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Church Accounts | The four most important things

Church Accounts | The four most important things

Welcome to the first in a short series of posts specifically about church accounts.

Today we're taking a step back from the nitty-gritty aspects of church finances, to consider what are the key elements we want to have in place. Let's face it, church accounts can be a source of pain and frustration from time to time (or all the time!). And not least for the faithful volunteers who are struggling to keep up with it all.

So what's the bird's-eye view - what are the basic building blocks to have in place to get the church bookkeeping humming along?

First, understand the value of good bookkeeping to your vision.

The church vision may be clear, but if it's not clear how the church accounts contribute to that vision, the bookkeeping can feel like a purposeless task. In a sense, we work backward from the vision in two ways:

    - What financial information do we need to make vision-related decisions?; and
    - What financial compliance do we need to attend to to avoid our vision being hampered?

Understanding this then helps us shape the bookkeeping function within the church to the most helpful state.

Secondly, match people to functions.

"Bookkeeping" encompasses a huge range of functions that are not always readily understood. These include:

  • Data-entry functions (like bills and invoices, contact information)
  • Management functions (like system integration, strategy, procedures, workflows, reporting)
  • System integrity and analysis functions (like reconciliations, review, file repair, system configuration)
  • Compliance functions (payroll obligations, GST/BAS, external bodies)

Now, a dangerous assumption is this: if someone is a whizz at one aspect of bookkeeping, they will be a whizz at all aspects of bookkeeping. That's simply not true in every case and can place unfair and frustrating expectations on individuals and teams. Each aspect of bookkeeping may require different skill sets, training and qualifications. 

Understanding this and matching resources to appropriate functions, and bringing in additional resources strategically, can save a lot of heartache.

Thirdly, take advantage of technology.

The landscape of available technology in bookkeeping and accounting has exploded over the last ten years. The options of software and features are enormous. And using these wisely can save a whole bunch of time and money. Think through and scope out what's needed.

Some of the aspects to consider with software are:

  •  Functionality - what features are we looking for?
  • Access - is it readily available to the people that will be using it?
  • Cost - are we locked in, is the fee giving us value?
  • Performance - does it run smoothly?
  • Add-ons - what other software might this need to integrate with?
  • Feel - is it user-friendly?

Having a good system in place which serves the bookkeeping function can pay for itself.

Fourthly, develop reliable workflows.

You've probably experienced an office environment where there are bits of information flying around everywhere. Things can get missed, things can get doubled-up, things can get delayed. It's time well spent to consider the movement of financial information around your church:

  • Where are things flowing, where are they getting clogged?
  •  Where are the key touch points and what is the sequence?
  •  Where is backlog affecting current performance?
  •  Where are things being overprocessed or underprocessed?

Using this information to develop simple, effective workflows can help the whole team keep on the same page and up to date.

That's our big 4 for today, we trust you'll draw value from this for your local situation.

Next in our series on church accounts, we'll be tackling the question "Why is MEA so difficult?"

Until next time!


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