The vision of Christianity Today is "the church grown up into the fullness of Christ," and one step in helping the life and growth of the church is providing information to help churches stay financially healthy. With this vision in mind, Christianity Today is releasing the new book, Church Finance, by Michael E. Batts and Richard R. Hammar, this month.
"When we talk with pastors, they express genuine, heartfelt desires for their churches to manage financial matters well but lament how little their seminary training prepared them for any of it, whether taking the lead on finance-related endeavors or overseeing those who do so on their behalf" says Matt Branaugh, editor of the Church Law and Tax Team that is creating this book. "In response, we created Church Finance to serve pastors and church leaders in any setting."
Co-author and CPA Michael E. Batts agrees that church financial tasks are not always easy: "The topic of church finance can seem daunting—even overwhelming at times. With so many laws, rules, best practices, and other considerations that can apply to the financial administration of a church, even the best financial and administrative leaders need help from time to time in addressing particular issues."
Many church treasurers and board members may be unfamiliar with some of the tax laws that relate to churches. Not following these tax laws may be costly to the church and even to church leaders and treasurers. Examples of this are tax laws related to payroll and unrelated business income tax. These tax laws are explained in Church Finance.
Another reason for this book is churches gain trust when they manage finances well. "Trust is a scarce commodity these days," writes Dan Busby, president of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and an Editorial Advisor for Christianity Today's Church Law and Tax Team. "Polls tragically reflect how little faith the public puts in government leaders, law enforcement professionals, and business executives. Sadly, public sentiment for church leaders isn't much better. We live in an era when skepticism of churches is too often considered politically correct. Half-truths about churches are accepted as facts.
"As I have crisscrossed our great country for decades and met with thousands of church leaders, it is clear that nearly all churches are committed to integrity. Is there an occasional example of a church that regrettably betrays the public's trust? Now and then. But these are what I consider to be 'trust-outliers.'
"Nevertheless the perception that 'trust-outliers' are the rule, rather than the exception, persists. That's why it's so important for churches to work at trust."
Batts describes the book as a "diligent effort to provide helpful, practical, straightforward, and concise information on the key topics faced by church leaders in the realm of financial administration."
The two authors of Church Finance have spent years advising and helping churches with finances. Batts is a CPA and has more than 25 years of experience advising churches and is the managing partner of Batts Morrison Wales & Lee, P.A., an accounting firm dedicated exclusively to serving nonprofit organizations across the United States. He is a member and former chairman of the board of the ECFA, a national organization that accredits Christian organizations in the areas of financial integrity, accountability, and governance.
The other author, Richard R. Hammar, is also a CPA. He is the author of several books and downloadable resources relating to church finances, including the annual Church & Clergy Tax Guide and the biannual Compensation Handbook for Church Staff. He is also the senior editor of the Church Law & Tax Report, a bimonthly newsletter reviewing significant legal and tax developments for churches and clergy, and Church Finance Today, a monthly newsletter for church treasurers.
Michelle Dowell is editorial coordinator for the Church Law and Tax Group at Christianity Today.