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Church Budget Categories and Helpful Ratios

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This is the fourth and final column in a series by Northside Baptist Church, Valdosta Administration Pastor Chris Sanchez, who will be leading a breakout session at GO Georgia titled "Budget with Purpose." See below for links to previous columns.

While I was a doctoral student at Southern Seminary, all of the guys in our cohort somehow ended up with a nickname. These nicknames were all in good fun and came about as we got to know one another better over the course of our studies together. Fittingly, my nickname was “Mr. Practical.” As long as I can remember I have been that person who looks for the practical application of a new skill or tool or a new book I was reading at the time. More on that in a moment.

Maintenence such as that to AC units are among those items that must be accounted for in church budgets, writes Chris Sanchez. GETTY/Special

Recently I have been writing about church budgets, spending philosophies, and most recently the use of a zero-based budget approach to constructing your church budget.  I said, “budgeting is about stewardship which involves making decisions about the strategy and ministry focus of the church we serve. Put simply, the church budget is a reflection of those stewardship decisions.” 

I also stated, “Zero-based budgets take more time but I believe provide churches with a better method of stewarding God’s resources, an annual review of the effectiveness of each of our ministries, and involves a great number of people that are closer to each area of ministry in the process.”

In my article about spending philosophies I mentioned evangelism, discipleship, personnel, and facilities and administration as the four major budget categories I use when constructing our church budget each year. The budgeting process for 2020 has already begun here and I hope you are getting started too! Here’s the practical part I mentioned: suggestions for the budget ratios for each of these categories, and some background.

Evangelism

One of the spending philosophies here is that we will generously support the Cooperative Program (CP), the Valdosta Baptist Association (VBA), and several other local ministries in our community. In addition, this is the category where funds for our mission department are budgeted. 

The church I am blessed to serve has a history of supporting CP, VBA, and missions and missionaries. This part of annual expenses is generally 10-15% of the budget.

Discipleship

The various discipleship ministries of the church fall into this category, which includes things like Education, Children’s & Student, College, Music, Hospitality, etc. In our church we even have a separate line item for Vacation Bible School, a program we are sure to generously fund.

Some churches have a Men’s Ministry and a Women’s Ministry budget and may also include a budget for Senior Adults. The discipleship ministries are those ministries that equip the body of Christ for ministry and are commonly 10-15% of the budget.

Personnel

Typically, the single largest expense in a local church is people. This should not come as a surprise since the church is not in the business of selling a product or manufacturing items. Churches do ministry such as the evangelism and discipleship ministries I just mentioned and that ministry is performed by individuals both paid and volunteer.

Personnel expenses can include salaries and housing allowances, health insurance and retirement contributions, Social Security and Medicare taxes, payroll taxes, and even life and disability insurance.  It is common for this to be 45-55% of the church budget. 

Facilities and administration

Every dollar spent on facilities and for administrative functions is vitally important to carrying out the ministry in the local church. Let’s face it, the power company has to be paid, the landscaping has to be kept up, occasionally the carpets have to be cleaned, and there is always something in need of repair around the church. The larger a church grows, the more there is to take care of. These expenses are a part of the budget that I work very hard to hold or even reduce as it leaves more funds available for other ministry. It is common for this to be 20-25% of the local church budget.

Budget ratios help to ensure that each category in your budget stays in balance with your overall church budget. No doubt, your specific ratios will vary but these ranges for each category have proved very helpful as our church has sought to be good stewards of the resources God has provided. I hope you find them helpful too!

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