Do you want your 2019 ministry budget to be clear, strategic, and more effective than 2018? Then these guidelines can help you.
This morning I initiated the 2019 budget season for our church staff by sending them the budget template I am including in this post. So, the fun begins!
Do you love the budget season, or do you and your team dread it?
Personally, I always enjoy the budget and planning season. I know for some it can feel like monotonous, boring, detailed work that is imposed upon them.
For me, I look at it as a time I am being given to dream about the future and what could be. I can think through what I am going to do in the year to come, what ideas I am going to try, how I am going to improve an event, or even what ways I am going to celebrate my team.
The most important thing to remember when you are building your annual ministry budget is: you are the steward of people’s money.
As ministry leaders, we run the risk of thinking the money in our budget is ours to do with what we want.
In reality, we are stewards of people’s giving. God has entrusted money to those in our faith community and they have entrusted their finances to us to use it for the advancement of God’s Kingdom and the maintenance of their faith community.
We have all seen ministry leaders who have used the giving of their congregations to create lavish lifestyles and numerous perks for themselves personally. Though I don’t think it is necessary for ministry leaders to live like paupers, I do think we walk a fine line between purchasing what we need and purchasing little perks that we just want.
With that being said, I want to give you a few guidelines I have used to build budgets for ministry.
Events Pay For Themselves
This is good for all departments, but encourage your Kids and Students pastors in particular who tend to be heavily event-driven. Depending on the size of your budget and the number of events you have in a year, you could eat up your budget in a hurry and not leave room for curriculum, culture development pieces, and other elements that directly impact the spiritual development of those in your faith community. So, I have a simple rule…events pay for themselves. Now, occasionally there is an exception to the rule, like an outreach event. However, if your events are focused on regular attendees, such as conventions, camps, back-to-school activity, retreats, or luncheons, then charge a fee that covers the cost. This will preserve your budget money, will increase the perceived value of the events, and will create a built-in metric to help decide if it is a viable event or not.
High percentage Designated to Spiritual Growth
Referring to our first guideline, events can be high energy, high cost, and low spiritual growth. That’s okay, as long as a high percentage of your budget isn’t going towards high energy events. If events are paying for themselves, then you can channel a higher percentage of your budget towards spiritual development. Investing in a small group system, in curriculum, in service opportunities, and volunteer training will increase the spiritual depth of your faith community. This investment in spiritual depth will increase volunteerism, giving, congregant satisfaction, and relational connections. By investing your budget into spiritual growth, you are investing in church health.
Budgeting Isn’t Personal
As ministry leaders, we are bought in completely. This is great and can help us be successful, but when our buy-in becomes personal, then it can create landmines for us to step on. The budgeting process can create a landmine.
At some point in the budget process, a finance committee, church board, or some other governing body is going to review the budget and make cuts. If we remember we are stewards of other people’s money, we will roll with the cuts.
However, if we hold our budgets with closed fists, then when cuts are made it creates tension, frustration, and in extreme cases, isolates you the pastor as others become afraid of you and the authority you wield.
Advocate for ministry initiatives, for particular events and activities, and for ministry innovation that congregants often don’t see the value in. As a pastor, you need to lead effectively, which means sometimes you need to concede the battle to promote unity and effectiveness.
When you don’t approach the budget process personally, then you will be able to navigate the tricky waters with a clear mind and a strategic heart.
We have all heard of the stories of the improper use of finances by a ministry leader. The temptation for us is to shake our heads, question the moral depth of that ministry leader, and then resolve to never allow that to happen to us. However, if we don’t take intentional steps toward having accountability, we either won’t have it or it will be forced on us.
This is why we need to be the ones to impose accountability on ourselves. We should feel uneasy about having complete access to the finances when no one else has the same level of access as us. If there is an area in the budget that you are the only one who sees it (staff salaries, other accounts besides the general fund, missions giving, etc.), then you are flirting with compromise.
Even when our hearts are in the right place and we make the best decisions we can, they may not be the best decisions at all. We need others seeing everything and advising us in the management of our ministry finances.
By imposing accountability ourselves, we increase our defenses against morale compromise, we increase the loyalty of those who follow us, and we increase the effective usage of the budget. The primary drawback is that you may lose complete control, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. (Lord Acton, 19th Century British Politician).
I hope this has been helpful to you. The goal is to take what is entrusted to us in 2019 and steward it well. By building a sound budget you will increase your ministry effectiveness, stretch your budget further, and safeguard yourself from compromise.
If you would like to get the process started on the right foot, use this budget template I have used for years to help ministry leaders develop their budgets. It is simple to use, creates clarity on where the money is going and allows you to be strategically intentional about how you steward the finances entrusted to you.
How do you navigate the budget planning season? Share to help other ministry leaders in our community to be successful in this season of the year.
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