Monday, August 27, 2018

10 Foundations of Church Financial Integrity

In today’s environment, the need for churches to operate by the highest standards of financial integrity has never been greater.

“Overlook the foundations of financial integrity, and your church is headed for a world of hurt. All it takes is even the perception of wrongdoing for ministry to come to a screeching halt,” says Michael Martin, ECFA’s vice president of church relations. “On the other hand, watch your ministry accelerate as trust is enhanced through demonstrating financial integrity and accountability.”

Ready to assess where your church stands? Use this ECFA checklist as your guide in addressing 10 foundational areas that are key to operating with excellence and integrity.

As a certified church, displaying ECFA’s trusted seal can help strengthen your testimony and encourage greater generosity. To learn more about the benefits of certification, visit

Looking for more resources to build upon your integrity foundation? Check out these other free tools from ECFA:

ECFA’s Integrity Standards for Churches (Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship™)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Is Your Church Culture Healthy or Toxic?

Whether or not you know it, your church staff has a culture — and it may determine more than you know.

First, of all, we’re not talking about the culture of your church as a body of believers. That is entirely different. Staff culture is formed by the people who makes things happen at your church. They may be leaders, salaried, or volunteering. Ask yourself: who is at the center of how things get done at our church? 

Your church may have core values that are written down, but culture is typically unwritten. It involves how the staff functions together, the “family rules” that often go without saying. Ask yourself: beyond the mission of our church, what are the behaviors that we exhibit as a team as we try to accomplish that goal?

In William Vanderbloemen’s book, Culture Wins, he coins the importance of finding “your kind of crazy.” Having cultural values that aspire to perfection are not it. Rather, focus on identifying your quirks and strengths as a team. Ask yourself: what is unique (and successful) about your staff that may be uncommon elsewhere? That’s your kind of crazy.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Charitable Giving Inches Upward

ECFA conducted a survey to ask how churches and ministries ended 2017 and began 2018 in terms of charitable giving, releasing the results on July 16, 2018.

  • The survey indicated an upward tick in charitable giving that put churches and nonprofits in a better position to start 2018. The year 2017 ended better than did 2016 for many ECFA-related ministries. Going forward, there are many factors to consider in 2018. Depending on the size of the church or ministry and their annual budget, even a decrease in giving as low as 3% could have a significant impact on nonprofit organizations. 

  • Despite a bump in giving from December 2017 for many ministries, money remains tight. The year-end increase somewhat hides the close financial margins experienced by most ECFA-related ministries. The response to a potential decrease in giving for 2018 depends on a variety of factors. Some have adequate reserves to absorb the impact, while most ministries would need to compensate with budget changes. 

  • One finding that comes as no surprise is that ministries are very donation-dependent. For ECFA-related ministries, December is a crucial month. These year-end donations are critical to their budgets. In fact, a solid majority of ECFA-related Christian charities receive more than 75% of their income from donations alone. For churches, the percentage of income from donated funds is even higher.

Download the full Charitable Giving Inches Upwards survey report for more trends and benchmarks.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Combatting the Tyranny of the Urgent

The seemingly endless barrage of phone calls, emails, reports, meetings, and everything else on the to-do list: we’ve all been there. One of the most common problems facing church leaders is that they are busy. This condition is often referred to as “the tyranny of the urgent,” and it is what keeps financial managers from becoming financial leaders.

Without micromanaging the day-to-day management, senior leadership needs to consciously align budgeting, controls, and systems with the mission. When long-term planning happens, there is confidence in the future of the ministry. Not only that, but financial leadership inspires a sense of freedom to pursue future ministry opportunities.

Here are a few practical ways to grow in financial leadership:

Be acutely aware of trends. They are more than just fads. Identifying trends as they relate to your ministry will keep you updated and relevant.

Focus beyond the funds. Financial management generates sound numbers, but healthy financial leadership is needed to make sense of those numbers. How do you measure the success of a ministry? Lives changed is a good place to start.

Network with others. Make sure people learn what they need to. Connect to mentors that can answer questions and offer guidance. Engage with available tools and connect with newsletters, articles, and other materials related to the work of your ministry.

Assess regularly. Take time to step back and identify areas of difficulty and start making necessary improvements.

No matter your staffing ability or resources, church leaders should be asking: What am I doing today that only I can do, and what can someone else be doing that I am spending my time on? This could mean prioritizing, delegating, hiring, or seeking out skilled volunteers when the budget is tight.

For more on growing in financial leadership, check out the Growing in Financial Leadership Podcast at