January 13, 2016
Financial dishonesty can happen anywhere. Churches and ministries are especially susceptible to issues of financial dishonesty involving theft from ministry accounts. Regardless of the size of your ministry, it’s always important to be aware of “red flags” and take steps to promote financial accountability at your church or ministry including the following:
Red Flag One: The one man show. Try to avoid having the same person count, record and deposit the money each week. Instead, split the responsibilities between more than one person approved to handle money on behalf of the ministry as a check and balances system.
Red Flag Two: The lone counter. Leaving one person in a room to count the money creates temptation. Carefully select two qualified people to collect and count the money in a secure room. Conduct a background check on each of the individuals you select. Don’t allow the money counters to bring in bags, purses, or briefcases while they count.
Red Flag Three: The charismatic do-gooder. Don’t assume that the person handling the money is trustworthy just because they enthusiastically do the record keeping and rarely require assistance. Instead reconcile bank statements by having the treasurer or another high-level person compare each month’s bank statement with the church’s records on tithing and deposits.
In addition to keeping an eye out for these red flags, consider these additional tips for minimizing financial fraud in your ministry.
Hold money meetings. Organize monthly meetings with church leaders to analyze financial statements. When everyone is up to speed on the church finances it is easier to spot inconsistencies.
Put a policy on paper. Document your church’s or ministry’s policy in writing to ensure consistency and eliminate the excuse of ignorance from a dishonest member.
Do your homework. Perform annual background checks and run annual credit reports on the people responsible for church funds. It might feel awkward, but individuals in charge of money need to be above reproach.
Require annual external audits. Bringing in someone from the outside to do an audit may help eliminate biased opinions on church finances.
Snow skiing. Camping. Whitewater rafting. A youth group trip can give students an exciting diversion from their weekly routines, as well as an opportunity to strengthen healthy friendships. Off-site activities may challenge your students to step outside of their comfort zones a bit, but this can bring about a positive result.
If you are in the process of planning a mission trip for your church group, make sure to think carefully about insurance, safety, and security as you hammer out the details. Extra preparation could minimize headaches when your group arrives on the mission field.
Has your church or school ever been asked to loan one of your vans or buses to another? Before you decide to loan your ministry vehicles to another organization, seriously consider the potential risks associated with such a decision.
Completing a personal property inventory of your church or ministry could be one of the wisest activities you can pursue. If disaster strikes and you file an insurance claim, you may need an inventory highlighting damaged items.
Have you thought through potential dangers that may confront your ministry? Taking steps to consider and address these risks provides important protection from injuries, lawsuits, fires, and dozens of other hazards that may affect your ministry, especially your employees and those you serve.
Small businesses—including churches and related ministries—can once again pay premiums for their employees’ health insurance. Previously known as an Employer Payment Plan (EPP) or Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), these arrangements violated the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, due to a recently passed law, ministries that are not part of a group health plan now have another option to help employees with health care costs.
Ministries beware: An email scheme, designed to coincide with tax season, asks payroll and human resource professionals to disclose employees’ personal information. Think you wouldn’t fall for such a scam? You might, if the email looks as if it came from someone in your ministry.
Under federal law, most ministers have dual tax status. Dual tax status means a minister is an employee of the church for federal income tax purposes, and self-employed for Social Security and Medicare taxes. Here’s what you need to know.
Lawsuits against churches and ministries are on the rise, making their board members especially vulnerable. Sometimes, courts have found directors and officers personally liable when their actions have resulted in financial damages.
Incorporation takes the weight of responsibility off the shoulders of individuals and instead, places it on the organization. In contrast, a court may find all members of an unincorporated church legally responsible for negligent or criminal actions committed by one church member.
Ministries commonly store a variety of personal information about their members and the people who support them. Mailing lists and donation records may be the most familiar repositories of personal information; however, the average church database is also likely to include Social Security numbers and payment card information. Unsecured, this data could make church members vulnerable to criminals—putting church and ministry members at risk.
Large or small, churches and ministries are often easy prey for would-be thieves, especially as church holidays, like Christmas, approach and weekly offerings increase as more people return to worship and other ministry activities. Ministry leaders can boost their ability to keep thieves away from their contributions and property by taking just a few precautions—not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year.
Churches seldom look more beautiful than when they're decorated for the holidays. Candles, lights, and greenery add splendor to the celebration of Christ's birth. Unfortunately, they also contribute to a number of fires each December. As you haul out the decorations, remember to balance beauty with safety.
Having a hard time finding people to serve in the church nursery? Do new volunteers stop serving, shortly after they begin? There could be a number of reasons for that.
Do you remember the last time you caught the flu? You probably sneezed and coughed and ached all over, resting your stuffy head by a box of tissues and wishing you had the energy to do more than lie there. Well, it’s time to watch out. The flu virus is preparing to pounce again.
Every fall, thousands of churches across the nation sponsor hayrides. Unfortunately, these events sometimes lead to serious injuries, even deaths. By following these suggestions, you can minimize the risks involved in sponsoring hayrides and make your hayride a safe and enjoyable experience.
Last May, the United States Department of Labor announced a new standard for determining who qualifies as an exempt employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The new ruling says that if an employee earns less than $47,476 per year ($913 per week), then in most cases the employee needs to be classified as non-exempt. This change will take effect December 1, 2016.
Issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws have received a great deal of media and government attention since the 2015 Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. As a result, many ministry leaders have questions about what the law requires and how they can accommodate LGBTQ* individuals without compromising their religious beliefs.
From time to time, your church or ministry may need to borrow or lease a vehicle for a special event. Before using a vehicle that you don’t own, you need to consider a number of factors.
Understanding your commercial auto insurance policy can sometimes seem as complicated as navigating rush-hour traffic in a crowded church bus. It doesn’t have to be intimating, if you know some of the common components and terms that every insurance policy includes.