Handling Money in a New Church #churchplanting #churchadmin
Managing money is one of the roles we as church planters are often NOT ready for when it comes time to launch a new church. Most figure it out, but mistakes made in this area can cost credibility & more. And this is one area that you DO NOT want to fall behind on & have to play catch up later. This may seem simplistic, but you need to devise strategy for six steps that must be done with money given to your church:
- Receive it.
- Count it.
- Deposit it.
- Record it.
- Spend it.
- Report it.
Check out my previous post on Establishing Your New Church As a Legal Organization for consideration of what to do before you take your first offerings. Then…
1. Receive it.
The first question to ask about money in church is how are we going to receive it? For a traditional church, this may seem like a no brainer, “You just pass the plate!” But for new churches, taking an offering can be a challenge depending on meeting space, worship strategy, available volunteers, etc. You must think through this important part of your church’s worship & discipleship. And of course, today there are a myriad of ways to receive money. On Sunday’s in a basket, box, plate, or online, text to give, & now kiosk are available. Think it through with your team, “How are we going to receive contributions to our church?”
2. Count it.
Counting money needs to be done carefully, precisely, and with a team of at least two people. The best tool for doing this is an old fashioned paper Offering Counting Sheet. A counting sheet allows you to account for every penny & then the two people doing the counting sign the sheet agreeing on the total. This is the top of the list of the paper trail that you need to create to be well protected from accusation & keep the church’s contributions safe. A few rules of thumb for counters:
- Two people counting at all times.
- Not the same two people each week.
- These two people should not be husband & wife.
- Ideally, it’s never the church planter or any paid staff from the church.
- Counters should be committed contributors to the church.
- Counters should be willing to undergo a background check.
3. Deposit it.
After the money is counted, the counting crew can take care of filling out the deposit slip from your bank & then ideally a third person should deposit the money within 24 hours. Tamper proof deposit bags can be obtained for free from most banks or purchased at office supply chains. Our church set up night deposit drop capability so that a depositor can drop the tamper proof bag in our banks night deposit box on their way home from church. The deposit slip needs to be picked up from the bank at a later date, then stapled to the Counting Sheet to close the loop & demonstrate accuracy in what was counted with what was deposited.
4. Record it.
As a non-profit organization you have the ability to give & most people expect a contribution record that can be utilized to receive the charitable tax deduction during tax season. To do this effectively & efficiently it will be best for you to have a Church Management System or Non-Profit Bookkeeping Software that allows you to record non-profit donations. A good CMS will allow you to track people’s giving & then at the end of the year generate & print reports with just a few clicks. If you’re a new church, check with your sponsor or sending church to see if they could help you get this started. If not, check into a church management system that’s cloud based & simple for volunteers to use. Our current church plant uses Church Office Online which we’ve found adequate for a church starting out small. But there are many others with varying degrees of bells & whistles.
5. Spend it.
How money is going to be spent through your church needs to be determined carefully. For regular bills, payroll, & missions contributions, a check will be sufficient. But what about buying stamps, juice boxes for kids ministry, print cartridges, etc., etc. Here’s some rules of thumb & questions to ask:
- Checks should always have two signers. And the church planter should be an emergency signer if at all.
- Will we utilize a credit or debit card? If so, who will keep up with receipts? How will we determine who has them? What will be the limits?
- Will we utilize a voucher system for requesting funds? This helps with creating a good paper trail & for determining the why behind each purchase.
- Reimbursements should only be for amounts turned in with receipts of purchases for church activities. Think Paper Trail.
- How will we budget our money? Rules of thumb are 10-15% for missions, 20-25% for mininstry, 35-50% for staff, 35% for General Operations, & 5-10% for other.
6. Report it.
Determine now to provide monthly reports to your partners & team members. Don’t wait. Reporting fuels generosity, derails speculation about spending, & builds group cohesiveness as people see God’s blessings & good stewardship through your church. And find a way to report that’s easy for everybody to understand. One page is best.
Thinking through these six steps will help you start with good systems in place & get ahead of potential potholes for your new church. Also, check out my post The Stewardship System for a treatment of the big picture of this system in your church. Also find a lot of good church admin helps at these sites:
A couple of favorite resources on this subject: