Accounting is often seen as a dry and technical subject, devoid of spiritual or emotional significance. However, for many churches and faith-based organizations, accounting is not only a necessary tool for managing their finances, but also a way of expressing their faith and values. Accounting can be one important component in helping both churches and faith-based organizations achieve their spiritual goals, while also enhancing their accountability, transparency, and stewardship. In this blog post, we will explore how the harmonious management of finances can contribute to the spiritual fulfillment and growth of faith-based communities. We will also share some stories of organizations that have successfully aligned financial stewardship with their spiritual values.
One of the ways that accounting can support an organization’s spiritual goals is by facilitating the practice of generosity and gratitude. Many faith-based traditions emphasize the importance of giving and receiving as a means of cultivating a relationship with the divine and with others. Accounting can help churches and faith-based organizations track and report their income and expenses, as well as their donations and grants. This can enable them to acknowledge and appreciate the sources of their funds, as well as to allocate them wisely and efficiently. Accounting can also help communicate financial performance and impact stakeholders, members, donors, and beneficiaries, thus fostering trust and loyalty.
For example, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Islands uses accounting to monitor and report its financial activities, as well as to demonstrate its adherence to its faith-based principles. According to a study by Kuma et al., accounting in this church is influenced by its belief in the imminent return of Jesus Christ, which motivates its members to be faithful stewards of God’s resources. The church uses accounting to collect and distribute tithes and offerings, which are seen as expressions of gratitude and obedience to God. The church also uses accounting to ensure that its funds are used for its mission of spreading the gospel and serving the needy.
Accounting can take on a spiritual dimension when it helps a faith-based organization to align its financial decisions with its ethical values. Many faith-based organizations face various challenges and dilemmas in managing their finances, such as balancing sustainability and social responsibility, avoiding conflicts of interest and corruption, and complying with legal and regulatory requirements. Accounting can help faith-based organizations establish and implement policies and procedures that reflect their moral standards and commitments. Accounting can also help faith-based organizations measure and evaluate their social and environmental impacts, as well as their compliance with ethical codes and norms.
For example, the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota offers a course on Christian Faith and Accounting, which aims to integrate theology and accounting in the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition. The course explores how accounting can help Ministry Leaders make decisions that are consistent with their faith and values, as well as with the common good. The course also examines how accounting can help managers address issues such as corporate governance, social justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, and professional ethics.
A third way that accounting supports achievement of spiritual goals is by fostering a sense of community and belonging among churches and faith-based organizations. Accounting can help create and maintain a shared vision and mission, as well as a common identity and culture. Accounting can also help coordinate and collaborate with other entities that share the same goals and values, such as other faith-based groups, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, or private sector partners. Accounting can also help engage and empower stakeholders, such as staff, volunteers, members, donors, beneficiaries, or supporters.
For example, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) is a coalition of over 300 faith-based institutional investors who use their financial leverage to influence corporate behavior on issues such as human rights, climate change, health care, food security, and corporate governance. ICCR uses accounting to monitor its members shareholdings and proxy voting activities, as well as to track its progress and outcomes on various advocacy campaigns. ICCR also uses accounting to communicate its vision and values to its members, partners, corporations, media outlets, and the public.
While accounting is an essential technical skill and managerial tool, leaders and staff in faith-based enterprises also can treat it as a spiritual practice that can enhance the fulfillment and growth of both churches and faith-based organizations. Accounting can help the expression of faith and values through financial management, decision making, impact measurement, communication, collaboration, engagement, and empowerment. By doing so accounting can create harmony between numbers and spirituality for churches and faith-based communities.