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Managing Church Finances: Altar Offerings

Managing Church Finances: Altar Offerings
April 14, 2021 | by Belinda Whitfield, Certfied Public Accountant

Let’s now turn our attention to the systems of internal control that would be need when dealing with money placed at the altar. This usually occurs when the church hosts special services for say missions or relief efforts.  The reason for the offering does not mean that proper counting and recording should be ignored.  On the contrary, documented internal controls procedures are quite relevant if the church is to protect its reputation and possibly the members’ lives.  You really do not want it known that any member is allowed to leave the church with the offering in their possession.

Managing Church Finances

The controls governing the collection of offering that will apply include:

  • That there is separation of the duties surrounding the collection, counting, recording and depositing of the altar offerings. Different persons should be responsible for each area.
  • That the principle of two is always followed. This means that at least two ushers should collect and count the offerings and the collections should at no time be left with just one person. Again it is emphasised that there should always be two people with the offering at all times.
  • The count and collection teams should be rotated regularly and the same two persons should not be paired together all the time.
  • At least two persons should accompany the collections to the area for it to be counted.
  • Ushers and counters should be rotated regularly.
  • The counters of the offering should be unrelated.
  • All collections should always be counted and deposited intact. Basically, it is not allowed for anyone to use any of the money collected whether to make change or for church expenses.

Here’s how it should work.

  1. The ushers are responsible for taking up the collection placed at the altar.
  2. The money is accumulated, collected and also submitted to the accounting team so that it can properly be counted.
  3. At least two adults who are not related should be involved in the collection process.
  4. Immediately after the service, the ushers are to retrieve the offering and take it to the prearranged secure area (on church grounds) to be counted or stored away until the counting can be made.
  5. If the count cannot be done immediately, the collection should be placed in a locked safe in an area that has controlled access (little or no through traffic) on the church grounds.
  6. Where the count is done immediately and there is a need to submit the proceeds to a recipient, say the guest speaker, the total recorded as placed at the altar should be deposited intact and a check for the same amount given to the minister.

The church is built on the concepts of trust, truthfulness and honesty and most members do realize that internal controls serve to safeguard the church’s interest while at the same time protect them against any possible false allegations.

Written by Belinda Whitfield, Certfied Public Accountant

Belinda Whitfield is a certified public accountant that specializes in serving churches and non-profit organizations. Through her firm, Whitfield & Associates, she provides tax services, accounting and compliance oversight and strategic planning for churches and non-profits throughout the United States.

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