The 'Triple A' Series #3: What could happen if a church handles money poorly?

By Stephen Mathews | 30 August 2018

My role in Stewardship is an interesting, but sometimes, a sad one. I am involved with churches (leaders, trustees and treasurers), with regulators (HMRC and the Charity Commission) and sometimes with the media.

Why can this be sad? Because so often it is dealing with:

  • Individual churches having really messy problems.
  • The church in general struggling with generic money issues.
  • Statistics which show a lack of Christian teaching about money.
  • Comments from regulators such as “we have a great problem with the UK church”.

In this third blog of the series I want to explain what goes wrong when we don’t address the issues of money in our churches.

 

Weak in 'Attitude'

When churches don’t address money discipleship it leaves their members vulnerable to its ‘love’ which “...is a root of all kinds of evil”. This leaves us no different from the rest of society, missing out on the joyous generosity experienced by the Jerusalem church of Acts or the Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians.

A weak attitude can mean that money is thought of only in terms of “what we need as a church”. This gives the appearance of a church which is self-serving; a poor reflection of the gospel.

Sometimes we see the opposite: so much emphasis on giving to the church associated with the flamboyant lifestyle of those churches leaders that the motive of the teaching is in doubt.

Weak in 'Accountability'

When churches don’t think about accountability two things happen:

1. Cynicism Grows

Churches are under ever-increasing scrutiny, and I believe more than ever that trust must be earned. Without it:

  • Donors to the church become sceptical;
  • The media (social or institutional) start to draw their own conclusions;
  • Charity regulators get more involved; and
  • The general public lose confidence.

2. The Unthinkable Happens

Over the last few years I have seen losses, some individually of over £100,000, from fraud, theft, misuse of funds and the need for regulators to recover from church leaders. This is not ‘other sorts’ of churches but ordinary churches of all sizes and sorts – including your sort.

By being weak, we unintentionally allow temptation and loss to occur. This isn’t from ‘outsiders’ but ‘insiders’; trusted long standing members in positions of responsibility.

Weak in 'Administration'

As churches we are often employers, charities, and receivers of generous tax exemptions. As money flows through the church, weaknesses in financial administration will soon become evident:

  • Regulations (of which there are many) will be ignored or breached;
  • Processes won’t serve the church well;
  • Money will leak away; and
  • Confidence will be weakened.

There are many danger areas and at least once a week I take calls from churches who simply aren’t aware that they are ignorantly walking in a minefield!

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul talks about money “...which we administer to honour the Lord”. Strong administration is a spiritual strength. Failing to administer is a ‘dishonour’.  

 

Conclusion

These weaknesses often leave the reputation of the church badly damaged; both individually and collectively. However, it can be different, and in the next three blogs I want to outline what can be done.


Read more...

The 'Triple A' Series #1: Why is the way the church handles money important?

The 'Triple A' Series #2: What is the 'Triple A' in a church context and why is it biblical?

The 'Triple A' Series #4: How can churches develop a 'good attitude' to money?

 

Posted by Stephen Mathews
 
Stephen is Head of Accountancy and Consultancy Services at Stewardship and has spent over 25 years in the accountancy profession. Stephen manages the team that provide the Accounts Examination and Consulting services. He is a trustee for a number of small Christian charities and has been involved in various church leadership roles over 20 years..

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