We all know people who will only purchase brand-new cars from one of the local car dealers. They speak of that “new car smell” and how much they prefer to own a car that has never been owned by someone else. Then there are those who insist on only purchasing used vehicles and they, too, have a list of reasons behind their strong belief that theirs is the right way to go about buying a car. Those respective views of how one ought to buy a car is a part of the spending philosophy of those good people.
A spending philosophy is simply a set of guiding principles someone follows in spending and investing their money consistent with their values. I’ve heard it said many times, “If you want to know what someone values, look at his or her checkbook.” Part of discipling people in the local church is to teach a biblical view of personal finances. My wife and I have been blessed to be part of churches that do a good job in this area and we have benefitted from those ministries.
This may not have occurred to you before, but churches have a spending philosophy too! Batts and Hammar point out that visitors to our churches can walk into our facilities and quickly observe our spending philosophy.
There are four major components to consider when thinking about the spending philosophy of your church. They are evangelism, discipleship, personnel, and facilities & administration. These are the four major budget categories I use when constructing our church budget each year.
Recently, I wrote that budgeting involves making decisions about the ministries the local church will carry out and those that will be left to other churches. In terms of evangelism and discipleship, how will the church carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in their community and throughout the world? Will the church partner with other churches financially to support ministry as Southern Baptists do through our Cooperative Program? Will the church purchase curriculum for use in their discipleship ministry (e.g. Sunday School, small groups, etc.) or choose to create materials for that purpose themselves?
Each local church will need to determine how it will compensate personnel. Can the church afford a full-time pastor or will he need to be bivocational? Will the church hire other ministers to come alongside their pastor and when is the right time to do so? Should the church purchase a parsonage for the pastor to live in or should he be expected to rent/purchase a home for his family? Should the church provide health insurance for the pastors and their families, pay for a part of it, or is that expense more than the church can afford? What should support staff be paid and what benefits should the church plan on providing? Given the expense of employing people, it is not surprising that personnel expenses are typically half of a church’s budget.
Next consider facilities and administration expenses. We’ve all seen churches with elaborate architecture and landscaping that captures the attention of visitors and passersby alike and others in the same community that built a more modest structure to hold construction costs down. Regardless of the type of building a congregation chooses to build and how they decorate the interior, the facilities must be heated during cold months and cooled during warm months of the year so how often the facility is used impacts utility bills and must be considered.
All of these considerations and many more are part of what makes up the spending philosophy of a local church. The older the church the more ingrained the spending philosophy. None of these considerations are necessarily bad things. These are simply considerations to keep in mind as you work through the budgeting process.