Section 1 — The Church Treasurer
Ethics of Church Officers“The gathering and handling of funds for the Lord’s work is a sacred responsibility.” – Church Manual Ch.11 (Revisions 2010).
It is for this reason that the process of appointing the appropriate person to fulfil the role of local church treasurer is an important task. The Bible outlines that leaders should fear God, be individuals of truth, hate covetousness and be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (see Acts 6:3 and Exodus 18:21). It is therefore wise to choose an individual who would be available for re-election in order to provide continuity in record keeping and reporting. The Local Church Treasurer is in a position to greatly encourage church members to be faithful in the returning of tithe and giving of offerings.
Large churches may appoint assistant treasurers to support the treasurer in fulfilling their responsibilities.
Privacy and ConfidentialityLocal church treasury teams have access to significant amounts of personal information within the local church family. It is a critical requirement that absolute confidentiality of all members’ personal information and giving details be constantly maintained. This can never be emphasised enough. It forms the basis of role integrity.
“The treasurer should always remember that relations with individual members are strictly confidential. The treasurer should never comment on the tithe returned by any member, or on the income or anything concerning it, except to those who share the responsibility of the work. Great harm may be caused by failure to observe this rule” — Church Manual Ch.11 (Revisions 2010).
Responsibilities of the Church TreasurerThe Local Church Treasurer is responsible to the Local Church Board, Local Church Members and Conference Treasury.
The Treasurer is involved in a range of duties and activities involved in the financial recording of the local church’s finances. Key responsibilities are outlined below:
1. Cash Counting
It is best practice to have at least two trusted individuals (treasury personnel, deacons) count the cash and cheques received each Sabbath morning, including the contents of tithe envelopes. These amounts are to be recorded on the Weekly Count Sheet Book or similar before the money leaves the church grounds on Sabbath. Each offering count should be verified by two signatures.
All cash and cheques received are to be receipted as soon as possible. The total receipted in a given week should be equal to the amount to be banked. Individual receipts are to be distributed to the givers on a regular basis in the manner the local church has agreed upon.
Church monies are to be deposited into the church’s bank account within two business days after the weekend, as insurance only covers the funds until this time.
4. Accounts Payable
Invoices and reimbursements are to be paid for in a timely manner. Authorisation for the disbursing of church funds for church operation is generally given by way of the annual church budget. Special projects or items not included in the annual budget must be authorised by the Church Board or by a Church Business Meeting. See conflict of interest section (over the page) about payments to those who are bank account signatories.
5. Record Keeping
Bank reconciliations for each of the church’s bank accounts are to be completed monthly. Also, the regular Monthly Report needs to be prepared and submitted to the Conference. This report is to include the total amount of funds received in a given month, including non-local and local funds. The non-local funds are to be transferred to the Conference with the monthly report – either by Cash Management Facility transfer or cheque. A monthly GST Report, with relevant documentation, should also be completed and forwarded to the Conference office for processing.
6. Financial Statements
Financial statements are to be prepared regularly and in a timely manner. They should include the balance status of all budgeted accounts, total funds received in tithes and offerings, a record of all disbursements made and the reconciled bank account balances. These reports should be regularly presented to the Church Board and Business Meeting.
In consultation with the Church Board and with the financial approval of a Church Business Meeting, it is recommended that the treasurer formulate a yearly church budget for each local church department.
Each of these areas of responsibility are explained in more detail later in this manual.
Segregation of Duties“Segregation of duties simply means the assigning of different people the responsibilities of authorising transactions, recording transactions, and maintaining custody of assets. It is intended to reduce the opportunities to allow any person to be in a position to both perpetrate and conceal errors or fraud” — Australian Society of Accountants Audit Standards.
For the protection of the treasurer and the protection of church funds, it is recommended that, where possible, treasury duties be divided between more than one person of trust. As a principle, it is recommended that the treasury duties be divided along the following guidelines:
a. Cash offering count is to be done in the presence of at least two people – may include the treasurer, assistant treasurer, deacons, Sabbath School secretary or elders.
b. Receipting recommended to be processed by someone who has not counted the cash – the treasurer or an assistant treasurer.
c. It is best practice for the individual who is doing the banking to not have counted or receipted the cash. It may be done by an assistant, elder or other trusted church member.
d. Payments of expenses require two independent signatories (see Conflict of Interest section below).
e. The bank reconciliation should be done where possible by someone who is not responsible for the receipting or banking (preferably not the one responsible for the banking).
In smaller churches, these duty segregations may be very difficult to achieve. However, the Church Board/ Business Meeting is the final check on the Treasurer's function and it is the Board/Business personnel’s duty to diligently review the Treasurer’s financial report, ask searching questions, seek quality answers and then affirm the treasurer’s report (including a bank reconciliation) by vote if they are satisfied with the whole report.
Conflict of InterestThe treasurer should always be aware that in the role of Treasurer, there could be conflicts of interest, or perceived conflicts of interest, in dealings with the Church Board, Business Meeting, or other members.
For example, a conflict of interest would exist where a member of the Church Board is a building contractor and quotes a price to the Church Board for the building of an extension. In that instance, the Board member should be excused from the meeting during discussions on price and comparisons with other quotes. The nature of the conflict of interest and the absenting of the board member/builder should both be minuted by the recording secretary.
Another example is where a church member is to receive reimbursement for an approved purchase, and is perchance a signatory to the church bank account. The member should not be the cheque or EFT signatory to any specific reimbursements made to him or herself. Where a member of the treasurer’s family requires reimbursement for church supplies, it is considered best practice that the reimbursement be signed by two other signatories, neither or whom is the treasurer.
It is understood that in small churches where there may be only two or three signatories to the local church bank account, a conflict of interest is almost impossible to avoid. In those cases trust and openness is the only protection and defence.
In every Board or Business Meeting where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest, the nature of the conflict of interest and the persons/groups affected by the conflict of interest should be noted in the Church Board or Business Meeting Minutes as and when such conflict occurs.