Accounting Guidelines for Churches

Date of Submission


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Accounting




Eleanor Fillebrown


Church finance--United States--Accounting

Call No. at the Univ. of New Haven Library

AS 36 .N29 Acc. 1988 no.2


The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate the need for churches to implement a set of accounting guidelines for the mananagement of church finances, and to provide for churches a set of accounting guidelines in terminology that can be readily understood and easily implemented. Survey questionnaires were mailed to one hundred churches of various denominations; fifty-one responses were received. The results indicated that few churches have any written guidelines and/ or policies for financial management, and that only ten percent of the churches employed or retained an accountant. Research was conducted primarily using accounting references, church-oriented publications, and nonprofit-organization references to determine the relevant generally accepted accounting principles, a standardized means to carry them out for church accounting, and any accounting practices that may be specific to church accounting. The information obtained from the research indicated that there is a major misunderstanding in many churches as to what constitutes a sound accounting system or how to implement one. The research information was combined with the results of the survey to establish accounting guidelines for churches that would be easy to understand and implement for churches whose financial managers are predominantly volunteers. The accounting guidelines are in nontechnical language, but they are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles except for the common practice of churches to use a cash basis of accounting rather than an accrual method because the cash method is simpler to implement than an accrual method.