Not just Committees, Treasurers and Finance Departments of churches and ministries 

This is a formidable combination as a headline for any church or ministry.
It appears to be more like the heading of the daily business news – TV, email, social media or newspaper.
It is not what we expect to see emblazoned around our local church or in the latest bulletin from our favourite ministry 

Why is that? 

Why don’t we talk about money and finances in church circles?
What is it about ministry finances that we think it unimportant enough to not discuss?
How about preaching, when was the last time you heard this topic preached or taught from the pulpit (about managing the finances not just about another giving program)? 

The interesting point is that Jesus did not hesitate to address topics of money and he didn’t shy away from helping people learn about money. Jesus didn’t just talk about giving and giving more.  

It is about time that talking about money management around church is not left to the domain of the select few: Committees, Treasurers and Finance Departments 

How often have you heard it preached, prayed and taught that “we give this money (tithes and offerings) to the church for You Lord to direct how it is used”, “we trust the finance leaders in our church to manage the money, Lord please guide them”. Or there is the comment: “I/we don’t know much about managing money and so we leave it to the experts”. 

As we entrust our giving into the hands of professionals and volunteers at our churches what are we doing to support, encourage and review their activities? It is our money and we have some responsibilities in the management of the finances. At the same time many churches and ministries receive funding from sources other than direct giving, such as grants from government and businesses, bequests and loans. All of these can add to substantial funds for the use of the church and ministry. 

Recently a friend of mine shared a post on social media. The leader of a ministry was asking for more donations and indicating that the giver could do it by sacrificing just a small amount per day to support the ministry because of the desperate needs of the beneficiaries. What did anyone, even my friend, know about the ministry and its financial management? I was certainly suspicious. 

This provides a stark reminder that it is incumbent on the givers to have some due diligence on the recipients and their use of the contributions. I am not suggesting that there is corruption everywhere. However, we need to help the people who do manage our contributions. Here a 4 key areas for your “active interest”: 

  1. Transparency– open accounts, honesty about remunerations, and open declarations of conflicts of interest. 
  1. Accountability– just because accounts are audited is not sufficient. One of the points we have discovered at Benkorp is that there are auditors who do not understand how NFPs and churches operate, financial management, tax situations and legal requirements. NFPs and churches are not business and cannot be treated as such by accountants, bankers and financial managers or boards, committees, treasurers and finance departments. 
  1. Risk management– whilst there are regular areas of risk management for ordinary households and businesses there are differences for churches and ministries. These must be identified, addressed and protected – such as volunteers, children, locations of ministry activities. Sometimes the protection includes specialist insurances as well as policies, procedures and reporting. 
  1. Financial Reporting– there are standards especially setup for NFPs and Churches in general as well as the specific requirements of denominations. It is essential that these are adhered to, responded to and followed-up, where there are issues with either the timeliness, production of the reports or the contents of the reports. 

I was at a conference with CMA in September this year when we addressed these issues and more. It was alarming on occasions to learn that many churches and ministries are struggling with matters of governance and financial management while the members are generally oblivious to the situations. 

No matter what your level of involvement in managing the finances of your church or ministry it is incumbent on you to take an active interest at whatever point is appropriate for you. We are not suggesting that everyone is involved in checking and detail. We are suggesting that you have an active interest. As a member of the church or ministry that makes use of your giving you are able to be interested in those funds. 

 

 

What are some practical tips for an active interest? 

  • Ask questions at meetings where financial reports are presented or should be presented 
  • Ask for the financial reports to be presented in “easy to understand format” 
  • Expect to receive answers that you and other members can understand and find acceptable 
  • Are there ministry people involved on the budgets as well as finance people?
  • Offer to help with the paperwork related to transactions 
  • Offer to help with counting the offerings and donations 
  • Are you a ministry or department leader – do you participate in preparation of your ministry-budget? 
  • Ask ahead of the AGM for copies of reports in order to review the financial and related reports 
  • How are conflicts of interest reported and dealt with? 
  • From your understanding of the church and ministry activities, review the risk profiles of the church and ministries and refer to the published reports 

These are just some examples to help you consider your involvement and how you can participate and support the financial management of your church or ministry. Start by simply asking some questions. 

Maybe this is your time to take a more active interest in the finances? 

For further reading Talk money,  Improved financial management  

Please contact us to discuss this article further or you need any help with your church’s financial management processes at [email protected] or 1300 138 627 

 

© Benkorp Management Services Pty Ltd 2018