A Health Check on “Healthy Congregations” – Tom Mepham

More “reality check” questions … having diagnosed a problem, who in our system is accountable for taking action? The congregation? The Presbytery? Council of Assembly? What is the result of ignoring a “health” issue? Yes! Let’s ask PCANZ to go for a check-up!


Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

Since 1995’s General Assembly we have used a model for assessing the well-being of our Church called “Healthy Congregations” (see Appendix 1 in Strategic Directions). This provides us with a way to measure the health of each parish in the PCANZ. Putting this model to work would be the equivalent of sending a congregation to the doctor’s office for a full-scale health check up; and by extension, measuring the overall health of the whole PCANZ.

I wonder how healthy we are!

This model uses a qualitative assessment process (as is appropriate for measuring the most important things in church life) and focuses on four relationships: a congregation’s relationship with God; with the wider environment; with the wider church, and within it’s own life. (These are similar to the

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Strategic Planning or Herding Cats

Strategic Planning is one thing churches get hung up on and try to cover all their activities rather than narrow it down to the strategically important ones to focus on. This article is a good beginning and there are other resources if you follow the embedded links.

Clergy Coaching Network Blog

cat-334383_960_720The Reverend Dr. Teresa Angle-Young, Church Coaching Solutions

If strategic planning with your church feels like “herding cats” then listen up!

Clergy from around the country share with me that strategic planning can be one of their most frustrating processes, for the following reasons:

  • Getting leadership and/or staff to agree on strategy can feel like herding cats. As one pastor shared, “If we have 12 people in the room, that means there are 24 opinions on every issue.”
  • The strategic planning process results in too many ideas and priorities, so that the church tries to do too much and spreads itself thin.
  • After the leadership ratifies the strategy, the church doesn’t have the bandwidth to execute it, and so the strategy sits on shelf.

Strategy doesn’t have to be stressful. You can get your leadership aligned and in agreement about your church’s strategy. You can set up accountability structures so that…

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Understanding donations, grants and GST

I had a question on the GST treatment of donation and grants and found that the answer was not straightforward, so I have compiled what you need to know from the IRD and Charities Register.  If you want to discuss this or need more information, don’t hesitate to contact me.

GST treatment of grants and donations

I was asked this week if churches have to pay GST on a grant from PressGo (either from the Mission Enterprise Fund or from the Presbyterian Foundation).  The short answer is “no”, but the area around grants, donations, koha is a bit confusing so here is a guide with references back to the IRD website for additional information if you require it.

Churches are defined as charitable organisations and a charitable organisation needs to be registered by Charities Services to receive tax exemptions. Most charities don’t pay income tax, but many pay GST on taxable income and claim GST on expenses.

Donations made to a church by individual taxpayers are eligible for a rebate of one third the amount donated (up to the level of the donor’s taxable income).  In registering with Charities Services most churches will have Donee Organisation status and can offer this benefit to donors.  If you are registering a separate Trust with Charities Services (one your church set up to fund youth or community work for example) you need to make sure that you apply for Donee Organisation status at that time.

This is what IRD says about Donee Organisations:

An organisation must meet certain conditions before we can approve it as a donee organisation. You will find the qualifying criteria in our booklet Charitable organisations (IR255).

If your organisation is registering as a charity with the Charities Services, and indicates that donations are a source of income on the application form, this information will be passed on to us and we will automatically consider donee organisation status. If your organisation is not registered as a charity with the Charities Services you must apply in writing directly to us to be considered for benevolent, philanthropic or cultural donee status.

 Note: Donations to organisations that apply most of their funds overseas will not qualify for donee organisation status, unless the organisation:

  •  has been approved as a donee organisation by the New Zealand Parliament, or
  • sets up a separate fund maintained exclusively for providing money for charitable, benevolent, philanthropic, or cultural purposes within New Zealand.

 Donation receipts:

The donation receipt needs to show:

  • the name of the donor(s)
  • the amount and date of the donation
  • a clear statement that it is a donation
  • clearly at the top if the donation is a payroll giving donation
  • the signature of an authorised person, and
  • an official stamp with the name of the approved donee organisation.


Most gifts and donations are unconditional gifts.  This is a donation or payment made voluntarily to any non-profit body, where there is no identifiable direct benefit to the donor or the donor’s family.

Some unconditional gifts can be:

  • donations or koha
  • money from door-to-door appeals and street collections
  • bequests
  • voluntary school fees (but not school activity fees).

Subscriptions, payments from trading activities and payments made by the Crown or a public authority are not unconditional gifts for GST purposes. This includes grants from Lottery, COGs and your Local Body.

 Some grants are unconditional gifts (even if you are required to use the money for the purpose applied for and then complete accountability reports).  This includes grants from community and charitable trusts, statutory trusts like gaming and utility company trusts, grants via PressGo and some others.  Usually the application guidelines will tell you whether you need to pay GST on your grant.

If you are uncertain you could check with the Trust you are applying to, but the PressGo Catalyst can provide advice on this.

How to find out what income is liable for GST (and/or income tax):

Your organisation may receive many different types of income, including:

  • subscriptions
  • grants
  • subsidies
  • donations or koha
  • fees
  • raffle money
  • trading profits, and
  • proceeds from selling assets.

Some grants made to non-profit organisations can be an unconditional gift or donation, especially if given by charitable trusts.  This table makes clear how you should treat each from of income.

Liable for income tax Not liable for income tax Liable for GST Not liable for GST Exempt from GST
Subscriptions  y y
Donations & Charitable Grants y  y
Koha y*  y
Bequests  y y
Grants (from the Crown)  y y
Unconditional gifts  y  y
Subsidies y**  y
Suspensory loans  y y
Trading activities  y y
Raffles or housie proceeds y**  y
Admission fees  y y
Affiliation fees  y y
Sale of donated goods or services  y y
Sale of purchased goods  y y
Sale of assets or equipment  y y
Insurance receipts  y y**
Hall or equipment hire  y  y
Rent received (residential)  y  y
Rent received (commercial)  y y
Penalty payments (fines)  y  y
Advertising or sponsorship  y  y
Interest or dividends  y  y
Gaming machines (as an owner of machines)  y  y

*  The tax treatment of koha depends on what it is. See our booklet Payments and gifts in the Mäori community (IR278). ** Liable in certain situations.

If your income is exempt from GST

If your income is “exempt from GST”, it’s different from income that’s “not liable for GST”. This is important when you’re working out your claim for GST input tax credits on goods and services for your organisation.

Claiming input tax credits on expenses

If you’re a GST-registered non-profit organisation you may claim input tax credits on expenses.

These tax credits can be claimed on expenses gained from income that’s either:

  • liable for, or
  • not liable for GST.

Tax credits can’t be claimed on expenses gained from income that’s exempt from GST.


If you’re a GST registered non-profit organisation that receives income from… then you’re…
a government grant liable for GST
trading activities liable for GST
Donations and some grants not liable for GST
renting a residential property exempt from GST

As a non-profit organisation you may claim a GST input tax credit for all expenses, except those from receiving the rent, which is exempt from GST.

If you have any questions in this area, please contact the PressGo Catalyst for advice.


Lisa Wells, 22 May 2018

(Material abstracted from ird.govt.nz, correct at that date)


Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous

I’m not planning to reblog all the offerings on the Candour blog, but if Tom keeps writing like this I just might have to! This is a way of looking at continuous change that needs the widest possible audience! All of his points are valid in my experience, but can I draw your attention to “Ambiguity”. We struggle with not having the answer and knowing that a course of action will work out and then we get stuck in analysis / paralysis and fear results. What if our response was faith? Why is this a question I have to ask in a church setting!


Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

The world as we know it can be understood using the acronym VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

What do each of these words demand of us?

Volatility requires extra margins so that energy, time and resource don’t run out during unexpected crises. Keeping good boundaries should include the (five in this case) cornerstones of the whare: taha wairua (spiritual health), taha whānau (relational health), taha tinana (physical health), taha hinengaro (intellectual health) and taha pütea (financial health) – and probably other areas too.

Uncertainty requires resting deeply in identity. We might not know what the heck is going on, but we can take comfort in the fact that we’re called, empowered and sustained for such a time as this. Also, sometimes offence is the best form…

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The adaptable PCANZ: paradox or promise? – Tom Mepham

Awesome reflection from one of our interns! He’s talking a powershift. Have a look at non-recommendation 1 and 2 – exactly our struggle. We keep doing what we’ve alsways done and act surprised when we get what we’ve always got!


Tom Mepham is a first-year ministry intern with KCML and a co-leader of Student Soul, a young adult congregation in Dunedin.

The PCANZ is a good tribe to be a part of. The thought life is strong and capable. Rich history. Great people. And so on.

However, the question on my mind is: will the PCANZ sink, or soar?

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Charity. It’s not me, it’s you.

I found this stimulating discussion piece just before Christmas.  Lots to ponder on – from charity, fundraising and mission viewpoints.  A lot of this goes back to our understanding of “why” people are in poverty (or “income insecurity”) and the judgements we make on their situation.  The notion of the deserving and undeserving poor has never left us.  The reality is that when you have a lack of security for basic living resources, the menu of choices you have to select from is a great deal smaller and many of them are pragmatic short-term but poor long-term.  But you don’t have the luxury of always considering the long-term when children have to be fed today.

The question I would pose is how does this affect how we serve others as part of the Church when our default model is the charitable “doing to” rather than  “doing with”?  And how does it affect fundraisers, when there are no neat empathetic phrases?

Great questions to start the year off with!

This is the web reference http://www.aunties.co.nz/2017/12/24/charity-its-not-me-its-you/

And I hope I am not breeching any copyright by posting it as follows:

Charity. It’s not me, it’s you.

I started a bit of furore.

It was all a bit ridiculous. People getting exercised about something I’d said when they plainly had no idea what I’d said. You’d think I’d be sick of it, but I’m revving up for more, and I’ll tell you why shortly.

A bit of context, first: 4 years ago, almost to the day, I looked in the pantry at a women’s refuge. I’d asked first, to see what we could do about food. I was appalled. 50 tins of tomatoes in that pantry, and quite a few expired tins of chickpeas too. And then in another cupboard, more tinned tomatoes. All expired. It struck me then as a bloody ludicrous thing for there to be in the pantry of a house where women were living who were in varying states of crisis and upset,  and I wanted to throw them away. My friend Gloria was appalled that I would think of doing that, so I got some to her and she made the most exquisite spaghetti sauce (which the women ate communally).

On we went, and I decided that we would provide as much food for the women in that refuge as we were able. A givealittle page was started, we went shopping 4 times a year, and then moved on to just making sure the women had access to supermarket gift cards. The evolution, as you can see, was from PROVIDING for the women to making sure they could provide for themselves. Agency, and freedom, at a time in their lives when they hadn’t been used to any for a while. My thinking changed as my work and relationships with them progressed, and I tweaked the systems we had in place, with feedback from Kris, who ran the place, as to what would work best.

They never asked for tinned tomatoes when we went shopping for them, and I never saw many of them cook with them – and I did cooking lessons with them, so I knew what they liked to cook, each one. One of them LOVED cooking with tinned tomatoes, most did not. And certainly none of them cooked at all in their first few days there, if they’d come directly from the violence that had shattered their lives.

So. Was this ever about  tinned tomatoes? No. It was about trusting that people know what they want and need and providing access to those resources for them, so that they get to make their own choices.  And having a relationship with the people you’re supporting so that if you’re ever in a position where they need/want you to provide them with something and not get it for themselves, you know what it is that they’re likely to need/want, and make your judgements on that. 

Either way, the point was this: the person who drives the resourcing should be the person who needs the support, and not the people driving it. 

So how do we change the paradigm? How do we start looking at giving people agency?

Let’s start with the language. Language is incredibly important because the “wrong” language can make people feel even more “less than” than they may already feel. More judged. More of a failure.

At the moment, there’s a lot of buzzwords and phrases around:

  • children in poverty
  • feed the need
  • the less fortunate
  • poor
  • deprived

I’ve been around this stuff for a while now, and I’ve always used the words “living in poverty” but recently, I’ve started using the term “deliberately under resourced”. Because that is, in my opinion. what it is. All the other words/terms are simply byproducts of that under resourcing.
A low wage economy, prohibitive rents, benefits that are set to be deliberately unliveable.

And, even amongst liberals there’s this idea that people are down on their luck. No. No, they’re not down on their luck. For the people I work with, they never had any luck because the system is set to shut them out. Deliberately. There’s no acknowledgement of it, but that’s what it is.

And why are they where they are in the first place? It may be different for a lot of people who are struggling, but for the people I work with, by and large, this stuff is generational, and it’s to do with – not to put too fine a point on it – colonisation. Loss of land, disruption of culture, prejudice finding good jobs and good housing. All of those things which started many many years ago and have continued to this day. And how do you change that? How do you even begin to fix that? You acknowledge it’s happened and you strive to put it right, and in the case of The Aunties, my belief is that we start by understanding that whatever support someone asks for, and we resource them to take advantage of that support, that is what they’re owed. Because most of you reading this will be perfectly comfortable. I certainly am. This is not about white guilt. This is about recognising that the system that has privileged me by dint of the family I was born into, is the same one that has shat on the women I work with. It’s as simple as that.

We can also shift the paradigm by thinking about what charity actually means. I don’t like the word “charity” – it doesn’t describe what the Aunties do, and it’s demeaning to the people we support, and resource. We don’t dispense charity – we are a whānau, a community, supporting and resourcing other members of our whānau. I’ve always said people need shit, we get it for them. But it’s always been a bit more complicated than that. Because you have stuff other people need, you get it to me, and ostensibly I give it to them, who need it, right?  Kind of. What actually happens if that you offer me stuff, and I decide who can use it because I have a relationship with them, or their social worker, and in the cases where I know the person directly, I ask them. Or the stuff gets to the storage unit, and I don’t even ask them what they need anymore. I just tell them what’s there, they come and get what they need or want. There’s no middle person, it’s just them making their own decisions.

Because we’re not in communist Russia. When you go to the supermarket you take what you need, don’t you? And there’s a whole range of choices. Well, the way I work things is that the stuff is there, all sorts of stuff, and you do the same thing. Except it’s free. A number of charities have started doing this with food – they call it the food pantry approach. And some have done a Christmas Loft, where clients get to choose their own kids presents. Because, let’s face it, when someone else has wrapped the present, and put an age and gender on it, that’s a bit shit. And I think that we need to move away from this model of charity where you get what you’re given. It’s disempowering and designed to make the person recieving feel like a piece of poo. Because you have to be grateful.  And here’s one of the other things I want to talk about……

Why should you be grateful for something you never asked for, and that you have no hand in deciding whether you get it or not? And why would you be grateful, even if you do need, say, towels, when they’re not even good enough for a dog? Or they’re not the colour you like, best? Or they’re just a bit threadbare?

No. I say no. Enough.

I’ve always said: give with love. I want to change that up. Gift with love. Resource with intent, and in a specific and client based – hate the word, it’ll do for the moment – way. Bring the focus back to the person who’s getting what they need, and not the person who’s giving it. Because, and here’s something else to think about, there is a huge power imbalance in all of this. You have something they need, they feel the pressure to be grateful. Power imbalance.

I know about this stuff because I get it all the time. I have to stop women from being over the top with gratitude – I’ve started talking to people I work with about their agency. That I understand that I’m bringing/getting them stuff and so they feel like they have to repay me with their story, or opening their lives to me. No. They don’t. And when I say it, they say: but I would tell anyone else this.

I happen to be someone people tell stuff, deep stuff, to anyway, and quite quickly. And if people are comfortable doing that, that’s fine. But when we have the discussion about it, and that stuff is clarified, we can be on a more even keel – though because of who I am and why I initially meet them, that’s still there. I’m always aware of it, and I always have been. So I want to shift that by having this conversation with other people who work in this field. How do you add some balance? How do your clients? For me, it’s about sharing about my life, and who I am.

How about, then, instead of dashing just to resource people – getting them what they need based on what they’ve asked for, and relationships built – we also, as communities of people who make it our business to concern ourselves with supporting other people when they’re struggling , think about that power imbalance, why it exists, and how we can do our jobs in a way that redresses that? Invites people to take back some power and have a say in their own resourcing? Indeed, build them into the very core of our communities. Their voices, and thoughts. Their concerns, and dreams. We can do that.

And I’m not fond of the idea of helping people. Making a difference. Changing people’s lives. Only they can do that. We can support them to do whatever they need us to support them in, but we don’t change their lives. We may touch their lives, we may impact their lives in some way. But that’s all.  This is about agency. Supporting people, in The Aunties case, in a number of ways,  while they still live in, or have left, domestic violence.

We can move from a model of charity where we act as parental, to a model where we act as equals, as much as is possible. Empower people to do whatever they need to do to bring them out of those struggles, if that’s what they want to do.

I know these are new and very challenging ideas to many people. And I know this because even  the suggestion that charities are allowed to say no to donations made people very angry. Completely spun some people out. There was talk of ingratitude. Yes, there was.

And I hear, over and over, what if there were no charities? What if we had a society that didn’t need charities? In my opinion, we will always need communities who help each other out, support each other, and share resources. It is, after all, what it means to be a community. You can call those charities, but I know which word I prefer. Which idea is much more supportive and empowering to people who are struggling, in any way.

So I’m asking you all, for the New Year, to consider my thoughts. Consider them as Xmas gifts to you.  I know this model of charity can work, because The Aunties are already largely doing it. I invite you to join us, whether you run a charity, work for a charity, or support one.

We don’t need our community to be grateful. We just need our community to be okay. All of us. To be okay. We can do that.



Saving Advent from Christmas – Malcolm Gordon

Malcolm comments on the confronting message of advent: the last paragraph sums up the subversive message: “Advent has a distinct gift to make if we are willing to receive it. It is not the gift that many of us want, but it is the gift that all of us need. It is about unnerving settled and domesticated hope, it is about toppling temples that stand for empty religion and being willing to live amidst the piles of rubble trusting that something new and God-given is coming. Instead of rushing ahead in the story, acting as if we already have all we could want, we need to keep step with the saints, like John the Baptist, Simeon and Anna. If we can long for God throughout Advent, we may find that it is God that we truly receive come Christmas time.” This is a must read, especially when we are going through the motions rather than reflecting anew on God’s good news.


I once heard William Willimon lecture at Otago University. He told a story of some students he had taken on a mission trip to Haiti during their summer break. During one of the final evenings of the trip, the students sat around a camp fire and shared their favourite passages of scripture with one another:

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