Sample reading from Once Upon Internal Control:

A tale of good and bad ways to implement internal controls in a local church


Why should we bother? Internal controls protect your staff.

The tale of these two churches is just that—a tale. But even though these stories are fictional, do not think for a moment that the situations they portray are only make-believe.

Perhaps right now you are thinking, “Yeah, sure—I know we should do all those policy and procedure things. But we’re busy. Really, really busy.”

We all can relate to this sentiment from personal experience. While on this side of heaven, time is limited and we are all terribly swamped.

So why should we bother? The standard reason you will hear from accountants is that you need to implement appropriate internal controls to protect the organization’s resources.

That concept, while true, is hard to get your arms around. It does not provide a lot of motivation.

Let’s look at things from a completely different perspective. Ponder for a moment that good procedures provide protection to your staff. Without your staff, your church stops dead in its tracks. A colleague of mine has made this comment:

      For the weak, internal controls provide

              protection from opportunity.

      For the strong, internal controls provide

              protection from temptation.

      For the innocent, internal controls provide

              protection from false accusation.

Let’s expand those ideas.

The weak need to be guarded from opportunity. The bookkeeper at Southside Community Church is just starting to grow. She is weak emotionally, financially, and spiritually. In her day-to-day environment, the internal controls take away the opportunity to do bad stuff.

The strong need to be guarded from temptation. When people realize they could do something wrong and hide it, they face a frightful temptation. It is wrong to put temptation in someone’s face every day and expect him or her to resist the temptation based on sheer willpower. The bookkeeper at Northside Community Church was very mature in her faith. Remember she led a thriving Bible study. She was a role model for new believers. But the pressures from her husband’s illness overcame that strength in her. At her office, there were no internal controls to protect her from temptation. She was very strong, but she fell.

The innocent need to be protected from false accusations. Nobody knows what individual circulated the attacks against Southside Community Church. Where it came from does not matter, because the very serious accusations were already in play. However, because everything was documented, approved, reviewed, and filed away at the church, the false accusations were shut down before the reporter put them in print.

Please, please understand that even though the details of these stories are fictional, the dozens of heart-breaking situations behind this book are painfully real.

This page is extracted and adapted from Once Upon Internal Control: A tale of good and bad ways to implement internal controls in a local church. Copyright 2008 James L. Ulvog. Used by permission.