“But Trish, you just don’t understand. The people in our finance office are always after me to turn in my receipts for kid’s church expenses, and to fill out paperwork for reimbursement! Then they want to know specifics about what exactly the money was used for and why. It’s like they don’t believe me.  And that hurts! I mean, I’m a LEADER in the kid’s ministry! I’m sacrificing here to make this happen. Sometimes I get so irritated by all of their questions that I just pay for it myself rather than deal with the paperwork. I shouldn’t have to explain why I need this or what I’m going to do with it. I signed up to work with kids; I don’t want to explain all this to adults. And I’m a kid’s leader- not a finance person. So what if I can’t find some of the receipts, or a paper or two? They are nitpicking, which means they don’t care about the kids. Why can’t the finance people be supportive of the kid’s ministry? It’s like they keep us from getting ministry done. I am a minister, and I’ve been at this church for _____ years.They should just trust me! Why can’t they just trust me?”

I have heard this argument so many times over the years from frustrated children’s ministry leaders. It is almost a cliche, and a joke at kid’s pastor meetings, that creative, absent minded children’s leaders are going to butt heads repeatedly with the logical, calculating finance people. And I do want to say, that I do understand that their needs to be balance. The children’s leader needs to feel appreciated, respected and valued; AND they need to have a voice at the table that makes those financial decisions. Children should make up at least 25 percent of your church body, which impacts all those parents and all those volunteers etc. Anyone with that much influence should have a VERY large portion of the church’s overall budget, AND a strong voice when it comes to making financial decisions that impact the church and/or the kid’s ministry.

Having said that, however, I want to pause for a moment here and say emphatically: Dear children’s leader, NO they should NOT just trust you. And you need to see those finance people at your church as allies and safeguards for you, and work VERY hard not to be a source of frustration for them. And here are a few reasons why:

  1. There are relatively few failures in ministry that have the potential to destroy you, your family and your entire ministry, now and possibly for life. The first of course is a sexual fall. But secondly, right behind that, is a conviction for mishandling, misappropriating MONEY. What has taken down so many pastors, ministers, televangelists and missions organizations in the past decade? Mishandling money- embezzlement, putting funds to an area illegally, not paying appropriate fees, etc. etc. etc. Yes, it is that serious. It is no longer optional for churches to have safeguards in place. These kinds of scandals destroy lives, churches, ministries- and worse, they drag the name of Jesus and Christianity right through the mud on every news channel. And these scandals LINGER in people’s minds for years to come. Many charities reported a net loss of income last year and attributed it to “lack of trust” from the public to religious organizations, after so many money scandals have hit the news. Churches MUST be more responsible now than ever before.
  2. Those finance people are also there to protect YOU and that ministry. We already said that one scandal can forever marr your ministry. But sometimes all it takes is someone irritated with you making accusations that cast doubt in people’s minds. During those times, and if you are ever formally accused of mishandling money, those finance people are your saving grace and your very best friend. And you will thank God on your knees for every receipt you turned in to prove exactly where that money went.  When I worked as a security trainer, we had a rule, “If it isn’t in writing, it didn’t happen.” What that means is, it is too late after the fact, when you are already in hot water to try to figure out which money went where. One of the KEY functions of your church’s finance officer/office is to keep great WRITTEN records- every form, every receipt, every budget request. Please understand this: “ONLY WHAT IS IN WRITING IS GOING TO COUNT.” If anything ever did go to court, no is just going to “trust you.” And your word on it is going to mean less than nothing. Those receipts, and those records will either be your saving grace or your downfall. DON’T fight your finance office on keeping careful records.
  3. Everyone needs accountability. EVERYONE. Even a pastor. And whenever someone continually resists being accountable, it begins to look suspicious. Too many awful moral failures have happened because leaders refused to be accountable to anyone. That is not Biblical. And they shouldn’t have to chase you down and force you to be accountable. You should be willingly open to Biblical accountability- and MONEY is a huge part of that. Be accountable. Some pastors I know made it a policy that it takes two signers on any church check, or that whenever the church credit card is used the finance director gets a report. This is an example of willing accountability. Nothing done with the church money should ever be done with only one person’s knowledge. Nothing should be done without a paper trail. No one should have to sneak around to act with church money. If these things are going on, something is very wrong, and it will come back around to bite you.
  4. This is people’s tithe money. This is even more important that someone’s 401K, to God. This is people’s hard earned, faith given, oft times SACRIFICIAL giving. And no one in church leadership should ever take that huge responsibility lightly. Every single cent needs to be well accounted for, and used with wisdom for God’s kingdom. God’s holds His ministers to a higher standard. So we should be extremely careful to be good stewards of God’s money- people’s TITHE money.
  5. You are responsible to explain what you need for ministry to the leadership of the church. Even if you say, “but I just wanted to be with the kids.” Part of your job as a children’s leader is to accurately and effectively communicate to the church’s leadership, what your ministry needs to be successful. And that will entail giving some rationale. That means you will have to explain some things like, “This is what JumpStart3 is. This is why I feel we should get it. This is what it costs. Here is why I chose it over ______________.” Your board is probably not in kid’s church every week. They may have no IDEA what the difference is between a PVC puppet stage and an aluminum travel stage. And you will need to do your homework, legwork and research. Make a good case for what you need. And if they say no, take it graciously and don’t burn bridges. Don’t gossip and don’t pout. Wait, pray, and keep track of your numbers- build a better case and try again. If you are asked to explain WHY you need such a costly curriculum, be grateful! Grateful that you have the change to talk about the kid’s ministry and vision cast to a part of the church who may not know what God has been doing in there- it’s a chance to speak up and connect!

So I cannot say it is easy to feel like you are always defending and that you not being trusted. But please know, those financial safeguards are there for a reason. Maybe this week would be a good week to bring your financial officer an extra large apple cider- and turn in your receipts. All my best and God bless. Trisha

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