I just read an article about a United Methodist church treasurer who stole over $165,000.
Evidently, this woman had access to the church credit card where she used it to pay for meals at restaurants, rental cars and gas. They even have evidence that she used it for wedding expenses and even for visits to the tanning salon.
This went on over a two year period UN-noticed. It wasn’t until the bank called the church concerning overdrafts that the church was made aware of a bigger problem. After a three month investigation, the church alerted the police.
There are so many issues with this story:
What would possess this woman to steal from the church?
What was going on with the church that they had to have the bank call them?
If you were to Google ‘church treasurer steals money from the church,’ you would find that this is certainly not an isolated event.
It probably started with borrowing just a little, to which the funds could be easily replaced unbeknownst to anyone else.
Once they have established that it could be done with ease and without a trace, they up the frequency, up the amounts and before you know it, they have lost track of how much they owe back.
After awhile, this repeated behavior may lead to justification on their behalf, especially if the church is not paying them. They may begin to feel entitled, in exchange for dealing with unrealistic work demands, feeling unappreciated or having to deal with an increased work load.
How does this happen?
The simple answer is that this happens where there is obviously no accountability and no checks and balances in place. When there are no system checks, churches, ministries or any type of organization are prime targets for abuse.
I sit on a finance committee and the administrative council which is made up of volunteers, and can certainly see how this could happen especially when churches have a tendency to put all their eggs in one basket, relying on a single person to know everything.
What to do to prevent this from happening?
I stumbled across a site called, ‘www.churchcpa.com.’ There is a FREE course entitled, “Church Finances 101” that I believe all churches, particularly small churches could benefit from. They teach on what types of systems to put in place so that you do not become ‘sitting ducks’ to abuse.
It is so important for more than one person to know about the operations of the church. We need to see how much money is coming into our churches, as well as, be a witness to the amount of money going out.
We need to spot check the credit card statements, bank statements and a have a list of our regular bills to be paid.
Certainly, this should have been an embarrassment to the church that the bank had to call them to alert them that there was a problem. The good news is that this experience now forces the church to get organized, get In compliance and get control of their ministry’s finances.
Do you have safeguards in place against misuse of church funds?