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‘Gifts exist to grow ministry, not bank accounts’

Stewardship Kaleidoscope workshop presenters say stewardship doesn’t end after the gift

by the Rev. Rebecca Mallozzi for the Presbyterian Foundation | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Stewardship Kaleidoscope, put on each year by the Presbyterian Foundation, was held Sept. 13-15 in the Cincinnati region. Most people attended online. (Photo by Gregg Brekke)

CINCINNATI — What are some of the best financial practices when it comes to handling church finances?

This was the question explored by the Rev. Joseph Moore and Mark Stauffer in the Stewardship Kaleidoscope 2021 workshop, “Stewardship After the Gift.” Moore, who is the Ministry Relations Officer for the South Central Region for the Presbyterian Foundation, said when talking about financial practices, we’re talking about systems and not people. The systems are in place to help protect the people and honor financial gifts entrusted to our churches.

“Stewardship doesn’t stop when you get the gift,” Moore said.

Knowing what to do with a gift and who has the responsibility for financial oversight of that gift is a large part of understanding best practices. The best practices help move money along. Stauffer, a retired financial professional and church treasurer with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said, “Gifts exist to grow ministry, not bank accounts.”

Stewardship Kaleidoscope was held September 13-15 in the Cincinnati region. The conference was held in a hybrid format, with the majority of attendees online.

Keeping track

Stauffer and Moore offered insights into four practices designed to empower the organization. They said the point isn’t to strive for perfection; the point is to minimize the ways in which something could go wrong. Those best practices included knowing who has financial oversight responsibility, following the Rule of Twos, tracking memorials and restricted funds, and finding and using the right financial records management options.

Keeping track of who knows and does what leads to a checks and balance system that can help protect people. Being clear about those expectations offers transparency to congregations in a way that lets them know their leaders take the responsibility seriously.

The Rev. Joseph Moore

“What does the Book of Order say about how much financial oversight responsibility a pastor has?” Moore asked. “None. How about in the real world? How much financial oversight responsibility does a pastor have? A lot.”

Making sure at least two unrelated people handle money at all times – whether counting money or opening mail that might have a check inside – is the Rule of Twos, and it offers protections not guaranteed to someone who counts alone.

Saying thank you

Tracking funds and using the right management options may look different in each ministry context, but the bottom line is the same: “It’s not a problem until it is,” Moore said. “None of this is ours. So the way we process the gifts entrusted to us matters.”

And if you do nothing else, Moore and Stauffer said, say thank you. Say thank you early, often, and authentically. Say thank you not just for financial gifts, but for every kind of gift whether it’s serving communion or driving the church van.

“Church leaders have an obligation to express gratitude,” Moore said. “What would it look like to dedicate the first 10 minutes of a session or council meeting to writing thank you notes? You will inspire an ethos of gratitude that will make a huge difference.”

The Rev. Rebecca (Becki) Mallozzi serves as pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Waynesburg College (Pennsylvania) with her Bachelor of Arts in English and communication and worked as a newspaper reporter before starting seminary. She graduated with her Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. Send comments on this article to Robyn Davis Sekula, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation, robyn.sekula@presbyterianfoundation.org.


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