Being a part of a church finance team is an important responsibility, but it’s not without its headaches. For people who aren’t natural bean counters, some of the necessary work that finance personnel must undertake can be a bit boring and monotonous on the one hand, and difficult and unpredictable on the other. It’s a good idea for church leaders to take whatever steps they can to make the church finance team’s job easier. Here are some quick tips for doing so.
To clarify, in this case the “church finance team” can mean anyone in your organization with influence on finances. In a small church this may be the pastor and one lay leader. A large ministry will have one or more finance staff in addition to volunteers who collect and count funds. Large ministries may also have a finance committee made up of deacons or elders. Whatever your situation, customize these tips to fit your needs.
Make Church Finance a Team Effort
One temptation in a small to medium-sized place of worship is for one person (usually the pastor or head deacon or finance manager) to essentially have all the power. Pastor and former businessman Ron Edmonson cautions against this.
Just because one person makes the job look easy doesn’t mean they don’t struggle to keep up with the workload. By adding more staff or volunteers to assist, you alleviate some of the burden weighing on that person’s shoulders. Also, the potential for misuse or mishandling of funds in this situation is very high. If the one person who handles the finances is accused of impropriety, the church can end up in a real pickle.
Human error can also come into play here. Accidents happen, and with multiple sets of eyes on the numbers, you’re more likely to catch these mistakes early. The best system will ensure that power, knowledge, and tasks related to church financial matters are shared among several trusted team members.
Commit to Transparency
First, be transparent about your needs. In many churches, one major headache for church finance teams is the inconsistency of income. They set budgets, but the funds don’t come in (or don’t come in very evenly). No pastor wants to be known as the one who talks about money all the time, but it’s essential to be honest with the congregation. Leaders need to address difficult issues, including If giving is not meeting expectations.
This is especially true in congregational churches, where the membership has approved and committed to a yearly budget. If giving isn’t meeting those commitments (and assuming no broader economic crisis is at play), it’s entirely appropriate to remind the congregation of the commitment that it made.
Second, be transparent about how the money is being used. No one expects an itemized accounting of every individual purchase, but people do expect not to be misled about how a church is spending its money. Help the church finance team by insisting that all who have spending power within the organization track their spending and reconcile it with the budget.
Modernize the Giving Process
In the olden days, the offering plate was passed, and finance team members manually added up cash and check contributions during or after the service. As mentioned before, this leaves an opportunity for human error (miscounting, transposing digits, etc.), and the process of counting money and carrying it to the bank for deposit can amount to a lot of stressful work.
How can you reduce these issues? Implement a modern online and mobile giving solution for your ministry. Doing so will reduce the number of cash and check donations, and online systems will do the tallying of electronic contributions for you. A good modern giving solution will also automatically deposit all contributions, meaning you get access to the funds more quickly — and your finance team can sit back and relax while the funds roll in.
Take a little time this next week to say thank you to your church finance team. As an extra thank you, use these tips to make their job a little easier.