4 Real Ways to Hold Your Church Accountable
“Accountability” is a buzz word that is thrown around quite loosely these days. “We need to be accountable” or “we have to hold our organization accountable” are phrases we might hear during a church board meeting.
The idea is Biblical. Paul implores Christians to live a life “above reproach” and “blameless” (1 Tim 3, Titus 1). So what are the ways we can practically live out this goal of accountability when it comes to our churches bookkeeping and financials?
- Annual financial audit/review by a CPA. This does not have to be a full-blown audit every single year, but even having a CPA do a review or survey of your organization’s bookkeeping methods can provide value.* This also helps keep the church staff motivated to keep good records.
- Internal audits. This can be performed by someone on staff at the church or by someone outside the organization. The audit can be as broad or specific as the church would like and can be performed as frequently as needed. The more the audits come back squeaky clean, the more everyone else can rest assured that the financials are being handled responsibly.
- Outsource some bookkeeping tasks. While the church may need a fulltime bookkeeper because they are larger or may be too small to afford a fulltime bookkeeper, some of the bookkeeping tasks can still be outsourced. By dividing and outsourcing even some of the bookkeeping tasks the layers of accountability increase. Many churches choose to outsource some or all of their bookkeeping to companies like Bellwether Church Solutions primarily because of accountability concerns.
- Become ECFA certified. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) offers accreditation for churches who want to demonstrate their commitment to high standards of financial integrity. They require a membership application and annual renewal in exchange for a standards check-in program, ECFA member compliance concern reporting, and formal compliance reviews. The cost is based on the churches annual income which means this is something any church can afford and should take advantage of!
Please note that not every church needs to be doing all four of the things listed and certainly not all four simultaneously. And, there are other real ways to hold your church accountable. This is simply a list of ways to get started.
*ECFA recommends a CPA audit annually if the budget exceeds $3 million/year. Budgets between $1 million and $3 million should consider an occasional audit with annual CPA reviews in between audits.