Editor’s note: Sanchez will be leading a breakout session at GO Georgia called “Budget with Purpose.”
I’ve had conversations with several executive/administrative pastors recently. And while the topics contained in those conversations were varied, I noticed that all of us are already doing some work on our budgets for the coming year.
With so many families in our churches celebrating the graduation of loved ones from high school or college in recent days, I don’t think I need to tell you that we’re about half way through the current year. Summer is a busy time in most churches, but it is also the right time to start thinking about the budget for next year.
In his recent book “Budgeting for a Healthy Church,” Jamie Dunlop argues “God’s goal for your church budget is that your congregation be found faithful in their calling to the Great Commission.” He makes the case that the church budget is a spiritual document in which pastors should be involved in developing.
Dunlop persuasively argues the budget is not simply about ensuring the staff and facilities expenses are paid. The budget is a mechanism we use to manage the finances of our churches as we seek to be God’s storytellers. Every congregation has a story to tell their community about how God has moved in and through their church over the years and how He continues to do so today.
Budgeting involves making decisions about the ministries the local church will carry out and those that will be left to other churches. That is to say that not every local church operates a food pantry or clothes closet, though some certainly do and carry out those ministries exceedingly well to the glory of God. Other churches have ministries that help the homeless while others utilize busy counseling ministries. Still others provide weekday childcare as some aid those seeking employment.
With so many ministry opportunities to consider, each local church must determine how their congregation will carry out the Great Commission. How will the ministries the church chooses to engage help further the mission of making disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe everything our Lord commanded us? The local church should be deliberate in which ministries it chooses to engage, considering how it supports the church’s plan to carry out the Great Commission. Not all churches will carry out the Great Commission in the same way.
If the church budget is a spiritual document, then it requires spiritual discernment. In “Church Finance: The Complete Guide to Managing Ministry Resources,” authors Michael E. Batts and Richard R. Hammar sat that “in addressing and expressing its own mission and purpose, a church must evaluate its own identity – its own calling.” As it determines its identity, the local church must ensure their ministries align with the mission of their church.
This is where the need for spiritual discernment becomes particularly evident and involvement of the pastor (or pastors) is needed in the budget’s development. After all, those are the men the church called because they met the qualifications for their office found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, including having spiritual discernment.
That brings me back to the title of this article. At its heart, 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. The process of articulating the mission and purpose of a local church can be time-consuming, but the resulting ministry plan and alignment between activities and mission is worth the investment.
Of course, there is much more to be considered. What is your church’s spending philosophy (believe it or not, your church has a spending philosophy!)? How much money should be set aside in reserve funds for your church? Should you use zero-based budgeting versus incremental budgeting (sometimes referred to as traditional budgeting)? How should your ministers and other staff be compensated?
These topics either do, or will, influence your budget. The good news is there are great people in our churches across Georgia who can help you as you consider them in future budgets.