Pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about financial integrity in the church.
Jesus told about a dishonest manager of a business who manipulated the business procedures of a company for his own gain, and then He said of us, “people of the light,” that we should be shrewd with the use of money. Not dishonest of course, but wise. Wiser.
See it in Luke 16. And then see if your church finance policies are shrewd. That means they have “a clever awareness or resourcefulness, especially in practical matters.”
Some churches still operate with a “ma and pa operation” mentality. One person signs the requisition and the check, and another counts the money, or the pastor sets his own salary, or the petty cash fund is easily grabbed.
So this month we check ourselves and our readers (and video-watchers) on one of three main areas of moral failures for church leaders, money, mammon, offerings.
Correction and correct ways start with a desire to be squeaky clean in this area, followed by very good policies and checks. And if someone who does not need strict policies thinks you do not trust them, tell them you are writing them for the other people. 🙂
We must be shrewd.
For the good of the church,
Knute, for Jeff and Jim
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What policies help to ensure financial integrity?
…All policies ought to have a very strong degree of accountability (budgets and documentation) and layers.
…Accountability and budgets
…Finances must be pre-thought and pre-planned with due diligence, so budgets can bring accountability and financial discipline. Establish and adhere to them as the general rule.
…They should have flexibility for the sake of effective ministry. If you have to flex your budget, the reality of the new budget should be reflected the next year.
…Accountability and documentation
…When the church’s money is spent, it should be documented—where it’s going and what it’s being spent for (i.e., all receipts should be turned in, all mileage should be recorded accurately, etc.).
…When interacting with the finances of the church there should be multiple people involved in the process.
…When developing layering, be very careful not to become full of red tape.
…The credibility of layering is very important (i.e., pastors should never be able to write checks on behalf of the church. Also, when counting money there should always be multiple people in the room).
…There should be a finance team in which multiple people are looking over the investments and accountability of the money. At no time should there ever be only one person in charge of accounting or only one person who has access to the church finances. This is a recipe for embezzlement and disaster.
Spending the church’s money
…We have a little saying here at Grace. “It’s Arletta’s money.” Arletta Peters was an 85-year old widow who tithed from her Social Security check. So, we’ve always used that concept, it is always a little old lady’s sacrificial giving, when we are spending money.
…Whether we’re spending $10 or a million dollars, that money has come from the hard work of God’s people giving to the Lord out of faithfulness to build the church of Jesus Christ.
…Every dollar is important and should be accounted for with professionalism and sobriety.
…This does not mean we should hoard the Lord’s money. Money is given so it can be spent, and we should invest the Lord’s money in a serous fashion.
…You can never have too much integrity in this area.
…Make sure at least two people count your money.
…Give access to books to someone who is gifted in finances to keep integrity in check.
…Have a security team in place to move money from the auditorium to a safe after collecting offerings.
…Screen your ushers with background checks.
…Have a staff person in place to keep the books, or get an accountant from outside to check on finances.
…A pastor should never touch the offering plate or the money.
…Give weekly reports.
…Transport money to the bank with security.
…Balance the checkbook monthly—sounds simple but many let it go months without doing so.
…Train your financial secretary or business manager.
…Create an honest system where the right people have access to all the financial dealings.
…The normal checks and balances—someone or two must sign a requisition for a check before it can be written. And the two parties are not related or best friends!
…Offerings are counted by multiple people certified by the board, with rotating teams. Not the same two people in the same back room every week! Nothing wrong with video in that room either. One church had a man taking a little each week when five people were counting.
…There are careful records kept at every step, and a clear approved plan for taking the money to the bank deposit.
…The pastor and pastoral staff do not touch money. I would not even receive an offering envelope from someone who came late or missed the offering.
…Books are not only kept well, but the monthly report is examined in detail by a small finance team which reports to the board. Some boards give cursory glance at the monthly meeting because they trust the financial secretary and treasurer and want to get home for the game.
Should pastors know what leaders and staff give?
…Yes and no. It’s not necessary for the pastor to check in weekly and make sure his staff is giving 10% of their income, but pastors should definitely know their leaders and staff are giving, and with the certainty that they’re giving on the level of a tithe, with consistency, generosity, and in obedience to the Lord.
…Example of when it’s appropriate for the pastor to know: Here at Grace Church, giving is a requirement for eldership. When applying for eldership we’ll actually pull the giving records and make sure the candidate is giving in a generous and consistent way. We believe this is important because as an overseer of the church you need to be investing in the work of the ministry in this way.
…For starters, we ask our staff in our yearly evaluations if they tithe.
…We include tithing in our membership commitment.
…Your leadership team should be givers; you can’t lead others in this area if you are not giving.
…I also believe giving begins with the pastor and he should model generosity to his church.
…When we set up our capital campaign team, we had our financial records person give us a list of our top 50 givers so we could then select the team from that list.
…In some cases it is okay for the pastor to know and that we want access to the other important areas.
…At the minimum the pastor should be free to check for accountability.
…When we hire we share that it is a value to tithe to the local church.
…In the same way you have access in some fashion, they should have the same access to your giving as pastor.
…You can never go wrong with healthy accountability.
…Only if the board or finance committee know what the pastor gives.
…It does make sense to have a certain level of giving set for strong leaders, since they are being asked to set oversight or pastoral direction for the church. And our checkbooks do show where our hearts are. This can be done with the one person who knows the giving records giving a red light or a green light to the pastor.
…Some churches ask staff and board to tithe to that local church. What would Jesus do? We do not know, so we simply must decide what is shrewd and careful. One man told me, “I tithe 2%” and objected when I told him that was impossible, given the meaning of tithe.” Which leads to our third question…
Talk about tithing and other common challenges.
…Probably the biggest realization about tithing is this fact: people don’t do it.
…The average Christian who gives regularly, gives 3% of his income!
…In general, this is a weak point in almost all churches.
…A common challenge that comes along with this is the way people think:
…Recent surveys show that especially the younger in the congregation think equally of giving their time and their money. When they volunteer for the weekend they feel like they have “tithed” to the church, so clarifying that is important.
…For younger givers, we need to have immediate electronic-giving available. They are less apt to write a check, put it in a giving envelope, tuck it into their pocket, and put it in the offering plate as it goes by in the service.
…They’re much more apt to hear of a cause, immediately get their phone out, and text money to support that cause. There’s nothing unspiritual about this per se, but the church needs to have the electronic avenues available. It’s how they handle their finances now.
…Another challenge is outside giving.
…Many people give to causes outside the church as well as the church and they add all that giving together and think of that as their tithe.
…I have to decide where I stand on this issue. Then I need to have a compelling vision for my local church so they can be as passionate about the “causes of the church” as they are about the outside causes asking for their money.
…Preach and teach about money—in the church calendar regularly.
…Offer financial classes for your congregation.
…I personally believe that the enemy envelops pastors and leaders with fear in this area.
…It takes money to support everything in our world. Why in the world would we not want to support the local church, where people find hope and salvation?
…Be unapologetic about how money supports the vision. Paint a clear picture of how giving leads to transformed lives.
…I often share a story of a changed life by saying, “Because you gave, this happened.”
…If it is left unaddressed, giving will naturally decline.
…The first time I looked and really cared about weekly giving was when I became a pastor. People will likewise assume everything is okay, unless you inform them.
…God owns it all, and the way He gives is through His people. So teach them how to courageously allow God to give through them.
…Giving is also the first thing that declines when there is no vision from the pastor. People need to know why they should give. They want a great reason to do so!
…Most of us would say there is room for liberty in our convictions, under grace. We can differ: some teach a strict 10%….Some say giving starts at 10%…Some say you “bring the tithes into the storehouse” (real, local church) and then giving “offerings” over and above that…. Some say we should never talk about giving or money, since some people do not like it. Though Jesus seemed to talk about it quite a bit.
…Some people are very generous and need to be thanked. Some have never learned to give and need to be taught and motivated. All of us need to be challenged to support ministries and effectively show action love and share the gospel. Almost all of us have a lot (“much was given,” so “much will be required”—Luke 12:48).
…There is probably more discretionary money with believers in your church than you can imagine. And many good ministries already know that and are asking.
…Just as you or the worship leader should ask people individually to help with worship music, and you or the youth leader should ask some strong with youth to help there, so we should ask some strong givers personally to do more. It goes with the calling. Even if we do not like to do this.
Vol. 4, Issue 2
Produced by CE National
Pastorpedia is produced monthly by three experienced pastors: Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios of our contributors.