JohnShaw wrote:We have been instructed to keep a 3 month reserve in the Top-level Ward Missionary account for each missionary serving from the ward, which provides an overall positive balance even when individual accounts go negative (at least for 3 months).
I'm curious who gave you that instruction. That could very well be contrary to the very specific instruction we have received from our area presidency, which is that our overall balance is to be no more than 3 months worth of payments for each missionary (plus additional prepaid amounts for particular missionaries).
If each missionary subcategory had 3 months reserve, and the top-level Ward Missionary account also had a 3 months reserve for each missionary on top of that, your balance would be twice the allowable limit according to our area's policy.
However, I would note that the RKATS article Missionary Finances
says nothing about this particular policy. In our area, we get a reminder letter when our overall stake surplus exceeds that 3-month guideline, but this wouldn't necessarily apply to all areas.
JohnShaw wrote:Continue to host the value of the individual account as negative working with the family, as long as the overall missionary account is positive we're ok?
Yes, we do that.
JohnShaw wrote:Transfer the money into the account to 'cover' it and manage working with the family other ways?
We don't do that just to fix a negative balance. There's no harm at all in a negative subcategory balance, and transfers make the actual balance confusing.
JohnShaw wrote:How long do we hold this over the heads of a family that just isn't in a position to pay?
The bishop discusses the issue with this family. If the family plans to follow through on their previous commitment for donations, then keeping the accounting in place facilitates tracking the actual status of that subcategory. But if the family isn't in a position to make those payments, responsibility is shifted to the ward, and appropriate transfers to the subcategory from the top-level Ward Missionary fund are made. There's no compulsion or "holding over the heads" -- it's just a question of whether the family is willing and able to make the payments.