Conference Behavior 101
When the church sends you off to a conference, they expect you to go, learn something, and come back. They do NOT expect you to take the other woman with you and miss the conference.
The nondenominational campus group was off to an out-of-state retreat during Spring Break. The pastor drove the students to the retreat, but brought along a woman who was obviously not his wife. After delivering the students to the retreat, the pastor and his guest vacationed elsewhere.
The students brought the matter to the governing board. Financial misconduct was soon discovered. They found extra bank accounts, missing funds, and child pornography. They also discovered fishy entries in the books. Of interest here is that it took blatant public misconduct before the board got involved.
The pastor was defrocked and charged. This left the group without a pastor, and donations plummeted with the loss of the group’s good name.
Pastors are not supposed to steal from the church, do child porn, or step out on their wife. But we know that nearly everybody has baggage. And people often turn to the wrong remedy as a coping mechanism. (A good term for this is “idolatry.”) And addiction research shows that people need all the support they can get to keep from acting out.
Here, the pastor was clearly in the grip of sexual sin, and his financial misconduct may have stemmed from it. From the fraud perspective, he was under what was called “unshareable pressure.” That means that he couldn’t seek help without doing himself great harm. So he acted out and stole from the church because he thought that would solve his problem. He nearly got away with it, too.
It helps a kid’s behavior when Mom is watching.
Seems the Board wasn’t watching. Had they been on the job, they would have seen the sloppy financial records. They would have noticed such things as duplicate paychecks and undocumented expense reimbursements. Sure, a kid isn’t supposed to get into the cookie jar. But it helps a kid’s behavior when Mom is watching.
How to prevent this at your church
The board should establish an audit committee, or take on those responsibilities themselves. Yes, this will take time and effort. But it is well worth it compared with where things could go without proper oversight;
Review bank statements, check registers, and reconciliations. Look for odd amounts and such things as duplicate paychecks;
Set policy for acceptable limits on expenses;
Require documentation for expense reimbursements;
Establish a hotline service so members can report things that concern them. Here, the students came forward. But an anonymous way to report things can be very helpful.
Encourage the pastor to find someone he can talk to frankly about struggles. This might be a pastor at another church, for instance. But we all need a support system.