03.1 - Finance Committees
by Scott Selman
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:21 (NRSV)
According to ¶259.4. in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, every local United Methodist church shall have a committee on finance. The committee should include: a chairperson, the pastor(s), a lay member of the annual conference, the chairpersons of the church council and the ministry group on stewardship, representatives of the staff-parish relations committee and the trustees, the lay leader, the financial secretary, the treasurer, the church business administrator, and other members as determined by the charge conference. With the exception of the pasto(s), paid employees who are members of the finance committee should serve without vote.
As noted in the Finance booklet by Wayne C. Barrett and Donald W. Joiner included in Guidelines for Leading Your Congregation, the finance committee should identify, perfect, and manage the financial system of the local church, including raising and disbursing funds so that the mission and vision of the congregation is achieved.
How can someone be effective as a member of the finance committee? And what if someone that doesn’t have a lot of financial expertise is asked to serve on the finance committee? Anyone who loves the Lord, and who has a generous spirit, can be an effective member of the finance committee. The key is simply to ask the right questions!
Asking questions will help the finance committee focus on the critical issues. The following list is a sample of questions that members of the finance committee may want to ask at some point during their service on the committee:
- What types of internal procedures are followed to prevent financial improprieties?
- How often are internal church financial statements prepared?
- Is the church audited? Are copies of the audit report available? Have the auditors made any recommendations? Have the recommendations been implemented?
- Who are the church’s check signers? Are they independent of the church’s financial operations? Are at least two signatures required on every check?
- Who counts the Sunday offerings? Are at least two people involved in counting the offering each Sunday?
- Are monthly bank statements reconciled in a timely manner?
- Are bank reconciliations reviewed by anyone other than the preparer?
- Are the financial policies printed and available for review? Are they up-to-date? Does the church adhere to the policies?
- Do the cash flow requirements vary during the year?
- Is cash flow adequate to meet projected expenses?
- How does the year-to-date cash flow compare with the projected cash flow?
- Do the cash flow projections need to be revised?
- How is the budget monitored?
- What expenses are incurred evenly throughout the year, and what expenses are less predictable?
- How do the year-to-date actual expenses compare with the year-to-date budgeted expenses?
- Are the Conference askings and the minister’s health insurance premium included in the budget?
- What expenses, if any, are over budget?
- What expenses, if any, should be reduced based on current cash flow?
- What expenses, if any, will likely be under budget?
- Is the number of persons on staff appropriate?
- How much is maintained in reserves? Is the reserve policy appropriate based on the size of the church?
- What are the church’s investment policies?
- Are the investment policies being followed?
- Have there been any investment losses? How much?
- Do the investment policies consider both short-term and long-term securities
- Are banking services provided at a reasonable cost?
- Does the church have a line of credit?
Most of these questions and others are included in The Buck Stops Here by Mary Logan.
The finance committee is a ministry team of the local church working to facilitate the mission of the entire congregation, but should generally avoid trying to manage the day-to-day operations of the church. The finance committee will be most effective when each member of the committee is committed to good stewardship and fiscal accountability.