A new service from WatersEdge provides bookkeeping, payroll and contribution tracking for Oklahoma Baptist churches and ministries.
Sarah Barham wasn’t looking for a job. The Shawnee, Oklahoma, native and mother of three was happy at the large public accounting firm where she’d worked for the past 15 years. So when Robert Kellogg, president of The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma, asked her to lead a new initiative to provide accounting services to Oklahoma Baptist churches, she turned him down.
But the more Barham learned about the mission of WatersEdge Ministry Services (the Foundation’s new brand for church loans, investments and accounting), the more excited she became about the potential Kingdom impact the position could have—saving churches money and creating margin for pastors to focus on ministry.
“I told God, ‘OK, I’m going to do what I know You’ve called me to do, because I know You will provide,’” Barham says. She contacted the Foundation and accepted the job, bringing a wealth of expertise as the new vice president of Ministry Accounting for WatersEdge Ministry Services.
Barham’s first goal in her role was to understand how churches handle accounting responsibilities as well as the burden it places on pastors and staff. Between sermon preparation, counseling, discipleship, visitation, committee meetings and the myriad of other demands on a pastor’s time, she wasn’t surprised to learn that accounting simply isn’t a priority. Some churches are forced to pay for-profit public accounting firms to meet the need, while others rely on volunteers from the congregation. But no matter the size of the church, Barham quickly discovered a common thread—while they didn’t have time for it, nearly all the pastors she spoke with recognized the need for proper accounting and expressed a desire for helping to bring their churches in line with best practices.
“You see these pastors trying to balance everything, and finances can pull their focus away from their calling, which is pastoring and discipling,” she says. “WatersEdge is here to relieve that burden so pastors can do what they do best—lead people to Jesus.”
Barham explains that a church’s biggest accounting needs typically fall into three categories: bookkeeping, payroll and contribution tracking.
Bookkeeping includes monitoring all outgoing and incoming funds (bills, Cooperative Program giving, tithes and offerings), so that a church has an accurate picture of available financial resources at any given time. For payroll, WatersEdge accommodates a church’s pay cycle and ensures employees are paid on time through direct deposit or manual check. Contribution tracking provides each church member with a year-end giving statement for tax purposes.
Ministry Accounting services are offered “cafeteria style,” which means churches can pick and choose which services they would like based upon their unique needs. Pricing varies depending on the services a church chooses, the volume of financial activity within the church, and the number of employees on payroll.
“I never imagined I would leave the public sector for the nonprofit world, but God brought me here and He’s already provided in so many unexpected ways,” Barham says. “In every doubt and fear, I’m reassured in abundance—this is what God has called me to do and I am thrilled to help Oklahoma Baptist churches maximize Kingdom impact through our accounting services.”
When Barham isn’t crunching numbers, she enjoys spending time at the lake with her husband, Jeff, and their three children: Coby, Creed and Jaycee. She is a longtime member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
Story by Anna Dellinger