Finance Fridays: Protecting the Church from Fraud

Made of Money

Barry Bowen recently posted a story on his Christian Post blog called How to Spot a Pastor or Priest Stealing Church Funds. In the post, he lists four potential indicators of financial impropriety within a church’s leadership:

  • The pastor or priest lives an extravagant lifestyle.
  • The church leader regularly fails to turn in receipts when using the church or ministry credit card.
  • The church sends you a receipt for donations and the amount listed doesn’t match your own records of what you have given. (Anonymously given cash offerings will not be tracked.)
  • The church suddenly starts showing large unexplained debts.

These four potential indicators were determined based on numerous investigations over the years. While these tips are helpful, I found this part of his post utterly depressing:

One of the dirty secrets of Christianity is that there are numerous crooked pastors, priests and church financial secretaries embezzling funds. The International Bulletin of Missionary Research projected that $37 billion would be stolen by Christian religious leaders in 2013 and this fraud will reach $60 billion annually by 2025.

That is a lot of misplaced Kingdom resources.

So, how do we protect ourselves, and our churches? I would highly recommend three things:

  • Let’s be Frank: If you are a pastor, church planters included, there is no reason for you to be handling the church’s money. If you currently make deposits, count the offering, or sign the checks, heed the immortal advice of Bob Newhart and stop it!
  • Put it in Writing: Every church needs a written policy on how to handle money. This is not something that you can do later, this is something that you need to do now. If you need help starting, check out this piece from Brotherhood Mutual.
  • Look Outside for Help: When we planted a church, we outsourced our bookkeeping, and it was one of the best decisions we made. Not only were our books kept up to date by professionals, we had an extra layer of accountability. We still needed to have explicit policies in place, but we had an extra layer of protection which enabled us to be completely transparent when it came to our finances. If you are church planting, or if you are a church that needs a bookkeeping solution, drop me a line and let’s talk about what’s possible.

How do YOU protect the church from financial impropriety?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through MinistryBriefing.com and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.