I was saddened to read some stats recently showing that fraud in the church costs more each year than what is given to missions. The numbers were $35 billion in fraud in 2012 and $23 billion given to global foreign missions. How can this be true and what can we do to combat fraud?
According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary who published the Status of Global Mission, financial crime at churches is estimated to hit $60 billion in 2025 if the same trends continue.
Here are two key things those of us who have been entrusted to steward ministry funds can do each day to combat fraud:
- Create an environment of “Trust, but Verify”. We first heard this phrase from the President Ronald Reagan, who used it often when discussing U.S. relations with the Soviet Union. It suggests that we maintain an environment of trust while also verifying that information is accurate and procedures are followed. This involves accountability, dual custody, and separation of duties in the financial area of your ministry. By doing these things, you can literally eliminate opportunities to commit fraud.
- Stay connected with your staff and volunteers. The precursor to fraud is a motive that causes an individual to have an intense need for money. It could be a financial hardship, a gambling problem, a family financial crisis, or negative work-related feelings. Once there is a motive, the individual then just needs to rationalize that what they are contemplating is okay given the circumstances. Staying connected with your staff and volunteers and knowing what is going on in there lives will provide you not only with an opportunity to minister but also an indication of the need to monitor actions and behaviors more carefully.
These two steps will help keep your ministry from becoming the next bad news story.
What have you found to be helpful for combating fraud at your ministry?