How To Check Your Church for Financial Transparency

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

It’s getting harder to find any Christian churches that have financial transparency today, but I’m here to assure you, they do exist. They are rare, but they’re around. Most Christians naively assume their church is transparent, but little do they know just how deceptive and secretive their church really is about money.

In our efforts to check churches over the past year and a half, I’ve spoken to a lot of pastors about money. I’ve asked a lot of churches about their level of financial transparency, and less than ten percent of them are truly transparent. That’s serious, especially coming from a group of people who expect their congregates to pay at least ten percent of their own income to support them.

If you’re unsure of whether your church is transparent, you don’t know how to check, or if you think they are but are courageous enough to test that opinion against ours, read on, church checker! Here are some tips to help you determine whether your church is really financially transparent.

Tip #1: Ask for a Financial Report

Many churches today will provide a financial report to their members once a year. This fact alone does not mean, I repeat, does NOT mean your church is financially transparent.

Unfortunately, most church financial reports are filled with superficial figures that do nothing in the way of showing true transparency. How much your church brings in from donations every year, how many baptisms they had, how many different organizations and charities they donated to, and other related information doesn’t tell you anything of consequence.

When looking at your church’s financial report, look for these key figures:

  • How much money was donated to other charities and organizations?

  • How much money is spent on the church’s staff, facilities, missions, ministries, and administration?

  • How much money did the church profit from its extra businesses (ex: coffee shop, cafe, thrift store, book store, etc…)?

  • Pastor salary & other salaries of church leadership positions.

  • How much money did the church bring in from fundraisers and other forms of income besides donations/tithing, and how was that money spent?

How much money your church made at a fundraiser is irrelevant if you don’t get to see exactly how it was spent. If your church doesn’t have a report or refuses to provide this information to you upon request, I think it’s a pretty big indicator that they aren’t financially transparent. If they will only provide this information to members of the church or tithe-payers, I’d be suspicious if they really do, but if they do, they are at least partially transparent.

Tip #2: Ask for the Pastor’s Salary

While most church financial reports don’t include the pastor’s salary, you can still ask him/her point-blank: how much are you taking as a salary? If you’re uncomfortable doing this, I understand. After all, it can be seen as very rude to ask people how much they make in general, but just know this: when it comes to your pastor, you can ask, and you should.

The church in Corinth asked the Apostle Paul how much he was taking in 1 Corinthians 9. The context suggests Paul was being accused of taking more than he should have, but once asked/accused, he eventually came to the answer: Nothing.

While Paul explains throughout the chapter that a minister of the gospel has every right to be supported by the local church, he didn’t want to be a burden on his people and he saw the preaching of the gospel the reward of preaching itself, so he preached it free of charge.

Just as the Corinthians had every right to ask Paul how much he was taking, so do you, and just as Paul answered them without hesitation or deception, so should your pastor. Paul made it clear that the pastor does have a