Trap #1 Operating without a plan – Short-term plans (continued)

Operating without a formal, written accounting and management policy manual

In addition to a budget, a formal management document is a must to help insure that the church makes appropriate and effective short-term decisions.  Written policies and procedure documents assist churches in the administration of activities by helping to set forth in clear, unmistakable terms the mission of the church and how it will be carried out.  The manual will also establish and reinforce the organizational structure of the church by providing a clear delegation of duties and responsibilities.  It also will serve as a guide to direct and oversee the carrying out of Church activities.

One of the purposes of written policies is to head off problems before they arise.  And, in cases when problems do arise, having policies in place makes navigating the choppy waters manageable.  For instance, suppose your church is offered a gift of land of a sizeable dollar value. (According to the donor…)  The church accepts the land, transfers the title, and later learns the land has significant environmental issues.  (For example, the land was the site of a former gas station, dairy, or dry cleaners, etc.)  Unfortunately, accepting the land also results in accepting the liability for cleaning up the mess.  A good contribution policy could help prevent this from happening by requiring all gifts of property be approved by the appropriate committee prior to acceptance.  Contribution acceptance is just one of the topics to be included in a policy manual.  Here are a few more.

Organizational structure

Budget development

Cash management

Offering counting, recording and reporting

Bill approval and payment

Vendor approval


Financial statement presentation

Personnel and employee benefits


Conflicts of interest


Building and property use

Restricted funds

Intellectual properties

Short-term mission trips

KEY:  A church accounting and management policies and procedures document is another brick in the wall of risk management.  The goal of establishing clear policies is to anticipate problems before they arise and having a suitable response should they occur.

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