Sunday, July 30, 2006

Former Arizona foundation executives convicted of fraud, await sentencing

PHOENIX (ABP) -- In what has been described as the largest case of fraud targeting a religious group, the former top executive and legal counsel for the Baptist Foundation of Arizona were convicted on multiple fraud-related counts July 24.

A Maricopa County, Ariz., Superior Court jury convicted former foundation President William Crotts and Thomas Grabinski, the group's former top lawyer, each on three counts of defrauding investors and one count of knowingly operating an illegal operation. The jury also acquitted two of 23 counts of theft. Jurors reportedly determined that Crotts and Grabinski did not personally gain financially from the scheme.

Because the convictions require mandatory jail time, according to the Arizona Republic, the two were immediately handcuffed and taken into custody. They will be sentenced in September.

The convictions are the result of a 10-month trial that came nearly seven years after the foundation collapsed and the fraud allegations first came to light, shocking the non-profit world.

The foundation, controlled by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, declared bankruptcy in 1999 after state regulators ordered it to stop selling securities. About 11,000 investors -- many of them elderly members of Baptist churches in Arizona and elsewhere -- lost more than $550 million.

Prosecutors said Crotts, Grabinski and other foundation employees marketed the charitable fund to individuals interested in investing in a fund that would support Baptist and other Christian ministries. Bible-quoting foundation representatives claimed the investments would deliver above-average returns while helping "to do the Lord's work," the Republic reported.

However, the prosecutors said, the foundation's investments were actually losing money. The executives created "off-the-books" corporations to hide the losses while touting strong returns to sell the foundation to new investors to cover those losses -- essentially creating a non-profit pyramid scheme.

Defense attorneys countered that the foundation would eventually have been able to pay off investors if it had been able to wait out a bad real-estate market, but state officials shut the foundation down too soon. The jurors rejected that argument.

"They got caught up in something they couldn't get out of," the Republic quoted juror Nathan Redmond as saying.

Five other foundation officials have already cooperated with prosecutors in the case, pleading guilty and testifying against Crotts and Grabinski. A sixth is reportedly too sick to stand trial.

The accounting firm Arthur Andersen -- which also was connected to the massive Enron fraud scandal -- in 2002 paid a record $217 million to Arizona to settle a lawsuit involving the Baptist case. Andersen served as the foundation's accounting firm.

Steve Bass, the chief executive officer of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, expressed optimism in reaction to the verdicts in a July 24 entry on his weblog.

"Many in our Arizona Southern Baptist family are ready to close this chapter of our life together and move on," he wrote. "As I visit our churches and hear our people, the BFA issue is no longer the 'hot topic.' It appears that our people have moved on to our greatest passion: sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with our world."

As a caveat, though, he added: "Arizona is now watching us. Will we remain humble? Will we seek to forgive and to reconcile? Will we invest the kind of evangelism energy in what God has taught us through this experience as Kingdom Children? We must. For whatever we think of Bill and Tom, their trial is now over and ours is just beginning."

By Robert Marus
Published July 25, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Church Salary Report

From Leadership Network: an E-publication of the Resource Network.

LN's Salary Survey

Since their inception, Leadership Network forums have been a place where peers are able to share mutual strengths, concerns and solutions. In many of the forums that I have attended over the years, we conducted informal salary surveys of the participants. This was usually done in a crude way, such as passing a blank pad around the room with various forum groups recording slightly differing information.Even with this crude methodology of collection, many participants considered this data to be invaluable when compared to other compensation surveys. Why?
  1. It came from a group of churches they considered peers. In other surveys, they felt that the data, even though from a larger sample, gave too much weight to churches that were not growing.
  2. The forum group of churches had similar needs when it came to facility and ministry expansion that affects staffing levels and other ministries.
  3. The data came from churches they wanted to be like and so they wanted to know in detail how they compared with each other.

In late 2001 and early 2002, we gathered compensation data from a very select group of churches with more intentionality than in previous years. We hand selected a representative sample of churches that we considered to be some of the best in the country. We tried to balance the sample by denominational background, regions of the country and context within their region, as well as the tenure of the senior minister.By no means is the data as scientific or statistically valid as an advanced, expensive survey undertaken by a university researcher. Our approach was to gather data from churches with good practices and then create a report from which other churches could learn. To obtain a copy of the complete report contact Leadership Network. The following summary report has some highlights of the findings.

Survey Highlights: Church Size and Income

  • The average church size was 3,700 in weekend worship attendance. The range was from 1,150 to 17,000 and the median size was 3,300.
  • The average church income for regular giving was $4,986,834. Almost all of the churches were over budget last year.
  • The average number of regular weekend worship services was slightly under four.
  • The average for total giving by the congregation was $7.4 million.
Based upon these figures, the average gift per attender for the year was approximately $2,000. In most instances, giving amounts were correlated to church size.

Salary level

The survey asked for cash salary plus housing allowance for various staff roles. It did not include other benefits that are often a part of a minister’s total compensation package. The figures were all over the place and had no correlation to size. The figures below are all averages.

  • Senior Pastor – $124,831 (range was from $74,000 to $210,000)
  • Executive Pastor – $91,846 or approximately 75% of the senior pastor salary average
  • Church Business Administrators – $77,080
  • Worship Pastor - $71,794
  • Small Groups Pastor - $54,449
  • Teaching Pastor, other than Senior Pastor - $59,983
  • Equipping Pastor - $58,748The survey also examined about 20 other roles including part time roles.

Benefits Section

  • All the churches provided medical insurance
  • Two-thirds provided disability insurance
  • Three-fifths provided life insurance and cell phones to staff
  • Slightly over half provided dental insurance
  • Half provided sabbatical leave and book allowances
  • A more complete discussion of benefits is also included in the full report.

    Salary Increases

    We wanted to know what the churches used as a guideline for salary raises within the past year and we asked for the average annual percentage increase given. Please note that this is a highly subjective number due to many factors.

    The average increase for cash salary was 4.3% for all staff. The range for the averages was from 0 to as high as 10%. In addition, approximately 25% of the churches had some bonus structure in place. How should you use these numbers? Use them as a means for comparison and norming when working through your salary and benefits plan. Do not use the survey as the final solution. Regional factors, cost of living factors, as well as experience and tenure must be considered when establishing compensation plans. Several times each year I have telephone conversations with members of governing boards concerning issues of compensation, benefits and the retention of key staff members. Our conversations not only deal with financial compensation, but also with non-financial ways to improve staff morale and well being. Most congregations fail to realize how valuable staff are for accomplishing their congregational mission.

    Christianity Today has a number of good articles on salary and staff compensation at:

    Other groups that conduct compensation surveys include:
    The National Association of Church Business Administrators
    The Institute for Church Leadership

    Sunday, July 16, 2006

    50 Most influential Churches

    From July 2006, The Church Report

    The 2006 survey was emailed to leaders of more than 2,000 of the largest non-Catholic congregations in the nation by Church Growth Today in April and May. A small selected group of smaller churches were also invited to recommend churches. Participants were asked to recommend up to 10 churches (vs. 5 last year) they considered to be among the nation’s most infl uential. A total of 83 churches were recommended. A total of 57 percent of all church leader ecommendations named these five churches.

    A summary of all 50 churches reveals: Two of the churches (Saddleback and Fellowship) are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention and the other three are non-affiliated with a denomination (Willow Creek, North Point and Lakewood). Some are new churches and others date back to the late 1950s. Lakewood Church began in 1959 and is both the oldest of the five top congregations and largest in the nation. North Point is the youngest of the group and began in 1995 with about 1,200 people. Among the other three churches, Willow Creek is the second oldest and began in 1975 with a core of 75 people. Saddleback followed in 1980 with only Rick Warren and his wife Kay initially. Fellowship Church is the second youngest of the five and began in 1990 with 150 people. All five of the churches now average more than 16,000 in weekend attendance and are consistently among the nation’s 15 largest and fastest growing churches each year. Both of the nation’s largest United Methodist congregations – Resurrection United Methodist Church (Leawood, Kan.) and Windsor Village United Methodist Church (Houston, Texas) – were named by other church leaders for this group of churches. Other major Methodist churches include Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church (Montgomery, Ala.) and Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church (Tipp City, Ohio). Other older mainline churches include the Episcopal Trinity Church (Manhattan, N.Y.) and the Presbyterian (PCUSA) Menlo Park Presbyterian Church (Menlo Park, Calif.).

    Several churches are new to our list this year. These 19 churches are from various locations across the nation. Five are from California; two each are from Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana and Texas; and one each is from Arkansas, Arizona, Massachusetts and Oklahoma. The 2006 survey was emailed to leaders of more than 2,000 of the largest non-Catholic congregations in the nation by Church Growth Today in April and May. A small selected group of smaller churches were also invited to recommend churches. Participants were asked to recommend up to 10 churches (vs. five last year) they considered to be among the nation’s most influential. A total of 83 churches were recommended. A total of 57 percent of all church leader recommendations named these five churches. A summary of all 50 churches reveals: These churches are recommended by other church leaders as congregations that represent the passion and sense of mission mandated in the New Testament. They do not all share the same view of all biblical doctrine, their recognition came from others, and they do not view themselves as better than other churches. Each just considers itself as a church wanting to be pleasing and useful to God and their understanding of His mandates to them. Changes in this years list reflects the rapid change and diversity of ministry across the nation from year to year. It appears to also affirm the new expressions of ministry by emerging churches while also affirming the best of churches that endure through eras of dramatic change. We look forward to the churches that you will be recommending next year. Thanks to you who took the time to share in this year’s survey. CR

    Note: To see the complete list, please click on the link on the masthead. (kb)

    Saturday, July 15, 2006

    Entertaining People on a Spiritual Level

    George Barna is hitting the ground running. Yesterday we reported about Barna's new position at Good News Holdings; today he announced a partnership with Tyndale House to produce books for an upcoming horror film/book series. Here's the press release...

    Los Angeles, CA—July 11, 2006—Los Angeles-based multimedia company Good News Holdings and Wheaton, Illinois-based Tyndale House Publishers have announced their intent to work together on THE ATTICUS PROJECT, a partnership designed to leverage the power of print media with the magic of film. The project was announced today by George Barna, Chairman of Good News Holdings and Doug Knox, Senior Vice President at Tyndale House Publishers.

    One of their first projects together will be a horror series designed for release both in film and book-form called DUDLEYTOWN, based on a true story concerning the legendary evil that has held Dudleytown, Connecticut in its grip for hundreds of years. Dudleytown has been pronounced by some, including film star Dan Aykroyd, to be “the scariest place on earth.” This venture is expected to yield seven projects targeting a teen audience.

    “Our objective is to be the forerunner in a new genre of multimedia we are calling spiritainment,” says Good News Chairman George Barna. “Our research has shown that people—especially young people—absorb an amazing degree of their values, beliefs and lifestyle practices from the media content to which they are exposed. Our desire is to raise spiritual questions and draw people closer to God and His truths.”

    “THE ATTICUS PROJECT is the first attempt to deliberately produce stories in one medium for the purpose of transferring the story into another,” says David Kirkpatrick, former Paramount Picture President and co-founder of Good News. “Over the last three years, 85% of the movie box office was generated from films that happened to be previously franchised in another medium. THE ATTICUS PROJECT will now do that intentionally.”

    Tyndale will contribute as the publishing partner in THE ATTICUS PROJECT. “It has always been our desire to use our significant influence to shape what people read and see,” says Tyndale Senior Vice-President Doug Knox. “Creating stories that will move from the page to the screen will contribute mightily to Tyndale’s mission to entertain people on a spiritual level—it is what Spiritainment is all about.”

    FILED IN: Monday Morning Insights/Posted: 2006-07-13 15:14

    Friday, July 07, 2006

    Calvary Chapel Raises $103 million

    Reprint from James D. Davis Religion Editor Posted May 1 2006 "Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale receives $103 million in pledges for expansion"

    Applause built up in waves as the numbers grew on the overhead screens: $50 million … $75 million … $90 million.Finally the worshipers leapt to their feet and cheered at the final sum: a staggering $103 million in donation pledges for the next round of expansion at Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale.

    The amount, coming after a two-month appeal via sermons and brochures, overshot the $80 million goal, a beaming Pastor Bob Coy reported."Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this," Coy said to his 2,400 listeners on Sunday, the last of four weekend services at the non-denominational evangelical church. "As your pastor, I am so proud of you."

    The money, most of it to be donated over three years, will be used for several projects: A larger sanctuary, covering 360,000 square feet and seating up to 7,000 people.

    The current sanctuary, with 50,000 square feet, will be used partly for an auditorium and children's classrooms.

    Renovation of a youth center, including a cafe, a gym, basketball courts and a skateboard park. A new satellite campus in south Broward, plus remodeling of existing campuses in Boca Raton and Plantation. A four-story "discipleship building," already under construction, which will house adult classes, the church's day school, media and performing arts rooms, children's weekend ministries and a 650-seat theater.

    Part of the building is scheduled to open in December.Coy stressed that the buildings and equipment were part of a "24/7 ministry," not just for weekends. Besides worship services, Calvary Chapel runs classes in parenting and finances, a foster care service, a counseling service, a feeding program, a radio station and other projects.

    The funds will likely spur even more growth for Calvary Chapel, already the largest church in South Florida. Total weekly attendance at all three worship sites tops 20,000, according to executive minister Mark Davis.

    He said the $103 million total is the most ever pledged by a church in America. The closest was $84 million, raised in 2005 by Second Baptist Church of Houston, Davis said.

    George de Leon of Pembroke Pines, an avionics salesman, said he appreciated the church's openness in spelling out the fund-raising goals. "Some churches just tell you how much to give. Here, they show you the whole program and where the money is going. I'm treated like family and I can give willingly."

    The Real Virus Is Fear

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