Leadership Thoughts From...
Rev. Daniel May
The Fourth of July falls on Monday this year! Hopefully that means you and your family may have a little longer weekend to enjoy! Is this your vacation week? If it is, you may take a little trip – visit some family or just enjoy “Americana” in your neighborhood or town! We will always have challenges – even in America, and yet we have plenty to appreciate as we remember the strength and blessings of our nation! May God bless America and may God bless you as a Christian living in America! While our culture does not necessarily reflect our confession or even our Christian heritage, we remain relatively free to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in our own communities! We support and defend the religious freedoms we enjoy!
Outreach & Evangelism
Rev. Geoff Robinson
How many of you remember watching “Lassie” on television in the 1960s? It was one of my favorite shows as a little boy. Lassie always showed up at the right time to rescue someone who was in trouble. Just as the dog Lassie was instrumental in saving people needing help, we can use the acronym LASSIE as a witnessing tool to help rescue people who are in spiritual trouble. Developed by the Rev. Mark Wood, director of LCMS Witness & Outreach Ministry, and his team, LASSIE can help you become a person who shows up at just the right time in someone’s life. In fact, that job is even more important than Lassie’s role. Here’s why. If people don’t believe in Christ Jesus, they are in real trouble. They are spiritually dead and an enemy of the true God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If they die in this spiritual state, they will be in even worse trouble because they will spend an eternity in Hell. The Good News is that God doesn’t want this outcome for any person. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to live perfectly under His Law in order to fulfill it for all people. The Law demands that people who sin shall die for their sins. All of us deserve to die eternally because we have all sinned. But God, in His grace, has provided us a way to live eternally in bliss and happiness with Him. That way is through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ took the sins of all mankind upon Himself and paid the price for those sins once and for all on the Cross of Calvary. All people have been justified by Jesus’ redemptive work. But unless you know this truth and trust in it for yourself, it will do you no good. The way that you trust in Christ is by being called into faith in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit. And that’s where believers come in, because the Holy Spirit calls people through the Gospel message of Christ. If people never hear it, they will never know the truth. LASSIE can help you share this message. Remember that God is a relational God and we are relational people. The common Christian symbol of the sacrifice that God has made for us, namely the cross, shows us this truth. A cross has a vertical line. This signifies that God comes down to us. We are individually in relationship with Him. He blesses us through that relationship. A cross also has a horizontal line. This helps us to see that we are in relationship with people. It also helps us to understand that the Good News that God has given to us should be shared by us with others in our relationships. By taking the time to develop relationships in which we can share God’s Word, we are a blessing to others, even more than Lassie on TV! Listen to the person with whom you are visiting. Ask questions that will encourage discussion. Seek a point of connection. Share what can change people’s hearts: God’s Word. Invite the person to keep the conversation going. Encourage the person to keep thinking about the Gospel message by following up and following through.
Mr. Ron Bleke
The U.S. Department of Labor recently released its update on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations. You have most likely heard something about this and the questions related to it. Based on the information received, our understanding is as follows: The new rules will be effective December 1, 2016. The update increases the standard salary threshold level from the current $455 per week or $23,660 per year level established in 2004 to $913 per week or $47,476 per year. The threshold will be automatically updated every 3 years with first update January 1, 2020. Neither the FLSA nor department regulations provide a blanket exemption from overtime requirements for non profits. Teachers are exempt if their primary job is teaching, tutoring, instructing or lecturing. The regulations from 2004 included language that excluded clergy and religious workers, but that language is not included in the new regulations so the minister’s status is still unclear at this time. It would seem that the Ordained and Commissioned Workers on the Synodical Roster would continue to fall into the exempt category and hopefully we will be able to confirm that soon. Other church and school salaried employees who are currently under the salary compensation threshold and working more than 40 hours per week will most likely be subject to the FLSA and overtime regulations. Some consideration needs to be given to responsibilities and compensation for these positions to determine the best option, whether it be to pay the overtime, reduce their hours or increase their salary to the threshold level. (Examples: Office clerical, custodial, cafeteria workers) Note that the rules for hourly workers have not changed. We have been in contact with the LCMS Human Resources and Accounting and Tax Departments, Concordia Plan Services and PayChex to inquire about their plans for publishing information that can be shared with LCMS Congregations and Schools employers for clarification and guidance on this matter. We are told that several people are working on this and they are consulting with legal council to determine how best to address the requirements of this new ruling. Part of the challenge is the unique employment scenarios that exist from one congregation to the next, so there is no standard single answer that fits everyone. We have been assured that the LCMS does recognize the impact this may have at the District and Congregational level and they do plan to address it in the best manner to develop more specific related resources for LCMS. What does this mean? As of right now, we are not in a position to publish anything more official on this topic. We are continuing to pursue this with all of our LCMS contacts and encourage you to be patient as we continue to seek the information and guidance necessary to make good informed decisions. For now we advise that you review the materials and resources below and watch for information updates which will be distributed as soon as they become available. Additional Resources: Read the Guide to Navigating Overtime Regulations by Paychex. Download and read the Overtime Rules for Nonprofits.. Richard Hammar, an attorney, CPA, and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy, has recorded a 10-minute video further explaining this major development. He fully reviews the overtime regulations and why churches are affected by them.
Dr. Jon Mielke
Lutheran schools throughout the Indiana District and LCMS are tremendous blessings to children and families. Lutheran schools owned and operated by members of a single Lutheran church or an association of Lutheran churches makes financial sacrifices to keep open their Lutheran school and to keep the cost of tuition at a reasonable rate for families. Almost all of the Lutheran elementary schools and all of the Lutheran high schools in the Indiana District receive Choice dollars from the state of Indiana. Those Choice dollars do not cover the entire cost of education for young adults and children; however, the dollars do benefit families who may choose one of the many Lutheran schools located around the Indiana District. Without the blessing of Choice, many would not be able to afford the tuition cost for their child, enroll their child or children, and receive the blessings of Christian education. Even though the Indiana Scholarship (Choice) Program is a blessing, members of congregations have the privilege and responsibility of owning and operating their Lutheran school. And, congregational members must never take for granted or become complacent in their gratitude and thankfulness back to their Heavenly Father for Christian instruction. Lutheran schools benefit, value and rely on your prayers, on your donated time, and on you being good stewards of your finances as congregations are directly responsible for the operational costs of the school. The Indiana Scholarship (Choice) Program was enacted by legislators and signed into legislation by Governor Daniels in 2011 to relieve the cost of education for parents. The law was never enacted to fully operate a Lutheran school. And it does not as we all know. The state of Indiana covers only a fraction of that educational cost; the cost to fully educate students in Lutheran schools is covered through church contributions, special gifts and development dollars. It is always my prayer that parents will choose a Lutheran school where by their young adult or child will learn about Jesus, possibly for the first time. As Christian teachers share the message of the Gospel with those who may be hearing about Jesus for the first time and with those who have heard about Jesus often but continually need to hear it for spiritual growth and nurture, it is my hope and prayer that all students come to believe the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit and take comfort in those Biblical truths. That is what makes Lutheran schools so unique and different than other private schools of choice. Because the Indiana Scholarship (Choice) Program can be controversial and can be criticized at times, you might enjoy learning about some of the positives that result when parents exercise their right to choose a school. May God grant parents the wisdom to choose a Lutheran school! The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports a host of indicators from demographics to performance to economic outcomes in a congressional report about education and vouchers (Cape Outlook, June 2016). Several interesting statistical findings were reported about private schools. Students who graduate from private schools have a tendency to take more algebra II/trigonometry (85%) compared to graduates from traditional public schools (75%); graduates of private schools are reported to have taken more calculus courses (44%) compared to (15%) of graduates from public schools. The Condition of Education, 2016, as cited by CAPE, reports a higher percent of students who have graduated from private schools that have taken more science classes (44%) compared to (29%) of students who graduate from a traditional public school. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released results from the first-ever national assessment of student performance in technology and engineering literacy (TEL). NCES released data about 21,500 public and private school students in 840 public and private schools across the country who took TEL. NCES reports that results showed that 60% of students in private schools across the country scored at or above the proficient level on this new assessment compared to 42% of students in public schools (Cape Outlook, June 2016). The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) as shared by the Council for American Private Education (Cape Outlook, June 2016) reports on a study conducted at the University of Arkansas. Research conducted by Shakeel, Anderson & Wolf (2016) reports that voucher students on average increased their reading scores by about .27 standard deviations and their math scores by about .15 standard deviations. CAPE defines these gains in standard deviations to be equivalent to several months of additional learning for these voucher students. The full report is available at www.uaedreform.org/working-papers/. Unfortunately, what we may hear or read about regarding vouchers, specifically the Indiana Choice Program, may not always be accurate. So often, what has become controversial grist for debate about Choice in public arenas tends to be more about the loss of revenue and how Choice dollars have become the financial engine for private schools, even Lutheran schools rather than having those healthy conversations about how Choice can and does benefit and strengthen education in general. When Choice parents choose to enroll in one of our Lutheran schools, they receive a percentage of dollars (50% or 90%) from the state based on their financial income and based on the cost to educate determined by the public school district that family resides. Choice dollars received from the state of Indiana are greatly supplemented by the sacrificial giving of congregational members that own and operate their Lutheran school. And this is so because on congregational members love Jesus, love their Lutheran school, and are ‘mission’ people by which they view their Lutheran school as a mission outpost to their community. The LCMS is blessed to have one of the largest school systems in the nation. Let us remain diligent in the proclamation of the Gospel as people of God!
Rev. Phillip Krupski
He is a simple man. All his life he has grown in faith and served the Lord with passion. Life has been full of challenges and blessings. As he approaches his retirement years, gift planning made sense. At first he thought his children could take care of his estate after he was gone, relieving him of the burden. But as he dove into the process and saw the opportunity to plan well, not only could he take care of his children better but he could also leave a six figure gift to ministry. Almost in tears he looked at me and said, “Who would have ever thought that I would be able to do all of this?” That is the stewardship journey I, as a gift planning counselor, have the privilege of sharing with God’s faithful people. Together we can discover God’s plan for your life as His grace shines through! Rev. Philip Krupski, Gift Planning Counselor
Mr. Steve Strauch
Attention Pastors! Are you paying more than 3.125% on an unsecured educational loan? The Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) has developed an educational loan repayment program to help LCMS ordained ministers successfully reduce their existing school debt. With loans directly to the pastor or to his congregation, LCEF can help meet this sometimes burdensome obligation. Two loan programs are available: Direct Pastoral Education Loan Repayment Program: This loan program is provided directly to the active LCMS pastor, normally in the first five years after seminary graduation. Loans up to $50,000. Terms are up to 10 Years. Congregation Pastoral Education Loan Repayment Program: This loan program is provided to the congregation who acts as the eligible borrower to provide support for an active ordained LCMS pastor, normally in the first 10 years after seminary graduation. Loans up to the amount of indebtedness, not to exceed $100,000. Funds may be drawn on for a maximum of two years, with interest billed monthly during the period. Both loan programs have the following features: Interest rates are based on LCEF’s Cost of Funds, plus 1%, adjusted annually. The interest rate is NOT based on credit score. Ability to consolidate outstanding unsecured loans for education purposes incurred during seminary tenure, such as: privately held student loans, loans from family, credit cards, etc. Loan funds are disbursed to creditors. LCEF has friendly, knowledgeable loan officers and service staff. Internet and automated telephone access to loan information. For more information about these loan programs, please contact Steve Strauch, LCEF District VP, at 765-464-4579 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also go online to www.lcef.org. Applications Secured Loan Application Rostered Church Workers RCW Direct Housing RCW Consolidation RCW Home Equity