This guest article written by BELAY's CFO Lisa Zeeveld recently appeared on Carey Nieuwhof's blog, and is being republished with permission. Learn more about everything you need to lead, run and grow your church or impact-based organization in Carey's The Art of Leadership Academy here.
Few people are comfortable talking about money. Even fewer are comfortable handling the bookkeeping of it, especially church leaders.
Now, sure. Church leaders aren’t the only people in the position of handling the task of managing finances – a Herculean task if we’re being honest – but for them, it’s often so far beyond their depth, scope of work, passion, and calling that it can prove downright painful.
We’re not trying to be hyperbolic, but ask any pastor you know if they got into ministry to be the church’s record-keeper and we’re sure you’ll be met with a hearty, dismissive guffaw.
And fair enough.
The bottom line is that you didn’t become a pastor to be an accountant, and you didn’t attend seminary to learn about software.
As a result, too often, senior pastors end up making less-than-ideal choices when it comes to church finances. Common mistakes include:
- Find a well-meaning retiree who can 'handle the books' even though they may not be up to date on current accounting practices.
- Lining up a friend or family member who will do the books in their spare time – allowing for a potential conflict of interest.
- Giving them to someone who isn't accredited.
- Trusting the books to an accredited person in the congregation who has the credentials but not the time means the books get behind and mistakes can get made in the haste to 'catch up.'
We recognize that many believe that faith and finances can’t coexist. And superficially, that makes sense. Faith is about trust and belief and using metrics, software and a chart of accounts for matters of the heart and soul can feel emotionally and spiritually disconnected.
But if a church is going to continue to grow in ministry effectiveness – and that’s always the goal – church leaders need to get comfortable with it. And if their church is going to not only grow but thrive, they’ve got to get good at it.
Thankfully, getting ‘good’ at handling church finances can be just as simple as shifting your perspective a bit and then knowing a few best practices for financial transparency and accountability.
Change Your Lens
First, when you ditch the mindset that church accounting is a ‘have to’ of church leadership life, and instead begin to believe it’s a ‘get to,’ handling church finances becomes something entirely different – especially when you consider that some of that responsibility is managing money that so perfectly demonstrates how the people you shepherd have truly embraced the generosity of God in all areas of their lives.
Not too shabby a perspective, right?
Still, you certainly didn’t get into ministry to devote so much time to managing money. But trust us when we say: You can do this. And we can help.
A thriving, healthy, financially flourishing church doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of leaders committed to church finance best practices which they accept as part and parcel of what they believe God is calling them to do.
On the other hand, many churches aren’t quite large enough to hire a full-time staff person to handle the accounting and finances. So, what do you do?
Well, one cost-efficient option would be to contract a church bookkeeper from BELAY. And contracting a church bookkeeper comes with far more benefits than just getting your church finances in order.
5 Ways a Church Bookkeeper Can Make Your Life Easier
1. Free Time
Finally free to relax. Free to grow. Free to breathe.
Bookkeeping is a time-consuming task and is often responsible for church leaders working overtime because if you want accurate figures, you have to be patient, take your time, and double-check every calculation you make.
Forget the days when you would arrive home to a cold plate of food with your kids already in bed for the night. Your time is once again your own – and every minute matters!
2. More Attention to What Matters
More accuracy. Improved efficiency. Increased productivity.
With a Bookkeeper owning your church finances, you can devote 100 percent of your focus to what really matters to you: Shepherding those in faith while knowing that the bookkeeping is still being done right.
3. Accounting Accuracy
Bookkeepers willingly look at a thousand different numbers a day. Math is their livelihood; they understand it, they like it and they’ve gotten pretty good at it.
If you hand over all of your financial tasks to someone as mathematically competent as a professional bookkeeper, then you can have accurate calculations, reports, and statements.
With a bookkeeper, you can be sure that your sums are indeed accurate since you’ve got a professional devoting their skills, time, and concentration to getting everything right – the first time.
4. Independent Contractors
Even less to think about.
Bookkeepers are independent contractors, which means you don’t need to think about …
- Payroll Taxes
- Vacation Pay
- Sick Days
- Worker's Compensation
- Employee Benefits
5. BELAY Finds Your Bookkeeper
Matchmaking personality and values.
At BELAY, we don’t just assign our clients to the next professional on our list, wish them good luck and hope for the best. We are big believers in customer satisfaction and to us, that means starting out right – not just fixing problems as they arise.
When you call BELAY looking for a Bookkeeper of your own, we …
- Make an effort to understand you as a church, a church leader, and an individual.
- Utilize what we've learned and search through our team, comparing everyone's core values, work ethics, and personalities with yours.
- Provide clients with their match after carefully considering the best options.
We do this because the better your Bookkeeper understands you and how you work, the better the communication will be between you. Plus, a more comfortable relationship means your work together will be more enjoyable.
Learn Today, Delegate Tomorrow
Managing money is crucial for any thriving organization which means if you’re doing anything wrong, then you’re risking the financial health and vitality of your church.
And working overtime to get it done or – arguably worse – neglecting it altogether exposes you and your church to the high risk of inaccuracies worming their way into your figures.
To help your church avoid commonly overlooked church finance mistakes – and learn how to overcome them – download ‘4 Costly Financial Mistakes for Churches’ for free today. Because no matter your church’s size or finances, accurate, transparent, and accountable bookkeeping is paramount.
And with that in order, you can get back to what only you can do: Inspire people to do more and be more for the Kingdom.