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Churches should look at how they handle money
Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press
March 26, 2010

Churches should look at how they handle money

Churches should look at how they handle money
Ken Camp, Associated Baptist Press
March 26, 2010

Tough economic times may

result in stronger, healthier and smarter churches and Christian ministries,

according to Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

In times of economic stress,

contributors prioritize giving. So, local congregations and programs that

provide “safety-net” assistance for people in need generally have been most

successful in attracting or retaining donors, Busby noted.

In fact, the Salvation Army recently reported Americans gave a record $139 million last

Christmas to its Red Kettle Campaign, which provides more than 28 million

Americans with food, shelter and substance abuse treatment.

Anecdotal evidence indicates

many individual congregations have fared better than most parachurch ministries

during months of recession, Busby added.

And just as tight dollars

force contributors to make hard choices, economic stress also should prompt

churches and Christian ministries to set priorities.

“Those that are able to

redirect their focus may come out healthier than if the recession had not

occurred,” he said. “Churches and ministries should focus on their core

mission.”

When times are good,

ministries tend to create new programs and expend energy promoting them, he

noted. But when times get tough, smart ministries focus on their central

purpose.

Congregations and related

Christian ministries can prepare for hard times by “building margin into

ministry,” Busby urged, rather than operating on a razor-thin edge.

Desperate times can lead

trusting people to desperate acts, and churches in financial trouble should beware

of fraudulent perpetrators of get-rich-quick scams, he recommended.

“It’s human nature to want

the best deal and the best return on one’s investment. But so many times,

people don’t learn from history. If it looks too good to be true, assume that

it is,” he said.

In a tight economy, churches

should take special precautions against embezzlement and fraud, Busby advised.

“As Christians, we often let

our guard down. We’re the most trusting people. Too often, we don’t institute

internal controls, segregation of duties and other basic business principles at

church that we know make sense anywhere else,” he said.

While many churches spend

time and money on security systems to protect themselves, they fail to put in

place simple checks and balances and internal control mechanisms to guard

against misuse of funds, he noted.

“Most funds that disappear

from the church coffers disappear after the offering is safely in the bank

account,” Busby said.

Common-sense business

practices protect churches from losing their credibility, he added. When

financial scandals hit a church, dollars lost to the church budget represent

the least important loss, he stressed.

“The negative impact on the

kingdom of God is hard to measure, as people get disenchanted with the local

church,” he said.