When I first got hired on as a Student Ministries pastor, I was told I would definitely, absolutely not be serving on the church finance committee. Well, once the other two pastors transitioned out within the span of six months from one another, guess who was on the church finance committee? Me.
With my experience from serving on staff outside of the church finance committee, and as someone who ended up being one of the members of the finance committee, there are a few key insights I might be uniquely qualified to offer. In this article, I will break down what a church finance committee is and the various roles that exist on a finance committee.
- What Is A Church Finance Committee?
- 6 Roles On The Church Finance Committee
- Responsibilities Of The Finance Committee
- How To Structure A Church Finance Committee
What Is A Church Finance Committee?
First, we need to define what a church finance committee is, its function, and the roles that should exist, in one form or another, to make it function smoothly and efficiently.
Some people tend to think of the church finance committee as a sort of board of church leaders who stress out all day about fundraisers, expenditures, church assets, and the annual budget. Church members might think of these as the people who “only care about money.”
However, a church finance committee is more like the think-tank of how to appropriately use the financial resources of the church. These financial resources can range from the actual financial records of the church to the assets of the church such as playgrounds, chairs, and kitchenware.
In the nonprofit and church world, it is less about balancing the nonprofit or church budget and more about making the most of the currently available resources. Your congregation probably already has more resources than they realize that are under-utilized for the mission of the church.
6 Roles On The Church Finance Committee
Next, we have to discuss the variety of roles that might appear on a church finance committee. For the most part, there are only a few clearly defined roles such as the chairperson, financial secretary, church treasurer, and possibly the bookkeeper.
- The chairperson acts as the church leadership for the financial management of the church. Their role is to keep the church finance committee consistently working towards their goals.
- The financial secretary is typically the one who keeps notes, meeting minutes, schedules, and other administrative tasks that can be overlooked. They will also keep track of any expenditures and church funds, making sure they are coordinated with the church treasurer.
- The church treasurer and the bookkeeper can often overlap. However, the church treasurer is often the one who is meant to keep tabs on the church’s financial statements while the bookkeeper is the one who files taxes, handles the church staff disbursements, and creates financial reports such as the annual report.
However, there are a number of roles that are not necessarily mainstream among church committees, but definitely should be. Roles such as an asset manager, capital campaign organizer, and a personal finance manager.
- The church assets manager can keep tabs on resources of people at the church, church-owned resources, and even tie in to community resources that are available for either the church or church members to use. This is a great opportunity to have someone keeping track of resources to more effectively organize youth ministry and outreach events, which are typically more resource-heavy.
- A capital campaign manager is constantly thinking about the next big project, fundraising, working closely with church management, and spending less time focused on tithes and weekly church funds. These are your “big picture” roles that many church finance committees already have on the board.
- A personal finance manager helps teach the congregation about good stewardship of their financial resources. They can also act as a resource for church members and church leadership on their own financial journeys. Taking care of the members of your church and helping them manage their own finances well can go a long way to creating long term financial stewardship.
Responsibilities Of The Finance Committee
With all of these typical roles and possible roles on the church finance committee, and working within the definition of the finance committee acting as the financial think-tank of the church, we need to discuss the responsibilities of the church finance committee.
At the end of the day, the church finance committee has the ultimate responsibility of managing the church's finances well. This means working on church budgets, annual reports, managing bank accounts, adjusting various financial controls, etc. However, as we have already mentioned, financial resources include far more than simply dollars and cents.
Church members are, in a way, also financial resources. They are not, however, what one might call “internal controls.” Ultimately, the church finance committee has no real authority over church members. Yet they rely heavily on their ability to fund the needs of the church.
This means the primary responsibility of the church finance committee also includes helping church members become greater stewards of their own resources. This is an area often overlooked among churches. Yet, 64% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. There is a huge need for churches to step in and teach financial literacy to their own members.
The best way to teach? By living out the example! Those who represent the financial matters of your church should also be concerned about the financial health of others just as much or more than their own. Which means we need to talk about how to structure your church finance committee appropriately.
How To Structure A Church Finance Committee
There are many differences that might arise between denominations, but there are also core principles that apply to every church finance committee. Some churches only allow “elders” to be on the church finance committee while others only allow deacons. Some allow men and women and some do not. So, instead, we are going to focus on very general duties and structure.
For a church finance committee job description, check out Chron, which has a cut-and-dry job description with the most basic duties for every church. Once you have that framework in place, build on it using language rooted in the mission of the church and the specific roles you want to see in your church finance committee.
Regular meetings should be determined by the size and shape of your church. If you are a church of 50 with five people sitting on the finance committee, then you may only need to meet once a month because it is a lot simpler to keep a finger on the financial health of the church. For larger churches, you may need to meet more regularly.
But who should be on the committee and in these specific roles? One thing that you must constantly keep in mind, no matter your denominational makeup: diversity is critical to the financial success of your church.
If everyone on a committee is of the same temperament or same generation or too uniform in one way or another, then you are going to miss out on some important perspectives of how your financial resources might be managed. Different perspectives on spending and saving will be beneficial for everyone the church interacts with.
If everyone is too careful and conservative with spending, then you might never be able to branch out in missions or outreach. Likewise, being too willing to spend money on X, Y, or Z outreach and not keeping enough in savings for February, when giving hits the lowest point of the year, could be disastrous. Both are needed and both are important.
Who Should Be In Charge Of The Committee?
You will need a chairperson that is either assigned or elected to help keep everyone on track. Make sure this person is able to manage people well without becoming overbearing. This chairperson should also semi-regularly meet with the church leadership if they are not already involved. Communication is critical at any and all stages of church management.
However, who should fill the role of chairperson is another question entirely. Some churches might have the chairperson simply be the person who has been on the committee the longest. Others might want a vote. Some churches might even contend that the lead pastor should be the chairperson of the church finance committee.
Should The Lead Pastor Be On The Finance Committee?
There is much debate on the topic of whether or not a lead pastor should be a part of the church finance committee. Some of this falls along denominational beliefs and ties, but there are some general truths that apply to a large portion of churches.
In general, the lead pastor should be, if nothing else, made aware of the church budget and how tithes and other fundraising is going. Being a lead pastor requires some amount of church business management, which includes financial management of the church.
In some situations, though, it might be inappropriate to have a lead pastor as a voting member of a committee that manages the salary of the lead pastor. I have, personally, been involved with churches where this authority was abused and allowed for a Lead Pastor to give himself a raise far beyond what is normative for the area he was serving in. So, caution is advised in some situations.
Ready to Tackle (Re)Structuring Your Church Finance Committee?
Feeling convicted that you need to take another look at your church finance committee structure? I sure hope so! Managing finances has the potential to be exciting and life-giving once you have the right structure and roles in place. Keep looking for opportunity and not for a zero balance at the end of each month and you’ll discover that it is, in fact, Jesus in the details, not the devil.
To keep learning and growing in your ministry, check out The Lead Pastor newsletter and make sure to subscribe. And spend some time reading through some of our other articles on committees, structure, management, and leadership. There’s sure to be something to help you grow as a leader just around the corner.