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2008.09.04

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Chris

Having served in both types of situations you described for Billy, let me make a suggestion that will help all ministers serving in churches that take forever to reimburse: PLAN AHEAD. If someone has to place a $2100 deposit on their personal credit card for an adult retreat, they have not planned far enough ahead. If you budget the retreat a year ahead of time, there should be no reason why the church could not issue a check for the deposit when it is needed. Most of these issues are created by pastors that lead by the seat of their pants.

By the way, any pastor that abuses his credit card should be disciplined significantly. Dishonesty has no place in the ministry of the Word.

peter

Chris,

Thanks. Of course, the adult retreat was an example off the cuff. Thus your point may be well taken that planning could be an issue. Nor do I dispute that planning may not be the strong suit of many pastor/staffers.

Nonetheless, to suggest the issue is mostly resolved through simple a)foresight and proper planning and b) writing hard-copy checks does little to solve the issue I posed.

While scheduling an adult retreat a year in advance may bleed off some of the potential hazard, purchasing airline tickets for a mission trip cannot so easily pass under the radar. A church with which I am familiar was penalized several hundred dollars by insisting on using a hard check to "lock in" the tickets. Didn't work. By the time the check arrived, ticket prices changed.

In addition, it is virtually impossible to take advantage of internet purchases without a credit card.

That said, we obviously agree on whether either outright dishonesty or incompetent managing of credit card purchases is morally tolerable. Neither is as my post, I trust, made clear.

With that, I am...

Peter

Chris

Peter,

The scenario present boils down to trust. I agree if the relationship is started under suspicion, in all likelihood it remains there. If there were previous problem, correct them, but don't place the blame on the new staffer by foolish policy.

Chris

Jim Champion

Peter,

I am stewardship chairman of our church. Let me lay out for you our basic guidelines.

1. It takes trust on both sides of the equation - staff and stewardship committee. As chair of our stewardship committee I expect our staff to be cognizant of where the church finances are.

2. Our staff can use thier credit cards for ministry purposes ONLY (and yes we had a situation once upon a time when a minister bought some furniture on the church credit card - not pretty)

3. They must turn in receipts for purchases promptly. No receipt means a nice donation from the staff member to the church!

4. Larger items require previous submission of a purchase order.

5. We cut reimbursement checks once per week - it is not fair for us to put them ministers credit rating in peril (they can do that themselves easily enough :) )

Keith Schooley

I like the concept of a trust "bank account." (I mean by this a metaphor, not an actual account.) When a pastor takes a new position, he should be accorded a level of trust simply based on the position and the church's decision to call that individual to that position. What a pastor does in the conduct of his office will naturally add to or deplete that account. A pastor who acts in a trustworthy manner will be accorded more trust. A pastor who acts in a manner that could call his integrity into question will deplete that account and be trusted less. A pastor that clearly violates trust, as Chris said, should be disciplined significantly.

The upshot is, early on in a pastoral ministry, trust is essentially accorded. Eventually, the level of trust a pastor has will largely be earned.

Byron

Very good article, Peter. I agree 100%. I hope others will too.

peter

All,

I think some good points have been made here, none of which could not work, it seems, or, most importantly, hinder the flow of ministry.

Jim brings up a good balance asserting that trust is a double-edged blade, slicing from both sides. I could not agree more. Admittedly, I'm not sure trust on the minister's behalf means, in the present scenario, that, if the stewardship team deems it's in the best interest of the church to not issue credit cards, then, if "trust" is operating properly on the minister's behalf toward the team, he will without hesitation accept such as the best protocol to pursue. If this is what trust looks like from the minister's side of the street, I must plead disagreement.

The good thing about the thread so far is the obvious absence of a positive case for the non-issuance of credit cards to staffers for church related expenses. My bottom line point is that, from my perspective, I do not think a case which argues such policy can be successful.

Good night all. With that, I am...

Peter

Morris Brooks

If the staff member/pastor is abusing a credit card I can assure you that it is the tip of the iceberg. You better start checking them out in every area.

Morris

peter

Morris,

I think you make a good observation. The key, however, is a scenario of *continued* abuse. In a healthy scenario, there is little opportunity for *continued* abuse available. Checks & balances prohibit such.

With that, I am...

Peter

Bob Cleveland

Good article, one which all churches should read.

As a retired career insurance broker, I had a principle I always shared with clients, which churches need to realize: only honest, trustworthy people ever steal. Simply put, you nobody would ever entrust money or property to folks who weren't.

The plain fact is that EVERYBODY needs to be accountable. The only way to guarantee accountability is to check.

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