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How are Your Church's Finances?

How are Your Church's Finances?

CPA and church finance specialist Vonna Laue gives us a snapshot of how church finances across America are faring, and how your church can improve.

Vonna Laue is the West regional director of Capin Crouse, a national auditing firm specializing in serving churches, colleges, and missions agencies. She's been with Capin Crouse since 1996, and has served as a partner since 2008. She oversees all of the services they provide in the West, both audit and consulting, and works with 70 churches in her region. As a firm, Capin Crouse works with over 300 churches. We sat down with Vonna to find out the current financial and internal controls landscape of churches across the country.

First of all, what's the biggest thing that's changed over the past couple of years, in the church, as far as audit procedures, finances, and church management?

Well, one, it's harder to get debt covenants than it used to be. A debt covenant in a contract can be explained this way:

When a church enters into a loan agreement there are certain things it says that they have to do, or that they can't do. So an example of a negative covenant would be, "You can't enter into any more debt without our permission first." They might ask you to provide them audited financial statements within 120 days, or you have to maintain certain ratios at certain percentages. A certain ratio might be what's referred to as a debt-service ratio. Your net income has to be maybe 150 percent, or 1½ times greater than your principal and interest payments for next year.

And that's probably the one that gets them in trouble more often than not. They'll have requirements for certain ratios that they have to maintain, and if their finances don't come in where expected, they might be out of compliance with those ratios. And they can't just get instant forgiveness on that anymore.

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