March - April 2016

What are the possible implications?

A church with accountability systems in place encourages confidence in its membership, and that is a benefit to any ministry. Strong churches welcome verifiable accountability—it is what Jesus taught the disciples, and it remains the model for fruitful ministry today.

This is a scenario rife with potential for fraud. The consultant might be able to change the account to which online gifts are deposited from the church’s account to the consultant’s account for a few hours each week and then change it back. If the church only acknowledges charitable contributions at the end of the year, as many churches do, thousands of dollars could be missing before anyone knows about it.

It is not unusual for the information technology (IT) person on staff at a church or external consultant to set up online giving accounts. However, if established externally, control over these accounts should be relinquished to the church. If established internally, a high-level member of the church staff should control the accounts.

Dan Busby is a certified public accountant and president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

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