ENHANCING TRUST - IRISH MISSION LOCAL TREASURERS TRAINING
12th October 2017
Who would have thought that a training exercise for local church treasurers could be riveting, immersive and engaging! This was indeed the case when the entire financial team of the British Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists spent a day enhancing the knowledge and skills of more than thirty local church treasurers and leaders in Dublin on Sunday, 8 October.
One word permeated the sessions of the day: trust. Aftab Barki was the first presenter to introduce the concept that accountability and trust go hand-in-hand. "Everything that we are going to share with you today are steps that you can take to increase trust." He listed several qualities of leadership that engenders trust: "…taking responsibility for actions and behaviour, making only realistic promises, keeping those promises, being able to state clearly one’s views, positions and convictions…" The list was substantial and through the day it kept getting longer.
Once the accounting process was framed through the lens of building trust, it became meaningful and interesting. It immediately became clear that poor record keeping would undermine trust, even if the local treasurer was willing to provide regular reports. Similarly, good record keeping would not contribute to trust, unless it was clearly and effectively communicated with the church.
Over several sessions, the treasury team guided participants through the processes involved in accurate record keeping, financial management and reporting. The starting point was with the often, invisible task of counting loose offerings after a church service: "Unless two trusted people count the offerings and then record it accurately and confidentially, there could be reason to be concerned about trust." The church would benefit even more if there was a clear mechanism for local members to know how much money was coming in on a weekly basis. Local churches receive money in various ways however, and each of these processes need good record keeping and reporting. As the money then makes its way into the bank, and as financial transactions take place each step has further safeguards that ensure that the processes are fully accountable.
In an immersive exercise that was conducted in the afternoon, the group was given a set of financial records and challenged to look for possible problems. Calculators whirred, intense discussions were held, and in the end the group identified more than a dozen problems in these hypothetical accounts that varied from simple calculation errors to outright fraud.
The day flew by quickly and notebooks were filled to the brim with information, helpful advice, and crucial items for church boards and church leaders to consider.
Steve Okelo, the associate treasurer of the British Union spoke about vision. He highlighted a thought that while churches often look towards higher church administration for vision, the reality is more frequently that the local church drives vision throughout the whole church organisation. When local churches begin to develop vision and pursue its objectives, the rest of the church responds. And when local church and the rest of the church organisation work together, it is unbelievable what can be achieved.
"Excellence in financial leadership requires that church boards give very careful thought to risks that a congregation might face," said Steve Okelo in a later presentation. These risks are numerous and can lead to disastrous consequences for a community. Often the local treasurer is best placed to highlight these risks. "When last had the church’s boiler systems been serviced?... The treasurer is bound to know. Is the church building adequately insured in order for it to be rebuilt in case of a total loss?… There are real examples of churches that have come short on this and only discovered it after disaster struck." More than one presentation during the day focussed on developing skills in identifying risk, knowing where to look for it, and what to do about it.
"There is great advantage in having the whole team from the BUC at the training," said pastor Dan Serb, president of the Irish Mission. "We often communicate via e-mail and phone calls and we don’t really know who we are talking to. Now we can put faces to the names. We also have a much clearer picture of how the department is structured and who would be best suited to provide assistance when we need it."
"We plan to do several training events like this around the British Isles over the coming months," said Earl Ramharacksingh, treasurer of the Church in Great Britain and Ireland as he introduced his team to the group. "Ireland is our first stop. It is our goal that this training should be offered in all the administrative districts of the Church at least once in a five-year period." Earl specifically promoted a weekend residential training event that is scheduled for local treasurers from across the British Union on 23 to 25 February 2018.
A few things are sure after a day spent immersed in very practical training and spirit filled encounters with a passionate leadership team from the church headquarters: Irish Mission local treasurers have been affirmed as part of the heart-beat of their local church. They have become more enthusiastic and better equipped to build trust in their churches. They also have a stronger connection, and reassurance of dedicated support from the treasury team at the British Union.
Are you a treasurer who missed out on this training? Contact Marci Neal for details of future events in England.