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Conflict of Interest?

By Paul Clark

One of the weaknesses in churches, according the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) is the lack of a Conflict of Interest (COI) policy governing church board members. For at least the last four years our auditing firm has raised the deficiency to our board in their auditor’s management notes and every year we agreed that we should do something about it.

I’m happy to report that we’ve finally done it! As of our last board meeting in November, we had all board members sign a COI policy, divulging any potential conflicts of interests and agreeing to a set of standards designed to protect Fairhaven from any conflicts of interest.

We have also extended that COI policy to include staff members who are involved in financial decision-making, which for us would include specialists, directors and pastors. They too have signed a COI policy, divulging any potential conflicts of interests and agreeing to the same set of standards. Everyone received it well and understood the need to create such safeguards as the church grows and the need for financial transparency becomes even more critical. Our constituent donors are savvy people who know that an organization that manages more than $5 million in funds requires the highest possible  standard of financial management.

Some time ago, our Mayor, who owns a printing business, was taken to task on the front page of the local newspaper for contracting print jobs for a high-end retail development while contributing in his position as Mayor to discussions and decisions pertaining to the same development. Similar conflicts of interest can easily happen in the church when a staff member uses his cousin to screen print T-shirts for the youth group, or a board member who manages investments for some staff members is party to decisions involving retirement benefits for staff. Those things create conflicts which need to be understood and managed with transparency.

A Conflict of Interest policy will not guarantee that problems won’t arise, but it will provide some boundaries which, if followed, will help protect the church from losing one of its most precious assets: trust.

Paul Clark is executive pastor of operations for Fairhaven Church, Centerville, OH. [www.fairhavenchurch.org ]

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4 Comments for “Conflict of Interest?”

  1. Dear brother in Christ,
    I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you for the good work done in the name of Jesus Christ and for His Kingdom, so that we may fulfill all righteousness.
    I have read your article regarding your COI policy and will be grateful if you would please send me a copy of the policy and if you will also grant us the accord to adopt it for our Church which begun only about 4months ago. We will also be grateful if there are other materials or advice you can offer us as we journey along.
    I look forward to hearing from you favorably.

    May God bless you and the ministry.

    Yours in Christ Jesus.

    Pastor J. Crystal

  2. I hold a similar position @ our church and would love to see a copy of your coi policy if possible.
    Blessings, ken

  3. Dear Mr. Clark,
    Your article regarding (COI) policy issues for your church peaked my interest as this high risk potential is of concern to all churches today given the atmosphere of litigation today.
    You mentioned and I am requesting a copy of your newly adopted policy we are also very small size and would like to see what you have adopted.
    MDFEDGE@MSN.COM
    Thank you in advance,
    MD Farney
    Henderson, NV

  4. Is it possible to get a copy of the COI mentioned in this article to see the wording and information needed in a document like this? We are a small congregation right now, but we are interested in having the highest of integrity in all we do.

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