I ran across an American Unitarian Association booklet “Church finance and accounting” — undated, but having internal examples suggesting 1914 — that makes for fun reading.
On the one hand, some things were very different then. It includes a review of the proprietor (pew owner) and pew rental system, and deprecates both to the free-pew (not that we call it that) system we have today, “the most modern and democratic way of financing a church, and is the system adopted in most new churches.” I can’t imagine the first two options today.
On the other hand, more seemed very familiar. I’m a member of Universalist National Memorial Church, Washington and we had a congregational meeting last Sunday. We reviewed financials that were more like those suggested than not.
The booklet was also full of candid advice. One good example:
Business-like methods in the financial administration of a church are of vital importance to the welfare of the society. Inefficient administration, hand-to-mouth ways of raising money, carelessness or tardiness in the payment of bills, usually indicate low vitality in a church, and are a constant source of danger and invitation to financial calamity.
- Church of Our Father, Hope City, Colorado (a mission church)
- Unity Church, Winterboro, Mass.
- All Souls’ Church, Washington Square, Oakwood, N. Y. (obviously old and wealthy)
- All Souls’ Church, Canterbury, Mich.
- Unity Church, New Boston, Oregon