Being a treasurer
Dealing with congregational finance is about mission just as much as it is about money! The Church could not engage in any of the work that we value so much, were it not for the resources received from all those who are part of local congregations.
Treasurers are to comply with accounting requirements to ensure that the finances are transparent and that the church is accountable. Creating the right environment of openness, transparency, controls and accountability is important in order to protect:
- those handling finances in the church
- the reputation of the church
- the reputation of the Kingdom
What makes an ideal treasurer?
It goes without saying that the person fulfilling the role should have a high level of honesty and integrity! The Bible reminds us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and no church should underestimate the lure and temptation that cash brings with it.
Besides, the greatest required skill of a treasurer would be an understanding of and empathy with the mission of the local church. Each church will have a different emphasis, and it is important that the treasurer understands this and can grasp the vision. Behind every set of numbers is a story - your congregation's story.
There is probably also a need for some accounting knowledge, but that is not necessarily a requirement of being a treasurer. Managing the church finances might not be very different from what each one of us does at home in our day to day finances - paying bills, budgeting for expenditure, checking bank balances and so on.
Although not essential, some expertise with computer packages would be an advantage and there are available a number of accounting packages which are specifically for church treasurers. Access to an email account also makes the role of treasurer more straightforward.
What is expected of a Treasurer?
Treasurers are asked to report to the Board or Session meetings during the year. The year-end accounts have to be prepared in a prescribed format, but often help will be available from the person appointed as Independent Examiner. The treasurer must be able to explain the numbers in a way non-financial people will understand. The Trustees' Report in every set of accounts also gives the treasurer an opportunity to explain, this time using words rather than numbers, the mission, achievements, and hopes of the local church.
Other duties will include the claiming of Gift Aid from HMRC (including donations under the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, which allows charities to claim tax on cash donations without the need for a signed Gift Aid declaration), although many churches will have a separate Gift Aid secretary. Further guidance on Gift Aid is available from the HMRC website. Recent changes to pension regulations have also placed additional burdens on employers, but a lot of guidance is available from the website of the Pensions Regulator.
The minister of a congregation and sometimes additional ministerial staff within congregations are paid from the Church of Scotland national offices (121 George street, Edinburgh), so the local church does not usually need to get involved in the many employment issues. Some congregations, though, will have locally employed staff (youth workers, cleaners, family workers, organists, etc.).
It is also becoming more common for the duties of the treasurer to be shared by a group of people, or for there to be a church finance committee to provide support and guidance to the treasurer. Bringing other people on board and cultivating their skills will stand the church in good stead for the future. Having a finance team in place is likely to:
- provide a more robust system of accountability
- provide reassurance to church members and external parties alike
- make it easier to find a new treasurer who will not be daunted by the size and responsibility of the role