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Church business practices should model integrity, leader says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–When it comes to handling money, “a church should be a model of financial integrity to the world,” Priscilla Rule told participants in a session on sound financial practices for the church office.

Rule, administrative assistant at Broadview Baptist Church, Broadview, Ill., led the conference during Black Church Leadership Week, July 2-6, at LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center.

Churches should develop and maintain written policies and procedures for receiving contributions, counting money, making bank deposits, disbursing funds and reporting finances to the church, she said.

Policies and procedures protect the church and “church business should never have to stop because someone is not there” and others don’t know how to handle a financial matter, she said.

Creating a paper trail for every financial transaction protects church staff members and assures good business practices, she said.

Rule urged establishment of a money-counting committee large enough that the same persons don’t count each Sunday.

“Counting should take place in a quiet room not accessible to all church members,” she said. “You are protecting the safety of the church with these practices.”

Instead of keeping money from Sunday offerings in the church office until the bank opens on Monday, Rule advised, as a security measure, depositing it on Sunday at the after-hours depository.

When members bring or mail in contributions during the week, Rule said the church secretary should prepare an offering envelope to create a record of the gift. If a cash contribution is brought in, the person should be given a receipt prepared in triplicate.

She noted that the federal government requires that churches keep members’ contribution records for a minimum of four years and offering envelopes for three years.

Contribution statements should be provided quarterly to church members, she said. They not only enable identifying and correcting any mistakes but also keep people informed on their progress toward fulfilling their pledges.

To handle purchases and manage the budget, Rule urged establishment of a requisition and purchase order system.

“The system should specify who can request funds and how much can be purchased without a purchase order,” she said. All purchases should be charged to the appropriate department of the church and reports kept current. Charges by staff members with church credit cards should be carefully reviewed each month by a business manager or the treasurer.

Church bills should be paid by check, she said, with all checks requiring two signatures. To protect the integrity of the pastor and professional staff members, she advised against using them to sign checks.

Rule said churches should “encourage budget giving and limit designated contributions. A church needs to have a written policy on designated gifts. The policy should include what happens to funds left from a designated account.” She suggested keeping designated funds in a separate account.

In addition to careful management, Rule said churches should have an annual audit completed by a qualified individual or company not affiliated with the church.

“This is an audit of the business practices of the church,” she emphasized.

Approximately 1,400 people attended Black Church Leadership Week sponsored by five Southern Baptist Convention entities — LifeWay Christian Resources, North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, Woman’s Missionary Union and Annuity Board.

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  • Linda Lawson