Fraud can certainly happen at your church.
You know you are to love one another. Part of that involves being honest, open, and vulnerable with others. Trust is vital to the process. And we indeed DO trust others: we confess our sins to them, we share prayer requests, and we come alongside as best we can.
But trust is a rotten financial procedure. [Spoiler alert: ALL embezzlers were trusted – that’s how they got the money.]
Trust, without loving support, is a hurtful thing. Let me explain: when a person is trusted with something of value, they are also tempted. Trusted with a secret? They’re tempted to gossip. Trusted with cash? They’re tempted to pocket it. Our job is to trust, but also to support. In financial procedures, that means we trust our members to count the collection… but we get TWO of them to work together!
We, of all people, should know what is in the heart. What does the Bible say?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?Jer 17:9
Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Heb 12:13
Fraud experts expect 25% of churches to be hit, and the median loss for nonprofits in 2017 was $68,000. Even one of the Twelve was an embezzler.
A phone survey of 1000 American pastors asked, “Has your church experienced theft, fraud, or embezzlement in the last five years?” 13.3% of the pastors said yes. The investigators were firmly convinced that the true number was much higher: these were 1) the ones who knew about it; and 2) they were brave enough to own up to it on the phone.
Fraud involves three key elements: financial pressure, rationalization, and opportunity.
Financial pressure besets many of us. Sometimes that pressure cannot be shared (a pastor with a drug habit, for instance). By its nature, the church can’t do much if the person is unwilling to open up about the situation.
Rationalization, always present in church fraud, is where the individual convinces himself that he is not really a criminal. “I’m just borrowing this money”, “They don’t pay me enough, so I’m just making things right”, and “This is for a worthy cause” are common rationalizations. But these are still inside the person’s head. We can disciple and preach the gospel, but we can’t see inside a person’s thoughts.
Opportunity: this is where you can protect your people. If you have strong financial procedures, you eliminate or greatly reduce the possibility that they could get away with theft, fraud, or embezzlement. If it doesn’t look like a possibility, their temptation is reduced. We can help with that: see our home page for an overview, or get started now.