Should the church have a savings account?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by he beholds, May 13, 2010.

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  1. he beholds

    he beholds Puritan Board Doctor

    Should a church have a savings account? Should it have a large one? How much is enough? How much is too much?
    Or should all of the tithes after paying the pastor and maintaining the building be sent to missions?
    If a church collects a lot more than needed for salary and maintenance, is that a sign that they could support a church plant?

    I have a lot of questions about this, but they all basically boil down to should a church really have a savings account? Please suggest other scenarios/options than the ones I listed if you have an opinion on what the church should do with surplus tithes.
  2. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    yes it should.

    To be prepared for emergencies & oppourtunities that are unforseen. in my opinion opinion as soon as possible the church should become debt free & then they should have at least 6 months worth of reserves on hand.

    If some stratigic vision will require more funds then they should be set aside above this "savings". It is always better to save first then to borrow later.
  3. Idelette

    Idelette Puritan Board Graduate

    Well, I'm not sure about this but I would think it depends on the situation and context. I don't think it's wrong for a church to save money as long as it goes towards the furthering of the gospel and the church and not for personal use. I think it would depend largely on whether a church has an actual building or not. I know my old church saved up a lot of money over the years for a future building (which they recently built). But there was always a portion that was given towards missions and other church plants during that time. I also think it would depend on whether they are planning to add to the church, or create any sister congregations etc.

    Plus, from a financial standpoint (and I used to work in finance), even if a church is covering its salary and maintenance it is still wise to save money in case of any unforeseen event or changes in future expenses to insure that the minister can be paid. My old church suffered a great loss when 75% of the church moved away leaving very few families to support that congregation. So, I would think it a good thing, if a church can afford to save any money.
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner


    Often what we mean by this are several things-

    1) an account for known, large expenditures that occur infrequently, such as annually. (this is for cash flow, really)
    2) a reserve for contingencies for large expenditures without a known frequency

    You can plan for the 1st category in an annual budget, part of monthly revenues and expenditures with amounts being escrowed.

    The second is more difficult, maybe use 2 to 3% of total budget as an initial benchmark, then work toward a more normal 4-5%.
  5. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    I actually can't think of one reason why a church WOULDN'T have a savings account.
  6. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    No, as the parable indicates, the church should bury the offering money in the ground for fear of losing it.
  7. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    Oh dear. Charlie J, I did not mean to thank you, but to ask you what you meant. Because I'm really not sure.
  8. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Yes, assuming the church uses the account to be prudent. I know a church that got so tied to its "reserve" savings that when the recession hit and giving dropped a bit, they cut staff and ministries rather than use the reserves to keep ministry going. I'd suggest such behavior reveals the savings existed because of fear ("What'll happen if we run out!") rather than prudence.

    As with most matters in the church, you have to constantly re-examine your motives.
  9. he beholds

    he beholds Puritan Board Doctor

    So does anyone have an idea of how much a church should keep? A couple hundred thousand? More? Less?
    Someone posted in another thread that their church may not have enough money for a need, and then I thought that probably other churches have tons of money (Olsteen and company, for sure, but even some of our churches may) and that made me wonder if it is better to make use of what people tithe or save it in case something happens.

    I sort of think that the church should not hold on to very much, but should give most of what extra is collected. (Plant a church, send some missionaries, etc.) If a catastrophic event does happen, perhaps you use your meager church savings and then take up a special "new roof" collection. Or maybe most things are insured, anyway?

    I would think an emergency fund is a good thing to keep for a few months worth of salary/expenses, but not much more than that. But I cannot say that my view is the biblical view--which is why I am asking.

    Oh, for Charlie J:
    I definitely didn't intend for the question to be about making interest or not. I mean should a church bank money or use it. Never just bury it. I think it is a real question. How much security is too much/not enough?
  10. Berean

    Berean Puritanboard Commissioner

    Don't worry, guys. Josh knows exactly what he's talking about.
    Last edited: May 14, 2010
  11. he beholds

    he beholds Puritan Board Doctor

    Are you offended by this question for some reason? I think that there probably is a principle from Scripture that I would like to flush out with others. I am not necessarily asking for an exact number. But I think there's got to be a point that is too low and I would say too high.

    I like what Scott said with a percentage of the budget. I guess since each church has a different budget, that is a good enough answer.
  12. he beholds

    he beholds Puritan Board Doctor

    No, no. Not a big deal. Just wondering if I hit a nerve, and if so, why.

    ---------- Post added at 10:53 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:53 PM ----------

    P.S. is the phrase "flush out" or "flesh out?"
  13. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    These days, most Western churches are also employers. So the biblical principles that apply include the principles for employers, who have an obligation to employees. Therefore, I would say a church should not be faulted for keeping enough reserves to cover salaries and missionary support for a few months. It gives some sercurity to those who depend on the church for their livelihood.

    Beyond that, I'd suggest most churches are being too tentative (and risk trusting their bank accounts rather than God) if they're not spending or giving away the rest, or putting it into accounts earmarked for ministry or Kingdom-expanding projects.
  14. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Jessi, I was saying yes by making a ludicrous "no." The solution is to do something with the money rather than sit on it. You asked a very good question. Our church is having a congregational meeting on Sunday to discuss our current and future plans; I'm sure finances will come up. Most churches that have long-term vision are going to need to save, simply because the money to build a new building or plant a new church is more than can be raised in a single fundraising drive. Now, if the church wants to keep the money piling up in accounts for no particular reason or just for "security", I don't particularly like that, but the important thing there is to fix the church's mindset - the budget sheet will follow.
  15. N. Eshelman

    N. Eshelman Puritan Board Senior

    We do not have a place in Scripture that tells us how much we should have in savings. Each Session and Deacon Board is going to have to make those decisions based on their needs and future plans. My congregation has a sizable savings account, but it was decided a number of years ago that they would keep a few years worth of expenses aside 'just in case'. Now, of course, we give to missions quite a bit, we support our presbytery quite extensively, we support Geneva College, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Cush4Christ (mission in Southern Sudan), we have had a church plant in the past, the pastor is paid enough, etc. etc.

    So we need to each weigh the reasons why, as well as see how we are being faithful in other areas.

    This past year, MANY MANY churches ran deficits of around 20-30% because giving was down (for obvious reasons). If there was no savings, then many of these churches would have to beg, borrow, and squeal just to keep operations going. I know of a couple of pastors who took major pay cuts this year because there was nothing to fall back on.

    Wisdom and more wisdom. Prayer and more prayer. That's what we need to be doing when considering how much is enough and how much is too much.

  16. SemperEruditio

    SemperEruditio Puritan Board Junior

    Yes but the church better have someone who is keeping track because "finding" that the church has two accounts with over $100k in each is a great surprise that brings up a great many question....
  17. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    What about the work of the Church in Health, Welfare and Education for its people, or is all this to be left to the omnicompetent salvific state.

    The Apostolic Church had a welfare system, leaving a pattern for the Reformed Church.
  18. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    Deut. 14:28 At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year's produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

    Yes, a church must have a savings account. This particular tithe had to last at least a year and arguably 3 years.
  19. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    As for the "reserve for contingency" kind of "savings," start with 2-3% of the total annual budget, then work toward 4-5%, based on input of reasonably foreseeable needs.

    So, for example, if the Church has an annual budget of $1,000,000 , and funds are limited, start with a benchmark of something like $25,000 (2-3%) if funds are limited, then move toward $45,000 (4-5%) as funds become available, based on expected contingencies. You can compile a list of "likely" contingencies (e.g. heater/A/C unit replace)- the Deacons can do this, and adjust this amount as reflects an estimate of your church's particular needs.

    Really, even this kind of "savings" (as well as "savings" for irregular but predictable expenses) are for a purpose. They are really not extra- they are part of reasonably foreseeable expenses, even those that occur as emergencies.

  20. he beholds

    he beholds Puritan Board Doctor

    I don't want to criticize your specific church (which is lovely--I visited long before you were there and you had some very, very generous people who let my friends and I camp in their backyard as well others who gave us money because we were basically stranded in Pasadena!), but to me, a non-finance person who is very lax about money, a few years of savings sounds like too much. What would a scenario look like where you are taking in no tithes for a few years yet still remain as a church? But if you are still able to give to places and support missionaries, etc, then I suppose that you have very faithful tithers and are blessed that there is that much excess--and I personally believe in all of the ministries that you guys do support. I truly find no fault in your church. And I see the wisdom in saving. I really do. It might be too naive to think "Give away as much as possible now, if the heater doesn't work next year, wear heavy coats until we can afford to fix it. If the people are making less and tithing less, make sure the pastor gets paid, but maybe a little less." Because if you give and give and the next year there is less, then what about the missions you are committed to? You wouldn't want to drop them because you have promised too much to too many places.

    I like the recurrent themes in this thread: wisdom and prayer. And I will add one, what I am sure we all agree upon: generosity and love for all of the saints.

    And again, I was not impugning your church, Pastor Eshelman. I am just thinking out loud.

    Thank you for answering even with specifics about your own church. That was very helpful.

    So, since we were talking percentages, if a church has a years worth of expenses saved, does that mean it has a savings of 100% of their total budget, and two years would be 200%, and so on? I'm trying to think of this in terms of what Scott was saying, but I am not mathematical at all.

    ---------- Post added at 11:18 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:11 AM ----------

    I definitely agree that our churches are to care for our members. I think if a family has large medical expenses or something, then the church, having enough in savings, should just pick up this burden. I did not mean to imply that the church should only give to missions.
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