Finding a New Church Name, Finances

Ask a Question!   -   Newsletter
This is the third in our series on how to start and operate a new church. This article concerns how to find a name for a new church and how to set up tracking its finances. Other installments in this series are listed at the bottom of this article.

Naming a group

Before naming a church, it is best all believers who will inaugurate the group recognize that they are part of the one Ekklesia, which means "assembly," Christ founded. Congregations should not try to call themselves something that implies they are the only set of true believers on the planet. One humanly devised group does not represent the entire entity God is working with.

The opposite reaction is to say, "God knows His people and our human congregation is nothing, so we will not be naming ourselves anything." Invariably, outsiders will make one up for the group such as "John Smith's Church," "that former Baptist group," "the Town Hall Congregation," and so on. It is probably better to choose a reference for a group than to let others do so by default.

While the word "church" in the Bible sometimes refers to all believers everywhere, it also sometimes refers to a single, local congregation. The designations used for congregations occurs in many places in Scripture. These usually start with the word "Church," frequently add "of God" or in one case "of Christ" (Romans 16:16), and usually conclude with a preposition and place name ("at Corinth" or "of the Thessalonians"). This formula can still sometimes be used today but with two additional issues that need to be considered.

Congregational references such as "Assemblies of God", "Assemblies of Christ" and others that use common Bible words are already taken (and owned) by existing denominations. An independent group may wish to avoid those designations simply to avoid being confused with those denominations.

Believers today are much less unified than they were in the first century A.D. One independent congregation usually does not represent the entire set of converted people in a particular geographic area. For example, there may be many other believers in Seattle who do not attend "God's Congregation in Seattle."

These problems can be avoided by calling the group a "Fellowship," "Congregation" or "Meeting." Greatly limiting the geographic area can also help, such as naming a church "The Market Street Seattle Fellowship." It does not claim to define who is in the fellowship, but rather declares that certain people get together to fellowship at that place. This kind of name may sound too local or too humble, but that may be exactly what you want: a local, humble group through which God can do great things.

Something else to be avoided is using the same reference as another group, both to avoid confusion and prevent legal problems. If you include a place designation in your title, it is much easier to be know you are not duplicating someone else's name.

A little research in a newspaper or simple Internet search will help insure uniqueness. By not including a unique location, such as "Congregation of the Almighty God," you will have to search a much large area (e.g. a state) in order to avoid conflicting designations.

It is highly recommended that naming a church should not be based on one particular leader, either dead or alive (1Corinthians 1:11 - 17; 3:1 - 10). Additionally, do not call a congregation after a particular doctrine or practice (e.g. baptism, form of government, speaking in tongues, etc.). While many groups do this, it tends to serve as a point of division.

By placing a doctrine in the group designation, it may attract people who already believe the doctrine, but it will discourage those who do not. For example, a person who does not believe in baptism might avoid the Hill Street Baptist congregation, but may be willing to attend the Hill Street Congregation and learn about baptism when someone there teaches it to him or her.

Finances

The responsibility for taking care of church finances, meaning offerings and expenses, belongs to all in a congregation. When the Apostle Paul was transporting an offering of money and food for the poor, the congregations chose people to accompany him just to make sure that the offerings were correctly spent (2Corinthians 8:18 - 21).

The approach to handling a congregation's expenses can vary greatly based upon the size of the group. With a small church, and groups that are just starting out, a very informal approach is possible. Large groups, however, definitely need a formal plan.

Do not pass a collection vessel (e.g. plate or box) at church services. This may sound odd to some, but there is no Biblical example of this practice (1Corinthians 16:2 talks about "storing up" things, not putting them in a collection on that day).

Concerning finances in the Old Testament, when people brought money to God's temple, Jehoiada instructed the priests to put it in a box with a hole in the top (2Kings 12:9). A box or some other container with a hole on top is a good way to collect offerings.

Church people have the right to give without others knowing when or how much they give (Matthew 6:3). Personal finances should be kept in the strictest confidence, known only to the people who maintain the records, and shared only with those who gave, in case there is a question.

Records should not be used by religious leaders to check up on people or to determine whether someone is 'worthy' to perform certain church responsibilities (e.g. serving like a deacon, etc.).

The congregation has a right to know not only how much money is received but also how it is spent. Members whose spiritual gift is "giving" need to know if their giving is bearing fruit. They cannot know if they do not have any way to see how the money is being spent.

Expenses

Very small congregations can sometimes be run without the collection money. For example, one member will pay for the music equipment, one for the hymnals, one for the refreshments, and so on. Others might serve by letting the congregation use their home, vehicles or other resources. If a rental hall is used, two or three families might agree to alternate months paying the rent on the hall.

Still other members might agree to pay for evangelism and other efforts. Each member is free to handle the tax aspects of their work in whatever manner they choose. The congregation can stay out of it completely, or if necessary, write letters to members at the end of the year acknowledging the money spent on behalf of the church.

Sometimes there is a need to pay cash for books, youth class supplies, evangelism needs, and other expenses. The people who have the time to do the work may simply not have the finances to do it. If the brethren are willing to give offerings in cash, then the church money can simply be kept in a box in some safe place and expended by people who are authorized to do so. While this method may sound primitive, it has worked for thousands of years, even by our Messiah and His Apostles (John 13:29).

Bills that must be paid by check or credit card can be paid by a member and then reimbursed with cash. While paper records of all transactions should be kept so that members can know what their church is doing, the current assets of the congregation can be known by simply counting the money in the box. This method avoids bank service charges, check purchases, accidental overdrafts and associated fees, etc.

Please note that the above suggestions will likely not work for cases where the fellowship needs to own property, pay a large variety of bills or pay church workers for their time. If a congregation breaks up and the congregation owns the assets, it may take some time to decide how to divide the assets. Whereas, when individuals own the assets, they will usually take them to whatever new group they join and use them.


Record Keeping

The finances of a local congregation can be kept manually or by computer. Record keeping will be easier for someone with accounting experience, but anyone with a good sense for math can do it. A simple journal listing the date, purchaser, what was purchased and so on will work.

Church finance systems that are more complex will classify each expense into categories or accounts: hall rental, sound system, music, utilities, office supplies, food, janitorial supplies, evangelism, etc. These more complex systems are much easier to do by computer. Numerous church accounting programs are available for a reasonable cost. Whatever kind of system you have should be balanced every month.

If no record is kept of the total amount of offerings received, it will not be possible to tell if any of it is lost or stolen. Fellowships should be good stewards of what they are given. While money is safer with an honest man who keeps no records than it is with a room full of dishonest accountants with piles of records, most people today expect religious organizations to keep some kind of accurate records (2Corinthians 8:21).

A church that emphasizes anonymous offerings may choose not to keep records of each individual's giving. This increases privacy, but it can also produce some difficulties with finances. For example, it will not be possible to give people a year-end total of their offerings. People should be able to keep their own records of their offerings, but many are simply used to congregations doing it. Pray for wisdom to know what is best for you.

Recommended Articles
Money and the Bible
Locations of New Testament Churches
Should Christians Pay Taxes?
What Is a Home Fellowship?
How Should We Treat the Poor?
Why Do Churches Meet on Sunday?
What Are the Signs of a True Cult?
Fundraising and the Bible

How to Start a Church!
Why Begin a New Group?
Finding a Meeting Place
Finding a Name, Church Finances
Dress Code, Schedule and Music
Teaching the Bible
Handling Disagreements
Operating without a Pastor


© Bible Study