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Archived: Citylife Church Inc: mini charity review for donors

Care:  At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.  Use the ‘Search charity names’ box to see if there is a later review.  If the latest review has a message like this, you are welcome to make your case for an updated review via email to ted@businessbythebook.com.au.

Mini charity review of Citylife Church Inc (CC) as an organisation that seeks donations online. (Including the answers to the questions that the Australian charity regulator, the ACNC, suggests that you ask.)

(To see the situation last year, read this review.)

Are they responsive to feedback[1]?

  • When sent a draft of this review, they…did not respond.

Is CC registered?

  • As a charity, yes.
    • Not to be confused with the other organisations with the same name:
      • Citylife Church Incorporated, a NSW association.
      • Citylife Church (a business name of Northern Suburbs Assembly of God)
      • Citilife Church Inc (not registered as a charity)
    • Or with the one with almost the same name:
      • Citylife Church International Inc, a NSW association.
  • Other registrations:
    • As a Victorian incorporated association (A0026171A).
      • CC doesn’t have CityLife Church registered as a business name, so must use its full name. Maybe including its website and its Facebook page?
    • CC doesn’t have any fundraising licences. It is exempt in the state in which it operates. Whether it requires a licence in the other six states that have a licensing regime depends whether they think that seeking donations on the internet is ‘fundraising’.

What do they do?

  • See under ‘Connect’ and under ‘Grow’ in the main menu on the website.

Do they share the Gospel?

  • Yes

What impact are they having?

  • Nothing found.

What do they spend outside the costs directly incurred in delivering the above impact, that is, on administration?

  • The expenses are not classified to allow this calculation.

Can you get a tax deduction?

  • No
    • But under ‘Give’ in the main menu, both ‘Outreach’ and ‘Building’ options are tax-deductible giving. This is because CC is collecting for another charity.

Is their online giving secure?

  • Security is not mentioned on the first page.

Is their reporting up-to-date?

  • Yes (a little over five months after their year-end).
    • But if you are considering a large donation, I would ask for more up-to-date financial information – the accounts are for a year end that is now eleven months ago.

Does their reporting comply with the regulator’s requirements?

  • AIS 2015: Almost. No outcomes are given[2].
  • Financial Report 2015: No
    • For a very large church (Melbourne’s largest?), one on multiple sites, and with a large welfare ministry, and a large school, the directors’ claim that CC is not a reporting entity is implausible. Although they do not give any reason for this decision, a decision that results in financial statements that do not have to comply with all the Accounting Standards, what they are effectively saying is that CC has no users, past and prospective, who rely on normal financial statements to make decisions.
    • The Financial Report does not give the full picture of the CC operation. CC has three active ministries that are run via separate charities:
    • There is also Open House Christian Fellowship Inc, a Large charity that is, since 2013, being taken over by CC. Isn’t it also controlled by CC?
      • In the current reporting of this relationship, have all the financial consequences have been included?
    • Only the ‘Board of Elders’ (the committee) is mentioned under ‘Related Party Disclosure’.
    • CC discloses a contingent asset of $4.48 m. A contingent asset is one whose existence is in doubt. That’s not the situation here. Aren’t revenue and assets therefore understated by $4.48 m?
    • Kingdom Investments has lent $6.00 m to Waverley Christian College at call.
      • Why are they classified as being due beyond 12 months?
      • As a public ancillary fund, Kingdom Investments can only help deductible gift recipients. Was the loan made to Waverley’s Building Fund?
    • The presentation of income in the Statement of Income and Expenditure and Other Comprehensive Income is confusing and neither complies with the Accounting Standards nor matches what is shown in the Statement of Cash Flows.
      • CC continue to disclose ‘Revenue for General Reserves & KIF’ ($3.00 m) without explanation. It is the source of the revenue, not its destination that needs to be disclosed here.
      • CC continues to use the acronym ‘KIF’ without explanation.
      • ‘Other expenses’ $847K is broken down, but ‘Ministry expenses’ $1.06 m is unexplained.
      • ‘The unusual ‘Expense from General Reserve ($413K) is still unexplained.

What financial situation was shown by that Report?

  • With the understanding that the Report, without the inclusion of the other subsidiaries, only shows half the picture:
    • The $5.94 m received from Open House Christian Fellowship Inc last year was followed up with another $400K this year.
    • Reserves are $3.55 m less than liquid assets.
    • CC keeps at least $340K of the donations for missions unspent.
    • No obvious concerns with the financial structure.
    • ‘Tithes and offerings’ rose from $8.25 m to $8.43 m, perhaps because members of CC are required to tithe [clause 3.1, the constitution].
    • Consider the effect of the other matters mentioned under the last question.

What did the auditor say about the last financial statements?

  • He gave a ‘clean’[4] opinion. But
    • in continuing with the engagement, he again implicitly agreed with the directors’ decision to produce special purpose rather than general purpose financial statements (see above).
    • See ‘Financial Report 2015’ above.

If a charity, is their information on the ACNC Register complete?

  • Almost – the trading name is not included.

What choices do you have in how your donation is used?

  • ‘General’
    • ‘Tithes’
    • ‘General Offering’
    • ‘Church Building Fund’
    • ‘World Impact (Missions)
      • ‘Partnership in Missions’
      • ‘Other’
    • ‘Other’
  • ‘Nations’
    • ‘Partnership in Missions – Missions Worker’
      • ‘Please specify’ (no drop down menu)
    • ‘Partnership in Missions – Other’
      • ‘Please specify’ (no drop down menu)
  • ‘Outreach’
    • (‘Kingdom Investment Fund’) ‘My gift for where most needed’ (Tax-deductible)
  • ‘Building’
    • ‘The Story Building Project’ (tax-deductible)
      • This is said to be tax-deductible through the Kingdom Investment Fund. The Fund, as a public ancillary fund, can only donate to deductible gift recipients. Who is the eligible recipient?

Who are the people controlling the organisation?

  • Not shown on the website, but they listed under ‘Responsible Persons’ on the ACNC Register.

To whom are CC accountable?

  • Not mentioned on the website, but a part of CC, its ‘World Impact Dept (sic)’ is a member of Missions Interlink. (It is strange that membership continues to be in this name, the name of an entity that doesn’t even have an ABN.)
    • Missions Interlink is an organisation that has standards with which members must comply[5].
  • Plus CC is also accountable to the ACNC.



  1. Of course, accountability and proper governance is vital. Isolated authoritarian leaders cause dysfunction, often leading to abuse and hurt and …”. From a sermon by the Senior Leader of CC.
  2. Plus the trading name, but such names are of no practical effect nowadays.
  3. A third, Citylife Community Initiatives Incorporated, appears to be unrelated to CC.
  4. To take the right amount of comfort from a ‘clean opinion’, please read here and here.
  5. For one opinion on the strength of this accountability, see the section Activities in this review.