Above: Frank and Elaine Sommerville give an overview in tax and legal issues during the seminar at OKC, Northwest. Photos by Marcus Wehmuller
If attendees to this year’s Tax, Internal Controls and Legal Issues seminars—hosted for the first time by WatersEdge—had only one takeaway from the event, it would be that keeping track of tax laws, finance and administration can be a monumental task for churches both large and small.
That’s the reason Oklahoma Baptists have been gathering for more than three decades to discover new information, encourage each other and learn the ins and outs of managing this vital piece of church business.
This year, that tradition continued with a new format, as WatersEdge focused the seminars in two locations. The first was Sept. 27 at Owasso, First, while a second, identical seminar was Sept. 29 at Oklahoma City, Northwest. Event planners brought in a variety of new speakers—attorneys, retirement and payroll professionals, insurance agents and WatersEdge’s own in-house experts. Plus, new in-depth breakout sessions allowed attendees to tailor the information to their church or ministry’s specific needs.
“I think the best benefit of these seminars is to know what you’re doing wrong and what you need to change,” said Jessica Decoster, secretary and treasurer at Choteau, First. “In our church’s case, I’m kind of a one-man show, so it makes things easier when I know all that information.”
Decoster isn’t alone. Most Oklahoma Baptist churches are small with limited resources and staff to handle the complicated tax law. That made this year’s keynote address, during which Frank and Elaine Sommerville provided a broad overview of the latest updates in church taxes, accounting and legal issues, particularly helpful. Additional breakout sessions covered various topics including payroll, cybersecurity and the challenges in financing church construction. For Steve Larry, finance director at Tulsa, First, these sessions provided an extra level of detail and value.
“I’m a CPA, and I like to stay abreast of all the current developments tax-wise,” he said. “But I also brought one of my associates who’s a non-accountant, and it’s good for her to be see what we need to be doing on a daily and monthly basis. What I really liked this year was the breakout sessions, where we can split up, take it all in and compare notes later.”
More than 260 people attended the seminars, with an additional 75 joining virtually. Brad Johnson, chief financial officer at WatersEdge, helped plan the seminars and was pleased the events were able to help so many Oklahoma Baptist churches.
“WatersEdge exists to financially empower donors and ministries to transform lives with the Gospel,” Johnson said. “Sharing knowledge about taxes, internal controls and legal issues that impact churches is critical because it helps them ensure they are operating within best practices and are protected against fraud, fines and other hazards.
“Ultimately, these seminars help safeguard churches’ ability share Jesus and make disciples, and that’s what WatersEdge is passionate about.”