Whilst a lot of the focus in our churches is on the preaching, teaching, outreach, and other ministry work, the finances can be considered a distraction. But without good order in this area of church life some of the important work couldn’t happen.
In the New Testament, we are told to be “good stewards”, to be faithful in the small things and that God loves a cheerful giver. We are also told not to worry as our God will provide. It is easy to say that if we believe God wants us to do something then He will provide. But we also need to manage what we have well –that is how God has provided. It’s the tension in the church between being a good steward and relying on faith, but I think that they can work together perfectly. Let me show you how.
It can be difficult to find an individual to look after the church finances as it’s seen as a big responsibility, with a big time commitment and increasing amounts of legislation and regulation to comply with. That’s why it’s better to have a team working together taking responsibility for various aspects of the church finances such as:
· Collecting, counting and banking cash collections
· Dealing with giving through cards
· Recording and claiming Gift Aid
· Recording the income and expenditure and preparing reports
· Making payments through the bank
· Running the payroll
· Ensuring annual accounts are produced by asuitably qualified individual
I can’t emphasise enough the importance of having more than one person involved in your church finances. You need a team with varying gifts to work together to ensure the financial aspect of the church is in order. A fully functioning team, not a team in name only, who can cover each other where needed.
As churches grow they reach a point where the donations from members no longer cover the bills. You need to look at other ways of bringing in income such as:
· Gift Aid: Make sure that you register with HMRC to be able to claim gift aid on donations from any of your donors that are UK taxpayers.These days, apart from named donors who sign a declaration you can also claim gift aid on anonymous cash or card donations up to a maximum of £8,000 a year.
· Rental of space in your building: This is an increasing source of income for churches. There is no shortage of community groups, courses or local businesses looking for space to meet.
· “Make it easy for people to give”: This is one of my mantras. Make forms for people to give – be it a one-off donation or standing order – easily available, along with gift aid forms. Sign up to use a card reader like SumUp, Square or Zettle, as people are carrying cash less these days. Sign up to a giving portal like Local giving, Just giving or CAF Donate who will collect money (and gift aid) on your behalf and send to your church bank account. Have an option to donate through your website or social media pages.
· Charge for activities: Historically, whatever the church has done it has been free to everyone. More and more we are now charging small fees for activities such as kids and holiday clubs. Even if it just covers the cost of resources, it covers those costs – and people are more likely to turn up if they have had to pay something for the ticket!
· Could you run a “business” on your premises and with your volunteers? An increasing number of churches are looking to run cafes and nurseries from their premises. It may not be every day, or all day, but these kinds of activities have the potential to bring in additional income. They also give the opportunity to get to know more people in our community and break down the barriers between the church and the community.
We need good robust systems in place to report on our finances to the church and the CharityCommission. Use the Charity Commission’s checklist to ensure you have good financial policies and systems in place. This builds in accountability through clearly setting boundaries and provides protection, both for the church and for the individuals involved.
I have been involved in finance work for a large number of churches in recent years and it is always interesting to see how they approach making payments.
For instance, I have seen a church treasurer signing a number of blank cheques to enable others to make payments on behalf of the church without needing his signature! This should go without saying but NEVER sign blank cheques. The danger is that you are giving the other signatory a means of dealing with cash fraudulently if they want to. And if they do your name is on the cheque so you will be implicated.
Nowadays, most of us make payments through online banking. Although our bank mandates say “two authorised persons to sign”, online banking can be set up so that one person can make a payment. What some churches don’t realise is that all banks have systems in place to enable dual authorisation of payments so one person can setup the payment and another person can then log in and approve the payment. This dual system of making payments adds accountability to ensure that finances are correctly handled.
Just as we pray for the Lord to guide us and show us what He wants us to do in our community, part of that should include the provision of resources to do so including finance, gifted individuals, and volunteers with time. We must pray that theLord will provide to enable us to carry out the work He has called us to. And when he does we must give Him thanks for His provision and use it wisely to further His kingdom.
Sometimes He provides ahead of time too. I know of a church where they were notified that they had been left a large legacy from a member of their congregation which was to be used for building work. A little while later there began some problems with the church roof which led to a discussion on whether to continually repair or if the time had come to have a complete replacement – and the decision could be made knowing that God had already provided.
I hope these tips have been helpful for those of you who are managing church finances. Thank you for serving and striving to do so with accountability and transparency.