The "No One" Rule
No one person should hold, or have the only access to, priority information. Some of the reasons for this are obvious -- such as the possibility of unexpected death, physical or mental impairment, or even disaffection with the church. Less obvious, but of no less importance, is the reality that when one person has priority information, this puts the church in a dependent relationship with a single individual. This situation can also lead to feelings of resentment by the person so depended upon, who may feel they are unable to take time away from the church community because some tasks cannot be accomplished or completed in their absence. It is also true that, in some cases, it may invest an individual with too much power or authority which may not be intended or granted by the church's governing documents. This can possibly lead to unhealthy relationships within the "family system" of how the church operates and how decisions are made inside (or outside) the formal governing process.
Priority information includes (but may not be limited to):
- Passwords, access codes, the combination to locks or safes, single copies of keys to doors, safe deposit boxes, file cabinets, desks, lockers, access panels and padlocks,
- Systems information: how to do or perform particular tasks (such as programing HVAC systems, audio-visual equipment operations, software use, copier, elevator and fire or safety equipment maintenance).
- The list of vendors utilized by the congregation or the authorization to order from suppliers.
- Authorization to sign checks or perform essential tasks related to finances (such as how offerings are recorded, reports are generated, as well as donor lists and commitments, and record storage).
- Tax ID number, payroll and employee related IRS information (and how such things are reported and filed).
- Location of (or possession of) important documents such as insurance policies, blue prints, technical drawings, operational manuals , church investment/savings documentation, employee contracts, annual reviews, and job descriptions.
- Members preplanned funeral files, copies of living wills, durable power of attorney for health care, or anticipated estate gifts, and all documentation related to encumbered, restricted, or designated gifts within permanent or endowed funds. Regarding estate or legacy gifts, this would include donors, amounts, and any specifics as to donor intent for gifts received or anticipated.
It is further recommended that important documents and records be copied or computer files "backed-up" and stored securely off site. Should the church building be damaged or destroyed, this will accurately preserve this information. Updates to this storage should occur on a regular schedule and a specific group (such as the Trustees) should have this as a part of their assigned duties. If you don't think this is important, see what happens if you are unable to accurately report your member's financial contributions for IRS purposes after fire, tornado, theft, or computer crash!