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Managing Church Finances (2)

Feature Article Managing Church Finances (2)
OCT 9, 2021 LISTEN

IN THE previous edition, we laid the foundation by describing the church as an example of Christian organization, and explaining the concept of financial management. We also discussed the possibility of financial mismanagement and stealing as a problem in churches. In this edition, we wish to look at internal control of funds and other important issues which many see as challenges in most churches today.

According to Yaa A. Akotia, “a common misconception by most church leadership is to think that internal control exists only for the purpose of detecting and preventing fraud. This misconception has often discouraged church leaders or religious organizations from implementing sound control policies because they do not want to appear to be untrusting.”

She further states: “when examining the use of internal controls in churches today, as compared to secular organizations, it seems that these churches are far behind.” Why are the churches not using proper control procedures in the area of finance? Presently, a major problem in churches is that they are not using appropriate professional methods in carrying out the administrative activities of the church, especially in the area of finances.

Many churches have the perception that all Christian workers can be trusted hence there are a lot of cases of theft and fraud that go on unnoticed.

The donors also have the perception that they are contributing to God and not man and all they want in return is 'Blessings from God', hence they aren't interested in knowing what their contribution is used for.

Dag Heward-Mills has noted that “money is a very sensitive subject. Many criticisms leveled against ministers are about finances. We cannot avoid criticisms but we must minimize the opportunities that people have to speak against us”.

Today, reported stories about poor handling of church funds involving the ordained ministers have dealt a serious blow to the integrity of Christian leadership which is supposed to be the custodian of morality and ethics to serve God and humanity with clear conscience. As a result, ministers are losing the reverence and credibility associated with their holy, heavenly and high calling.

The situation is also robbing ministers of their moral fitness to rebuke wrongdoing in society as they themselves live in a glass house. The situation has adversely affected income generation drive in most churches as most church members who feel cheated and exploited by the stealing have become apathetic in giving. In another work, Heward-Mills points out that “church members lose interest in giving when they feel they are just financing the lifestyle of their superman pastor”.

However, this challenge of financial mismanagement in most churches can be reduced if Pastors leading the churches are skilled in financial management. In the words of Ahortor, Church organisations, though non profit-making, mobilise financial resources from both members and non-members for their activities. For church organisations to achieve their goals of expanding the Kingdom of God and preserving God's sheep through prayer, word ministration and welfare promotion, they need not only put their financial resources to good use but also grow these resources overtime.

Thus, in the presence of ever-increasing demand for resources to execute projects as churches grow into mega-churches, it becomes imperative that churches adopt sound financial management practices in order to boost their revenue generation and control their expenditures.

Effective implementation of the principles of financial management in the church is needed as it has the ability to create and promote integrity in the church. The church is the salt and the light of the world. Therefore, its integrity cannot be thrown to the dogs and compromised. But it is important to stress that a Pastor can only implement financial management principles in the church organization to achieve integrity if he has acquired some knowledge and understanding in it.

Studying financial management would enable the pastor to familiarize himself and equip him with the ability to interpret financial information. By this, he will appreciate the need for financial discipline and thereby uphold the credibility of leaders and the church as a whole. This will also help in the creation of goodwill for the church and pastors.

It will play a meaningful role in helping the managers of the public relations department of the church to improve its image and reputation. A church's reputation is an important asset. Once destroyed through financial mismanagement, it becomes very difficult to rebuild it to win public confidence and trust.

Another need for financial management in a Christian organization is the fact that it informs a better and proper mobilization of funds. Making a contribution to achieve the aforementioned goal, Heward-Mills urges ministers “not to personally count offerings, take offerings home as it would seem as though all the offerings are being given to the pastor. He asserts that if the money were stolen from pastor's home, he would have created for himself a neat little scandal. There will be little anyone could say in the pastor's defence”.

Moreover, financial management is needful in a Christian organization like the church because it is a duty to account for the stewardship of respective leaders including the pastor. Knowledge of financial management in a Christian organization reminds ministers that they are but stewards of God's resources entrusted to them. These resources include the church money and that they are answerable to its utilization to both God and the church board and congregation.

To be continued…

By James Quansah

[email protected]

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