SIDEBAR: Good to Great
Managing Church Finances
by Rollie Dimos
Church leaders face decisions every day that affect the health of their churches. Decisions related to financial operations can have a lasting impact on all aspects of ministry.
Making the right choices, adopting proper procedures, and implementing adequate financial controls will go a long way toward ensuring a healthy church.
Unfortunately, some well-meaning leaders make decisions that negatively impact the church’s financial success and leave the ministry vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse. Don’t let these seven financial mistakes sideline your Kingdom mission.
1. Allowing one person to have complete control of the finances. Better practice: Segregate key financial duties. This simply means that no one person has custody of assets or the ability to authorize and record transactions. It is the most important way an organization can protect itself from misuse or abuse of funds.
2. Letting the bookkeeper count the offering and make the deposit. Better practice: At a minimum, two people should receive, count, and record donations. Deposits should be reconciled to contribution records for accountability, and someone who doesn’t make the deposits should review the bank accounts.
3. Signing checks without looking at (or requiring) support. Better practice: Properly support all checks with an invoice or approved purchase request. Someone other than the preparer should review and sign checks. Never sign blank checks.
4. Allowing employees to use credit cards without limits. Better practice: Limit access to credit cards and establish purchase limits. Support and document the business purpose of each transaction. As with any other purchase, follow approval guidelines.
5. Failing to create a budget and monitor its execution. Better practice: Create a financial budget at the beginning of the year that includes estimates of revenue and expense for all operations and ministries of the church. Monitor the budget during the year as a financial tool to help manage expenses.
6. Failing to prepare and review monthly financial reports. Better practice: Create financial reports each month showing the income and expense activity for the month and current year. This provides the board with complete and timely financial information.
7. Ignoring the power of an audit. Better practice: Have an independent audit performed to scrutinize your financial processes. Enlist a team of business people from your congregation to review your processes, or hire a local CPA firm.
Financial controls, or internal controls, are tools that increase accountability, transparency, and integrity of financial operations. These controls are the tools that promote good stewardship.
For an in-depth assessment of your financial processes, visit ej.ag.org/financialcontrolsassessment and click on the “Financial Controls Assessment” link. This 10-minute assessment tool will review your financial processes and determine the strength of your controls. After completing the assessment, you will receive a list of resources to help improve your processes.
Rollie Dimos, Springfield, Missouri