By Fatima Bulla
Following the recent cases where some local churches have had their properties attached and auctioned after they had failed to meet their debt obligations, churches have been advised to quit relying on congregants only and come up with innovative ways of mobilizing financial resources.
The obtaining liquidity crunch which has seen a number of high profile citizens’ properties attached has extended to churches, including those that are perceived to be cash-rich.
Last week, Heartfelt International Ministries which is led by Apostle Tavonga Vutabwashe was dragged to court over $14 000 rental arrears for some church premises in Highlands.
Prophet Passion Java of Passion Java Ministries also had his property attached by the Deputy Sheriff last year in a bid to recover a $37 500 debt owed to a United Kingdom based organisation for international telecommunications services provided to his church.
Indications are that many other faith organisations are reeling under financial pressure.
High profile individuals such as the former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Dr Gideon Gono; businessman Phillip Chiyangwa as well as Agricultural Rural Development Authority chairman, Mr Basil Nyabadza, among others, went through the same ordeal over non-payment of debts.
But financial woes know no colour, creed nor religion, and therefore churches have also entered the fray. A Harare based finance and investment practitioner, Mr Malvin Chidzonga advised the church to remain resolute.
“In light of these challenges, churches should not panic or be weary. They need to trust the Lord and implement austerity measures that have been fully embraced by governments and corporations from both the developed and developing countries.
“This Holy institution is implored not to get into debt, come what may. The church and its congregants have to tighten the belts and put a tab on expenditure through cost containment as these are key themes the world over in this era.”
Mr Chidzona highlighted that most churches rely heavily on their congregants’ financial well-being through tithes and love offerings.
“Church finances are vulnerable to the financial state of congregants. As such, if the church members cough, the church coffers will catch the cold. Churches need to have a new and dynamic financial model that does not only rely on traditional sources of fund raising for church programmes,” Mr Chidzonga said.
“Relying on tithes in a world where many people are losing their jobs and business operations are facing severe challenges is dangerous. The church is left in a quandary,” he said.
Mr Chidzonga advised churches to be innovative in mobilizing financial resources.
“They need to invest the little or surplus money at their disposal. This will ensure that they save for the rainy days when love offerings and tithes do not come.”
He said the obtaining environment is not unique to Zimbabwe as financial markets and economies are experiencing volatile episodes worldwide.
“Churches, just like other institutions in society, are not ‘financial islands’ as they are not insulated from the vagaries of the macro-economic environment.
“Many companies have collapsed and many people have lost their jobs in the process. But while some churches are collapsing, new ones are emerging and others are going from strength to strength.
“Keeping up appearances and flaunting financial muscles through flamboyant lifestyles and fancy church activities is no longer ideal,” he said.
Most emerging prophets and preachers are popular for flamboyant lifestyles and expensive tastes in fashion, cars and houses. This seems to be piling pressure on their churches.
Mr Chidzonga also stressed that transparency is crucial in managing church funds.
“Churches should employ excellent accounting and financial management practices. Some congregants have been losing confidence in how church finances are being managed. Presenting audited financial accounts to church members will restore the waning confidence,” he said. The Sunday Mail