All churches have a treasurer, that person that gets on with looking after the finances. For many churches the treasurer is the person who looks after the finance, counts the offering, administers the payroll, pays the invoices and the expense claims, draws up the budget, handles Gift Aid and produces the annual accounts. When explained like this, it is easy to see why there is a shortage of willing church treasurers!!
Of course when you see a workload list as long as your arm it is easy to reach the conclusion that sharing that workload would be best, and yet so often we do not see churches doing that. We see a treasurer struggling along, sometimes out of their depth, often weighed down with the burden of the role. We do not see this as either a biblical or a good model for churches to follow, strongly believing that church finance is better as a team sport.
First, it is a biblical model. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul talks about the Jerusalem offering which Titus was sent to collect, but in verse 18 we see that Titus did not go alone: the church sent with him a “brother praised by all the churches” in part, as verse 20 says, to avoid “any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift”. Elsewhere, we see little biblical evidence (or indeed church practice) of single-person ministry being advocated, so why is finance any different?
Second, we see many advantages associated with team:
- It serves as a protection for both the church and the individuals involved;
- It spreads the workload and so avoids resentment or burn-out;
- It makes the role/ministry more robust – which church has just one youth/children’s worker;
- It protects against fraud – and yes this does happen in churches too;
- It helps to avoid or perpetuate other financial mistakes or shortcomings.
If it’s such a good idea, why does it not happen more?
We see the main reasons for this falling into two areas: those which relate to the treasurer and those which relate to the lack of volunteers.
Being church treasurer is an important role and offers status, recognition and influence in the church; being part of a team might dilute that. It may mean that the treasurer has less control than they would like, and quite frankly sometimes it can be easier and quicker to do it yourself. All reasons (none good) to stay a “one man band”.
Any church ministry, being it greeting people at the door, providing hospitality, leading worship, etc., should be an act of service. Part of that service includes being a mentor and an encourager of others. Ephesians 4 encourages us to equip the church, so how does doing everything ourselves help that?
Lack of volunteers
We are yet to come across a church that has a waiting list for people wishing to be treasurer or even part of the finance team – why is that?
- Often finance is a scary word and anything remotely financial is seen as being technical, often made worse by churches only making use of “experts” as treasurers;
- The associated responsibility is seen as too great;
- It’s a bit boring and doesn’t feel like “real ministry”.
Tackling those issues and building that team
What steps can you take to build a finance team so as to avoid criticism and bring glory to God?
First, break up the job. There are lots of component parts to the role, so split them up and train others to do them. Gift Aid administration can easily stand alone, as can counting the offering (get the children involved – they are always enthusiastic). Bookkeeping can be separated away from preparing budgets and producing the year-end accounts; budget holders can take on the responsibility of authorising expenses for their ministry area.
Second, keep it simple. Church finance is not about showing off how clever you are – it is about good administration and good communication. So, think about outsourcing those technical tasks e.g. payroll; use a good but appropriate-to-your-church accounting system; consider using the receipts and payments accounting basis for your statutory accounts; speak in plain English.
Third, provide training and ongoing support. Offer to train people yourself, point them in the direction of good training materials and resources (there is plenty out there), and be there for them when they run into problems. Seek to encourage and provide a place for those people who perhaps think that they have little to offer to the church.
We have touched upon some “avoiding the negatives” as well as some positive reasons for building a finance team but we have left the best until last. Building a finance team makes the whole financial ministry aspect of your church more fun, and let’s face it, we could all do with that!!