A big mistake of many church leaders is the assumption that they and those around them are above any temptations to mishandle church funds.
How often has someone in the church said, "It could never happen here. All those precautions are just not worth the time and effort." Unfortunately, experience teaches that at some piont, most churches must deal with some sticky questions regarding the handling of church finances.
Sometimes nothing wrong has been done but the mere suspicion of wrongdoing permanently damages the reputation of leaders.
The only way to protect oneself and others is to ensure financial integrity in the handling of church finances.
Here are some tough questions that should be asked to evaluate the handling of money in your church:
• Do we make sure the same person is not involved in more than one of the financial procedures of the church (collecting, counting, recording, authorizing expenses, writing checks, auditing)?
• Do we count and record offerings immediately after received?
• Are two or more unrelated persons present when offering envelopes are opened and offering monies are counted?
• Are offerings always stored in a secure or well-supervised area?
• Do we place offerings in lock bags after counting and place the lock bags in a safe or night depository until the bank opens?
• If offerings are stored in a safe, do we strictly limit who has access to the safe? Do we change the safe combination when someone is no longer authorized to use it?
• Is the number of authorized check signers limited? Are all persons authorized to write checks against the church funds held responsible through an accounting/auditing system?
• Do we provide the bank with annual updates of persons authorized to sign checks against any account associated with the church?
• Do we issue annual receipts for giving? This is just another check on determining what comes in has, in fact, been accounted for.
• Are all disbursements made by check and based on original invoices?
• Are two signatures required for checks for large amounts?
• Is the bank statement reviewed by someone who does not handle the cash or disbursements?
• Are all expenses properly documented for future reference with the date, amount, purpose and name of the person who authorized the expenditure?
Painful experiences in too many churches have taught that unless these questions can all be answered with a firm "yes," your church might have a significant hole in the church's financial structure through which hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars could be lost.
Don Spencer is Kentucky Baptist Convention Church Financial Benefits Counselor.