Integrity Maintained Through Accountability
Practicing integrity, begins with the receiving, and the counting of the offerings. Volunteer counters or ushers should be used to count the offering. The Senior Pastor should never handle or count the offering. In many small churches the pastors wife is often the bookkeeper and treasurer but, in order to protect her from any untoward criticism, she should always include another person in the task of counting. Following is listed several functions of ‘handling monies,’ and where one person might be able to do all of them, they should never be involved in more than three of the following six functions:
- count the offering; [Should always be done by 2 or 3]
- post the accounting records; [Usually the Treasurer, or his assignee, if the By-Laws so authorize] Once the offering is counted and a report prepared, then the administrative staff will record the offering.
- deposit the monies;
- determination of bills to be paid; Usually the Board, [or Pastor or Treasurer if the By-Laws so authorize]
- writing the checks; [determined by Board action]
- signing the checks; [determined by Board action]
When there is a lack of responsible people to call upon, one person could perform any three of the above tasks, but never more. This will provide the proper segregation of duties and some fundamental internal controls. Ideally when checks are written, they should be handed over to another person who will affix his signature and mail it, accompanied with the bill to be paid.
Special Offerings Taken:
When extra offerings are taken for a special need or purpose, you are required to segregate the monies for that specific purpose. This can be done by internal segregation ["Fund accounts" within the church General Account], or a separate bank account. If a particular amount is needed for a project, and more funds come in than is needed to cover that activity, you must either:
- hold any excess offerings over for a similar project in the future; Or
- obtain permission from the donor(s) to redirect the use of the extra funds for other purposes; OR
- return the funds to the contributor.
For example, if you received a missions offering for travel to Columbia (and you exclusively spoke of Columbia when receiving the offering) and more money came in than was needed for this occasion, any unspent monies must be held over until another Columbia missions trip occurs. You must use the monies for the purpose for which it was donated. It’s always best to simply speak of “Missions” in general when receiving offerings, and be very clear that any excess funds will be used for other missions.
Being accountable begins with providing a regular and accurate accounting to those who are legally charged with the finances of the church. As regards the Board, one of the charges made against some of the recently fallen churches, was that the Board of Directors were either ignorant of details, and/or some of the Board members were being enriched. No one was willing to stand and bring accountability to profiteering activities.
Board of Directors
Churches and other Ministries Board of Directors will ideally be comprised of men and women of spiritual maturity [true elders]. However, too often the Board is comprised of individuals who pay their tithes, are faithful, and don’t cause trouble. But as the church grows, you really need people with different qualifications. The original Board Members are likely honest and faithful, but often lack experience, and vision beyond the local church. In other words, they do not see the bigger picture.
Avoid family controlled boards, for the IRS forbids it. And if the church is governed by well-written “Biblical” Church By-Laws, it is unnecessary. When the church has a family controlled board, there is but one voice [Dictatorship], and no counselors.
Accountability / Relationship / Pastoral Oversight
As the church grows, add individuals to the Board who are qualified ministry, for the Bible says in the midst of counselors there is safety. Counselors [in this regard] are those on the same level of ministry and experience as the Senor Pastor. When the church Board is so structured, and accountability relationships with other “Outside ministry” are maintained, accusations have little power.
It is imperative that the By-Laws should require the pastor to have relationships of accountability to other Senior Ministry, who are not part of the local church. This is so that if there is ever an accusation of impropriety made against the pastor, or internal strife due to actions on the part of other members of the board, the issues will be judged by a pre-approved panel of Ordained Ministry, found listed in the Minutes, and NOT by the church members.
Such a group, providing fatherly “covering” for the senior pastor, can provide a great deal of accountability and help. The Pastor is usually not comfortable communicating his personal problems to his Board members and/or church, but is able to do so with other ordained men, who serve as his oversight, who can provide direction; and encouragement, because of this relationship between them. “Fathers” can help a pastor with godly insight and counsel. See our “More Great Samples” Manual or more information and ideas in this regard, and how to write this in the church By-Laws.
If this discourse is of interest to you, please see Chapter 6 & 7 in “The Church Administration ‘How To’ Manual” for more information about how to protect those handling church monies. There are many Worksheets and Forms at the end of the chapter to enable you to accomplish the goal of accountability in the church. A CD-Rom is included with the purchase of the manual, with all the Worksheets, Forms and Policies. This Manual, endorsed by three CPA’s, an EA and two attorneys, was updated in January 2011, for the 12th time, since its original publication in 1991
The above information is provided as a service to the Body of Christ by ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANCE
Copyright © 2004 by Administrative Assistance
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