Tithes and Offerings are the financial lifeblood of your church, but what steps are you taking to protect it? You should first consider that embezzlement is a crime, but unfortunately it is something that goes on and is underreported in the church. Part of the problem is that insurance generally does not cover cash embezzlement or theft of undocumented funds, such as cash from your offering, until you can account for it. This is one reason that having a strict policy about handling funds is imperative. Here are four things you should implement regarding your offering policy:
- No pastor should handle the money. Accountability is important, and being above reproach in the area of handling money should be above all else.
- There must be a clear procedure for who collects the offering and who counts the money. If you have ushers who are passing the plate, for example, they are collecting the money, but there should be two ushers with the money at all points from the collection of the offering plates until it is secured. And some version of the following should be established:
- After all the offering plates are passed, there should be two ushers who bring them to a centralized place, either an office, or a location at the back of the church. From there, knowing how many plates were passed, a count should be made so that they are all checked back in. If one is missing, it needs to be located.
- Once all plates are accounted for, the collection should be emptied on a sorting table in plain sight of at least two ushers, deacons, or other responsible parties who are not staff or pastors.
- All cash funds should be sorted by denomination (i.e. twenty’s with twenty’s and five’s with five’s), and all checks should be sorted face down so that the ushers cannot see who wrote them or the account numbers. If you have envelopes for your members and guests, they should be collected upside down as well.
- A count sheet should be available to write the number of bills, checks, and envelopes received.
- The count sheet should be signed by the two people counting the offering, and all funds should be attached or placed in the same bag as the count sheet and then stored in a safe or other secure place.
- After the funds have been placed in the safe or safe place, another person who has been designated to process the money should review the count sheet and compare it with the funds, and then process the funds by recording all checks and offering for charitable giving purposes.
- Policies should be in place to rotate people who handle the money on a frequent basis, so that irregularities are able to be found. Additionally, if the funds are kept in a safe, establish a two-person system for accessing the safe, such as the person who knows the code to the safe does not have access to the room where the safe is, and the person who has access to the room does not know the code. Often times, this is where the pastor can come in. The pastor may have the key to the room where the safe is but not know the code. While we are on the subject of the church safe, someone needs to be in charge of the code to the safe, and it should be reset quarterly. Again, it should be mandatory that two people are required to access the safe, and a record should be kept on who reset the code. It should be written down only by two people, neither of whom should have access to the safe room.
I hope that some of these tips are helpful in establishing your offering policy. Leave a comment below on what your church has implemented. If you need help drafting a official offering policy that you can implement in your church please contact me.