I remember picking a movie at Block Buster Video on a Friday night, and everyone in town was trying to get the latest release on VHS before they ran out of the few copies they had on hand. Fast forward a few years, and companies like Netflix figured out a way to capitalize on streaming services, but Block Buster didn’t. Block Buster’s inability to change and adapt left them irrelevant, and their business model became obsolete.
For organizations, even churches, to move forward, change is necessary. In today’s increasingly complex and shifting climate, churches need to adapt, pivot, and become more nimble than ever before. Before 2020, many churches were still trying to figure out if they should have a live stream of their service. While some churches resisted the change, a 2021 LifeWay Research study found that during the pandemic, 45% of Americans watched a church service online, 30% typically attended church in person, and 15% weren’t regular in-person attendees. If the church’s mission, as found in Matthew 28:19-20, is to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” then, churches without online services may find the same fate as Block Buster; at the very least, they’re missing opportunities to reach more people with the Gospel.
Yet, some people, and organizations, love routine; it brings comfort, security, and even control into the chaos of life. Even when the routine is harmful or destructive, leaving the old patterns and ways of doing something proves to be an obstacle too hard to overcome. My wife and I have led Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University for over ten years and have witnessed firsthand how hard it is for some people to change. Well-meaning people eager to find financial help sign up; they have a mountain of bills, no savings, and no plan for retirement, yet refuse to alter their lifestyle and build a monthly budget. Somewhere in their mind, the budget is the restrictive piece of the puzzle, not the oppressive debt weighing them down and robbing their future. Angela Lee from Columbia Business School said that fMRI technology shows that when it comes to overcoming confirmation bias, presenting facts that oppose their bias creates a reaction in the brain similar to pain. No wonder some people do the same thing repeatedly, even if it doesn’t produce the desired results.
Those who choose to enter into ministry know the importance of their calling, and now, more than ever, managing God’s resources is a significant part of ministry. When creating their budget, churches that have fallen into a routine, or worse, a rut, must evaluate their strategy. Churches must put away whatever bias or preconceived notion about budgeting they have. For example, a budget is not a lack of faith; it’s good stewardship. With that in mind, here are a few questions churches may want to consider about their budget:
- Does your church create an annual budget? A budget is a non-negotiable for a church. It’s the best way to build trust, show accountability, and ensure the church remains focused on its mission. I strongly recommend using a zero-based budget since it starts each year at zero.
- Does your church define the goals for the upcoming year based on the church’s mission, vision, and values? Most churches’ mission and vision rarely change, but they may define new goals each year. Before starting the budget, communicate the plans to the ministry and operational leaders and how the goals support the mission. For example, there may be a need to address the under-resourced in the community, and your church wants to spearhead the efforts to bring about a loving solution. Since this goal fits the mission and vision, allocating funds to this endeavor may become necessary. However, it may also mean reducing funds in other areas.
- Who creates the budget? Since churches vary in size, denomination, and structure, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but avoid putting this burden on one person. A team approach with defined roles works best.
- How long does it take to create the budget? It may sound extreme, but making the budget typically takes about five months. If your church slaps it together in a night, I guarantee it is insufficient, inadequate, and needs more thought. Take the time to do it right. Use data to determine the projected donations for the upcoming year. Allow ministry and operational leaders to participate in building the budget for their areas. After all, no one knows the needs of children’s ministry like the person in charge.
- Does the budget use healthy church metrics? Knowing how much of the budget should go to compensation, facilities, outreach, etc., is crucial when building a healthy budget to support the mission. Comparing your church to healthy church metrics may reveal areas where your church can improve its budget.
- Does the church share the budget with the congregation? Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate with the church the plans for their faithful, generous, and consistent donations.
While this list is not exhaustive, hopefully, it generates a thoughtful dialog within the leadership to ensure that your church continues to share the Gospel and make disciples.short url: