Embezzlement – Part 1 of 4: I Knew Immediately, Something Was Wrong…
The tenor of the pastor’s voice told me there was something terribly wrong. He began unravelling his story and his purpose for calling Bellwether Church Solutions … the leadership team had just discovered the church treasurer, a member for eight years, had embezzled from their small congregation.
I was stunned.
Their treasurer had full responsibility for the church books and payroll. He had presented a spreadsheet each month at the leadership meeting and all “looked” fine. The pastor had gone to make a charge on the church credit card and it was rejected. Why? Because the card had reached the credit limit. How could that be? They paid the balance every month…he thought.
Now this was a small church with a small budget, but the treasurer had managed to embezzle over $65,000 in a year’s time. How?? He had quit making payroll tax payments 18 months before and was only making minimum payments on the church credit card each month. All the while using the church debit card to pay his personal utilities, Sunday lunches out for the family, and car repair. What!!
Now the church was left with a $20,000+ credit card bill and thousands of dollars in back payroll taxes with penalties and interest. I know it seems like “this could never happen here”. But it does … every day.
I was so distraught I researched and wrote the book: Preventing Fraud in Church Accounting. You see, one person taking care of the church books … even when you have others signing checks … is not enough.
Good stewardship means never putting a person in the position of having the opportunity to do what happened above. And yet churches, especially small churches, do this all the time.
One-third of churches will experience embezzlement! ¹ Yes, you read that correctly.
This newfound knowledge mixed with the pastor’s experience described here lit a fire in me. My focus became coming alongside churches to ensure they have good books. I redirected my bookkeeping business Bellwether to this purpose – full service bookkeeping for churches and nonprofits. But after two years found this was not helping those small churches operating out of a checkbook and/or spreadsheet. They needed something affordable and simple. Thus, GoodBooks, a division of Bellwether was born.
Don’t wait, don’t think twice — put the measures in place for your church today to ensure this story is never your church’s story. Contact GoodBooks today.
¹ Church Embezzlement by Patricia Lotich