Book review: Has your church done an audit lately?
No one ever says, “I wish I could be on the church audit committee.” Yet auditors play essential role in congregational life. Financial accountability is a critical role in ministry, and it can help people follow appropriate procedures when they know they will be held accountable In addition, people are more likely to give when they know proper safeguards are in place.
InConducting Church Audits, Jeremy Odom has written a useful book not only for internal auditors but also for church boards and finance boards. According to his bio, he has been a pastor, non-profit executive director as well as a tax and financial consultant.
Odom makes useful recommendations for different sizes of churches. He offers guidence for when and at what intervals an outside audit is appropriate. This book could be good preparation for an outside audit (and should reduce the cost signifacntly). He walks a committee through the steps that need to be taken, from pre-audit planning to the audit itself to the final report.
The resources he provides include:
An internal control questionnaire. This could be used in advance of an audit, or at any time by a board or finance committee to make sure appropriate controls are in place.
Substantitve testing of transactions and account balances.
Sample report of the audit committee.
An audit committee could take this book and walk step by step through his process. It’s comprehensive (and could seem daunting for smaller churches or places where audits haven ot been routine).
There’s an impotant piece he doesn’t address, beyond the scope of this book, and worthy of another one: What should pastors and other church leaders do when the correct procedures are not in place, and people don’t think they are necessary? I’ve heard more stories than I care to recount about this.
Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources. Margaret is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry and MoneyandYour Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance. She served as a pastor for 15 years.www