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The importance of team

Photo of Stephen Mathews Stephen Mathews
3 min

So what is a team? It’s a group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project (business dictionary).

We can see the benefits of teamwork in many areas of charity and particularly church life. Teams normally exist in youth work, evangelism, worship, etc., so why is it that when it comes to finance and governance we often ditch the team model and leave one poor soul to go it alone?! At Stewardship, we see real benefit in building the finance team, and here’s why.

The importance of team

  • It’s a biblical model: In 2 Corinthians 8 the ‘brothers’ were involved in administering the Jerusalem offering. In Acts 4, gifts were brought to the apostles’ feet for distribution. Finance was routinely managed by teams.
  • It provides accountability: Accountability is a key financial control and, along with a good attitude and good administration, provides the foundation of our briefing paper on healthy finance (Raising the standard: Transforming the culture of money in the church).
  • It serves as a protection: Two reasons given for the team arrangement seen in 2 Corinthians is that it is ‘right… in the eyes of man’ (8:21) and the arrangement was ‘to avoid any criticism’ (8:20). Rumours of financial misconduct spread quickly, even more so when linked to Christian organisations.
  • It spreads the workload and so avoids resentment and burn-out: Treasurers struggling alone, seemingly unsupported by other church leaders, will soon feel put upon.
  • It makes finance and governance more robust: The finance function of church or charity is alarmingly fragile when operated by a single person. Sickness, incapacity or even the much maligned ‘London bus’ could spell disaster!! Single-person finance functions often do not have written procedures, meaning that organisations may need to ‘start over’, which is time consuming and frustrating.
  • It protects against fraud: Time and again the Charity Commission site single-person finance functions as a contributing factor in insider fraud. Couldn’t happen in your church? Sadly, evidence suggests otherwise, with churches and Christian charities featuring all too prominently in HMRC’s ‘rogues gallery’.
  • It helps to avoid or perpetuate shortcomings: No financial system is perfect, and without another pair of eyes looking over the operations, embedded shortcomings will simply continue.

So why does it not happen more often?

A lack of volunteers:

  • For many, finance and governance are ‘scary’ words. There is a mystique that only ‘qualified’ people can be involved – a message often inadvertently re-enforced by organisations and past incumbents.
  • The responsibility can be seen as too great. The Charity Commission is undoubtedly looking for more professionalism in the way that charities are administered, and the weight of finance and governance can feel a burden. It does not have to!!
  • It’s not real ministry. Finance and governance will often not be seen as ‘front-line’ ministry. We would argue differently; churches operating with finance and governance teams are nearly always more effective than those without.

A lack of desire from the existing treasurer:

  • A fear of losing standing. The role of treasurer comes with status, recognition and the power to influence direction. Building a team might impact that.
  • No one is quite as good as me. This is a perception that quality might suffer with inexperienced team members. We consider this a damaging long-term view.
  • It’s quicker if I do it myself. We consider this as both short-sighted and running contrary to the biblical message of Ephesians 4.

What to do about it?

We believe that there are steps that you can take to overcome those hurdles, and to provide some pointers we would point you in the direction of two of our briefings papers: ‘Church finance: It’s better as a team sport’ and ‘Help! I’ve lost my treasurer’.

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Written by

Stephen Mathews

Stephen has been at Stewardship for 15 years, advising churches and Christian charities on a breadth of issues around money, culture and governance. Previous to that, he gained valuable experience working for 20 years in the accountancy profession, alongside church leadership in his spare time.

Stephen is passionate about Local Church, UK Poverty & Debt, and International Aid, with a particular focus on educational development in Africa and in youth violence and racial inequality.