Stewardship doesn’t end after the gift

September 16, 2021 by Rebecca Mallozzi

What are some of the best financial practices when it comes to handling church finances?

This was the question explored by Rev. Joseph Moore and Mark Stauffer in the Stewardship Kaleidoscope 2021 workshop, “Stewardship After the Gift.” Moore, who is the Ministry Relations Officer for the South Central Region for the Presbyterian Foundation, said when talking about financial practices, we’re talking about systems and not people. The systems are in place to help protect the people and honor financial gifts entrusted to our churches.

“Stewardship doesn’t stop when you get the gift,” Moore said.

Knowing what to do with a gift and who has the responsibility for financial oversight of that gift is a large part of understanding best practices. The best practices help move money along. Stauffer, a retired financial professional and church treasurer with the ELCA, said, “Gifts exist to grow ministry, not bank accounts.”

Stewardship Kaleidoscope was held September 13 to 15, 2021, in the Cincinnati region. The conference was held in a hybrid format, with the majority of attendees online.

Keeping track

Stauffer and Moore offered insights into four practices designed to empower the organization. They said the point isn’t to strive for perfection; the point is to minimize the ways in which something could go wrong. Those best practices included knowing who has financial oversight responsibility, following the Rule of Two’s, tracking memorials and restricted funds, and finding and using the right financial records management options.

Keeping track of who knows and does what leads to a checks and balance system that can help protect people. Being clear about those expectations offers transparency to congregations in a way that lets them know their leaders take the responsibility seriously.

“What does the Book of Order say about how much financial oversight responsibility a pastor has?” Moore asked. “None. How about in the real world? How much financial oversight responsibility does a pastor have? A lot.”

Making sure at least two unrelated people handle money at all times – whether counting money or opening mail that might have a check inside – is the Rule of Two’s, and it offers protections not guaranteed to someone who counts alone.

Saying thank you

Tracking funds and using the right management options may look different in each ministry context, but the bottom line is the same: “It’s not a problem until it is,” Moore said. “None of this is ours. So the way we process the gifts entrusted to us matters.”

And if you do nothing else, Moore and Stauffer said, say thank you. Say thank you early, often, and authentically. Say thank you not just for financial gifts, but for every kind of gift whether it’s serving communion or driving the church van.

“Church leaders have an obligation to express gratitude,” Moore said. “What would it look like to dedicate the first ten minutes of a session or council meeting to writing thank you notes? You will inspire an ethos of gratitude that will make a huge difference.”

Rev. Rebecca (Becki) Mallozzi serves as pastor at Faith Church in Emmaus, Pa. She graduated from Waynesburg College (Pennsylvania) with her Bachelor of Arts in English and Communication and worked as a newspaper reporter before starting seminary. She graduated with her Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. Send comments on this article to Robyn Davis Sekula, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation, robyn.sekula@presbyterianfoundation.org.

For full coverage of Stewardship Kaleidoscope 2021, click here.