If you work in the church accounting office, allow me to congratulate you on surviving the craziness that is January. You reconciled the month and year-end books for 2015, prepared tax-deductible donation receipts and made sure everything was in-order for 2016's accounting.

If you're in that role, bless you. If you're not, feel free to support your accounting folks with coffee or chocolate.

If the thought of doing that whole process again next year makes you want to curl up into the fetal position, don't give up just yet. January accounting activities don't have to be stress-inducing. There are ways you can set yourself up for a much less intense and hectic year-end accounting season. Here are a few ideas:

1. Purchase or update software

I get it ... When it comes to prioritizing where to spend church dollars, accounting software falls way down the list. We'd all rather invest more money in improving the children's ministry, a new couple's retreat or other areas that are easy to tie right back to ministry.

However, if you buy the cheapest accounting software available or don't upgrade what you have until it's no longer supported, you'll run into issues. Church accounting staff will be less efficient with outdated software. Church leaders won't have easy access to financial reports that help them make wise spending decisions.

2. Establish a schedule

When you're trying to handle year-end activities and keep the normal day-to-day tasks running, it can get pretty hectic. However, you can start creating a more manageable weekly schedule that's easier to maintain during the busier seasons.

For example, you don't have to print checks every day. Set up a schedule that enables you to be efficient and effective in meeting the financial requests of church staff.

Sample schedule:

  • Sunday: Count offerings and prepare deposit
  • Monday: Take deposit to the bank and record tithes/donations
  • Tuesday: Purchase orders are due; print checks and pay bills
  • Wednesday: Count offerings and prepare deposit (for churches with midweek services)
  • Thursday: Take deposit to the bank and record tithes/donations; Finish processing purchase orders

3. Automate

Another way to make the day-to-day tasks less time-consuming is to automate as much as possible. Consider purchasing a check scanner that can interface with your accounting software to drastically reduce your data entry workload.

Depending on your accounting software and banking setup, you may be able to set this up to scan checks and have them transmitted electronically to the bank for deposit and recorded as a donation from a specific contributor. You'll still need to enter new donors into your system, but this can make future recording much less time-consuming.

Updated software, a new weekly routine and automation can make your efforts easier throughout the year and make year-end easier to manage. These purchases and activities may not feel like ministry, but they're key to making sure church finances are managed with excellence. When you look at it from that perspective, these tasks are most certainly part of ministry.