Monday, December 24, 2012

Church Credit Cards

I think church-issued credit cards are unnecessary except in special situations (more on that later). I really am against the issuing of church credit cards and here's why:
  • they lead to more work by a staff person, usually an administrative assistant to manage all the cards and track the receipts
  • they lead to expense since some staff will buy things more quickly than if they were using their own card
  • they lead to abuse by some staff (dealing with that is a personnel committee matter not a finance committee issue)
  • they are seen as a right and status symbol when they are neither
Here are my recommendations regarding church credit cards:
  • Staff should use their own personal credit cards when making purchases for the church. Then, the staff person should turn in a receipt and get reimbursed for that expense just like he or she would for mileage or any other purchase. This incentivizes the staff person to get the receipt and turn in the receipt in a timely manner. This addresses the single biggest issue regarding church credit cards - staff members who do not turn in receipts when asked for them and that causes problems for the church's Finance Office.
    • A way for staff to deal with this in a positive manner for them is to get a card with rewards points and then use that card only for church purchases. Write on the card "church use only" so you don't get confused. When the bill comes in, turn in the statement and all the receipts requesting that the check be made payable to the credit card company (not to the staff person). At the end of the year, the staff person earns points which he or she can keep.
  • A church may want to have ONLY ONE church card in the office and that is for use by the administrative assistant when he or she is buying things online (from or an airline ticket or paying a conference fee). This card should not be used by one of the ministers - they can use their own card - and the invoice must immediately be sent to the church's Finance Office as soon as it is received by email.
There is one and only one exception that I can think of and it is not very good. If a staff person needs a credit card for church work but cannot get one because his or her own credit is poor, then the church can intervene and get one. But, there is a big, huge red flag - if that person's credit is that poor, there is a reason for that and do you really want someone with bad credit handling a church credit card? Think twice about that.

I know church credit cards can be positive. In the past two years I've gotten three (3) iPads for church staff using rewards points. But I also know that when you get credit cards, someone on staff will spend hours reconciling all the receipts to the card statements and entering the payment data. That is a lot of extra time that could be used more productively elsewhere in the church.

So, if you ignore my advice and do get church credit cards, you need to have a contract with the cardholders. This contract needs to be authorized and approved by the church's Finance Committee, signed by the staff person, and placed in the employee's personnel file in the Finance Office. This contract should have a "three strikes" provision: if someone with a church-issued card does not turn in his or her paperwork in a timely fashion (when requested by the Finance Office), then after the third event the card will be revoked for a specific time period (usually 3 or 6 months, sometimes indefinitely until the person appears before the Finance Committee or even the Personnel Committee).

The bottom line for me is about being good stewards of the church's resources. A credit card is a privilege, not a right and staff people need to earn it, not expect it.

Lead On!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


A friend and colleague of mine gave me an acronym that is used in his church whenever a decision is made. They assign RACI to actions and I like this so much I want to share it as a tool to help church staffs. RACI stands for:
  • Responsible
    • This person is in charge of the activity. All subsequent decisions go through this person to ensure that everything is working together to meet the desired outcome. This person can delegate intermediate steps but in the end, the buck stops with this person regarding the entire project. The responsible person must also have the trust and authorization to carry out the duties assigned to him or her. Anything less will set that person up for failure and perhaps even his or her departure from the church.
  • Accountable
    • This person is accountable for his or her actions (or inactions) and that accountability will affect his or her annual evaluation. An accountable person may or may be in charge of one aspect of the project or may be the responsible person, also. The accountable person must have the resources to carry out the task assigned to him or her whether those resources are financial, time, knowledge, or people. Accountable people need to know to whom they are accountable - that must be deicded initially; it is frequently the person who is responsible for everything.
  • Consulted
    • This is a person or group of people who have information which can help move the project further along the road. This may be specialized persons (lawyer, architect, teacher, pastor) but they are not part of the decision-making process. Their value is in providing additional knowledge which will help others who are decision-makers. Information is always a two-way street in the section: those who are consulted, by definition, should provide feedback to ensure the proper information is getting to the responsible or accountable person(s).
  • Informed
    • These are people who should be told what is happening along the way. This may be a person (such as the pastor or other leader) or a group of people (such as the congregation or key committee). They are not necessarily part of the decision-making process but keeping them informed can help the decisions go faster and easier. Information is usually one-way but sometimes it can flow back if it will help.
Sometimes these four are mixed and matched. For instance, someone who is consulted may also be a accountable. Sometimes you don't have all four - one of the above may be omitted if it is not appropriate or unnecessary.

Use this terminology to ensure that everyone understands and knows their role in the decision-making process. Keeping this clear will help people know what they are supposed to do and what they should not do. It can minimize conflicts ("eliminate" is probably too much wishful thinking). Use this tool to help you become a more efficient and effective staff - and one that communicates better with each other.

Lead On!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Church Violence and Death

Although this blog is posted after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it was written before then. All the info is relevant to schools and churches. Please guard well what God loves.

Every week there is a news report of violence in churches or church-related facilities (camps, retreat centers, etc.). A lot of them end in violence and death.

About 20 years ago shootings in schools raised awareness that schools were no longer the safe places that everyone felt them to be. Those acts of violence burst the bubble that schools and churches were places of peace and serenity. Both bubbles are now shattered. There is no truly safe public place (except maybe a fire or police station).

For churches and staffs struggling to educate people as to why safety cameras, check-in points, child safety measures, and other preventive actions are needed, the news has way too many stories. Use these stories to inform and show people why a well thought-out, coordinated plan is needed and helpful (and even attractive to young parents). Never use news of church violence to alarm or scare people - that is not helpful at all.

Carl Chinn ( has collected every news article of church related violence since 1999. It is a wealth of information - Carl is doing all of us a great service. I've never met Carl and I've only emailed him once - but his heart is in helping churches be informed about what is happening. Then, what churches do with that information is up to them but hopefully they'll take positive action to ensure their houses of worship are also sanctuaries.

If you want more information, contact Carl - I'm sure he'll help you.

Lead On!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Church Lobby

Your church lobby tells new people in about 3 seconds the kind of people that your church wants to have. Okay, maybe just 2 seconds. It is really, really, really fast and most churches do not even know what they're doing.

I walked into one church and this is what I saw:
  • Faded, worn out mauve carpet that "died" several years ago
  • Furniture that I last saw in my 80 year old aunt's house - and she died 25 years ago
  • Bare walls on one side and pictures of old stuff on the wall
  • A chandelier
I looked around to see if it was a church or funeral home - everything told me I was in a funeral parlor or at least a place that my great Aunt Clara (born circa 1900) would enjoy. It was like a museum - okay, you get the picture. It was not a drawing card for 20- and 30-somethings. It was not even attractive to anyone under 60 - but most people had seen it for so long that they felt it was just part of the church. But anyone who was new to the church and walked in there was immediately turned off by what they saw.

Tomorrow morning - walk into your church lobby and look at it as you never have before. Look at the lighting, the walls and what is hanging on the walls. Talk with people about the furniture and ask them if that is something they would see in a home of a young family (presuming that family had some money to buy furniture they like).

Then, ask yourself if the kind of lobby that you have is representative of the age bracket of the people you want to attend. Or was the furniture put in there by an older generation because that is what they're comfortable with? Be intentional about your lobby - it is one of the first impressions people will have about you. Make it a good one, a positive one that will make you look good. Spend some money; recruit some young women or men to be the interior decorators for that area (and then tell them to take on your bride's room if you have one and update it!); AND then, in about 10 years, do it all again with yet new furniture.

Every time you update your look, you directly affect the age of people that come (and come back) to your church.

Lead On!