So why are you here? You’re here because you’re brave, that’s why.
You are not afraid of someone looking at how you’re doing things, especially if it helps you get better at what you do. EVERY athlete feels this way. Elite soldiers do, too.
You serve our Lord, and He’s put you in a position of responsibility at your church. You want to please Him – to discharge your duties well, and to hear,“Well done, good and faithful servant!”
I do, too. By auditing church financial procedures I am doing my part to reverse the effects of the fall.
The photo here is a detail of a poster I have in my office. It means a lot to me – this is what I want from our Lord. I’ll wager that you feel the same way.
What will you get from me?
You’ll get closer to that “Well done” you want to hear. You’ll get an honest assessment of your church’s financial strengths and weaknesses. You’ll get a to-do list to guide your efforts. You’ll also get consulting time, and follow-up to help you build stronger procedures. You’ll become a better servant, and you’ll take better care of what the Lord gives you.
More than that, you’ll be protecting the innocent. Not against invaders, but against the lies of our adversary. Against false accusations. You’ll be protecting their good name. For example, a pastor CAN’T pocket the dough if he never gets within thirty feet of the collection! Every person who touches the money at your church will benefit.
And you’ll be protecting your staff and volunteers, too, in a deeper way. Our job as Christians is to build people up, not to set them up for disaster. Follow my advice and your weaker brethren won’t have any opportunity to take church money! You will be reducing temptation. And not only for the weaker brother. Those of us who think we stand need this help, too…
But – let’s think about the outcome if you DON’T tighten things up. Think of your beloved church treasurer or bookkeeper. What would happen if you discovered that she was embezzling church money? I posed this question to one of our deacons, and he immediately blurted, “It would kill our church.” Imagine: this dear member taken out in cuffs? What, when, and how do you tell the congregation? Will you ask her to leave? How will her extended family respond? You could lose half your church overnight! And the ones who stay? Will they continue to contribute if they feel their money might be stolen? How much of a reduction in donations could your church afford?
So you’re not just protecting reputations and reducing temptation. You’re preventing a horrible, church-splitting, sticky situation. If your dear treasurer has no ABILITY to embezzle funds, you dodged a very big bullet. You’re preventing problems. How many pastors of churches destroyed by fraud wish they had done what you’re doing right now!
And, of course, you’re preventing fraud in the first place. Even the one-talent servant kept the funds safe! That’s where we need to start.
“But… it can’t happen HERE!”
I know – you trust your people. That’s what churches do. The problem comes when the individual is trusted and unsupervised. Why churches would do this is hard to grasp, really, given what Scripture tells us about the heart of man. Fact is, we’re ALL weak and sinful, and it’s only by God’s grace that we can act as we should. And we often do what we ought not do (see Romans 7 if you’re rusty on this). Of COURSE we’re going to have people take money from the church if nobody is watching!
You trust your people? ALL church embezzlers were trusted – that’s how they got the money!
Most churches are wide open for fraud. And people who deal with church fraud estimate that about a quarter of churches are likely to get hit. Another estimate I saw suggested three out of four churches – or more. A recent study asked pastors if they knew of fraud, theft, or embezzlement at their church in the last five years. 13.3% said they did. The researchers, interestingly, were firmly convinced the number was much higher. The 13.3% were the pastors who KNEW about it, and were also brave enough to own up to it over the phone. Fraud can certainly take place at your church. You trust your people? ALLchurch embezzlers were trusted – that’s how they got the money!
And the damage to your church can be severe. We already mentioned the drop in giving and the church split that you could experience. But you’re likely to lose a lot of cash, too. The median non-profit fraud in 2016 was $82,000. In the little corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains where we’re from, I know of two churches hit for a lot more. A trusted bookkeeper at one took $167,000. The pastor at the other appears to have taken well over a quarter of a million dollars. This second church went into default and is now shuttered. Better to invest some effort NOW to prevent this!
So what is this “Audit” all about?
The first thing to understand is that this is NOT a witch-hunt. No torches and pitchforks! I am not trying to ‘catch someone out’ or point fingers. Think of me as your coach. If I can watch what you’re doing and teach you a better way to throw the ball, you benefit. Frankly, I do not expect to find fraud at your church. (If I find it, of course, I’ll let your board know and give advice on how to proceed.)
Nor is this an examination of your books. If you have $10K or so available you can hire a CPA to do this. Or swap bookkeepers with a neighboring church treasurer. Instead, I look at your Internal Controls – your financial procedures. The goal is to look forward and to build fraud out, SO IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE.
How It Works:
Does my church want to do business with you?
Sure you do! Though I look like a scary auditor, I’m actually a pretty nice guy. I know my stuff – I’ve been a Christian since 1972 (and did a summer in Africa); I have a Master’s in numbers-based detective work, 18 years in Accounting and computer programming, and 13 years as a teacher before that. And I am a Certified Fraud Examiner and belong to their Association. We’ll get along fine and we’ll make great progress at your church together. See more about me here.
…you said, “Affordable…”?
Well, if you DON’T hire me, it might cost you a half a million bucks or more, plus a dead church! And with a 25% chance of fraud at your church, nearly any price to avoid the risk would be a good investment. And considering that a CPA audit of your books might cost you $7,000 – $15,000, my prices look pretty good.
I offer several packages. You don’t need to decide which package you need right away, and you don’t need to pay right away. You will need to decide and payment will be needed within ten days unless other arrangements are made.
(Scholarships are available for tiny churches – email us for information.)
Now, you’re perfectly welcome to whip out that church credit card and buy… but I know that committees probably should be consulted and money allocated.
Here’s information on how you can get started now, and get the ball rolling with the appropriate folks at church.
But wait! There’s more!
(I couldn’t resist.)
BONUS #1 (OK, these are really just included with the package, but I thought I would call them bonuses, because, well, marketing.)
If you choose the Gold or Platinum package, you’ll also get access to a clients-only email system to help you keep on track. You’ll get periodic email messages listing a half-dozen things to do. When you knock one off or decide to table it, you let me know. Your next email will drop these off the list, and will give you another half-dozen for your attention. You will also be able to delegate tasks to others, and see how they’re progressing. Value: $125
If you choose the Gold or Platinum package (and you give me enough to work with), you’ll also receive a short video to post on your church website. If your score is low, the video will stress how you’re committed to making changes and are taking steps already. And I’ll redo the video in six months if you’ve made good progress. If you score well, I’ll sing your praises! Such a video will encourage website visitors to come to your church. And they will give your members confidence in giving. This video will show everyone that you’re committed to good financial management – and reducing temptation. And it will show that you are taking steps to protect their gifts – and their good name. Value: $150
What to do – right now.
You want better financial transparency, improved accountability, proper documentation, and such, right? You know, you want your church to be upright, and to be good stewards of what God gives.
Sign up! – If you think this is a good thing to do, get on my calendar, and start the ball rolling! You’re not obligating anyone to anything – probably you’ll need to present the idea to your board or your pastor. I’m aware that this can take some time. You might also need to get a budget item approved. Here are some ways to get things moving… and while we wait, you can start answering questions right now!
Still thinking? Sign up for my ‘Fraud Case of the Week’ emails. Every week you’ll get an email describing a church fraud case. I’ll also tell you how you can prevent a similar case from happening at your church. Sign up here!