Finance for Congregations
Resources for congregational treasurers & bookkeepers
The information provided on Office of the Treasurer Web pages is based on our best information at date of publication.
The treasurer of the congregation has the final responsibility to be aware of tax reporting requirements for congregations as these requirements are established and changed. The ELCA Office of the Treasurer strongly encourages congregational treasurers to consult up-to-date resource material on tax requirements and reporting. The ELCA Office of the Treasurer also strongly encourages congregational treasurers to consult with a tax preparer and/or attorney as necessary.
These resources are provided in response to frequently asked questions. If you have suggestions for additional resources, please contact us at OTinfo@elca.org
This guide for treasurers and bookkeepers reviews the responsibilities of the treasurer, creating the chart of accounts, financial reporting and more.
This document is an overview of many of the financial matters relating to the congregation. Some areas mentioned in this document are separation of financial duties, safeguarding offerings, charitable deductions, and designated and restricted gifts.
Accounting Methods -- Cash Basis and Accrual Basis
How does a congregation decide on a way to record transactions? Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of cash vs. accrual methods of accounting.
Wondering how to best show your congregation's budget in a way that will describe the breadth and depth of the congregation? This article provides a model for how a congregation can combine the dollar and cents budget and their strategic directions in what is often called a 'Program Budget' to reflect the various programmatic areas of the congregation’s mission and ministries.
This document addresses key components of financial contingency planning for congregations, including operating reserves, cash flow projections, budget reductions and banking considerations.
For business and tax reasons, in most instances, it is in the best interests of the congregation and its staff to have in place an accountable reimbursement policy to pay for the business expenses that are necessary to do the ministry of the congregation.
This comprehensive guide addresses questions ranging from the simple to complex, such as:
Who can perform a congregational audit?
How does the audit process begin?
What should be done with payroll and tax records?
What is involved in auditing cash?
How is the control system audited?
The exhibits of the Congregational Audit Guide are provided in MS Word format so that they may be used as a template that can easily be edited and manipulated.
This document describes major financial activities and related best practices in order to assist congregations in establishing their own system.
A growing concern in our society is the issue of data security. We as entities that collect, store, and communicate information have a responsibility to those that provide us their information/data to keep it safe and secure. This helpful set of simply slides provide an explanation of PII (Personal Identity Information) and how to keep data secure at many levels.
Every day, the risk of identity theft grows greater. Congregations -- and congregation administrators -- are not immune from the risk of identity theft nor from the concern members may have for protecting their personal data. Government agencies and private organizations have enacted new laws, regulations and policies intended to prevent the loss of identity information.
Other Useful Information
Is your congregation interested in accounting and administrative software solutions? The Information Technology section of the Office of the Treasurer has some suggestions
Is your congregation concerned about records retention and management
, insurance and risk management
, or dealing with legal issues
? The Office of the Secretary
provides helpful information about these questions.
The IRS has a detailed document called Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations
. This document explains the benefits and responsibilities of churches and religious organizations under the federal tax laws. It is highly recommended that congregational treasurers and bookkeepers familiarize themselves with this document.