Budgeting can be a challenge, especially in a church setting where people aren’t keen on talking about money. Right now, your church may be experiencing financial challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic, or because congregation members are suffering from donor fatigue as more and more people and organizations ask for money. Or, maybe your church is full of cheerful givers who gratefully and faithfully share their resources. No matter where your church budget sits, think how exciting it would be to shed a scarcity mindset (“My resources are limited”) and adopt an abundance mindset (“There are endless opportunities to bless others”).
If you are a pastor, on consistory, or a church board member, you regularly re-evaluate your church’s budget. What would happen if the people in your congregation were giving out of genuine excitement for the mission of your church? What does it look like for the money to follow the mission? As you lead your church in stewardship and generosity, here are five ways to rethink your church’s budget, moving beyond minute line items and into greater kingdom impact.
1. Write a narrative budget
Most people in your congregation probably think of the church budget in this way: will this budget get our congregation where it needs to go? Can we afford it? Rather than looking at the line-by-line items, such as coffee and cookies provided after a worship service, try forming a narrative budget. Here’s how:
Pick half a dozen themes that are priorities for your church, such as mission, outreach, or worship. For each theme, write a compelling vision statement—why this is important to your church and what is accomplished through this ministry area. Then, give the specifics of where those dollars show up, including staff costs specific to the ministry area. For example, microphones and music licenses would be included and detailed as part of worship, as would any time that staff members devote to planning worship.
Narrative budgeting gives the full picture of what your church is spending in each ministry area. This way of reframing the budget highlights the vision, and then puts the dollars and resources behind what’s important to your church.
2. Reimagine the church budget to reflect kingdom values
“If our ministry plans and budgets tell a story, I wonder what story our community hears and sees through us,” writes Jodi Koeman, Church With Community coordinator for World Renew, who recently hosted the webinar “Re-imagining Church Budgets to Reflect Kingdom Values.” Giving is more than writing a check, she says; rather, it is an expression of true solidarity with others.
In the recorded webinar, guest speakers Andy Ryskamp, consultant for the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and Shayna Harvey, managing director of The Insight Advisory Group and associate pastor of Spirit and Truth Fellowship Church, discuss how and why churches plan for ministry and what we are called to do in church budgets, especially in uncertain times.
3. Mimic a co-vocational model (or, seek alternate funding)
This way of rethinking your church’s budget is a nod to the way that many church planters are doing and sustaining ministry. “For church planters nowadays, it’s becoming more common for them to start side hustles or businesses to help create streams of revenue to fund the ministry,” says Rudy Rubio, a church planter in Lynwood, California, who has opened a for-profit teahouse with his copastor to help build revenue, create jobs, and build relationships with the community.
Rubio and church planters like him are called “co-vocational” because they are called to both a pastoral position and a job (or two or three) in the marketplace. This model allows for sustainable ministry, removing financial strain from the church planter, their family, and the church plant itself. If the marketplace job provides the primary financial support for the church planter, more of the church plant’s resources can be used for mission and ministry.
Plus, holding a job in the marketplace is advantageous for community development and building relationships. “It’s serving the same community I’m trying to minister to, so it’s been a really cool bridge between my vocation—my full-time job as a pastor and church planter—as well as being a chaplain in Watts right next door,” says Rubio, who is also a hospital chaplain.
Want to rethink co-vocational ministry and “crack open the imagination”? Watch this video to discover more of the missiological and financial benefits of this multiple ministry model.
4. Right-size the church staff
Payroll for church staff is often a good portion of the church budget. If your church is facing financial challenges, then, the staff may be something you’re looking to adjust. This budget cutting is especially hard to do because it affects church members and their families. That’s why staffing decisions need “to be done with deep humility, much prayer, commitment to carrying out the call of God in your own particular context, and lots of pastoral care: for yourself, for the impacted staff members, and for the congregation as a whole,” says Jim Kitchens, a consultant for the Center for Healthy Churches.
Making your church staff the right size is not just cutting staff positions or reducing hours because of a need to diminish the church budget. Rather, it is an intentional process to ensure that the necessary people—with the appropriate talents and capacities—are on staff to help carry out your church’s mission.
5. Implement a strategy for overcoming financial challenges
As one pandemic year unfolds into another, financial challenges for individuals, families, and churches continue. And, for many churches, tight financial situations are never off the table. For times such as these, Michael Martin, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, has outlined nine strategies your church can use to overcome financial challenges so that the church budget does not prevent ministry.