As leaders, we are responsible for administering the church’s finances appropriately. Whether our church has a multi-million dollar budget or a small offering from ten people, we are still called to steward this money responsibly and use it in the manner for which it was intended.
This means being honest, transparent, and making decisions in line with Kingdom values. What is truly important in the Kingdom of God? That is what we should invest in. We also need to invest appropriately. What types of spending will yield fruit and get the results we are looking for?
Motives are always important to examine when it comes to money as well. We need to be generous yet wise. We need to avoid greed and self-aggrandizement. We need to live as though we are not permanent residents of this world… because we are not. We are entrusted with what we have for a time, and God knows whether we are investing it well or poorly.
Misuse of church funds is one the easiest ways to destroy a church. Being responsible with church funds is essential for both the health of the ministry and the reputation of the church worldwide.
Consider how Paul prepared the offering from the Corinthian church to the Macedonian church and sent it along, ensuring that it arrive safely. Generous, yet wise. Here are some essential tips on handling your church’s money well:
- Goal setting and budgeting: Don’t start by setting a budget. First figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, then what that will cost. Put all proposals together (if you have more than one area of ministry) and as a team prioritize what’s most important right now. Then consider the worth of the goals themselves. Is the amount of investment (time, money, personnel) worth the potential return? Don’t just give money to staff members to put into their ministry. Have a clear goal for what they are supposed to accomplish with it. Only if you think all these issues through can you create a budget that reflects your goals.
- Accounting: Create a clear and transparent system for monitoring and tracking the money. An accountant or someone with basic accounting skills can record income and expenses, and compare that to the budget. A clear paper trail of everything is essential.
- Cash flow management: Consider your cash flow like a water tank. Even if you know you have more water coming in soon, it needs to be there before you can spend it. Plan for the income to hit the account before the bills are due. Otherwise you can technically be within budget but still broke. Weigh carefully the timing of major expenditures and make sure you have enough in the account ahead of time to cover them.
- Safeguarding: Safeguarding includes practices like keeping receipts, making sure the same person doesn’t do the books and sign the checks. It’s creating a system of checks and balances that protects your church against any accusations or misuse of money. Make sure your systems are in line with whatever legal requirements exist in your country.
- More than one person: One of the most important things is to have multiple people involved with the church finances. If one person has too much control over the money, the temptation can be great. Don’t put any of your leaders, including yourself, in that position. When the offering is collected, have more than one person involved.
- Transparent communication: This means congregation-wide communication– telling people periodically (whether they have asked or not) how the money is being used. This doesn’t necessarily mean divulging individual salaries, but providing overall amounts of staffing, giving, facilities, etc. Make the information clear and readily accessible.
- Cultivating stewardship: Part of using church funds well is encouraging people to participate in the financial life of the church through giving. They are called to steward well what they have by using their personal money appropriately, saving, and giving generously.