When it comes to choosing their annual high points, very few ministers talk about how excited they were to create next year’s budget. While they would probably agree that it is an important document and acknowledge that a budget keeps their finances on track, very few pastors get excited about them—and that is a shame.
How Churches Typically Do Budgets
The average church does not put a lot of time and effort into drafting a budget. It makes sense, right? Churches already have so many plates spinning. Even though a budget is an important document, there is not a lot of reason to recreate the wheel.
For the most part, churches look at how giving is trending and make a projection for the coming year. Then they make those percentage adjustments to their budgetary line items. They might remove a line item or two or add a payroll staff position, but by and large, the line items stay the same.
But churches have an opportunity to look at their budget differently, which could dramatically increase its visibility and importance in the life of the church.
Where Your Treasure is, There Your Heart Will Be
Jesus clearly expressed the relationship between our money and our passion in the Sermon on the Mount, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21, ESV). His point was simple, we invest in what is important to us, and as we do so, it becomes even more significant to us.
What if this idea was brought into your budgeting process? Typically, church budgets tend to stay the same with incremental changes over time. But what if our leadership teams sat down every year and asked, “What is important to us? Where do we want to grow?”
How would this look?
A New Template for Budget Making
Most of the budgeting process would remain the same. You would look at your projected income and budget for an increase. Next, you would want to look at last year’s expenses. Some things are relatively static and do not have a lot of wiggle room: facilities, salaries, debt.
Once you identify the areas of the budget that are fixed and identify a couple of places you would like to increase your budget (like staff raises or savings), it is time to ask the exciting (but difficult) question: “Where do we want to grow this year?”
Is it time to step out in faith and invest in new ministries or outreach opportunities? Is it time to cut off funding for areas that are not growing or performing well? A lot of growth potential is stymied because churches keep pouring money into areas without any clear understanding of what success should look like.
If there are areas you have wanted to get involved, what is keeping you? Putting it into next year’s budget is a way of committing to giving it life. As you do so, you will find that you are probably more passionate about it—not less. Most of the time the church budget does not generate strong emotion because it is fixed.
When we start to look at ministries as investments, it changes everything. Programs are no longer limping along because we are expected to offer them. Everything is given life with clear expectations and time frames. We are going to invest in this ministry for this many years, and then we will readdress it. If it is fruitful, we will recommit to it. If not, stewardship demands that we put that money toward more productive ministries.
When we look at the budget this way, we begin to see the opportunity and responsibility it represents. We will not go through the motions, and when we share next year’s budget with our congregations, it is clear how the budget facilitates the mission.
We Are Here For You
If you are interested in talking to someone with experience in church loans, feel free to reach out. You can call CDF Capital at 800.233.3880 to speak to a church loan specialist, or fill out our information request form. We will steer you in the right direction.