I have been the administrative assistant with First Lutheran for nearly ten years. I take care of all the financials as well as the pastors' calendars and scheduling, and I keep everything running administratively, including managing the books and finances as well as the bulletins and announcements that keep everybody abreast of what's going on within the church.
First Lutheran has been in the Bozeman community since 1930. We provide church services to our congregation, and we also partner with service groups in the Gallatin Valley and around the world. First Lutheran offers a community of real warmth and inclusion, which is formed by the over 160 parishioners who regularly attend.
Our church, First Lutheran, had well-meaning people in our congregation set up our books with the help of an accountant. When I was hired, I didn't get a lot of training, and I didn't know the ins and outs. There wasn’t really a budget that made sense, so tracking the money and where it was and what it was being used for wasn’t happening efficiently.
Now, our books are transparent to the congregation members who contribute. People need to know what our church is doing and where the money is going; it makes everyone feel good to know where the money is going and how it's working.
Make the books more transparent for everyone's sake. You can't really assess whether a program is right if you don’t know how much you’re spending or where the money is going.
I had heard about SCORE when I was a student at Montana State University. I had gone back to school to finish my degree, and towards the end of the degree, I worked with SCORE on another non-profit. When First Lutheran had questions about its accounting and how everything was laid out, I decided to reach out to see what SCORE could do to help.
I was wanting to go online with QuickBooks, and I couldn't get the answers I needed on my own. I was so frustrated that I went back to the desktop version. When we started working with Rick, he suggested moving to QuickBooks Online. Despite my apprehension, he assured me that he knew the program really well and walked me through how to use the program. Now, we're online, and I feel quite comfortable using the program. It has been extremely helpful for everyone, especially for the treasurer and those on the treasurer's team. We now have a working document that the treasurer can look at and easily make heads or tails of it. It has been a timesaver for all of us.
Through the transition to QuickBooks Online, we also recognized that the books for the church were not originally set up for a non-profit. Rick helped us go through line by line and put information in the right places where it would make sense to anyone looking at it. He even broke down how much time the pastors were spending on each task, and he helped us look to the future in terms of where we want to be and how to head in that direction.
Rick was quite accepting and walked me through many things. If he ever wanted to tear his hair out, he never acted like it. He also took the time to reach out to our treasurer and other team members to look at what we were doing as far as our investments. He kept encouraging us, and we're now at the point of moving our money to where our investments will work for us.
There are resources like SCORE available to help you get started and be successful—use them.