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Churches may focus on high-minded things like spiritual health and building Kingdom-focused communities. But the truth is that they handle a lot of cold, hard cash along the way, too.

Church leaders must manage a continual (and rarely predictable) flow of tithes, gifts, special benevolences, fundraisers, and capital campaigns. They must also consider expenses that span the gamut, from utilities and staff salaries to missions trips and outreach efforts.

Despite the steady involvement with money, most church staffers lack the financial skills required to handle finances professionally — or even effectively. 

Here are three costly and common mistakes that plague church finances. If you want your ministry to thrive, financially speaking, start by making sure these issues aren’t holding you back.

1. You Lack Giving Options

Since the pandemic kept so many people cloistered away at home, most churches have adopted at least some form of digital giving. The question is, did you adjust your giving options purely in response to the remote church model, or have you continued to evolve with 21st-century giving channels? 

Churches that slap a PayPal button on their website and call it a day are making a costly mistake. This isn’t just a convenience factor. It can become a potential cost to your ministry. 

By not proactively providing updated giving channels, you’re failing to meet your donors where they are.

It pays to diversify your online giving options. Nonprofits Source reports that 60% of church attendees are willing to give digitally. When churches accept tithing online, it boosts overall donations by a sizeable 32%, too.

In other words, you don’t want to skimp on your online giving options. Streamline the process for givers by providing multiple choices and making those as simple and helpful as possible. For instance, you can:

  • Use an online giving platform to collect tithes and offerings.
  • Offer a text-to-give option that is mobile-friendly.
  • Use QR codes to smooth the path from engagement to giving.
  • Provide pre-set amounts as giving suggestions.
  • Set up recurring giving as a way to make it easier for regular givers and create a more predictable flow of income.

If you don’t have the bandwidth to monitor multiple giving formats, you can use a tool like to bring everything into a single, easy-to-manage dashboard. However you choose to do things, just make sure you’re helping your donors give as easily as possible.

2. You’re Mismanaging Payroll

As your church grows, there are many positions that you want to fill. Pastors, administrators, directors, and even custodial engineers are required to keep a growing church in good working order.

Of course, if you seek more people to invest substantial effort into your ministry, in most cases, you’re going to need to pay them something. Trust us, if you want to make running a church complicated, start paying people.

Payroll is one of the easiest areas to mismanage. There are countless rules, regulations, taxes, and other nuances that go into a ministry’s bookkeeping. 

Even working with a secular outside agency doesn’t always help, as they can easily become lost in the nitty-gritty details of nonprofit finances. It’s confusing and complicated, and the IRS won’t accept an “I didn’t know” answer if you get things wrong.

If you want to avoid mismanaging your payroll, it’s important that you seek third-party accounting and bookkeeping support that understands what it takes to run a ministry. 

At Chaney, we work exclusively with churches and faith-based nonprofits because we understand that it takes ongoing effort to stay up-to-date on managing things like payroll in a ministry environment. This starts with a clean, organized, and legally aligned payroll.

3. You’re Failing to Institute Checks and Balances

Church is family. Your local church is filled with Christ-centered individuals who, if they’re living according to Jesus’ commandment in John 15:13, are ready to lay down their lives for one another.

This is an important bond. But it’s also one that can make it easy to let your guard down when dealing with your church’s finances. 

That’s where checks and balances come into the picture. Too many churches fail to guard against a casual approach to the money side of things. 

Their leaders trust others to handle sizeable amounts of funding blindly and without protocols. Did you know that according to ChurchSalary, the average congregational revenue for a church of 500 members is $1,230,672? That’s a lot of money to take care of every twelve months.

It’s important that church leaders resist being lackadaisical when it comes to handling their congregation’s finances. Just because you trust someone with your life, or they’re a reputable member of your staff, or they have a stellar track record doesn’t mean they should get unrestricted or unwatched access to church finances.

Set up checks and balances like:

  • Designating clear roles for who should handle finances.
  • Creating clear systems and protocols for everyone to handle your money (no exceptions).
  • Avoiding having relatives of those on staff handle money.
  • Outsourcing your finances to a trusted and impartial third party.
  • Auditing your finances regularly to maintain transparency and integrity.

By following protocols like these with your funds, you minimize the possibility of fraud, embezzlement, and even simple mistakes from taking place.

Avoiding Financial Shortcomings in Your Church

You may be focused on building the Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean you can automatically handle your ministry’s finances without any issues. 

From failing to facilitate giving to mismanaging payroll to neglecting to set up checks and balances, there are many ways your church can come up short. Don’t repeatedly engage in costly mistakes

Do your homework, find a trusted, church-focused accounting partner, and invest in cleaning things up with your finances so that your ministry can make a positive difference not just with your people but with your church finances, too.

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