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This Web site contains a compilation of more than a thousand consumer finance  columns written by Tony Novak from the 1980s through 2006, updated and reformatted for maximum usefulness today.  New material was added after 2010.

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originally posted: 11/22/2006  reposted: 2/18/2011 This post has not been recently reviewed or revised by the author and may be out of date. If you notice an error or are in doubt, please send a new question by email or ask for an update. Email

Q: I am a pastor of a modest-sized church who has been married for 19 years with 4 children (3 biological, 1 adopted; ages 21-13) my wife serves as the co-pastor, as we founded this church together 12 years ago, legally how do we handle the issues of the ministry? We do have an operable board in place. I have been a full-time pastor for the last 6 years and I receive a meager salary, in terms of support, what obligations lie ahead of me?

A: In many ways running a church is the same as running a small business. You must make sure that enough money is coming in to pay the bills going out. You may be personally liable for bills owed by the church, in the same way that a business owner is liable for bills incurred for a business. An advisory board is a great start. Next you need a solid financial plan, cash flow budget and a strong accounting system (these go and-n-hand). There are a few tax differences between a church and a small business that must be considered especially with regard to your long term financial security. Among the most important issues is that you may not be eligible for social security benefits. If so, then alternate arrangements must be made. Legal obligations for children is not affected by the fact that you operate a church or that one child is adopted. Standards of support are set by each state and administered by county government on a level field. I have worked with a number of churches throughout the country in establishing an operating plan, setting up an accounting system and designing tax-efficient compensation and benefits programs for ministers. (See for more information on church benefit plans). So please feel free to schedule a consultation is you want to discuss your concerns and hear about the ways other churches deal with these issues.


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