The Pastor And Church Finances

By Ken Gurley, CPA

According to a two-year study by Samuel Blizzard, a professor of sociology at Pennsylvania State University, the aver age pastor spends at least forty per cent of his time in administration. Another survey indicates the pastor’s burden of administration increases proportionately with the size of the church.

It is small wonder that the chief source of pastoral burnout is church administration.

Church administration includes planning, organizing, motivating, coordinating, and controlling. While each of these functions is crucial, the controlling or directing of church finances becomes of paramount concern to the pastor.

The pastor should have the over sight of the church finances. The Holy Ghost makes the pastor the overseer of the local church (Acts 20:28). As an overseer, he is to be the steward, or manager of things en trusted by God to the local church (Titus 1:7). The early church’s offerings were given directly to the apostles as custodians of God’s funds (Acts 4:35, 37).

The Pastor’s Delegated Authority

As the Early Church experienced growth, the apostles found them selves unable to devote their time to preaching and prayer, so they delegated some financial responsibilities to seven men of honest report (Acts 6:2-3). These seven men appear to be the forerunners of the deacons mentioned in several of Paul’s letters (Philippians 1:1; I Timothy 3:8, 12).

It is interesting to note that the deacon’s authority for handling church business is delegated by the pastor. While it is comforting to seek the counsel of trusted men in managing the church’s finances, the pastor remains ultimately responsible. The deacon, in the purest sense, is a servant to the congregation in the area of business that the pastor delegates As we witness the dissolution of well-known media ministry, it is interesting to note whom the public holds responsible for the alleged financial excesses such as air-conditioned doghouses and exorbitant salaries. While a grand jury might scrutinize the ministry’s treasurer, controller, and board of directors, the public holds one man accountable: the man at the top.

This same principle of accountability is seen in the local church as well. A true pastor and shepherd of a flock cannot expect to abdicate or delegate his ultimate responsibility as overseer of the church. The buck stops only at the pastor’s desk.

Authority and Security

Pastors in some denominations have felt extremely frustrated by having little or no input into the financial operations of the church. Growth has been stymied on many occasions by possibly well-meaning church secretaries and board members who want to control the purse strings. With no financial authority, the pastor is subject to the whim and wishes of those who might not have the church’s continued growth at heart.

In other churches, some pastors take little thought of the congregation’s wishes in the area of finances. While this approach may simplify decision making in some circum stances, there are very real dangers attached to this strong-man style of administration.

It is possible for the pastor to provide fiscal leadership in the church and still secure the input, cooperation, and approval of the church or church board. The local church government of the United Pentecostal Church International does so, providing the pastor both authority and security. It describes the pastor’s authority in the vital area of church finance as follows: “He shall have the oversight and superintendence of all interests of the church and of all departments of its work, both spiritual and temporal” (art. 3, sec. 6).

The safety of securing the insight and approval of the church is found in the same document. The church board “together with the pastor, shall care for the business affairs of the assembly, submitting all transactions to the assembly for its approval or disapproval” (art. 3, sec. 5). Thus this form of local church government does provide specific procedures that give security to both
the pastor and the church, without infringing on the pastor’s ability to provide financial leadership.

The Pastor’s Financial Leadership

When the pastor assumes his scriptural role of the overseer of the church finances, offerings will generally increase. The pastor can complement the work of a church board or church treasurer by leading in sever al key areas.

1. The pastor is to be the first giver in each offering. This point might seem inconsequential, but it is important. The order of giving should be as follows: the pastor, others on the platform, and then the congregation. As the ushers receive the offering from those on the platform, confidence is generated in the hearts of those on the pew. When the pastor leads in giving, the saints will automatically give more abundantly and cheerfully.

2. The pastor should correspond periodically with contributors. Why allow givers to be informed of their contributions by the church treasurer only once a year? Ideally, each contributor should get a statement of his contributions every three months. Attached to the front of this statement should be a warm letter of thanks from the pastor for sacrificial giving. When this communication comes from the pastor on a consistent basis, it not only provides for ac curate record-keeping but it also builds trust in the pastor’s oversight of the church.

3. The pastor reviews purchases and expenditures. The pastor should approve all anticipated purchases over a certain dollar amount. It is surprising how much less is spent when people know the pastor must approve a purchase. Not only should the pastor review any anticipated purchase, he should approve any check being written in excess of a predetermined dollar amount. This can be
accomplished through either a dual signature on the face of a check or through a writ ten check request procedure. My preference is to have a check request form with a place for the pastor to approve the expense. Without the pastor’s signature on this form, the church treasurer could not write the check. This procedure not only pro vides the pastor with a knowledge of important
transactions, it also gives the church treasurer additional security.

4. The pastor conducts an annual business meeting. An annual business meeting provides the pastor an excellent time to conduct much of the vital business of the church. In addition to the ratification of board members and department heads, the pastor can call for a financial report.

A pastor who refuses to provide his congregation with at least a basic report of church receipts and disbursements is in a perilous situation. Besides the problem of many federal and state laws requiring an openness of records, the pastor faces a greater problem. The morale and confidence of givers are destroyed through a lack of proper reporting. Thus offerings are diminished.

In this meeting, the pastor can assure the church’s members that good stewardship was exercised in the use of their contributions. The pastor can confidently report that the money received for a specific purpose was disbursed for the same. Additional confidence is generated among the members, and offerings usually increase.


The pastor’s relationship with the church is based on simple trust. In the area of church finance, the pastor can impair the church’s confidence in him through a lavish lifestyle, exorbitant expenditures, and sloppy church administration. On the other hand, the pastor has a unique ability to enhance his position of trust through careful stewardship of church finance. This trust, in turn, encourages church growth.

Brother Gurley a certified public account ant and the pastor of Pearland Tabernacle in Pearland, Texas.

FORWARD/January-March, 1989