“The priests who guarded the entrance put into the chest all the money that was brought to the temple of the LORD.” (2 Kings 12:9)
Almost in passing, this verse mentions that the money collecting process was being protected. Priests were posted at the entrance to the temple where the collection chest had been placed. These priests’ job was to “guard” this entrance and the money. They watched over the process to insure that everything was done in an orderly manner. When I read that one word, “guarded”, I was reminded that, even in the church house, security measures are necessary.
This is a frequently ignored fact. Many churches operate under an “it could never happen here” philosophy. This position is usually defended with some of the following famous last words: “We are all Christians here.” “We know and trust each other.” “It would be offensive to watch over our volunteers like a prison guard!” “We might as well go ahead and call them crooks to their face!”
While well meaning, these phrases ignore one basic fact. All men and women, even church goers, are flawed creatures. All of us are susceptible to falling to temptations of various types. And many are tempted to take things that belong to others, even at church. This situation can be exacerbated when a church has an employee with severe economic needs due to personal bankruptcy, job losses or family health issues. Security is important. Even at a church. Security concerns must be addressed as part of the church’s financial accountability program. But maybe not for the reasons most people think.
Church security measures are designed to provide protection in three main areas.
- The obvious concern is protecting the church’s assets; primarily its bank accounts. Losing money through error or theft can be embarrassing. It can cause a church to cancel or postpone plans that have been on the drawing board for a long time. But, in the end, money can usually be replaced. Additional appeals can be made to the congregation to make up the deficit and in some cases, insurance may be in place to restore most of the funds. However, there are two other things that typically are much more difficult to repair.
- First, is the reputation of church employees and volunteers. Even if a church suffers a loss, and it is relatively sure that the loss is due to mistake, not fraud, trouble could still loom on the horizon. For example, if a loss occurs and the church has not been concerned about security, and has no well defined accountability and documentation system, the reputation of those handling the funds could be tarnished. In the minds of some in the church, these people can never be trusted again, in spite of the fact that no proof was ever found that wrongdoing had occurred. Unfortunately, reputations are much harder to repair than money is to restore.
- A more important factor is the damage that can be done to the name of God. When financial improprieties strike a church the news is usually reported widely, both within and without the church. Inside the church, bad news is usually spread informally through the ever present rumor mill. Formally, the word is spread through business and committee meetings. Outside the walls of the church, the news media waits eagerly for stories such as this to spread quickly and dramatically. The news media loves to report on hypocrisy, especially in the higher profile churches.
The broadcasting of bad news has an impact, and the impact takes place both inside and outside of the church. Inside, some church members’ faith in God is weakened by moral failure within the church, and some discouraged individuals may even leave the church. To those outside the church, the bad news may reaffirm their belief that there is no truth to the claims of Christians. Their reaction is to never enter a church. This is why security is important. Money is secondary. It’s the message that can be tarnished, and every church should take care to “guard the entrance” just as the priests under Jehoiada did.
Verne Hargrave is the Church and Ministry partner at PSK LLP and author of the book, Weeds in the Garden.