Of course there’s the job of handling the money. How to do that, not just efficiently, but also responsibly? What to record? How to ensure accuracy? How to ensure accountability? You’ll find clear and simple procedures in this excerpt from the Deacon’s Handbook.
Handling the Money
Traditionally the task of collecting offerings each week, counting the money, and depositing it in the bank has been assigned to deacons. That makes sense since deacons are officebearers whom the congregation trusts to be honest and discreet. In order to be efficient in paying the bills and meeting benevolent needs, deacons need to be involved in collecting money. And since giving is a sign of spiritual health, deacons need to know which members are not regular givers. But having all the deacons sitting around a table counting money may not be a good use of their time, especially in larger churches. After all, some people can’t count a stack of bills and come up with the same number twice in a row to save their lives! Having such a person involved in counting would inevitably slow the whole process down and lead to frustration. Consider appointing a counting team—perhaps a subset of deacons or volunteers from the congregation who can be trusted to do the job well. Members of a counting team should agree to
- serve for at least one year.
- meet every week.
- keep excellent records.
- maintain confidentiality.
Bookkeeping is a very important part of handling money responsibly. Each week a record of the gifts received from each member should be noted. If your church uses envelopes, note on the envelope the amount contained and whether it was in the form of cash or a check. Usually one of the deacons will be assigned the task of entering this information into a financial database from which giving reports can be generated. The marked envelopes should be retained until the fiscal year has ended so that any questions from the congregation can be answered by referring to the envelopes received. Obviously you can’t give credit for the loose cash in the offering plates, but record exactly how much there was. Receipts to the congregation should be distributed at least quarterly. When should the offering be counted? Some churches have a safe where the offerings can be placed until they are counted during the week. Other churches count and deposit money immediately after each service. This should be determined by the people responsible for the counting.
One area to consider carefully is security. Unfortunately you do not have to be wary only of people outside your church. Far too often, deacons in financial straits have yielded to the temptation to take some of the cash from the offerings. Always have at least two people counting and have cross-checks of the counts. If a member of the congregation complains of not getting a receipt for the full amount of his or her cash offering, take this seriously and investigate!
To help people avoid temptation, some churches appoint a deacon as an observer. He or she does not have a task to perform during the counting but is free to wander about the room watching the process. In addition to preventing theft, this also provides an opportunity to identify volunteers who are not skilled at counting and whose time could be better used elsewhere.