The term budget is often divisive. For some, it immediately evokes certain words like restrictive, limiting, confining, rigid, and even faithless. For others, the term church budget says safety, planning, freedom, and stewardship, or for the less churched, biblical management of God’s money. When it comes to topics that provoke robust dialog (a Christian way to describe an argument) in a church, it usually comes down to political affiliation, worship music style (or volume), egalitarian vs. complementarian views, and eschatological position. Still, somewhere in the middle of all that, the church budget ranks pretty high on the list. Although most agree that a budget is necessary to effectively manage God’s resources and fund the church’s mission, many church leaders lack the knowledge and confidence to build an adequate and functional budget.
What Is A Church Budget
Before calling a meeting with church leadership, running financial reports, or putting a number in the spreadsheet, it’s best to define a church budget clearly. Some say a budget is a plan to fund the functions of the church; others say it is a forecast of income and how to allocate it to accomplish the mission. Merriman-Webster defines it as “the amount of money that is available for, required for, or assigned to a particular purpose.” While all of these definitions are accurate, John Maxwell’s description has always resonated with me, “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.” Maxwell wonderfully captures the essence of assigning each dollar to its place in the larger picture instead of haphazardly spending, hoping everything works out. Simply put, a church budget is a cash flow plan to maximize the finances God entrusted to the church to accomplish the mission. Once the church establishes a shared understanding of a church budget, it can confidently move forward and begin the process.
Where To Start
It’s important to understand that regardless of the size or scope of the church, building a thoughtful church budget that reflects the mission, vision, and values takes time, be sure to start the process several months before the next fiscal year begins. Slapping a church budget together in a couple of weeks is not a sign of efficiency; it’s a sign of apathy or lack of planning; that’s why the first step is to gather the stakeholders and explain the process.
Integrate the Upcoming Goals and Focus
A church’s mission, vision, and values are designed to be timeless and reflect the purpose of the church. For example, most Christian churches use the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, “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” as the foundation of their mission. But, each year brings new initiatives to carry out the mission. That often means some ministries need to end while others need to begin, making this the starting point for the budget.
Share the Goals and Focus
Set up a meeting with church leadership (paid staff and volunteers) to cast the vision for the upcoming year. It’s a great time to remind the team of the church’s mission, vision, and values and why the particular focus for the year matters to the overall goals.
Dream and Strategize
Sharing the goals and direction allows leadership to dream and strategize how to accomplish the plans for the year. Each ministry and operational leader needs to take the time to evaluate their contribution to the upcoming year and research what financial resources are necessary.
Despite the negative connotations often associated with the term budget, creating a church budget is about planning, freedom, stewardship, and faith. The first step in building a church budget is to seek God’s direction for the upcoming year, share it with the church’s leaders, and let them prayerfully consider how to accomplish it and determine the necessary financial resources. Session 102 is all about how to create income projections.short url: