Financial Fraud in Churches: A Major Risk
Why church leaders should assess the way they collect and record money.
Financial Fraud in Churches: A Major Risk

Editor’s Note: In a podcast on the 10 major trends for churches in 2017 , Thom Rainer and Jonathan Howe of LifeWay talk about financial fraud in churches and offer valuable insights for church leaders on the subject. We've highlighted part of this podcast.

Jonathan: A great risk to churches is financial fraud in churches.

Thom: There's a number of ways that financial fraud can take place. One is just grabbing cash out of the plate, but also it can take place in the way that a church keeps financial records.

Jonathan: One of the big opportunities is that chain of control of the funds. You pass the offering. Someone counts and collects it. And then someone else has to deposit it. If you have one person doing all three of those, that's probably not a good thing, because you've got one person who has the money at all times. You need different people and different checks and balances along the way there. And multiple people. And I know several pastors who say, "I don't want to handle the offering; I don't want to handle the money." They take themselves completely out of the picture because they don't want to be accused of that.

Thom: A lot of the fraud too can take place at the record keeping. An example of a possibility is someone sends in a check for $250. It's put on their record of giving, but there are ways that you can actually take that $250 check and endorse it over to yourself and it still shows up there. You have to balance it. There are ways you can make it balanced. And so fraud can happen even with checks, where it can end up going into a personal account instead of the church's account.

Also, here's just a word of encouragement to church leaders: If you have a church credit card, and you use that church credit card, make certain that you have all kinds of checks and balances in place because you've got to make certain that you don't put any personal charges on there.

Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and ten grandchildren.

Jonathan Howe is director of strategic initiatives of LifeWay Christian Resources.

This postwas adapted from a podcast that first appeared at on January 3, 2017. Used with permission.

To learn more about protecting your church's finances, check out Church Finance.

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This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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