3 Traits That Invite Church Fraud

By Raul Rivera

Have you thought about your tithes and offerings lately? Not necessarily about how much your church received, but about what happens to your tithes and offerings once it is collected. 

Many pastors start the year asking, “How should my church handle tithes and offerings?” or “What are the best practices for counting tithes and offerings?”

While the way your church has always collected offerings may have worked up until now, what if there was a better way? What if there was a more accurate way that would help you protect your church’s tithes and offerings? 

I am asking you these questions because, researchers have stated that church fraud is growing at a rate of nearly six percent per year. That is astounding! 

In fact, research also indicates that by 2025 church fraud is expected to reach $60 billion. That number is almost unfathomable for us. 

But what is even more jarring about this figure is that it DOES NOT include the 80% of church fraud cases that go unreported. The final figures of what is actually taken from the resources of the local church is staggering.

Based on my experience in working with thousands pastors and ministry leaders across the country, such an astronomical number can be attributed to three traits that make churches susceptible to fraud. 

I care deeply for your church and have a passion to see you fulfill the vision and mandate God has placed in your heart. 

In this blog post I want to share with you those three traits, and in addition, I want to share with you some easy adjustments you can make to improve your church’s offering collection process which will in turn protect your church from fraud.

3 traits that make churches susceptible to fraud

1. The trusting nature of churches

By its very nature, a church is a place of trust and safety. As the Church, we want to see the best in people because our Heavenly Father first saw the best in us. Unfortunately, because we live in a broken world, the trust we give is, at times, taken advantage of.

I am not saying that you should stop trusting those in your church, but it is imperative for pastors and church leaders to be able to discern the difference between “sheep” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” 

Take some time in prayer and ask the Lord who should be on your tithe and offering counting teams. Speak to your leadership and find the “faithful” men and women God has put in your midst to help you steward over the tithes and offerings coming into your ministry. To apply this discernment is not being less trusting, it is adding wisdom to your trust.

2. Church fraud is usually caused by the last person you would expect

“I would have never thought they could do that!” 

This is a common phrase heard after a church or ministry discovers some kind of fraud in the counting of the tithes and offerings. In most instances of church fraud, it is committed by the person you would least expect. 

It may begin with small amounts being taken from the offering plate. Then, it eventually escalates to larger amounts being taken from the church’s bank account or misuse of the church’s credit card.

For this reason, the greatest way to stop this is to take away the “easy opportunities.” Remember what the scripture says, “do not give the enemy a foothold.” (Eph. 4:27)

Discovering “footholds” in your tithe and offering counting process can best be accomplished by conducting an internal audit at least once a year. This will allow you to catch irregularities and prevent fraud or embezzlement from going unnoticed.

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3. Lack of proper policies and procedures

An often forgotten key to ministry success is the implementation of adequate policies and procedures. When it comes to counting your tithes and offerings, having clear and concise policies and procedures can often be the catalyst to ensure you are protect your tithes and offerings. 

By not having clear and concise policies and procedures for handling church finances and the counting of tithes and offerings, there is no actual process for how your tithes and offerings should be collected and counted. As a result, the opportunity for church fraud increases.

If your church or ministry is in need of financial policies, such as a tithe and offering policy or credit card policy, give us a call today at 877-494-4655, and we will be happy to send those to you for free.

8 instant improvements for handling tithes and offerings

In order to prevent fraud from happening in your church, consider the following improvements to how your church currently handles collecting tithes and offerings.

Below are eight instant improvements you can make to how your church handles tithes and offerings:

  1. Select multiple money counters, regardless of the size of your church. I like 3 as the magic number - 3 people, not related to each other if possible.
  2. Select a safe room for the counters to do their job. Even if you are portable, find a secure area that has a locked door. 
  3. Ensure that all counting is done on the same day that the offerings are collected.
  4. Adopt a tithe and offering counting policy that all counters (paid staff and volunteers) follow.
  5. Utilize an offering counting sheet that details the tender and the amount. If you are in need of an offering counting sheet, give us a call at 877-494-4655, and we will be happy to send you one.
  6. Do not allow this job to be done by just one person during any given worship service.
  7. Do not allow anyone to interrupt the selected counters while they are counting the offerings. 
  8. Do not simply put the money in a safe to use the cash as needed. Always deposit the cash into the church’s bank account. This will help keep everyone accountable.

Are you faithful with the small things?

Luke 16:10 says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much . . .” 

As you look forward to making this year a growth year for you and your ministry, considering making improvements in how you count your tithes and offerings, and through your faithfulness, see how the Lord will bless you!

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