportunities

By: Laurie Valentine-Trust Counsel & Chief Operating Officer

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, signed into law on December 17, 2010, extended many prior year tax provisions and made significant, although temporary, changes in the estate and gift tax laws. All are designed to keep more money in our pockets and could provide opportunities for additional charitable giving in 2011 and 2012.
Extensions in the income tax area include extension of the current income tax brackets and the current capital gains tax and dividend rates through 2012. Those extensions, coupled with the “payroll/self-employment tax holiday” that reduces Social Security wage and self-employment taxes by 2 percentage points in 2011 leaving more dollars in paychecks, may allow you to increase your tithe or recurring gifts to causes important to you.

The IRA Charitable Rollover provision, first enacted in 2006, which permits tax-free distributions directly to charity of up to a total of $100,000 each year from an IRA, was extended through 2011. It is available for persons age 70 ½ or older. The tax-free charitable IRA distributions can be counted as your required minimum distribution. While these charitable IRA distributions are not deductible, the benefit of not having to include the distribution in your income allows you to reduce your taxable income and provide needed financial support to causes that are important to you.

The increase in the federal estate tax exemption to $5 million and the lowering of the estate tax rate to 35% takes us out of the unknown and into the known, at least for 2011 and 2012. Those changes, and the “re-unification” of the federal gift tax and estate tax exemptions, allows those who have been sitting on the sidelines waiting to learn what would happen when the 2001 tax changes expired to start the process of creating or revisiting their estate plan. Planning your estate, and keeping it up-to-date, will be the single most important act of financial stewardship we as Christians can undertake.

Contact your estate and financial advisers to discuss how the new tax act’s tax savings can allow you to practice your financial stewardship at a deeper level in 2011 and 2012.

The information in this article is provided as general information and is not intended as legal or tax advice. For advice and assistance in specific cases, you should seek the advice of an attorney or other professional adviser.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


By: Barry G. Allen - President and CEO

     Among the important qualities of a mature steward is accountability.  A mature steward is accountable.

     A mature steward knows by nature what Jesus meant in the parable found in Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

     A mature steward lives each day knowing the end of the story is what Jesus taught in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:19, “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

     A mature steward enjoys a sense of security in knowing someone is overseeing him or her, and his or her efforts in behalf of the overseer, or master, matter.  This encourages initiative and quality in the mature steward’s efforts, which pleases the master. 

     On the other hand, a too cautious, do-nothing-for-fear-of-the-consequences attitude is totally unpleasant and distasteful to the master as revealed in that part of the parable found in Matthew 25:24-28.  “Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.’ His master replied, ‘you wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents.  For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

     May we be faithful and accountable in our stewardship in 2011.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Partner Profile- Mission Dignity

By: Barry G. Allen- President and CEO

What an opportunity you have to assist a generation of God called servants, who loved their churches, and their churches loved them, but for whom planning for the future was not emphasized when they began serving. They went into the ministry with no turning back. They trusted the Lord to provide, and they put the needs of their churches first. Now they need and deserve our help.

Most people do not realize how many men and women there are, who served God’s people faithfully across the years, and now find themselves struggling to meet even their basic needs. Most of these served as pastors and pastors’ wives in small, rural churches that paid them very modest salaries and could not afford to contribute toward their retirement. In many instances these men and women had to work extra jobs just to make ends meet.

Mission:Dignity™ is the name GuideStone Financial Resources, formerly the Annuity Board, SBC, has given that part of its mission which provides “relief” assistance to these needy retired ministers and their widows. This ministry was previously called the Adopt-An-Annuitant program. Although the name is new, the need is greater than ever.

Currently GuideStone pays out $6M per year to assist 2,000 retired ministers and spouses across the nation with money for housing, food and medications while seeking to ensure a well-deserved dignity and independence for these faithful servants of the Lord.

You will be pleased to know the Kentucky Baptist Foundation partners with GuideStone in supplementing those Mission:Dignity recipients living in Kentucky. This supplement is provided from the earnings of the Baptist Minister’s Aid Endowment Fund, which was established 122 years ago. Currently we are providing $275,000 per year to 91 Kentucky recipients ranging from $200 to $530 per month.

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting by telephone with several of the Kentucky recipients. These are some of the comments they shared with me about the impact of this financial assistance on their lives. The widow of a pastor said “I don’t know what I would have done without this blessing from the Lord.” Another widow shared, “It helps to pay for the supplement insurance so I can see the special doctor I need for my health condition. I thank God for those who make this possible.” A retired pastor stated “When I accepted the call to preach I lost my teacher’s retirement, did not have any social security and the churches I served only contributed the minimum toward my retirement. I guess I could have made it without this help, but it would have been difficult.”

Don Spencer, Director of the KBC Church Financial Benefits Department, affirmed this ministry like this: “For the folks receiving this assistance each month it often means the difference in having basic necessities like food on the table or paying the utility bills, and they get quite emotional when they express appreciation for the difference these dollars make in their lives.”

When you think about the ministry of the KBF you would not think it included financial assistance to needy retired pastors and their widows. And yet, across the years there have been those who have demonstrated their admiration, appreciation and affection for these soldiers of the cross by making gifts into endowment funds administered by the KBF that provide “relief funds” for their well-being.

You, too, can participate in this important ministry by sending a designated gift directly to GuideStone and/or to the KBF. Your gift can be in the form of a check, appreciated assets, a beneficiary designation of life insurance or retirement account and/or a bequest in your will.

For more information about this ministry and how you can support it click on www.missiondignitysbc.org, call toll free 1.888.984.8433 or call me toll free at 1.866.489.3421.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

By: Barry G. Allen- President & CEO
          When it comes to financial stewardship too many churches operate under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  It’s what I call the financial stewardship paradox.  Jesus had more to say about our relationship to money than any other spiritual discipline, and yet, church members and church leaders do not want to discuss it at all.  Both the pastor and the people dread the annual stewardship sermon (mutual intimidation).

            This unspoken attitude is a self-serving attitude in that stewardship in churches has been narrowed to institutional fundraising, concentrating solely on the church’s immediate needs and the task of raising so much money for the church budget to the neglect of the larger meaning of money in our lives and how this reality should be regarded in an overall philosophy of life. 

            Author Randy Alcorn has observed we regularly witness the gifts of teaching and prayer, but we rarely hear stories of church members exercising the gift of giving money.  So, how do young people in the church learn to give?  Where can they go to witness what giving looks like in the life of the believer captivated by Christ?  Why are we surprised when, seeing no other example, they take their cues from a materialistic society?

            Somewhere between Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:1 and Matthew 5:16 is the appropriate place for stewardship testimonies.  In Matthew 6:1 Jesus teaches us not to give in order to be seen by men; in 5:16 Jesus teaches us to let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

            Also, be instructed and encouraged by the Apostle Paul’s words to the Macedonian Christians recorded in 2 Corinthians 8:7: “But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”  Remember, the grace “of” giving is also the grace “for” giving.