Newsletter Contents

Click for Pastor’s article
Click for St. Stephen’s Calendar
Click for Serving Schedule

What’s Happening on Sundays at St. Stephen???, St Stephen’s 15th Annual Oktoberfest, College Survival Care Packages, Thanksgiving and Christmas Food Baskets, Cemetery Plots Available, The Parish Paper




Please take the time to look at the dates and activities for the next few months, you might find them very interesting!

October 7, 2012 – Although St. Francis of Assisi Day is Thursday, October 4th, we will be celebrating it on Sunday October 7th at the Worship Service. That is “The Blessing of the Animals”.  You may bring your pet to the worship service if you feel they can behave or make it easy on yourself and bring a picture of your pet and we will have a blessing for them.


October 28, 2012 – Reformation Sunday – Please wear “Red” to church!


November 4, 2012 – All Saint’s Sunday – We will have a sign-up sheet for you to write the name of your loved one on.  We will be reading the names during the prayers that morning.  Also, you may bring a picture in a frame of your loved ones to put around the church that morning, they will be in the service with us.  The service will be followed by a remembrance meal (this will be a light meal of bagels, muffins, fruit, etc.) to remember those members of our families.


November 11, 2012 – Veterans Day – We will be having a special Blessing of the Military past and present.


This is just the start of some upcoming events, take the time to worship with us every Sunday, but note the special days!



St. Stephen’s 15th annual


Saturday, October 13th, 2012,

5:00 – 7:00 PM


Pork Roast & Gravy (hot dogs available for kids)


Red Cabbage

Green Beans

Apple Sauce

Mashed Potatoes




Authentic German Food

All You Can Eat.

Advance Ticket Prices

Adults:  $11.00  –  Seniors:  $8.00

Children 5-12:  $5.00 – Under 5 – free

For reservations, sign up in the lobby or call the Church Office 908-757-4474

              Reservations are recommended

But walk-ins accepted

Takeout Dinners will be available

All Proceeds to go to charity

St. Stephen Lutheran Church, 3145 Park Ave.,

South Plainfield, NJ 07080


College Survival Care Packages were sent to Ryan Billich – Northeastern University, Tommy Bowden – East Stroudsburg University,

Adam Buck – The College of New Jersey, Kyle Buck – Rutgers, Jillian Cortese – Seton Hall University, William Heurich – Temple University,

Ryan Marcoux – Penn State Altoona, Kevin Maroney – Lehigh University, Sarah McCarthy – Middlesex County College.

Thank you for your generous donations.




Thanksgiving and Christmas Food Baskets


Please bring in canned goods and other non-perishable

food items to be given to the poor over the holidays.

There is a food donation box in the narthex.




Cemetery Plots Available


The church has deeds for several cemetery plots at Graceland Memorial Park in Kenilworth.

They are available to any member for just a transfer fee.  See Orvie Hoffman if interested.


Coeditors: Herb Miller, Lyle E. Schaller, Cynthia Woolever –
October 2012 – Volume 20, Number 10
Copyright © 2012 by Cynthia Woolever

Preventing Church Fraud
Police charged Marilee Smith with embezzling $230,000 from the Baptist church where she worked as church secretary for twenty-one years.1 Authorities believe that she issued checks to herself and forged signatures. John Jones, treasurer of a United Church of Christ congregation, embezzled nearly $300,000 over an eight-year period. He took cash from the collection plate and fraudulently withdrew funds from the congregation’s endowment account for his own benefit. Patricia Taylor stole more than $150,000 from the Catholic church where she served as youth director and as the bookkeeper responsible for pay-roll. She made unauthorized credit card charges and issued fraudulent church checks to personal vendors. Another church employee stole more than $130,000 in just fourteen months because she was the only per-son able to write and sign checks, manage and reconcile the church checking account (including making cash deposits), and authorize the transfer of funds be-tween accounts. Her monthly financial reports to the church board were pure fiction. How do congregations prevent this sort of thing from happening?

Needed: Checks and Balances
In each of these congregations, leaders, and members expressed disbelief, betrayal, and disgrace. Be-cause they believed “it could never happen here,” they failed to put necessary safeguards in place to protect the church’s finances and reputation. Every church controls large amounts of money that have been given by others for God’s work. Therefore, every church needs practices and procedures for financial transactions, especially for handling cash receipts and disbursements.

Never allow one person to control church finances. When churches fail to segregate financial duties, fraudulent cash disbursements are more common. These include forging or altering checks, submission and payment of fictitious invoices, doctored payroll documents to increase hours worked, falsifying expense reports, and using church credit cards for personal expenses or gas cards for personal travel.2
Church computer software adopted by scores of congregations actually increases the odds of one-person financial management with little oversight. Although such software is a good investment, all the modules should not be in the hands of just one staff member or volunteer. When too much access and control is concentrated in one individual, a good church is asking for bad things to happen.

Always use a team approach when handling cash. After receiving the offering during worship services, ushers should take the offering immediately to a secure place.3 Alternatively, plates can remain at the front of the church until the service ends and then be taken to a secure place for counting. At least two unrelated people who are not church staff and serve rotating terms should be with the offering at all times until it is counted, recorded, and secured or deposited. Having two people present protects the funds and reputations of the people handling the funds—they serve as witnesses to each other’s honesty. After counting
behind locked doors, the team completes a tally sheet and bank deposit slip. The two counters sign both documents and make copies of the documents for the pas-tor, church secretary, and treasurer. If possible, the team deposits the funds in the bank’s night deposit box on Sunday after counting. Use a count-team system whenever the church takes in cash—mid-week offerings, registration fees, or special event sales.

Give monthly written financial reports to the church governing board. The temptation to commit fraud in-creases when a board chair says in the meeting, “How’s our money situation, Joe?” If Joe forgot to bring the financial report that night and says, “We’re doing OK,” the process of accepting oral treasurer’s reports may begin. Eventually, that can lead a treasurer into temptation that he or she cannot withstand.

Leaving information out of reports can do just as much damage as putting phony information in. For instance, a business administrator with something to hide may resort to presenting budget reports generated by electronic spreadsheet software. Because spreadsheets are detached from the church’s ac-counting software, they can easily be manipulated to cover up indiscretions. The monthly detailed written report to the board typically compares actual revenue and expenditures to budget and compares revenue and expenditures to the same period from the previous year. Significant deviations from the budget should be highlighted. The treasurer’s report should also show information on all investments and endowment accounts, including the drawdown percentages and year-to-date gains and losses.4

Enforce adherence to written church financial policies. The heart of money management—receiving, recording, budgeting, and spending—enables the church to accomplish God’s mission. Written church policies should
 address segregation of duties (i.e., the person who prepares checks based on approved vouchers or bills is different from the person who receives and reconciles bank accounts);
 require church checks to have two signatures;
 require background checks on employees and volunteers involved with financial tasks;
 offer guidelines for expense reimbursement and pastor’s use of discretionary funds;
 and state the rules for restricted funds and gifts.

The church board exercises responsibility for on-going financial reviews and audits to identify fraud “soft spots.” Strong internal controls make the likelihood of someday needing to tally the total dollars lost through theft—after the fact—much less likely.

The pastor should never handle cash under any circumstances. The reason for this rule is to protect the pastor’s reputation. In general, it is also wise if the pastor does not sign checks. The pastor plays a critical role in setting the tone for how church finances are managed—cultivating a culture of transparency and accountability. The pastor reminds others of the church’s policies, willingly follows them to the letter, carefully reviews financial re-ports, and encourages the church board to set responsible policies and guidelines.

The Bottom Line
Churches whose leaders have known their secretary or treasurer for decades begin to trust them to-tally. Then, a trusted person faces a big personal or family financial crisis and can’t resist the temptation. Many of these people say that they planned to “borrow it” and put it back later, but later never came. No one wants to put the congregation or an individual in such a compromising situation.5

We all see no-brainer signs such as the sign post-ed in a valley prone to deep water: “In case of flooding, go to higher ground!” Or the sign posted on the edge of a high cliff: “Do not go beyond this point!” Governing board officers in congregations that experienced the painful results of theft by a trusted church member or employee needed similar signs. Contact your regional or national denomination for organizational instructions that prevent
these easy-to-defend-against tragedies. ________________________________________

1. These are actual church fraud incidents but details were altered to protect the church and employee identities.
2. The National Association of Church Business Administration ( offers additional prevention guide-lines; see also Verne Hargrave, Weeds in the Garden: The Growing Danger of Fraud Taking Root in the Church (Richardson, TX: NACBA Press, 2009).
3. A secure location means a fireproof safe that is difficult to move or a locking file cabinet chained to a permanent fix-ture. Keep only receipts and counting sheets in the safe and allow access to only a few trusted individuals.
4. Leaders should know how much the church could withdraw each year from an investment account without depleting the funds in the portfolio. Year-to-date gains and losses provide information about the potential income from the portfolio in the future.
5. Fraud examiners refer to the “fraud triangle” of pressure, opportunity, and rationalization (see Hargrave, 172).

Copyright © 2012 by Cynthia Woolever