As Christians, we are all meant to glorify God in all that we do – and this means in all areas of our lives including church financial management.
The ways that our churches manage their finances is an extremely important witness to God’s Glory. We believe that Christians are meant to operate at a higher level than non-Christians and secular organisations. Righteousness is the standard that pleases God and brings favour amongst people.
For more than 25 years we have worked with churches and their finance teams to setup and maintain accounting systems and financial management. We have found that many people undervalue the financial management of their church and consequently do not direct enough time, effort or money into managing the finances.
Often there is a mentality in churches and not-for-profit organisations that every dollar spent on administration reduces the money available to be spent on the ministry of the church.
However, without good financial management, a church is vulnerable to weak planning and budgeting, waste in the use of all financial resources, fraud and embezzlement, fines and many more problems.
Time and money well spent in the financial management of a church can:
- significantly reduce the risk of financial problems
- provide more information to manage all aspects of stewardship of resources
- more support for those in leadership and management of the church.
The outcomes are clear
- better decisions are made
- better use of money
- the church provides an attractive environment for church members to confidently give their tithes and offerings.
We believe that as we raise the standard of financial management in our church God is glorified and our church will thrive and flourish.
Here are 5 principles of Christian financial management that people involved in church leadership, can embrace:
- We are above reproach
- We operate in Excellence
- We plan properly
- We abide by the law
- We value People
1. We are above reproach
Some clear principles for leaders of the church are provided in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7. “The leader must be above reproach”, or “blameless”.
The standard that we are above reproach requires us to be accountable and transparent. This acknowledges that the resources already belong to God and the finance team are stewards on behalf of and leading the people of the church.
No one is above the rules – not even the rector/minister/pastor, committee, leaders.
Practically, we recommend that all transactions have proper documentation and are approved as per the financial policies and delegations. It follows that the reporting must be with full and truthful disclosure of all the finances.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?..” Luke 16:10-13
2. We operate in Excellence
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Excellence in every aspect of the finances. This means efficient processes and procedures, a current, effective accounting system that records the transactions and produces the reports without manipulation. All people involved with the finances must be trained to follow these processes and comply with policies.
Take advantage of new technologies. There are more and more amazing time saving, more accurate and secure ways to process transactions and provide accountability than ever before. Be open to investigating and adopting those that are appropriate for your church.
3. We plan properly
Some churches believe that Christians should not need to plan; however, Jesus made it clear that it is important to plan for an effective result
Jesus said “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will you not first sit down and estimate the cost and see if he has enough money to complete it?” Luke 1:28
Annual and multi-year budgets are necessary for the whole church and each department and activity. Also, for larger-budget churches and organisations, interim forecasts with cash flow projections are important.
4. We abide by the law
We have found that many churches overlook the necessity of maintaining a watch on updates to legal and accounting compliance requirements. In this way, they ignore their need to adhere to the law of the land. Strangely, some churches assume that their church is exempt from these requirements.
Here are just some of the laws and regulations, so, you need to identify what applies to your church:
- ATO requirements around payroll, such as STP, PAYG, Non-cash Benefits
- FairWork regulations
- Fringe Benefit Tax Obligations for Religious Practitioners
- Obligations in the area of paying for people’s services (assuming there are no taxation liabilities is a significant risk)
- GST obligations
- Reporting Cash transactions
- Other local, state and federal government requirements
It is a significant risk for the church or organisation to simply assume that requirements “do not apply to our church”. Get proper advice before deciding or assuming.
Not-for-Profit organisations and particularly Religious organisations and their staff have substantial benefits and concessions.
If we do not adhere to the law, there is considerable risk to particular churches and people losing these privileges.
5. We Value People
It is essential for church leaderships to care for and value the time of the people – paid and unpaid, staff and volunteers. This especially recognises that much of the administrative and financial management burden in churches is performed by volunteers.
Some practical ways to support and encourage volunteers are:
- Reduce the amount of time required for people to perform the tasks:
- Use efficient systems in place
- Ensure that people are given enough training and support
- Ensure that what is expected from people is clear and documented
- Be open to new ways of operating – especially as technology is advancing to save time and provide more accountability and transparency
- Plan to review and improve some procedures and systems every year – step by step – implement one or two improvements in financial management every year.
- Recognise those people working for the church behind the scenes as much as those seen
- Do not over-work your volunteers
- Provide paid assistance to reduce the workload
- Celebrate their contribution publicly, such as with an annual dinner
- Reduce the amount of time required for people to perform the tasks:
Roles related to financial management in the church are a special privilege and therefore carry great responsibility – to the people and to God.
We pray that the points in this blog are helpful for you in your reflection on, and application to, the roles in the financial management of your church.
We hope you have enjoyed this article.
How can Benkorp help you activate these principles for your church finances?
Want to talk?
Please let us know if you would like to discuss any of these items further.