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- - And the Lord direct your heart in the love of God as you continue to faithfully serve Him - -

TO:  Interested Onliners                                                                                                                               FROM: Jim Bramer, Retired Auditor-CPA                                                                                                                                                               
J I Ms  J R N L for the month of November  2008                                                                          FILE:  0211-08/jrnl        
 (Click Here for "Blogger like" perspective/rationale)      

  01 - Our surprise "55th - 75th"  Family Time  (01)

            I try not to inappropriately include personal matters here, but I believe most of you can identify with these recent events in my life.  In and around Bettie and my 55th wedding anniversary this past October my 94 year old mother, who was being cared for by my special sister Stella up in Oregon,  went to heaven. We are happy Mom is now there with the Lord as she most recently was not really Mom. 
            In a few months both Bettie and I will be 75 years young.  So the kids decided that this year we would have a surprise family (not have Bettie head it up this time) Thanksgiving "get to together" at one of their homes some three/four hours away from here near Sacramento, CA. 
            They surprised us with a VERY VERY special "55th -- 75th" family time with over 25 of the clan there which included 10 of our 11 grand kids who are scattered all over plus our grand daughters-in-law and our year old great-grand son  (guess who was the real star of the show).  Our loved ones came from as far away as Virginia, Colorado and Oregon.  
            Our overseas missionary grand daughter was absent but this time (Click Here for what happened five years ago) we were able to both see and have a conversation with her via the Internet  -- FANTASTIC !!! 
            Suffice is to say, it was a very very special "THANKFUL" 2008 time - especially for Bettie and I  !!  All of our days we will treasure it and the remembrances that we received.

02  -  Comments of a well known Church Finance Consultant: (8)

      Some time ago a well known Church Finance consultant shared the following with me based on their experiences. I trust readers from Churches benefit by it.


        I think one of the greatest areas of need for churches is to have better grasp of what their accounting system should, and could, be doing for them. Every church I have gone into has needed a reconstruction of their "Chart of Accounts" and reporting system. When I ask the bookkeepers why they do what they do I usually get the same reply— “That’s how we have always done it,” or “That is how the the persons in charge of that department wants it.” Then, I ask the person in charge what kind of information they would like to receive and they are usually frustrated because they think the system will not produce what they desire. Be sure these folk are on the same page.


         It also helps to have a qualified staffer that educates and work with other staffers to help them better utilize the funds that have been entrusted to them. Too often, finances are kept a big secret and not appropriately made known. This information, given to those who are put in leadership positions and held accountable for spending, should be empowered to manage a budget and have access to the revenue and expense reports as often as needed.


        Another area that continues to be a challenge for churches is keeping a consistent process while using rotating "Finance Committee" members.   Each new "Finance Committee" member that comes on board has his/her own ideas of what the bookkeeper should be reporting and how tasks are to be done.   My goal is to help set up systems where the values and processes stay consistent and do not change as Committee members come and go. This usually requires policies and procedures to be written and approved. Once approved, they flow from year to year.


            If the software vendors go in and set up the books via a canned package, the church will not utilize the program to its fullest capacity. I look beyond the Chart of Accounts and get a feel for how they are using the info they currently receive. Then, I proceed to guide them through a new process where the reports are providing adequate information to plan for the future as well as accommodate today.

    03 -  Local  "Helper" Assignment   (03)

            It might be of interest to you that I have for some 10 years now been serving at a Church here in Fresno, CA who now handles over $2,000,000 per annum.   Let me know at  if you would like to dialog with any of their leadership.   I report directly to the voluntary "Board Treasurer" (my boss) and to the "Board Finance Committee"  --  not to any Church staffer.  The responsibilities include at least the following: 

      Daily or upon request

  •                Contribute to their effective use of the  "QuickBooks Pro"  software for  Church Fund Accounting  .

  •                Contribute to their effective use of the accounting portion of their  DonaMail   software

  •                Contribute in seeing that the the Church has the applicable financial checks/balances and internal fiscal controls.

  •                Oversee how the "Church Accountant" uses the Church's overall-all accounting system (especially the above software) for meaningful reporting of their finances and for Internal Financial Controls.

  • ·              Regularly interact with the "Board of Leadership Treasurer"  and members of the  "Board Finance Committee"

  •                Contribute to the establishment and accomplishment of their   Most Important Finance Issues .

  • ·              Contribute to the contents and compliance of the written "Finance Policy and Procedures Manual"

  • ·              Contribute to the hiring and evaluation of the "Church Accountant" or any other staff or volunteer finance person, etc.

  • ·              Function in some ways as would an "Internal Auditor"  with respect to Church finance matters.

  • ·              In general, assist in the goal of this church being a good  steward of its finances. -- or even such a model.

  • ·              Contribute to the church having the least expensive annual  Compilation  relationship with their CPA-Audit firm.


  • ·              Be in contact and/or spend "In-person" time with the "Church Accountant" 

  • ·              Contribute to the effective use of the above accounting software and related systems, etc.

  • ·              Identify or contribute to a variety of the "Church Accountant's" special projects or assignments

  • ·              Review the "Internal Financial Statements" throughout the month

  • ·              Contribute to the proper handling of abnormal or odd financial matters or transactions.


  • ·              Usually help in establishing a relevant  Agenda   for the "Board Finance Committee"  meeting

  • ·              Function as a voting member of this committee

  •                Contribute to the understanding of the  "Internal Financial Statements" by all who should know

     04 - Ministry Budget Issues  --  (05)

I trust you find helpful the following as to "Ministry Budget Issues". 

  • Yes..... we need authorized  Spending  Controls,  or a Budget.   But we also must be a Ministry that can rightfully respond to needs --- especially if we have available resources.  

  • Remember, the budget is supposed to be a "personification of the known Ministry's plans as converted to dollars." Plans do not remain the same for an entire 12 months, or during an Annual Budget  time. 

  • The Ministry must have the necessary accounting system, and structure, in order to timely provide information to decision-makers as they live within advance dollar authorizations, yea Budgets.

  •  In a Church situation, most congregations are the final spending authority, but there must be some righteous ways to meet needs between necessary congregational meetings.

  •  A Church's by-laws could provide the Board of Leadership  with authority to make as much as 5% of Annual Budget changes without having to go to the congregation. If the congregational approved  Annual Budget is $500,000, then, provided the General Fund  has the resources, $25,000 is available to the  Board  to meet new operating ministry needs.

  •  At your Ministry -- there may be merit in using a "TriAngular" approach; (1) Salaries and Benefits of the present staff remain in place for the entire fiscal year; (2)  first authorize Operational Costs and SetASides for the first six months and (3) then such non payroll costs again for the last six months.

  •  Other alternatives to a strict Annual Budget  include the following approaches:  " Four by Three" Plan or Budget for 4 months forward only at a time; Or you take the 4 months to date spending (or 8 months) and plan/budget forward from there. Another is a "Six + Three + Three" Plan or you plan/budget for the 1st six months; and quarterly thereafter. 

  • All of the usual operating costs flow via this updated General Fund  Annual Budget when the income permits. Do NOT look to Board directed special funds for such purposes.  Draw on such Reserves or SetASides resources only for  'out of the ordinary'  needs.  

  • Approved Budget items expire at the end of each fiscal year and any unused portions are NOT carried over to next year.  Ministry department managers often want to know, toward the end of the year, if there is unspent money left in their Annual Budget.  Or they have the mind-set/philosophy of: "I better spend any unused portion since it is approved - even though it is not that badly needed";  or " Whewwww, I don't want to lose it so I better find some way to spend it".  Incurring such expenses are  NOT good resource stewardship. 

  • Ministry department managers sometimes "pad" their Annual Budget and get approval for more than they really need. This should be addressed each year.   Again, the best approach is to carefully plan what you want to accomplish during that period, and then convert your plans to dollars.

  • But the decision makers should always be taking a fresh look at the Ministry so when, or if, plans change (requiring either less money or more money) then the Ministry should be able to appropriately and timely change the Annual Budget, etc. 

  • The Ministry must have a strategic plan if the General Fund  is not getting enough money to pay for the authorized Annual Budget Click here for more details about a method whereby money is assigned to Spending Priority Groups when it comes in.   If a Spending Priority Group  has a balance,  then expenses are authorized and paid therefrom as you weekly know the available balance for that Spending Priority Group, etc.

  •  In a Church setting, it is important for the Leadership to keep the congregation regularly informed of the General Fund  status - preferably via the weekly Church Bulletin.    

  • Some links to other of our Budget online documents are:  At Churches:  Process   5013   Reporting via Big Pix  5012  General  5009  5008   Goals    0011   PlanJecting   0053  Budget reporting samples via QBooks  0799

05 - Proverbs and Godly Counsel -- (06)

    Godly counsel (especially in our stewardship of finances)  is a "MUST" and we find that it is a major theme of the book of Proverbs.  In (Prov.  4-23) we are told that the Heart (our mission control center) is to be guarded above everything else  because from it flows the steams of life.  Please also go to these verses:

9:8-9  -- A wise man welcomes instruction
10:17 -- Heed instruction
11:14 -- Lack of guidance causes failure, many advisors make victory sure
12:15 -- A wise man listens to advice
13:18 -- Poverty results from ignoring good advice
15:12 -- A scoffer will not go to the wise
15:22 -- Plans fail for lack of counsel
16:3   -- Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
19:20 -- Listen to advice…and you will be wise
19:27 -- Stop listening to instruction, and you will stray from knowledge
20:18 -- Make plans by seeking advice
24:6   -- For victory you need many advisors
27:17 -- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another
28:26 -- Trusting oneself is foolish, but those who walk in wisdom are safe

06 -  Lead Minister's check writing and/or signing Issues: (6)

    Hopefully the following edited Email dialog on this topic is of value to you:

Hi:                Thank you for connecting up, xxxxxxxxxx .  I trust you find my  inserted [Per:  Jim Bramer]  comments within yours below of value in your pursuit of this important matter at your Church.

Jim – In your opinion,
       [Per:  Jim Bramer]   My view is with background of working with much smaller churches.  Comments within the following web pages might also be of interest:

Checking Signing Matters
Online Payments                  
Internal Financial Controls

 should a minister have check writing and/or signing rights or responsibilities?
      [Per:  Jim Bramer]  Basically my answer is “No”.     Please note the views/comments that follow: 

      >>  I note your use of the term “minister” but my comments are within context of applying to the leading up-front  rev/preacher/pastor.
     >>  And I believe such a Pastor should  NOT  have such responsibilities – remember the lead Pastor’s (even the Founder, etc.) functions do  NOT parallel that of a normal CEO of the usual company.  There is ministry money involved here, not the usual company,
     >>  While the lead Pastor should closely follow what has happened financially,  I believe that it is unwise for this person to  originate or finalize check transactions. 
     >>  As indicated by the quote within the 0066-02 web page, these check duties should be restricted to one or  two un-related folk.  Your Ministry should maximize its financial Internal controls  (see 0039-01) including such actions discussed within 0066-02.

      The following "CHECK SIGNING QUOTE" might be of interest:  "This dual signature practice stems from the need to comply with financial internal control principles. The ideal Ministry financial internal controls embrace the following practices":

  •  Expenses need to be pre-authorized;
  •  Within these constraints, an official buys something;
  •  An unrelated person pays the bill and produces a check;
  • Two independent officials sign the check --- each view the various buying documents and;
  • The last one voids them so they cannot be fraudulently re-used.
  • There are regular "Budget to Actual" reports in order for the right officials to monitor what "HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED" as compared to what "SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED".

    "There should prudently be 'more', rather than 'fewer', people involved when you are acting as a financial trustee in a 'Fiduciary Funds' setting and disbursing such money.  In this way people are "checks and balances" on one another. Or quite simply, it takes more people to get into collusion and do something wrong.” 

07- Computerized "Donation Accounting' system Issues:  (07)

          it is my view that Churches need to modernize/update how they do their “Donation Accounting" -- which, of course, includes: 

            -- Safely process weekly donations
            -- Count/proof all money received
            -- Prepare/proof all this monies for going to the Bank and safely get it there ASAP
            -- Post/proof such transactions to the “Computerized Donation Accounting” system


            Maximize the use of trained volunteers and minimize use of paid staff in this overall effort.  Both volunteers and staff make full use of modernized computer and Internet systems.   Of course, “Internal Financial Controls” (check and balance on each other) are essential.  Make appropriate use of tools like mobile-laptop computers and scanning devices.   


            Computerized Donation Accounting volunteers (they should be more than simply “Counters”, per se) are trained by the "Church Accountant" and they are fully accountable to this person.  Such volunteers make as many entries into the computerized “Donation Accounting System” as possible --- not the "Church Accountant."  This is done primarily as a by-product of the on-sight batch proof counting process.  Make full use of a remote Internet method whereby money is safely counted/proofed/taken to the Bank, but the entries to the computerized “Donation Accounting' system are remotely posted by volunteers at home from batched donor envelope information, etc.
           You should have giver numbers on the envelopes so that they can be scanned by the appropriate means to streamline the process of getting the proper information into the computerized “Donation Accounting' system,  etc.  Plus the "Internal Financial Control" aspects of this process includes the appropriate use of the "Subsidiary-Control Account" process and the possible use of "hash totals" proofing -- you run a tape on the Giver numbers from the envelope and the Giver numbers appearing on the Proof print out total the same.  Or you have inputted the appropriate Giver numbers, etc.

08 - Click below for potentially helpful Online Links for JIMs JRNL readers:    

           01>   Attorney Frank S. - extremely helpful list of "Non Profit Articles"   02>  10 Tips to Avoid Common Tax Issue Mistakes    03>  Best Practices for Receiving Charitable Donations,    04>      IRS Publication re Contributions    05>  Gift or Gaffe Church Buyers Guide   06>  November 2008 Christian Computer Online Magazine

09 - Monthly Editorial = "For What it is Worth" as rendered recently with respect to  M-Ps   (Mom-Pop) Ministries --     

10 - Current "Ministry Finance" Truism (2)

    Below is one of my Ministry Finance precepts/beliefs/principles, or  "rules of thumb".    Please go to  0069  for a complete TRUISMS list.

    YEAR END TAX DEDUCTION -- Looking back at  12-31-05, the calendar year ended on a Saturday.  Tax deductible gifts (at churches in particular) must be either physically received and given to a Ministry's agent (like the Post Office) on or before Saturday 12-31-05.  Checks dated 12-31-05 and placed in Sunday's (01-01-06) offering are NOT tax deductible in 2005, but 2006.  The determining factor is when it is available to the Ministry; not the date on the check.

11 -  Prayerful Thots :  Oh Lord,  it my desire to reveal You in my home, among my associates and friends, in my community, and around the world.   Please, Jesus, be glorified, and reveal Yourself through me.

         This "Blogger" like monthly endeavor (99) allows me to share some personal comments/thoughts as to Ministry Finance issues plus matters concerning Righteous Personal Finance for Christian people.  Please go to  0200  for further explanation and links to earlier JIM's JRNLs.  The four digit links  xxxx  and most of "Click Here" resources that you find here come from
            If you would like to receive the next monthly
JIM's JRNL during the first week of the subsequent month,  please join the following Yahoo Group:   ----    Caution --- the non  web links that I reference herein do NOT necessarily imply my endorsement.  Further, if any of these links do not work, let us know which one at  Lists of our  articles (or Web Docs), can be found at  9707 and  9708

Below is probable "Ministry Finance Lingo", or "Frequently Used Vocational Terms" used herein.

             BLVR =  Someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, CBA = Church Business Administrator;  CMS = Church Management Software/System;  CPA = Certified Public Accountant;  GAAP = Generally Accepted Accounting Principles/Practices;  GPFund or GPF = General Purpose Fund; MFTeam or MFT= Ministry Finance TeamQBOE = QuickBooks Online Edition;  QBooks or QBs = Quickbooks; RPFin 
= Righteous Personal Finance , SPFunds or SPFs = Special Purpose Funds


   Click Here  for an alphabetical list of topics within recent JIMs JRNLs  Editions    - Contact 

This document was updated last on:  November 15, 2010