Protect Your Ministry's Offerings

Thieves know no boundaries. They are just as likely to steal from a church as from a bank. 

Large or small, churches and ministries are often easy prey for would-be thieves. The effect of an offering plate theft can be devasting for a church's reputation, regardless of its size.

Ministry leaders can fortify their ability to keep thieves away from their property and contributions by taking a fresh look at current procedures.

Keep a would-be thief out the collection plate and away from church funds by developing the financial controls you need to prevent theft and embezzlement at your church.

Offerings and Collections

Start by establishing financial controls to prevent theft and embezzlement in your church or ministry. Here's a list of controls you can implement for use throughout the year:

Ensure that more than one person is responsible for counting the collection—and for every other aspect of a ministry's finances.

  • Make it easy to report suspicious activity.
  • Maintain financial records in a safe place.
  • Document all transactions.
  • Document financial incidents like suspicious accounting entries or deposit transactions.
  • Develop written policies that say how finances will be handled.
  • Complete background checks for those handling church finances.
  • Have someone other than those directly responsible for financial matters conduct an annual audit.
  • Have written position descriptions for all employees and volunteers responsible for financial matters.

Secure Unused Areas

There are some simple steps that church and ministry leaders can take to protect their buildings stay safe:

  • Lock the doors of interior offices, classrooms, and supply rooms when not in use.
  • Restrict access to unused parts of the building. If you cannot control access otherwise, consider installing collapsible metal gates that bolt to walls, such as those you find in schools.
  • Retain keys and security codes. Ask a church representative to open the church building for guests and secure it when they leave. Once you give out a key or security code, you cannot control its use—or replication.
  • Monitor the building. A church member who patrols the building can verify that people are where they should be and can call for assistance in an emergency.

Safeguard Valuables

Much like securing non-public areas of the building, take extra precautions to protect your equipment, financial records, and other valuables. If you haven't already done so, create or update a personal property inventory so you have a current record and appropriate insurance protection for your valuables before something is missing. In addition, consider these suggestions:

  • Use a safe for petty cash, small valuables, keys, and important documents.
  • Secure portable items, such as musical instruments, video cameras, and tablet computers. 
  • Eliminate signs in the building that advertise cash, such as "Finance Office" or "Donation Receipts."

Holiday Events

Building security is important throughout the year, but as traffic increases during the holidays, it's especially important to take steps to reduce the risk of theft or vandalism that could damper this blessed season. Some helpful reminders:

  • Install adequate lighting near doors, in parking lots, and at the rear of buildings.
  • Use a timer or a motion- or light-sensitive switch to activate lights.
  • Maintain all landscaping to eliminate possible hiding places and to give visitors an unobstructed view of entrances and windows.
  • Consider installing an alarm system. Although costly, statistics show that alarm systems substantially reduce the likelihood of buildings being burglarized.

Make every effort to avoid being a victim, by being mindful of the risks that giving imposes on your ministry's operation. You can download a free building security checklist to get you started.