My youngest daughter uses the word “tricky” interchangeably when describing something unfavorable, challenging, or complicated to understand. For example, when I ask her how the interview for a new position went, she replies, “it’s tricky to know.” At first, I wasn’t a fan of the ambiguity of that word, but I’ve come to embrace the whimsy of her language. I now believe that “tricky” is a great way to describe the tension of applying faith to the financial planning of a church budget. When proposing budget reductions, especially ones that impact key ministry areas like missionaries, children and youth, or local outreach, rest assured that someone will question the faith of the messenger. But is that fair? Should a church build a budget based on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, where he wrote, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19?
As a follower of Jesus, I believe “All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness” – 2Timothy 3:16. Because of that, my definition of faith comes from Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.” That’s why it can get tricky to reconcile the reality of our world with our faith. According to a recent analysis by LifeWay research, 4,500 protestant churches in the United States closed in 2019. I know first-hand the hard work and dedication involved in operating a church, especially in a post-Christian climate still recovering from a worldwide pandemic. Labeling the committed staff and members of the congregations of the 4,500 churches that closed in 2019 as having a lack of faith is cruel. Interestingly, as Paul closed out his letter to the church in Philippi, he urged unity before he said God would meet their needs. It might be tricky, but as Christians, we need to be unified when creating the budget, even if it reduces crucial ministry areas.
Planning is not the absence of faith. On the contrary, here are a few examples of the wisdom of planning:
- “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” – Proverbs 21:5
- “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
- “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22
- “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who are watching it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This person began to build, and was not able to finish!’ ” – Luke 14:28-30.
Reading Jesus’ words as recorded in Dr. Luke’s Gospel and how he used the example of building a tower to show his disciples the cost of following him is brilliant. Creating a church budget is tricky because it requires planning and faith; they are not mutually exclusive. If you are new to planning a church budget, give yourself and your church adequate time to prepare for the upcoming fiscal year properly.
The church is still God’s plan to reach the world with the good news of Jesus. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” – Matthew 9:37. When more churches are closing than opening, as leaders entrusted with the responsibility to oversee (steward) God’s resources, let’s acknowledge we need both planning and faith. It may be one of the most wonderfully tricky things we ever get to partner with God to do.short url: