Michigan Bank Divines New Role with Church Fund Management

Article excerpt

AT LEAST ONE U.S. BANK IS not praying for new business -- it is hustling churches instead.

Genesee Merchants Bank and Trust Company of Flint, Mich., has found that going to church can have immediate benefits in this world. And for starters, it has targeted the 450 churches in the Flint area.

It is not just the collection plate that Genesee is after -- it is the money management role as well.

The idea is that priests or ministers no longer will have to pray for financial guidance if they can get it from the bank.

Recently, that expertise was offered in Flint at the pioneering Congregational Finance Seminar, sponsored by the $800 million-deposit Genesee and its parent, NBD Bancorp Inc. -- the largest bank holding company in the state -- as well as the Ecumenical Theological Center. The session was designed to teach church leaders to better invest congregational funds, improve accounting and bookkeeping skills, and use computers in church business.

Indeed, computers are increasingly becoming a part of church operations, said the Rev. R. Stanley Sutton, who also serves as treasurer of the Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Rev. Sutton said churches use computers for recording statistics, such as baptisms, confirmations, and weddings, for keeping track of attendance, and for dealing with the church budget. One church uses its computer to keep the records of a soup kitchen it operates, while another set up an inner city basketball league by using a computer to identify church members who had experience in coaching and playing basketball.

"I don't see computers changing the nature of the church," he said. "I don't think the person sitting in the pew will notice a change in a church that uses a computer." But they have the potential for making churches more effective organizations.

Barry Trantham, product manager at Genesee, points out that "churches are going through the same kinds of growing pains that other companies are. They manage an awful lot of money and invest an awful lot of money. They need help."

Mr. Trantham said the churches in the Flint area represent a considerable pool of potential business. …