As U.S. agencies continue cracking down on U.S. money given toward funding international works, we want to make sure all our U.S. ministers and churches are operating in accordance. These laws are not new, but they are being newly re-enforced with more fervor. Today, we want to share how you, our ministers and church leaders, can stay within compliance, all while continuing to carry out your ministry and be a blessing to those around you.
Here, you won’t find the answers to every situation, with all its intricacies. But you can find a starting point to get you heading the right direction. This will help to keep you and your church safe, and also in step with Romans 13:1, which says, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities” (ESV). You’ll also find resources to continue to research, as well as people to whom you can direct any additional questions.
At Foursquare, we are working hard to make sure you and your church are well taken care of. We want you to focus on what God has called you toward: the ministry. One of the benefits of being in our Foursquare family is your access to organizational support for times like these. We’re here for you. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
What/Who Are These Laws For?
The laws in question are being enforced by U.S. agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Their goal: to ensure no U.S. dollars are going toward funding terrorist acts or suspicious activities—directly or indirectly, with or without your knowledge. These laws are also designed to ensure that registered churches and religious organizations steward all funds in accordance with their tax-exempt purpose. So, if you ever provide funds to someone not living in the U.S. or to a non-U.S. organization, this is for you.
The Problem: How Do I Know If I’m Affected?
Let’s say you want to send money directly to a person or project in another nation. This means anyone living outside of the United States. You think, “I’ll just wire them the money as a personal gift” or “My church will send a check right away to help that situation.” That’s considered an international transaction. You are funding international work, directly.
Unfortunately, the motive doesn’t matter. Whether you’re blessing the national leader of Haiti who’s been working tirelessly for Christ or you’re looking to get churches in Venezuela money to buy food amid economic crisis, it’s still an international transaction and may be prohibited by IRS rules.
U.S. agencies are cracking down to ensure no U.S. dollars are going toward funding terrorism or suspicious activities. That’s important.
You might think, “Well, I know this person or church well; there’s no way the money will be spent on terrorism.” That’s a wonderful thought, and often true. But it’s not guaranteed.
Here’s a comparable story about a small parachurch ministry from Oregon. Their team sent funding to an orphanage. The orphanage was filled with kind-hearted people, who appreciated the gift. Those people bought lumber, as they promised, with the U.S. funds. Little did the orphanage staff know that the lumber company was actually a shell organization for a known terrorist organization. Fast forward: Between the executive director of that Oregon ministry and the ministry itself, they were convicted of funding terrorism, facing fines, loss of tax-exemption status and even jail time. Ministers and leaders, we don’t want that for you or for Foursquare.
Does This Mean I Can’t Give Money to International Works?
No, that’s not the case. Keep giving generously toward good works in other nations. The Lord is at work around the world, and we can all take part. We want you to be able to support international workers and missionaries, to care for national leaders, and to provide for those in need globally. You just need to be sure your money is spent well, in accordance to U.S. law. Fortunately, Foursquare offers a way to do this.
The Solution: How Can I Give Monetary Gifts, in Accordance With Laws?
With the complicated laws on international transactions, your best option is to send your money through an established nonprofit agency, with staff trained in these laws and equipped to do the footwork for you. Think legal clarity, submitted budgets, disbursement directives, and additional checks and balances.
For those of us in the Foursquare family, we benefit from having one such organization at the core to our mission. If you want to financially fund work overseas, give through Foursquare Missions International (FMI).
Foursquare offers the required level of oversight through FMI, and its ministries like Foursquare Disaster Relief (FDR).
Yes, there may be the occasional occurrence when you may want to gift toward an international work but the transaction cannot be completed due to nation closures or similar complications. But, that case is rare. For the most part, FMI is available to provide a means for giving that keeps ministry well-funded across the world.
So, want to bless a missionary? Help people in crisis after a national disaster? Support international works, from church planting development to water wells? Give via FMI, and let FMI’s staff, in partnership with ICFG, handle it for you.
You can also give via other large missions agencies, with U.S. bases, who have demonstrated an adherence to the principles advocated by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). If you absolutely prefer to go directly to a pastor or church outside of the U.S., instead of through a trusted organization, you may but beware of the risks. You can refer to this resource published by the Church Tax and Law Group, enlist legal help, or refer to additional resources or webinars offered by the ECFA. It can be a lot to do your due diligence, but it is available to you.
If you have any questions, please reach out to our staff, like FMI’s Donor Care Lead Bryan Hernandez.
Thank you, Foursquare ministers and leaders, for operating within the guidelines of our government while continuing to bless our international family.