New Year’s seminar for financial managers and board members

During Brunstad Christian Church´s (BCC) New Year’s Conference, representatives from all the local churches were invited to a seminar, where the agenda included important information on finance, compliance and the IT solution “My Share”.

Text: Johanne Reiersrud – Photo: Randi J. Hutt

160 representatives from 60 local churches attended the seminar at Oslofjord Convention Center. The seminar was organized by BCC, with the help of the local church in Linnenbach, Germany.

The churches experience a high level of activity among its members, and the seminar provided important input for board members and financial managers on how to help their organizations stay active—and at the same time, transparent and financially secure.

160 participants from 60 of BCC’s local churches had registered for the seminar. Photo: BCC

In addition to providing general information on financial management and procedures that will ensure a continued sound and legal operation of all the local organizations, the seminar specifically focused on the implementation and further development of “My Share”. This online tool was developed by BCC in collaboration with several local churches and can be used to support financial management and planning.

Empty coffers restrict opportunities—financial health increases them

BCC’s local churches haven´t always been financially healthy. In the 1980s and ´90s, many of them had weak economies—in some places, it is said the collection made an additional round just to get enough money to pay for the building´s electricity bill the following month.

Some saw the importance of better preparation for the future, and in this regard the phrase “You can´t save the world if you´re broke” became an inspiration for many local churches. With an entire up-and-coming generation of children and adolescents in mind, and with Jesus’ Great Commission as a vision, it isn´t exactly ideal to be in arrears. A movement began in the form of local fundraising campaigns, and the different churches began to achieve solvency and build capital for the future.

Many local churches benefited from each other’s experiences, and together they created a savings form that emphasized long-term planning and financial independence. In 2011, the program was christened “Golden Heart” and utilized by local churches around the world who wanted to plan the funding of their future endeavors.

– The spiritual part of our activities is the most important

One of the organizers of today’s seminar, Oliver Schmidt from Linnenbach in southern Germany, is one of those who has been eager to plan a way to keep weak finances from slowing down the church´s work.

‘’The spiritual portion of our activities is and will always be the most important, but on a practical level we need order and predictability, ‘’ explains Oliver Schmidt. ‘’Most churches have therefore focused on two things where it concerns their finances: long-term savings plans to ensure strong frameworks for future generations, and a focus on liquidity in current operations.’’

Oliver Schmidt from BCC’s local church in Linnenbach. Photo: BCC

Use of “My Share” will inspire others

Oliver´s local church has been one of the first to implement ‘’My Share,’’ and they have already used it for two years. Last summer the church in Linnenbach challenged other local churches to do the same, based on its own positive experiences.

‘’Church life should consist of events and activities that support our purpose and beliefs, which embrace children, youth, and adults of all ages. ‘’My Share’’ is a big help to those working in finance and accounting for local churches. There’s no need to send invoices after events, because here, the cost has been taken care of in advance. In addition, we will soon begin expanding our facilities locally, and have saved 50% of our estimated investment needs. It is therefore a good time for us to focus on economic advancement, both as a local church and as individuals,’’ emphasizes Schmidt.

A tool which provides a nice overview

Eivind Johnsen is a project manager in BCC, that developed the IT platform behind ‘’My Share’’. He is involved in helping the local churches implement ‘’My Share’’, and is one of the facilitaters of the seminar.

Like Oliver Schmidt, Eivind sees many benefits with this tool. ‘’Not least, My Share provides individual members a full overview of what they themselves contributed, and how these funds are used by the church. Whether making donations or contributing to the community with volunteer work, the contribution will be registered on a personal web page where up to a certain amount can be used to cover membership and fees for events and conferences which members and their families attend,’’ he explains. The use of My Share varies slightly from country to country, in order to comply with national legislation, but the goal is the same.

Eivind Johnsen is the project manager for MyShare in BCC, and helps to facilitate implementation in local churches.  Photo: BCC

“My Share” offers many opportunities

‘’For example, youth who want to go on a trip arranged by their local church can pay or work in the amount in advance, so that they do not depend on their parents’ wallet in order to participate,’’ continues Johnsen. ‘’This allows everyone a chance to join. And the fact that young people learn to save and grow financially is also an advantage that they can enjoy later in life.’’

Oliver Schmidt says the response has been great since Linnenbach launched its challenge this summer, and was pleased with today’s attendance. ‘’We hope and believe that this seminar was useful for all new users to get good information on how they can optimally integrate My Share in their local churches. And we look forward to eventually receiving feedback about how various users have managed to increase their savings and how this can help in everyday church life.‘’

The seminar offered relevant and clear information – and some good laughs inbetween. Photo: BCC

Information for all BCC members

Today all BCC members received updated information about what their directors and financial managers covered in today’s seminar. ‘’The information presented in the Brunstad Magazine is a bit more practical and less theoretical than the content of today’s seminar,’’ says Johnsen. ‘’Now all the local representatives have received information we hope they can implement further in their local groups and be equipped to answer questions members might have.’’