Financial Mistakes Your Church Can’t Afford to Make

by Mike Boblit

September 6, 2017

Last time we talked about reasons to rent versus buy your facilities. One reason to rent is to avoid incurring debt that could force you to curtail core ministry. Turns out that tendency is more common than it should be.

A few years ago, as we were emerging from the Great Recession, ChurchLeaders published Top 10 Financial Mistakes Churches Make. “Acquiring Unmanageable Debt,” was one practice that proved to be unwise when the economy shifted. A more recent article, 10 Mistakes Churches Make with Money, includes the same error. Apparently, some have been slow to learn that lesson.

This more recent list was written by Terry Brown. It’s based on his 35-plus years of experience providing churches with insurance. He sees a common thread in all 10 blunders: “Most financial mistakes can be avoided by having accountability spread through multiple people,” Brown says. “Those churches without adequate oversight place too much responsibility on a small number of people.” Here are four of the common mistakes he says result from this lack of proper oversight.

No consensus in church budget. Proverbs 11:14 says “…in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”  Having a group of wise elders review the budget on a regular basis protects the church in many ways. People with varied experiences can look at the budget in ways one person can’t.

Failure to perform background checks on people who handle money. Tithes and offerings require extra accountability. While people can be forgiven and restored, it is not wise to put someone with a history of theft, fraud or forgery in a position to handle other people’s money. Rotating the people who count can also be another layer of security.

Not making church financial documents available to members. People who give tithes and offerings want to know how their donations are being spent. Having a pie chart with percentages for missions, salaries, maintenance, etc. should be sufficient. Individual salaries should not be disclosed; the elders should review that information.

Not providing a way to give online. People do not like writing checks or carrying cash. Having a systematic, secure and seamless way of giving will benefit the donor and the church. Consider providing donors with a way to set up giving goals and the ability to monitor how they’re doing quarterly, mid-year, etc.

You can see the entire list of 10 common mistakes churches make with money here. To learn more about how to handle ministry money wisely, check out Internal Controls, Banking Knowledge Can Help Prevent Fraud.

Category: Ministry Matters