Church CFO Greg Scherer leverages modern accounting software with Parable’s accountants and bookkeepers
Dwelling Place Anaheim: An Established Church, Changing Lives
Weekends at Dwelling Place Anaheim are vibrant.
Pastors Alan and Kathryn Scott are dynamic leaders with a heart for worship, the Word, and their community. The music may be led by Kathryn (known for the songs “Hungry” and “At the Foot of the Cross”), Jeremy Riddle (“This is Amazing Grace,” “Be Lifted High”), producer/engineer Paul Arend, and others.
You’re likely to see members from every social stratum and various ethnicities in the lobby. And you’ll hear conversations in Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and English.
Dwelling Place has been an influential church for decades. Launched as Vineyard Anaheim in 1977, founders John and Carol Wimber began a movement that’s touched every corner of the world, planting thousands of churches worldwide, with Vineyard Music’s original songs sung in nearly every expression of the Church.
As for Greg, he’s attended the church since 1978. It’s where he met his wife and where they raised their children. But as Greg became a staff member, he wasn’t driven by sentimentality but by what he calls the “two legs” the church was founded on: worship and compassion.
“We want to reach whoever it is God’s called us to reach, but to do it both inside and outside the walls of our building.”
Beyond their rich history and powerful music lies the real story of Dwelling Place Anaheim.
Dwelling Place is reaching the unreached and using its resources to meet physical and spiritual needs, crossing cultural and language barriers with the power of the gospel and the love of God.
Church Accounting and Reporting: “Are we winning … or losing?”
With Wimber’s passing in 1997, the church went through a long transition, changing the overall trajectory of the congregation.
Greg said, “Fast forward to 2018, and we still had the infrastructure of a 40-something-year-old church. We had a very large accounting staff—we had a very large staff altogether.” But after twenty years of decreasing congregation numbers, they hadn’t changed their staff or accounting systems.
Soon after, when Pastors Alan and Kathyrn Scott took over as senior leaders, they and Greg decided it was time to make significant changes to place their church’s money back on God’s mission—the mission that, in many ways, existed from the very beginning.
Greg said, “[Our new pastors] wanted a financial snapshot, asking: ‘How do we know if we’re winning or losing?’” But because of outdated church accounting software, their dedicated finance team had to invest a lot of effort to pull together reports.
They were also unable to make ACH payments. Instead, they printed boxloads of checks, signed them, voided them, and then transferred the money electronically. And they had to funnel every expense and approval through a single administrative pastor.
Their accounting systems and procedures were set up to drain their church rather than help move it forward.
The Scotts and the rest of the team were ready to “make all things new.” That meant:
- Getting back to the heart of worship
- Renewing their compassion ministry
- Investing in the next generation
For Greg, “making all things new” also meant refreshing their church accounting systems, team, and software.
Making all things new (including their church’s bookkeeping!)
When Greg and former business manager Jared Hurst interviewed accountants and bookkeepers, he realized it was crucial he found a team that understood church finances, not just business and non-profit finances.
He said, “We interviewed other accounting teams. And they may have been very competent accountants, but they didn’t understand that things might pivot in a church setting very quickly. That might not be the case in another environment.”
Greg continued, “When we found Parable, one of the things that was so wonderful was that [Parable Chief Visionary Officer] Greg Daley was an executive pastor! So, he understands the issues of what it means to be on a pastoral staff and the pressures of balancing ministry with financial management.
“Finances aren’t the foundation of ministry, but you can’t do ministry without it. Money isn’t the reason for ministry, but it enables ministry.”
But it was Parable’s toolkit, including streamlined controls and systems, that Greg called “life-changing.”
How Church Accounting Systems Can Keep You on Mission
Greg said, “What they brought to us was not only a bookkeeper but also a church bill-paying system with bill.com, and an expense reporting system with Expensify, then Divvy. These were all systems they had already worked through.”
These systems came with best practices and controls to protect Dwelling Place from error and fraud.
“We’ve never been safer in terms of protecting our people and being good stewards of the money that comes in. Every dollar goes where it’s supposed to go, is spent where it’s supposed to be spent, and can be accurately reported on.”
With a completely new system in place, Greg was initially concerned that the two teams wouldn’t be able to stay in sync. He wanted to schedule weekly meetings between his staff and Parable to make sure they were continuing to keep every dollar on mission.
Greg said, “Our team works with Parable through QuickBooks Online. Not only can Parable pull reports for us, but we can get our own reports any time we want. We do meet, but sometimes it’s just catching up, because Parable’s team members really do feel like an extension of our own team.”
And with the updated software and systems, his staff is now free to concentrate on other mission-critical aspects of church ministry.
Financial Accountability, Accounting Controls, and Ministry Effectiveness
The result of Greg’s work with Parable is a leaner team and a more mission-focused use of their ministry’s money.
For example, their yearly Compassion giving helps fund their innovative Dwelling Place Food Pantry. They’ve designed it to look like a Trader Joe’s, but everything’s free—a fresh produce section, meat counter, and bakery section. Plus, it’s their way to connect people in need with food, job training, personal prayer, and medical care.
Greg says, “This is what’s been an enabling factor [for our yearly Compassion giving]: To know, at a moment’s notice, how much money’s coming in, how much we’re spending, and where we are in terms of donated food and food that we have to buy.”
Dwelling Place also has a fleet of trucks to pick up food from organizations like Amazon Fresh. In the past, expenses for truck repairs were what Greg called “a maximum surprise.” But now, because of a more-accurate-than-ever budget and yearly forecasting, the church has a budget to keep the trucks serviced, so they’re never without a way to pick up food when it becomes available.
When a need presents itself, they can go back to their congregation or grant writers before they need immediate help—and avoid digging into their savings.
Their outreach efforts are transforming the makeup of their church. Because of their commitment to less fortunate neighbors, they see those neighbors in Sunday church, prayer meetings, and filling key volunteer positions.
And since many of those they serve were born outside of the U.S., Greg says, “The nations have come to us!”
True to their heritage, they’ve continued to innovate as worshipers and worship leaders. Their latest album, Returning (Live), is available on all streaming platforms and features Kathryn Scott and Jeremy Riddle.
“Find the best … and partner with them.”
“One of the lessons I learned early on is to find the best of great people who know how to do what you don’t know how to do and partner with them. […] To be really good in one area is amazing. To be ‘best of breed’ in multiple areas is nearly impossible because your focus gets taken away.
“When it comes to accounting, find a team that’s world-class in terms of how they help you manage finances. And partnering with them lets you free yourself from the burden of having to focus on accounting while being world-class in what God’s called you to do.
“Hands down, Parable has helped us in so many ways, and we’re reaping the benefits in terms of time, energy, and focus. Greg and the whole team have been such a pleasure.”
Board Vice President and CFO
Dwelling Place Anaheim Church
Parable helps churches of all sizes keep their money on mission. To learn how you can work with our church accountants, bookkeepers, and consultants, schedule a free consultation with us today.