“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." ~ Matthew 6:19-20 (ESV)
Some persons have turned down jobs handling money, accounts or valuable items, saying, “I don’t want to be responsible for other people’s things.” Their reluctance is understandable, since that would put them in the position of being under suspicion if the property was lost, stolen or damaged. On the other hand, jobs such as that are in the “Someone has to do it” category.
Being responsible for property belonging to someone else is stewardship, and the person responsible is a steward. Whether we want the job or not, we all are stewards. Everything belongs to God. He owns it all. So we are stewards of all that is “ours.” It is as stewards that we give offerings to the church, to parachurch ministries, and to charities. In turn, those to whom we give become stewards of what we give, as are those to whom they give. The chain of custody is a chain of stewardship.
In the above passage from 2 Kings, King Jehoash directed the priests to use money that was donated to repair the Temple for that purpose. To do this, the money had to be kept safe until used as intended. Elsewhere in this account and in the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles, we see that the priests and Levites with access to the funds were held accountable.
One threat to the church’s funds is theft. Some may think it won’t happen in their church, but if a thief sees your church as an easy target, it will be targeted. Means of theft include embezzlement, rifling (going through things like coats, pockets and purses), burglary, and robbery. Here are a couple of headlines on burglary:
- In March 2014, Joel Osteen’s church was burglarized. The thieves took about $600,000.
- In 2016, at least four churches were burglarized in Shelby Township, Michigan, three in March and one in August. The last was recorded on surveillance video.
Jesus said that where material possessions are concerned, not only will thieves “break in and steal,” but treasure can be lost or destroyed. Good stewardship involves care in handling money, wisdom in its use, and guarding against theft. The church safety and security ministry will, at some points, participate in this stewardship.
Why is being concerned about the security of the money so important? That money has been entrusted to the church to be used for God’s work. In 2 Kings 12:4-5, the money was for making repairs to the Temple. In Acts 4:34 and 6:1-4, the church in Jerusalem used offerings to take care of the needy, especially widows and orphans, a task Paul gave instructions for in 1 Timothy 5:3-16. The churches in Greece and Macedonia took up collections for believers in Jerusalem who were undergoing hard times, and Paul saw to it that it was delivered safely. Then, while Paul was under house arrest in Rome for two years, the church in Philippi supported him. By keeping the money safe, we are keeping it for its intended use.
The Safety/Security Committee and the Security Director may advise the deacons and elders (or board of trustees) on policies and procedures for safekeeping the church’s money. The church itself needs to formulate and adopt means of safeguarding cash, bank accounts, and other monetary assets. The safety ministry is directly involved in guarding against burglary, robbery and casual theft.
There are many resources available that outline ways of protecting money the church holds. Just a few sources are Church Law & Tax, Evangelical Christian Credit Union, and Church Underwriters. Some of these methods are presented in the Church Security Guide article, Church Safety Team Academy, dealing with situations such as using a safe, counting offerings, handling money from transactions (such as coffee bar and bookstore), making deposits, and responding to robberies.
Concerning safes, the church could use a depository safe. This has a hopper on top for inserting envelopes with offerings, money from counter sales and special events, etc. This way, no one has to open the safe to put items in it. Then a person with authorized access can open the safe and deposit the money when the bank is open.
Access control is the most basic method of guarding assets in the church’s care. Besides door locks and secure windows, this also means deciding who has access to church funds and what they are allowed to do with them. A basic principle in this is “no one person alone.” An example of this is having two people count the offering, recording the amount. Another is having different persons taking in and paying out.
This and other aspects of church security are covered in the downloadable training packets Church Safety / Security Team Academy v.2 and Complete Church Security Training System. Keep up-to-date with the Sheepdog Church Security newsletter, The Guardian.