When I started posting on church budgets, my primary goal was to help other churches that might benefit from my experience. I really want to share the information that I wished I knew when I started this journey back in 2006. That’s why I provide opinions based on my experience and facts, not necessarily my preference. Writing about budget categories for compensation, operations, facilities, and even ministry, was controversy-free. But, I know this series is incomplete without covering the topic of outreach. In fact, the more I researched outreach budgets for churches, the more obvious it became that there is a wide range of opinions on the subject. Here are a few examples:
- Should donors be able to designate their money to outreach?
- Should a church “tithe” (give 10% of their donations) to outreach?
- Isn’t everything a church does outreach?
Those are just a few questions I found, and I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For the sake of this post, here are the basic assumptions used:
- Outreach is funded through the general offering, not via special designation.
- The ministry category for most healthy church budgets is about 20% – 35%. Included in that total is the outreach budget. Controversy Alert: I’m not a fan of a church tithing 10% to outreach. First, I don’t see that in the Bible. Second, it can lead churches into stuffing budget line items into outreach to achieve an arbitrary percentage goal.
- While there is a compelling argument that everything is outreach, it’s not a strategic position for budgeting.
With the assumptions and controversy out of the way, let’s move forward.
What to Include: Church Budget – Outreach
Because each church has a unique definition of outreach, the categories could vary wildly. Use this list as a starter kit or sampler of what might fit in the Outreach category of your church budget. It may be helpful to break it down into two subcategories, local and global:
- Community Outreach – Plan the different ways your church is impacting the local community. For example, if your church hosts MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers), do you subsidize child care for the under-resourced mothers so they can attend?
- Scholarships – Money to assist the under-resourced in your community to attend camps and other outreach-oriented functions.
- Sunday Morning – Local Outreach is a great place to expense the cost of outreach during your church services for things like interpreters for the deaf community.
- Events – Consider the local events your church hosts, such as Trunk or Treat or Vacation Bible School. These are typically huge community events that have endless outreach potential.
- Opportunity Fund – Whenever possible, add some budgetary funds for opportunities your church can leverage to accomplish its mission. For example, an unscheduled local community event may come up, and partnering with the event is strategic to your mission.
- Missionary Support – Finally, something we can all agree on!
- Short-term Trips – I may be wading into controversial water again with this one. A Baylor University post shows that short-term trip dollars may be better-spent funding embedded missionaries, medical aid, construction, etc. But, don’t discount the benefits for those going on the trip, like less materialism, appreciation for other cultures, and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a missionary.
- Materials – Think of things like handouts, newsletters, and training guides.
- Opportunity Fund – As with Local Outreach, sometimes unplanned opportunities can present themselves, and having some money set aside to join in with what God is doing can be strategic.
What to Exclude: Church Budget – Outreach
Anything that isn’t outreach-related simply to satisfy hitting a percentage.
What to Adjust: Church Budget – Outreach
I had no idea in January of 2020 that by March, the world would shut down due to a pandemic. Changes happen fast, and leaders need to respond quickly, often with little information. Here are thoughts about the outreach budget during times of adjustment.
Cuts to the Budget
- Remove the opportunity funds.
- Reduce or eliminate camp subsidies.
- Charge (or increase the ticket price) for outreach events like Trunk or Treat or VBS.
- Postpone short-term trips.
Increase to the Budget
- Increase subsidized portion of camps or events to lower costs and bring in more people.
- Bless your church’s supported missionaries. When funding is available, a one-time special gift or, if sustainable, a permanent increase in their monthly support will go a long way.
When crafting a church budget, putting together the outreach category takes a lot of thought, planning, and prayer. Use these tips as a guide to help your church navigate through the process.short url: