Financial Red Flags and Proactive Practices

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.