Confidentiality in Church Records Management

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Confidentiality in Church Records ManagementWhile a church records management policy can assist you in the efficient use of the records, it should also guide you in the ethical use of those records. You have record of people’s financial giving and other personal details. Privacy must be guarded. Keeping people’s information confidential is an issue of respect.

Keeping records confidential means:

1) You only share their records on a need to know basis.

Example: The treasurer may need to share people’s annual giving totals with an administrative assistant who prepares the tax forms. The treasurer should not have a need to share these records with pastors or other ministry leaders.

2) You do not otherwise give out information without their express permission.

Example: If someone calls for the name or address or any other personal information of a church member, you do not give them that information. Rather, you request and pass on the callers information to the person about whom they are inquiring.

3) You guard any lists of personal data from being accessed by anyone outside of the church.

Example: You might never sell people’s information to marketers but even if someone from a local organization requests it for fundraisers or community events, you do not provide this information even if no money is exchanged.

Confidentiality guards against the misuse of their information.

How easy it could be for a pastor or ministry leader to look at certain records he/she doesn’t need to see, like financial giving, and pass judgment on people. Or, how easy it becomes for people to gossip about what they see or hear.

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. (Prov. 11:13)

If you are not conscious of people’s right to privacy, you very likely will not put as many safety measures as you should in storage or disposal of the data which could open you to hackers or other kinds of inadvertent or blatant stealth of their information.  — Church leaders must stress the need for confidentiality out of Christ-like concern for people’s welfare.

2 Replies to “Confidentiality in Church Records Management”

  1. Is there any GAAP, or standard written policy about confidentiality of donor records? So that if someone wants that info how to respond.

    • Lucy, I am not an expert in this area so I am not sure where to point you to for a GAAP, standard written policy about confidentiality of donor records. I don’t know that a book like Wiley Not-for-Profit GAAP: Interpretation and Application of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles would have an actual written policy on confidentiality in it (link takes you to an affiliate store). You might want to check with an accounting firm familiar with church finances.

      Personally I believe abiding by GAAP is the minimum churches should do, though not all churches, especially small churches, concern themselves with it. Most financial statements within the church are for internal use, not published to outside interests, unless an audit by an outside firm is needed for lending purposes or the like. But, regardless, churches should maintain a high code of ethics that addresses confidentiality. It should be part of a church’s policies whether or not an official GAAP, standard written policy can be found. — “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” (2 Cor. 8:21)

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