Every week across the country, people put their hard-earned money into an offering plate as it’s passed down the aisle. There’s an implicit trust they place in church leaders to use that money wisely and with integrity. Church finance teams need to put certain safeguards in place to honor and maintain that trust.
Tip 1: Require at least three people to be present while counting the offering
Although text-to-give and online giving are becoming more popular, many people still give cash or checks. If you have three or more individuals present while counting the offering, it’s much harder for any one person to steal from the congregation.
Also, consider the reputation of the people counting the offering. If there’s ever a question about the amount deposited or concerns about the totals, it’s easier to provide evidence that the amounts were accurate when multiple people signed off during the counting process.
Tip 2: Clearly define levels of financial authority
Document and communicate who has authority to do the following:
- Sign checks (and at what amounts)
- Incur debt on behalf of the church
- Establish new bank accounts
- Use church debit/credit cards (for what types of purchases and at what spending limits)
In all instances, it’s best to have more than one unrelated person involved in these processes. That practice protects the church from individuals working together to commit fraud as well as those in authority from unwarranted accusations.
Tip 3: Document and use a process for handling benevolence requests
This process should include a request form, specific criteria for why a request would be approved or disapproved, how money will be dispersed, who has authority to approve the requests, and how the request will be documented from start to finish.
Tip 4: Develop and monitor an annual budget
A budget is simply a means of planning for how the church will allocate the money God (and the congregation) entrusts to the leadership. Honor that trust by taking the time each year to develop a budget. Each month, review financial reports that compare the budget against actual income and expenses. There will be times when it’ll make sense to deviate from the budget. However, that should be the exception rather than the rule.
Tip 5: Church leadership should review financial reports
The senior pastor, executive pastor, and leader of each department should review the budget vs. actuals for each ministry area on a monthly basis. Departmental leaders should explain any significant variances. This report should also be reviewed with church board, elders, and/or deacons.
Tip 6: Request an annual audit
Hire a neutral third party to audit your church’s accounting records annually and provide their findings to the senior pastor, board, elders, and deacons. This brings in unbiased experts to provide their opinion regarding how your accounting team is performing and the effectiveness of your accounting processes and policies; it also provides another layer of accountability. Consider providing the results of this audit in an annual report to the congregation.
As your congregation entrusts you with its tithes and offerings, take these steps to ensure those finances are spent effectively and with integrity. It’s easy to overlook the back-office processes since they don’t immediately look like ministry. However, maintaining the trust of your congregation and the community is a foundation upon which you build ministry.
This post was originally published at Velocity Ministry Management.