The Minister and Church Finance

The importance of careful planning in church life.

By Claude Conard

Workers in the cause of God have been greatly favored financially. God has re­vealed to them the blessings of tithing and the giving of offerings. Our message has taught them to eliminate many of the expensive and harmful things of the world about them—tea, coffee, meats, tobacco, lodges, theaters, gambling, and lotteries, with all their attend. ant evils. It has made the Lord's servants happy and contented with plain and simple things. The workers are thus in a position to lead more acceptably, and to set a right ex­ample before the church.

These manifold advantages, however, will not remove the necessity of careful planning on the part of the laborer in order that every part of the work under his charge may go forward in an orderly manner. The true minister will recognize that his chief service lies in spiritual leadership, and he will so arrange the material phases of his church or conference duties that his main attention can be given to spiritual uplift. This will call for a careful distribution of financial and secular burdens among asso­ciate workers and church members, and the fostering of a program that will afford ample protection to every interest of the Lord's cause.

The minister in charge of a church or com­pany does well to place the financial responsi­bility upon others, so far as the local interests will warrant. If there are businessmen con­nected with the church, they may be chosen as treasurers or members of finance committees, and thoroughly instructed in denominational policies. Unless there is no one else who can do this work, it is better for the pastor's wife not to act as the church treasurer. For the Protection of the persons handling the money, as well as for the church interests generally, the accounts of all treasurers should be checked frequently by competent auditors.

Under no circumstances should a worker use for personal purposes any moneys which may come into his hands from church activities. It should be made certain that all church funds are held inviolate and sacred for the purpose for which they are intended. The standard in handling of money should be followed by conferences and institutions. No worker, even the president, treasurer, or manager, should allow himself to draw money from the organ­ization with which he is connected in any other than the regular way; and all funds collected in the field should be accounted for promptly. Slips in the cash drawer, or private arrange­ments for salary advances, or the payment of personal bills through the office, are each and always to be discouraged.

If the wife of the president or the treasurer of a conference or institution must work, it should be in some capacity other than in con­nection with the business office as cashier, ac­countant, or clerk. It is ever well to guard against the financial and administrative phases of any organization being made a family affair.

In church work, the handling of local ex­penses is an important factor. By careful budgeting, the entire range of local finance can be compassed, and adequate provision made by membership subscriptions to cover its re­quirements. A systematic plan of apportion­ment and collection, such as an individual sum equal to a certain per cent of the personal tithe, is advantageous in meeting the needs of the church's fiscal program.

In local church work, a source of financial perplexity is often encountered in the accounts of the missionary secretary or librarian with the conference book and periodical depository. A systematic plan of collection from the mem­bers, and the prompt remittance of accounts in full, make for success and satisfaction all along the line. God's work should operate on a strictly cash basis.

The local, union, and General Conference policies regarding new buildings and debts should be carefully studied and followed by the pastor and field leaders before church or other building projects are undertaken. While al­ways sympathetic to the needs of his constit­uency, the worker must guard against encour­aging among his associates or members any building or other major proposal without proper counsel, and then using the feeling thus cre­ated to bring pressure upon governing boards or committees for the accomplishment of his purpose. The officers in higher organizations that are concerned, will usually be found help­ful in planning for progress, and from the beginning their counsel should be sought in regard to any important development. It is a strange psychology which sometimes helps to formulate financial and administrative policies in our general assemblies, and then tries to avoid their application in the local constit­uencies.

The minister of the Lord stands as a teacher of the people. By precept and by practice he must make them know the better ways of life. Many of his members may have come from homes where their sense of responsibility was not highly developed. The minister is their mentor, and may need to educate them even as to their personal and business relations with their fellow men. Economy, personal finance, and sound principles in the avoidance of debt and the use of savings, will come under his range of instruction. Opportunities will not be wanting to display his capabilities by word and by example.

The worker is sometimes perplexed regard­ing his own leadership in giving donations. None should be more willing to sacrifice for the advancement of God's cause than he. Yet there is a limit to his capacity to contribute. At times there may come the temptation to overstate his purpose or pyramid his pledges, which can but react detrimentally to his own sense of integrity. The Lord will honor his stand for right.

Every worker in an executive position is safest in working close to his board or com­mittee. He may not always be able to do as he would like; but at least he has protected himself, and is acting in harmony with the Bible principle that "in the multitude of coun­selors there is safety." A veteran minister has aptly said, "In every decision of importance, it is well to have as many responsible persons implicated as possible."

Money which must be held by an organiza­tion in trust or for future contingencies must be placed somewhere for keeping. Its disposal in banks or investments should therefore be upon the best advice obtainable, and only with the full knowledge and approval of the govern­ing board or committee. No wise officer, or group of officers, of conference or institution —president, treasurer, manager—unless under full authorization of the board, will think of taking personally the risk involved in the in­vestment of money belonging to the Lord's cause. In the larger placement of funds it is well to seek counsel of higher organizations, such as -the union, di-vision, or -General Con-f erence.

Some one has wisely suggested that there are three essential rules for the investment of trust funds and surpluses which must be held by a religious organization. They are stated thus:

1. Safety.

2. Safety

3. Safety.

There are different degrees of security which current conditions must determine. Without question, securities which promise a high per­centage of interest should be shunned with grave suspicion. Our conferences and institu­tions are not designed to be banking concerns; therefore it is not wise to encourage our people to place deposits with them for investment, or to accept loans unless the money is definitely required in our organized work. It goes with­out saying that speculation should find no place in Christian finance.

Statements of financial affairs to managing boards and responsible constituencies should be frank, open, honest, without subterfuge or the withholding of necessary information. They should be made to reveal conditions as they exist.

In all business affairs, auditors should be considered as friends and helpers; and frequent investigations should be welcomed. The audi­tor's task is the measuring of current practices with the policies that have been laid down in general councils, and of safeguarding all per­sons who are trying to meet the prescribed requirements. His opportunities for viewing matters from a wider range should give strength to his counsel in financial affairs. Auditors are answerable to the constituencies that elect them, and they should not allow their judgment to be swayed by their associates on boards and committees; they should, however, be amenable to the best counsel available.

That the end justifies the means is never a sound principle. Expediency alone should find no place in Christian business practice or ad­ministration. How much more in keeping with the spirit of the gospel is the characterization by a fellow worker of a veteran leader in the mission field:

"No cunning politics in him; He lives above that saintly sin: He wins his battles on his knees, Where God in heaven hears his pleas."

No man on earth can know the future. The outlook holds no pleasant promise. Economic and financial conditions will be slow in return­ing to so-called normal, if indeed that desired state will be reattained. Temporary recoveries and hopes for future benefit may present them­selves. Due advantage should be taken of every such easement in strengthening our present position; but we shall have to guard carefully against the tendency toward overoptimism, and should stand prepared for darker days than we have yet seen.

Through it all the Master's word bids, "Occupy till I come," and we must all face stoutly forward, with firm faith in our Lord's leadership. Even though our personal and denominational prospects may at times seem perilous, our courage will never falter if God is our trust.

Washington, D. C.


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By Claude Conard

September 1935

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