In my last post I talked about the purpose of accounting being to measure things. There are really many things that can be accounted for in ministry, as I mentioned in that post. In this post I want to talk about a very specific application: accounting for multi-site churches.
Before getting into how to account for it, it might be helpful for me to describe how I got to this approach since it will explain the progression of my thinking, the rationale behind my approach, and perhaps give you some ideas about how this type of accounting might apply to your ministry directly or indirectly.
It was probably in 2010 that one of my church clients was getting to a point where the initial worship sites were stable and established, but the church was considering bringing on an additional pastors to plant additional locations. Up to this point it was multiple locations but with one lead minister / pastoral team, but a combination of new locations / additional ministers added a new dimension to the mix. Since the church was moving to a more complex structure it was time to review our reports to see if the information we were getting supported the decisions that needed to be made.
In conversations with leadership I recommended that the church structure its financials so that it could track income and costs by location in order to a) monitor how much each plant was relying on outside support for revenues, b) understand to what degree, if any, each plant was relying on the established congregations to support its operations, and c) track internal giving over time to see how well internal giving was progressing over time. My reasoning behind these three points was that a congregation needs to be financially sustainable from the beginning, that sustainability would be initially achieved through a combination of outside gifts and support from the “mother” church, but that over time the external sources would diminish and internal giving would need to cover expenses.
The solution is to this type of accounting, and what I created for this church is to create a cross-tabulated report that let us track income and expenses. It looked something like this:
In short, this is a solution for any church that has multiple locations, or even different ministries that it wants to track. I worked with single location church where the ministries were straightforward, but it had a number of significant bequests left over the decades that the board needed to monitor both for continued contributions into those funds and that expenses were used according to the donor’s stipulations.
Since each church is different in how it works and tracks things, it might be the right thing or it might not be for your situation, so I certainly can’t make a recommendation for you on a blog post. But I do hope that this stimulates thinking about what the possibilities are and how it might apply to your ministry.