Church members and pastors often receive requests from parachurch ministries asking for financial and volunteer help. Churches and individuals must practice diligent stewardship for any group they support.
Churches need to confirm the requester’s biblical theology, church polity, financial integrity and personal accountability.
Often, it is a disadvantage to choose parachurch ministries instead of denominational ministries. Parachurch ministries rely on churches but are NOT accountable to those churches who support them. Avoid parachurch ministries led by entrepreneurs who reject external guidelines from a church, denomination or their board. They often provide ministries that are less efficient and effective than ministries done cooperatively by denominations and churches.
Here are seven essential guidelines before supporting a parachurch ministry or individual:
• Require a copy of the budget for the overall ministry AND each specific project for which they request your donations. Confirm the ministry is a member of ECFA.org.
• Require a copy of the financial audit. Insist on knowing how much is spent on administrative expenses, promotion and staff in proportion to actual ministry. Avoid parachurch ministries who have no audit or the primary purpose is to provide an income and expenses for an individual or family. Confirm the parachurch ministry spends all donations on the specific project they requested and no funds are diverted to other line items or “slush funds.”
• Require a copy of their doctrinal statement. Confirm they are consistent with the biblical convictions and polity of your church.
• Confirm the parachurch ministry has the legal structure and accountability of a registered 501(c)3 or the individual is involved in a project under a legitimate 501(c)3.
• Confirm there is an active board of directors and finance team. How often do they meet and what accountability do they maintain over the staff and budget?
• Confirm the leaders are involved in a local church. Or do they only visit churches for fundraising or promotion. For individuals requesting donations, check references.
• Confirm the effectiveness of the ministry compared to the cost. Confirm they actually start churches or ministries that survive and make an eternal difference in the lives of real people. Verify their pictures and reports from the field are current and legitimate. Confirm if the legitimate reports would have occurred without the involvement of that parachurch ministry.
Following these guidelines allows for due diligence. The national decline in missions giving and increase in parachurch ministries requires each church, and each believer, to be diligent stewards of their missions giving and time.