The amount of information shared with the congregation is different for every church. We believe the WAY this information is presented is most important. Our opinion is that, at minimum, a summary annual accounting of the church financial position should be shared with the congregation once a year. The summary annual accounting should include the following components:
- operating income status as either a surplus or a deficit dollar amount and percentage of total income received;
- percentage of spending for each majority categories including personnel, administrative, ministries, and mission and benevolence spending;
- status of spending on capital projects including amounts raised and expended and percentage of completion or the project;
Additionally, providing a copy of annual financial statements upon written request is a good practice. At no time should a disclosure of giving records be made.
A high degree of transparency in finances is a good thing and will empower trust and confidence across the organization. A few suggestions to go beyond the minimums would include quarterly financial summary discussions and clear understanding of who is managing the finances – an elder board or a finance committee and what their accountability is to the leadership of the church.
Again, the way this information is presented is most important. We’ve found that using a narrative format [whether written or from the stage] is most effective in presenting the true financial picture. Simply presenting numbers doesn’t always speak the right language. As always, we’re happy to help think through this with you.