How can your church bookkeeping and church payroll functions support your church team in making better decisions?
In this article we’ll explore this important question under the headings of Stewardship, People and Outcomes.
Good stewardship is probably close to your heart – you have a desire to effectively administer what has been entrusted to your care or responsibility. You want to make good decisions, and support others to make good decisions, for the financial well-being of your church and its members.
However, you may have experienced hurdles in having the financial information you need to support a good decision-making process. hurdles like:
- Delays – where the information you are looking at is out-of-date or incomplete
- Confusion – where it’s not clear what the figures mean or if they are correct
- On-the-fly reactions – where there’s little consideration of broader plans
Further, your church treasurer (maybe that’s you!) may be facing their own challenges or “overwhelm”:
- Time – many treasurers are volunteers holding down a full-time job and/or other significant responsibilities
- Training – the skills and qualifications that your treasurer has may not fully overlap with the large scope of areas they are managing for your church
- Temperament – the wide range of expectations may be exposing your treasurer to an unanticipated level of pressure or critique that they are not feeling comfortable with
So, when it comes to stewarding the financial management of your church, it can be important to think about these hurdles and challenges, and how to create a function that:
- Provides decision-makers with timely, accurate and relevant information; and
- Supports your treasurer in a way that allows them to operate successfully and sustainably in their role
It may be surprising to realise the great extent of the scope of areas that can fall under the Financial Management function of your church. For example, this could potentially extend to:
- Data-entry functions
- Bookkeeping processing functions
- Payroll and remuneration functions
- Expense management functions
- Compliance control functions (like GST, STP, Super, PAYG)
- Reporting functions (internal and external)
- Strategic development functions
- Administrative and workflow functions
- System set up and integrity monitoring functions
- Communication functions
- Governance and approval functions
This list could probably be extended even further in some cases, but you get the picture.
This is where we come to what we refer to as “a dangerous assumption”. At that assumption is this:
If someone is a whizz at one aspect of your church finances, they’ll be a whizz at all aspects of your church finances.
This assumption, if not checked, could lead to undue pressure on a single person, and possibly bring them into unfamiliar and stressful territory. Noting this ahead of time can aid better planning and resourcing in way that is achievable and supports continuity of the function.
So, when thinking through the range of people that could be involved in your church finances, it may help to think both about the range of scope (and the time, skills and temperament required) and also possible sources of help and support from one or more of:
- additional volunteers
- ministry staff
- admin staff
- finance staff
- specialist providers
(We’ll cover this in more depth in a later article.)
What may be some of the outcomes that you’d like to see from a good financial management and decision-making process? We’ll talk about some more outcomes further along, but for now some helpful ones to note may be:
- Reporting – some key things here may be: to have a regular record of income and expenses giving a good indication of how the pulse of your church finances is travelling along; and a clear understanding of the financial health and viability of your church in terms of assets, liabilities and available cash.
- Communication – having all stakeholders in your church (including leaders, staff, volunteers, members) having an appropriate level and frequency of financial information, encouraging engagement and participation
- Trust – allowing the clarity and reliability of financial processing and compliance to give a sense of trust and confidence that money is being managed well and being used in line with your church’s vision
- Growth – having the financial function service the growth of your church by: giving the strategic planning process robust and helpful financial insights; and developing practices and procedures that support, rather than hinder, generosity amongst your members
There’s more that could be said, but for now we can see that where the church finance function facilitates better decisions this can benefit right throughout your church and beyond.
Would you like to explore further topics related to church bookkeeping, church payroll and church financial management? eBook available now:
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This guide aims to provide a useful and helpful big-picture view – to assist you in further developing the financial function of your church in your context. Designed for church pastors, church ministry leaders, church officeholders, church admin teams, church treasurers and church members.
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