Ready for the holidays? If your church is like most, you’ll see your largest crowds from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Churches, like many retail businesses, may receive the majority of their donations during this time of year. This can mean fuller collection plates and, with that, a greater responsibility for safeguarding the church offering.
Most church thieves gain access to the resources they steal through their position, says Matt Hirschy, vice president and treasurer at Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. “The defining element of church thievery is that it’s intentional. Even if a thief’s aims are modest, the behavior is especially deceptive since these people are trusted to handle church assets properly.”
Safety controls need to be in place to make sure money given to the church is properly accounted for and used by the church for its ministry.
Hirschy suggests you look for these red flags to avoid financial loss:
Red Flag 1: One person is responsible for it all.
“Make more than one person responsible for everything,” Matt says. “The person opening the mail shouldn’t be the same person who makes the bank deposit. The individual making payments from an account should be checked by another person who balances the account. Always look for ways to reduce the temptation for those who handle the church’s money.”
Red Flag 2: Someone is counting money alone.
Use the rule of twos. At least two unrelated people should collect and count the offering. They also shouldn’t work together during the week or be in a personal financial crisis of any sort. Sealable and tamper-resistant bags can offer added security.
Red Flag 3: There is inadequate supervision.
“Always reconcile bank statements and monitor financials monthly,” Hirschy says. “Well-informed church leaders can spot irregularities more easily.” Churches and ministries also should schedule audits by an outside organization regularly.
Conducting background checks on those who work in church finances, handle money, or oversee the books may also reduce the risk. Information on prior fraud offenses, theft, or embezzlement charges will serve as red flags to avoid placing someone unsuitable in a financial position.
Shepherd’s Watch members can also send the online training Ministry and Money to volunteers who handle money, as another layer of protection.
Here come the holidays. Enjoy.
– – Taken from a recent Shepherd’s Watch newsletter. Sign up today for Shepherd’s Watch Background Checks and receive your free monthly newsletter filled with advice and tips on keeping your church safe.
(We love to provide tips to keep your ministry safe. You may also want to consult your local legal advisors to get their perspective on this topic!)