Q&A: How Do I Get Staff to Turn In Detailed Expense Reports?

Start by setting the right tone—and example—at the top.

It seems impossible to get the church staff to turn in detailed expense reports. Is there anything I can do to get them to see the importance of doing so?
Set the tone at the top. If the tone by the senior pastor and the board is, “We’re going to do things right,” then that has a significant impact on the ministry. But if it’s, “Turning in receipts is not really important, what’s really important is ministry, and so we’ll do whatever we have to do to make ministry happen,” then that becomes a prevalent attitude in the organization.
If staff doesn’t think it’s important to the pastor, and they don’t see a push from the board, they won’t find it important, either. If the pastor isn’t good about turning in his receipts with his expense report, guess what? The youth pastor and worship pastor and everybody else aren’t going to be good about it, either. So the tone at the top is important.
The goal is to help the board and the pastors see that it is all related—to teach them that yes, we need to have credit cards approved and expense reports turned in, and we need to have approval on purchases and the right people signing checks, because all of that ties into ministry.
Part of the way we can show them this is by explaining, “If we misuse these dollars, then we don’t have dollars for the missions department, or we don’t have dollars to do this program or ministry that we want to do. And that’s why we want these things done right.” Putting the minute financial details in the scope of a missional mindset will help you get through to the board, the pastors, and the staff.
Vonna Laue has worked with ministries and churches for more than 20 years. Vonna was a partner with a national CPA firm serving not-for-profit entities through audit, review, tax, and advisory services. Most recently, she held the role of executive vice president for a Christian ministry that works to enhance trust in the church and ministry community.

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