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Handling church money brings great responsibilities

 

Faithful financial practices to start — or revisit — today

By Joseph Moore | Presbyterians Today

Over the years, I have had the privilege of serving three very different churches. One was a historic urban congregation with a sizable administrative staff. One was a rural, mountain church where I was the only staff person. The third was a multistaff, big-steeple congregation in a midsize city. While worship styles and other ways of doing things differed in these churches, the handling of money was a responsibility that either the staff or volunteers had to deal with in all three ministry contexts. And with people having an endless number of charities and nonprofits to give their limited resources, churches need to be the very best, most faithful and most responsible places toward which we ask people to give. Churches have a moral obligation to handle people’s gifts in the most responsible way they can. That wisdom is just as true in small churches as it is in large ones.

I want to suggest a few simple practices that can help your congregation be a place in which people have confidence in giving their funds to support the work of the church.

You need more than a church treasurer for good financial management. As faithful Presbyterians, we all know that God alone is God. And yet, in many churches, the treasurer rules over finances in a way that goes against our polity. Remember, it is the session that is ultimately responsible for financial decisions in the life of the church. The treasurer is but one member of a team of people who should be involved in the financial management of the church.

Remember the rule of twos. You should always have two people open the mail, as checks and other important financial information might be within the envelopes. Even when times of social distancing might be in place, mail can be opened together via Zoom or FaceTime. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than one person doing it alone. Churches should also have a rotating group of two unrelated people to count the offering. Yes, no family members should be part of a team, which sometimes happens in very small churches. You should always have two people process the deposit. One fills out the deposit slip, and another reconciles the deposit with the bank statement. Finally, you should have two people involved in writing and reconciling checks. One processes the checks, and another reconciles them with the bank statement. The smallest congregation can — and should — follow the rule of twos.

Use electronic software for financial records. There are dozens of relatively inexpensive online accounting software programs for churches to use. You don’t need anything fancy. But you do need something that can be easily backed up and that more than one person can access. Remember the rule of twos above. Churches must balance confidentiality with accountability. We need one another to be accountable. And the days of having one person carry home the only paper account ledger for the church should be long gone. The same goes for taking home money to be counted.

Even the smallest of churches need more than one way for people to give. If this era of social distancing has taught us anything, it’s that we need various ways to be the church. Churches have responded by having Zoom meetings and livestreaming worship, and many have created opportunities for online giving. If you haven’t, you should. (The Presbyterian Foundation has an easy-to-use and cost-effective online giving platform. Get information.)

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Finally, no matter the size of your church, there are denominational resources available to help you navigate financial management and stewardship in 2020. The Presbyterian Foundation, as well as your presbytery, have resources available at no cost to your congregation. Just ask.

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, and it might seem basic. But often it is the most basic practices we let fall by the wayside. Following these practices will put you on a path toward faithful financial management that will honor God and those who support the church. It might also inspire more generous support of the work God is doing in your midst.

Joseph Moore, an ordained PC(USA) pastor, serves as a ministry resource officer for the Presbyterian Foundation. He serves Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.

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