What special funds does your church have?  Some funds are needed, to save for certain future expenses. Building funds are needed when the church is growing and there are plans on the table for a new structure.  Temporary or revolving mission support funds to pay the expenses of church members going on mission is valuable to keep those funds from being comingled with regular giving, to honor the wishes of the donors.

But in my study of churches, I’ve seen the scholarship fund, the choir robe fund, the flower fund, benevolence fund, handbell fund, organ fund, and the someday future building fund.

The problem with special funds is that they get in the way of ministry.  If the church wants to set a benevolence fund, it should be budgeted, even if adminstered out of a petty cash drawer for ease of use.

For example,  the church I grew up in kept a small benevolence fund, and had meal vouchers at a nearby café. As a teenager, I remember an unkempt man showing up to the church one Sunday afternoon asking for a handout for a meal. The assistant pastor stepped into his office, wrote out a voucher to a diner 2 blocks awayfor the man for anything on the menu (“no beer, no cigs”), and asked him to come back to the service when he was done eating.  It was great that the church had budgeted for this, and had pre-arranged with the restaurant – in the spirit of the Good Samaritan – that they would honor any such bill presented.

But I’ve seen other churches ruin their budget with benevolence.  One church allocated all the loose cash (not checks or in envellopes) as the benevolence fund.  It became a problem when they had over three months’ estimated expenses in that fund and were struggling to make weekly bills.  A quick change to procedures put a limit on how much would be collected, but I would have rather had them allocate the funds as a budget amount and put the whole offering in the general fund.

And even more common (unfortunately) is the church that planned to build a new auditorium when they were maxing out sanctuary seating, but had an arguement and split in two, and never recovered from the trauma.  A decade or so later, struggling week to week with a membership one tenth the former size, they steadfastly refused to liquidate the building fund, even to do maintenance on the now outdated current building.

Special funds make sense when there’s a concern over comingling funds, or as a fundraising gimick to make a large capital purchase (new building, etc.), but there needs to be a sunset clause or escape provision built into every one.

The best approach is  to budget for the items and teach tithing and work everything through the general fund.