Inspiring Generosity: Best Practices for Handling Your Church Offering


Ahhhh…I’m on vacation in Hollywood waiting (finally) to be discovered. As I lounge around Hollywood and Vine, I’m also thinking of you, dear readers.

There are some accounting practices that never go out of style. In particular, how to handle money. If you want to build trust within your congregation around finances (and who doesn’t want to do that?) you’ll want to make sure you’re employing these “best practices.” Read this oldie but goodie re-post.

Best Practices for Handling Your Church Offering
Not long ago I was talking to a church financial administrator. She told me about a small church whose treasurer took the offering home and counted it every Sunday. Now I am no accountant (which should not come as much of a shock to anyone) but even I know that is a bad, bad practice. 
In a recent blog, Recognizing First Time Givers, I said that one of the ways you can reassure people that your church is worthy of their giving is by telling them that you “have established policies for secure handling and counting of weekly offerings.” But the question is:

Do you have these policies in place?

If you do, fantastic! But then you should ask,

“When was the last time these policies were reviewed?” and “Are we following these policies?”
Just in case you don’t have anything in writing yet (because this should instantly become a high priority if you don’t), here are some best practices for receiving your church’s offering – adapted from the suggested policies of the Oregon-Idaho and the Southwest Texas Annual Conferences of the UMC:

  • Two unrelated people should always be present to handle the collected offering.  Their relationship should be devoid of any potential conflict of interest or incentives for collusion (as could exist with spouses, employer-employee, business partners, members of the same family, etc.) One person counts while the other observes and the observer recounts while the original counter observes.
  • The same two unrelated people should not count the money every Sunday. There should be rotation among counters.
  • Church funds should not be taken to anyone’s private home. 
  • Checks received should be immediately endorsed “For Deposit Only.”
  • The counters should give the offering totals to the financial secretary and treasurer and record the totals in a deposit log that should then be compared to the bank statement.
  • Bank deposits should be prepared by the counters (or church treasurer) and then deposited. A receipt filed with deposit information should then be given to your church financial secretary.
  • The offering should be deposited as soon as possible. If it is not possible to deposit the offerings on the same day, the offering should be kept in a secure (locked) location at the church.
  • Those persons involved with the local church collection and accounting process must be instructed on the importance of keeping any financial information confidential. The counting committee should be made aware of the sensitive role in maintaining confidentiality with regard to the giving levels of various members.

The purpose of these policies is to create confidence in the process and to protect the volunteers who are counting the money. Collecting the offering is a sacred trust. What you do with the money immediately afterwards matters. Make you sure you put that in writing.
First published July 24, 2013.
Photo credit: Karolina Garbowska @Pexels

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a Stewardship Consultant for the OR-ID Annual Conference. She is also a Senior Ministry Strategist with Horizons Stewardship. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous churches and non-profit organizations. Speaking of Hollywood and the movies, she just saw Harrison Ford’s latest, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. One and a half thumbs up – a fun way to spend a summer evening.
You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com, at CesieScheuermann.com, or at cesieds@horizons.net. Want to schedule a meeting? She’s got you covered!
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.