We are on to another area of systems of internal controls for managing church finances. Let’s focus now on the collecting offerings. This function is carried out by the ushers. Before we go into the details, it is important that church leaders, wanting to put procedures in place or make improvements to current procedures point out that it is not because of any suspicions of wrong doings within the ministry. It is essentially to safeguard the integrity of the ushers, counters and bookkeepers involved in handling the church finances.
The use and documentation of internal controls affecting the collection of offerings will serve at least three purposes. First, the integrity of the custodians of cash is protected from unwarranted suspicion by having formal established procedures. Second, by having these procedures documented donors can be assured of the transparency, security, stewardship and secrecy maintained regarding contributions. Thirdly and quite surprising to some, the offering collection and count procedures are modelled from scriptures.
Two (2) people should be with the money at all times.
This principle was followed by the apostle Paul (I Corinthians 16.3, 4). He was insistent that someone go with him if he were to agree to take the offering from the church to the saints in Jerusalem. Another example can be found in II Chronicles 24.11 “The king’s scribe and the high priest’s officer came and emptied the (offerings) chest, and took it, and carried it to his place again”. Two persons were with money at all times. Take a look at verse 14 of the same chapter and you will see that when the work on the house of God was finished “they” took the unused funds to the king.
This the biblical basis for making sure that two people are with the money at all times, but the very practical reason is that it makes sense to remove any and all temptations to misappropriate money from the offering before it is counted. The ushers’ integrity is protected and the church shows its commitment to honesty and integrity in board conduct.
In managing the church finances this principle of shared custody should be followed without variation.
Rotate your ushers.
This is a rather practical and often easy to implement internal control measure. It reduces the opportunity for familiarity or predictability. You also do not want the responsibility of ushering to become a burden for the church members. To this end:
- Be sure to maintain a schedule of who will be ushering when. Be sure to include any special ministry services.
- You should not have the same two persons paired together all the time. As much as possible, rotate who they are paired with.
- The ushers working together should be unrelated.
- Do not assign the same two ushers to do the same services back to back. Let others share in the experience and this will boost morale especially where the services are high profile.
These are internal control measures that have biblical foundations and common sense value that church leaders can relate to and easily implement.