I am always honored when asked to officiate an event like a wedding or memorial. Families are inviting me into a pivotal moment in their lives, and I take it very seriously. One of the many lessons I’ve learned over the years is that while it may not be fun for those with a free spirit, planning is essential for a successful event. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wedding or memorial; I prefer to take the time necessary to build a complete order of service. Memorial services are a great example; we start by defining the prelude music, then we determine who will welcome people to the service, open in prayer, read the obituary, create the photo tribute, play special music, share stories during the service (I strongly encourage pre-determined speakers), close the service, and provide any special instructions after the service. I prefer identifying the officiant, all those speaking, the event coordinator, the audio tech, the video tech, and the facilities team as part of the process. I know from experience that even with a well-thought-out and agreed-upon plan, sometimes it doesn’t work out. A family once ignored the deadline and provided the tribute video five minutes before the service started, which kept us from testing it as requested. Of course, the video froze with a picture of the deceased man’s face in a distorted position, and it was beyond embarrassing. However, an agreed-upon plan, especially when everyone involved does their part, still provides the best chance of success – for weddings, memorials, and even church budgets.
As budget season rapidly approaches for many churches, use this “order of service” as a way to prepare the church staff and volunteer leaders for the tasks ahead.
Provide the Budget Timeline
Most wedding venues set time limits for the length of the event, which nowadays limits the actual ceremony to around 30 minutes. As a pastor, it’s nice to know the amount of time allotted to make each moment count. The same is true when building the church budget. Everyone with a stake in building the budget must know how long they have to dream, evaluate, and estimate to maximize their effort and turn a thoughtful budget before the deadline. When starting each new budget season, provide the team with a timeline.
Provide Prior Expenses
I prefer using a zero-based church budget, which means you start from scratch each year and build a new budget. It helps eliminate lazy budgeting, where the ministry or operational leaders simply copy and paste the prior year with minor tweaks. However, it is unwise not to review the previous year’s expenses to know what ongoing events, materials, and costs to include in the budgeted area. It doesn’t imply that all current programs or costs should continue; it’s a way to ensure the ministry or operational areas include essential expenses.
Provide a Guide
I create a spreadsheet each year that guides all ministry and operational areas in the budgeting process. Creating a guide provides a logical flow to the budget process. When creating a guide, include the following areas:
- List Objectives: Ask each ministry area to list up to three objectives for the upcoming fiscal year. These objections should support the mission and vision of the church and achieve the goals for the upcoming fiscal year.
- List New Resources: Use this area to define the financial resources necessary to accomplish the objectives. Only include new resources; list ongoing expenses in the section below.
- Dream (project or event): Every ministry and operational area has dreams that they’d like to see accomplished. Sometimes these are outside the objectives. For example, the high school pastor may want to take graduating seniors in the group on an overnight trip. This section of the guide provides a space to express the dream, determine the actual costs, and submit it to the finance/budget team for consideration.
- List Ongoing Expenses: The budget team should list all ongoing expenses from the current fiscal year. This list allows the leader to evaluate each line item determining if the cost is increasing, decreasing, or even necessary.
- Total Requested Budget: Now that all of the guide categories are complete, break down a total of the new resources, the dream event/project, and ongoing expenses to arrive at the requested budget total.
Creating a church budget is a little like conducting an orchestra; it involves a variety of instruments playing different parts, but when everyone is reading the same music, they come together to create a beautiful song. Preparing and providing the church leaders with the necessary information helps build a thoughtful budget to accomplish the church’s mission.short url: