The devil is a thief – is he stealing from your church?Bookmark this
I wanted to share this real life story about a church because the stakes are so high. In fact, the church in this story had to close its doors. I am sharing it to keep our enemy from duplicating this strategy over and over again. Far too many churches have already dealt with the consequences.
It was 2017 when I received a call from a Pastor inquiring about my bookkeeping business. At that time, I was serving a wide variety of businesses. I knew from the tenor of his voice that there was something wrong. He began unraveling his story and I found myself stunned.
His was a small church, 20 families, $8000-$10,000 per month budget. They were a church plant 8 years previously and lived by the mantra “doing life together”. They had just discovered that their treasurer, a member for 8 years, had been embezzling from the church. This man, a Christian, active in several church ministries, Best Man to the Pastor when he married, had been stealing from the church. Not a small amount either … fraud that amounted to almost $65,000 over a couple of years. How is this even possible with such a small budget?
Well, it came to light as a church leader attempted to make a purchase with the church credit card and found it denied as their limit of $25,000 had been reached. What! They thought the balance was paid off each month. No, only the minimum balance was being paid. Further investigation indicated no payroll taxes had been paid in years. And the church debit card had been used to pay the treasurer’s utilities, his Sunday family after church lunches and even his plane ticket to the Pastor’s wedding. This was a man loved by his church family. Trusted by his church family. A good man.
No one knew he was having personal financial troubles. No one else in the church saw the bank statement. No one in the church reviewed the credit card statements. No one else audited the IRS payroll tax payment history (by the way, they were paying the pastor wrong anyway – not as a dual-status employee as the IRS requires). The church had no formal bookkeeping app/software. And the spreadsheet he prepared for each monthly leadership meeting looked great. A spreadsheet with made-up numbers and no donor records.
My heart was broken.
It is not rare. I began researching this issue, thinking it must be rare. What I found astounded me. Estimates are that 1/3 of churches experience embezzlement. Why? Because we are so “Christianly” – we trust – we are focused on ministry, not money. I was so impassioned to address this issue in the church, I authored “Preventing Fraud in Church Accounting”. And I re-focused my business, Bellwether, to specifically serve churches and nonprofits. I wanted to make a difference in the statistics I found.
I imagined my client-base to be small churches. However, I found these barriers:
- “Oh, this will never happen to us”
- “Jane has been doing our books for 20+ years, she knows everything”
- “I am the pastor and my wife keeps the books”
- “We can’t afford a bookkeeper/bookkeeping software”
- “We’re too small – we don’t need it”
My business grew, but I was acquiring mid-size churches and even some church associations. Those who could “afford” full-service bookkeeping. I was happy to be serving these organizations, but still very worried about the smaller churches who thought they were just fine. How could I provide affordable, secure, excellent bookkeeping for those churches?
So, January of 2020, GoodBooks, a division of Bellwether, was launched. GoodBooks provides the bookkeeping app, training and a resource library to help every church keep their own books in an excellent, efficient and effective way for as little as $40/month – affordable for any church.
Searching out bookkeeping partners who could help fill this bill, I came across Xero – a world-wide, “cloud” bookkeeping software that is affordable and user-friendly and very suited to helping a church keep good books. We can even help those churches who would prefer QuickBooks Online as well.
This means churches can practically automate their bookkeeping by syncing bank and credit card accounts and ensure that every financial transaction is transparent and reported. This means that churches can easily review and oversee what is going on financially by more than one person. This means that they CAN afford to have secure and real time financial records at their fingertips (literally on their smart phone).
GoodBooks will help your church setup their bookkeeping, we will teach you how to use it and we will be available to answer your questions because it is our passion that you have good books. Our desire is to help you be good stewards of the funds entrusted to you. It is our passion that you have the ability to make good financial decisions because you have good financial information.
Interestingly enough, long before the Covid crisis, Bellwether and GoodBooks have operated in the cloud since their inception. We have clients all over Texas and even out-of-state. We have several bookkeepers who are out-of-state. We were “zooming” online long before Zoom was cool. We are bonded, we are insured and we promise you our best to help your church be their best.
We hope every church will come on-board. We hope they will free their volunteer or pastor (or their spouse) from the drudgery of obsolete bookkeeping. We hope every church will embrace the new and integrated means to systematize your financial reporting and add levels of security to your financial stewardship. We hope every church will remove the temptation that is simply too strong when only one person has access to all of your financial activities. And most of all, just like you, we work to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” one day.
San Antonio, TX and The Cloud
The Cloud and San Antonio, TX
San Antonio, Texas