My wife and I love to hike. In fact, we plan most of our vacations and getaways around finding beautiful hiking areas. Our adventures have taken us to the top of Yosemite Falls and on a journey through the Samuel H. Boardman scenic trail and numerous paths in Bryce Canyon, Zion, Joshua Tree, and other National Parks. The funny thing is that I could be better with directions because I can easily get turned around and then have to backtrack. No one likes getting lost; it creates frustration and a loss of unnecessary time and energy. Most people don’t plan on losing their way, but it happens. It’s what you do when it happens that matters. You can forge ahead in the wrong direction, but it typically has disastrous results.
The same is true for churches, they don’t plan on wandering away from the vision, but it happens. Year after year, new initiatives and ministries get started, requiring more and more financial and human resources without checking the compass to see if you’re heading in the right direction to fulfilling your mission. Like someone who treks into the woods, suddenly nothing looks familiar; you’re tired, hungry, and looking for a way out.
Using the Map
The good news is that a map is available to help churches navigate out of the woods and place them back on the pathway toward their destination – the map is called a budget. In its simplest form, a church budget is a plan designed to help navigate from point A to point B. The process of building a church budget allows the church to see precisely the allocation of financial resources entrusted to them. This process often reveals when the church invests resources in good things, but they may not necessarily align with the vision.
The Starting Point
Today, we frequently use electronic navigation systems like Garmin, TomTom, or Google Maps for directions. These systems ask for at least two data points: the start and destination. The starting point for every church initiative is clearly defining the church’s mission, vision, and values. Then, set the specific goal(s) for the upcoming year. Allocating the church’s resources must flow out of pursuing the plans based on mission and vision.
Building a budget is a complex and time-consuming adventure. A well-crafted church budget can take up to five months to create. It requires vision casting, data mining, future planning, collaboration, and revisions. An effective budget promotes trust within the church, demonstrates stewardship, and, most importantly, it allocates the money to accomplish the mission. What happens when there are not enough resources to distribute to all of the plans on the budget? It presents the opportunity to refine the focus back on the vision. The truth is churches will always have dreams and desires bigger than their budget. The budget process is like a navigation system; when you miss an exit or take a wrong turn, it recalculates the path. Sometimes recalculating the route requires reducing or eliminating a ministry, job, or function at the church, and I know from experience that it is never fun. Refining the focus on the church’s vision takes commitment from everyone involved, and maintaining unity is paramount. Getting turned around or lost on a trail can create conflict in determining which path to take. Don’t argue; use the map. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21); that applies to church budgets too. The church budget reflects the heart of the church, putting it back on the right path.
Don’t allow unintentional wanderings to take your church off course this budget season. Utilize a map (church budget) to get your church back on the pathway. Use the church’s mission, vision, and values as the starting point and allow the specific goals to drive the decisions on resource allocation. When the church finds it has drifted from the established path, use it as an opportunity to refine the focus on the church’s vision and the heart of the church.short url: