'Tis the Season ...
...for Gratitude and Giving

I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We continued a long-standing tradition of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with our family in Charlottesville, Virginia, enjoying Uncle Max's smoked turkey and Aunt Arlene's homemade pies and desserts. We feel tremendous gratitude to God this year for all He has done for us. This year brought celebrations and challenges for us. Gil, my husband, and I have the privilege this year of celebrating both of our parents' 50th wedding anniversaries. We celebrated Gil's parents' 50th anniversary in Texas this summer at a very special family dinner. My mom and dad's anniversary is this December 25, and we will be celebrating with family and friends on December 23. We are grateful to God that our parents are healthy, and also that they have chosen to honor God through their commitments to Him, each other and us as their children.

I also experienced the great privilege this year of being accepted into Dallas Theological Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program. I am working as the Lord leads me to build a ministry to support pastors and church leaders with leadership and management issues, and to support female leaders in their ministries. This is a dream I've had for years, and I am thrilled God is giving me the opportunity to do this. I departed from the staff of McLean Bible Church this year after serving for 11 years. I grew tremendously while involved at MBC and want to thank the church for the opportunities I had to serve, for all that I learned there, and for preparing me to take this next step in serving Christ.

This year also brought challenges, as we discovered my husband's identical twin brother has developed Parkinson's disease at a very young age. We are learning in each of these circumstances to trust God at a deeper level and to give thanks to Him in everything (1 Thess. 5:17). We appreciate your prayers, and we will pray for your ministries and personal lives, too.

Tips for Smart Giving

It's December, and every church anxiously awaits God's provision through the year-end gifts of His people. A few tips pastors should know about this very important topic - The Pension Protection Act of 2006 was passed in August with the goal of tougher stances by the IRS on non-profit organizations. One area that will affect churches includes the rules for monetary gifts as charitable contributions. In the past, the donor's written log was adequate for their cash donation of under $250 into the church offering plate. This is no longer the case. Effective with the 2007 tax year, the new rules for cash donations will require written acknowledgement from the charity. Cancelled checks, credit or wire transfers, or bank records will suffice for non-cash donations. Be sure your members and attendees are not caught unaware of this new rule.

Also, for 2006 and 2007, those ages 70 1/2 or older may give tax-free gifts up to $100,000 per year from either a traditional or Roth IRA. These gifts need to be given by their IRA trustee or custodian directly to the charitable organization. Perhaps there are those in your congregation who want to give to your church's ministry and also need year-end tax relief. This new provision will help them reach both goals.

Be sure to notify your members and attendees about these new rules via your church bulletin and Web site this December. You'll be helping them be smart givers and stewards of their financial resources this year and next!

For more information, consult your tax advisor or www.irs.gov.

Maximizing Tomorrow's Leaders Today

Earlier this week, my husband and I had the pleasure of once again viewing "Charlie Brown's Christmas." It is a long-time favorite of mine. At one point, Charlie is depressed and pays his nickel at Lucy's psychiatric booth for counseling. After suggesting several potential fears and phobias that Charlie could be experiencing, Lucy diagnoses that Charlie Brown needs "involvement" - to get involved in the lives of others. She goes on to recruit him to be the director of the local Christmas drama, saying, "You're a shepherd, Charlie Brown, and we have sheep. You have what we need... they are sheep, they have involvement, what you need." My husband, in amusement, burst into laughter, and said, "She'd be a terrific staff member at a mega-church." I had to agree....

While those of us in ministry are called to recruit and equip others for ministry (Eph. 4), even more importantly, a pastor is called to be a poimen (Greek for shepherd, Eph. 4:11). These shepherds are there to oversee and care for their flocks, helping those entrusted to them to experience the same "involvement" Charlie Brown needed. Those under your care need fellowship with others and to grow in Christ, while at the same time, to be exhorted by each of you to serve others and build up the body of Christ. Peter encourages pastors in how to shepherd. They are to be: "not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:2-3). I appreciate and understand the ambition to use technology and multi-site ministry to advance the gospel and believe we should use all appropriate means to spread the message of Jesus Christ. However, as we utilize technology, remote site preaching, and other contemporary methods of ministry, please remember the shepherd/pastor's personal touch that people so vitally need and that was so characteristic of Christ.

Please let me know what issues you would like to hear about in the next newsletter, such as hiring or managing staff, inspiring volunteers, or preventing burnout, for examples. I'll do my best to address your concerns! Have a blessed holiday as we celebrate our Savior's birth. I look forward to speaking with you all next month.

Many prayers and blessings to you all,

Leadership Tips is a monthly e-zine written and published by Suzanne Martinez, founder of SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC. Our purpose is to help leaders develop healthy leadership cultures and relationships - cultures that promote growth and optimize individual and organizational performance.

You may copy, forward or distribute this e-zine if this copyright notice and contact information for Suzanne Martinez is included.

Suzanne Martinez
SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC
Reston, VA 20194

Copyright ©SFM Consulting & Associates, LLC, 2006.

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December 1, 2006
Volume 1, Issue 1

E-Store is now Available

I recently served as the keynote speaker at a women's retreat at Urbanna Baptist Church in the beautiful Tidewater area of Virginia. The retreat theme was "Reversing the Curse: Rediscovering Joy and Fulfillment in Relationships." We discussed the power struggle that is now a part of male-female relationships, particularly in marriage, as a result of the curse. We looked at practical tips to help reverse the effects of the curse and rediscover joy as we relate to one another.

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Preview of January Issue:
"How to Develop a Healthy Leadership Culture and Powerfully Impact your Community for Christ"
Suzanne, along with two senior pastors, Chuck Larsen of County Bible Church in Blair, NE and Will Langstaff of The Servant House in Lewisville, TX, recently conducted a case study of a successful mega-church in Texas. Next month, she'll share some insights with you on key steps this church made in its journey to develop a healthier leadership culture and to impact their community for Christ.

About Suzanne

Suzanne France Martinez
Founder & Principal

During the last 20 years as Suzanne served in the marketplace and in ministry, she learned to excel amidst the pressing demands and challenges of leadership in each setting. Suzanne's passion is to help leaders develop healthy leadership cultures and relationships - cultures that promote growth and optimize both individual and organizational performance. Suzanne desires to help leaders renew and refresh their vision, attain new levels of leadership excellence, and build healthy and strong leadership organizations.