At first glance, the two churches don't have much in common.
One, a large congregation, has enjoyed a front-row seat to history, serving for more than 150 years in the country's epicenter of power, Washington, D.C. The other, a smaller congregation just 80 minutes northwest of the nation's capital, has been serving its Virginia town of less than 2,000 people since the early 1970s.
Big differences, right? Unfortunately, that changed in late December.
That's when the former finance director of the Washington, D.C., church was arrested and charged with stealing more than $500,000 from that congregation during a six-year span. Less than a week later, the former bookkeeper of the Virginia church was arrested for allegedly stealing about $300,000 from it over five years.
Both suspects used the money for big-ticket purchases—real estate, cars, jewelry, and furniture—according to the charges filed.
The separate cases underscore a new reality for the new year: the growing risk of embezzlement, regardless of the church's size or setting. "One thing we are seeing on the uptick is embezzlement," says Frank Sommerville, an attorney in Texas specializing in nonprofits and churches. "When you have higher unemployment, you need to be thinking about security from embezzlement."
ChurchLawAndTax.com asked its Editorial Advisors and church leaders how pastors, business administrators, and executive pastors can lead well amid the changing realities in 2010—and here's what they said.