Survey finds 1 in 2 only has enough cash for four months of services.
Churches and other faith groups collect tens of billions of dollars in donations each year. But not all of it ends up where it’s supposed to.
About 1 in 10 Protestant churches has had someone embezzle funds, according to a new survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from LifeWay Research.
That figure isn’t surprising, said LifeWay executive director Scott McConnell. Most churches rely on volunteers to handle their finances, he said.
Those volunteers are usually honest. But churches often lack systems to catch those who aren’t. As a result, he said, money that could have been used for ministry goes missing.
“Churches run on trust—but they also know people are imperfect and can be tempted,” said McConnell. “That’s why safeguarding a church’s finances is an important part of ministry.”
Overall, 9 percent of pastors say that their church has had funds embezzled, while 91 percent say they are not aware of any embezzlement.
Churches of Christ ministers are more likely to say their church had funds embezzled (16%) when compared to Baptist (7%) or Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (6%).
Pastors of mid-sized churches—those with 100 to 249 members—are less likely to say funds have been embezzled (6%) than those with 250 or more members (12%).
LifeWay’s survey echoes a smaller 2012 study of churches in Kansas and Missouri, which found that 13.4 percent of churches had experienced embezzlement or other fraud.
A study of more than 2,400 fraud cases at businesses and nonprofits by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found 2.4 percent of cases involved churches or other charitable groups. The average loss was $82,000.
LifeWay researchers asked pastors when their ...