Budgets can bring out the best and worst of a congregation.
Budget meetings can be a place for conflict especially when money is tight or when one ministry is pegged against another for money. Some ministries take a government approach – If you had $1,000 last year, you automatically need another $1,000 even if you didn’t spend the $1,000. There is fear and a scarcity mindset. Many churches struggle as they have to keep cutting, while others do not even bother with a budget. Just pay as you go is the motto.
However, a budget can be a great statement of faith. A budget puts forth a plan created through faith and prayer for what the ministry will need in the upcoming year. A budget is also a guide that measures our investment in outreach and discipleship. Budgets can be exciting and help give focus and unity to the church’s mission.
Whether you like them or not, budgets are a necessary and important part of the ministry and need our attention. The top concern for a budget is not the numbers but the spirit and the process. I said budgets bring out the best and the worst. The process reveals strongholds, idols, faith, one’s own stewardship, etc. This is why I say the process is more important than numbers. The budget process gives insight into where our people are spiritually, as well as opportunities for us to equip them. I have found that many people do not budget in their personal lives. They are not equipped to budget. Therefore, they tend to have a scarcity mindset and want to control or decrease spending. They generally have not experienced how God provides beyond what they expect. My point is that you need a process to equip the people and not assume everyone knows how to budget.
You also need to prioritize your ministry plan before you budget. A budget should reflect priorities, not be the place that sets priorities. It is easier to discuss priorities when money is not involved. When a price tag comes, it is easy to shift away from the priority. Some shifting may happen, but that is often a refinement rather than a major change.
The budget process needs to be led by Jesus and the mission He has given to the congregation – not led by the dollars. When we put dollars first, we put Jesus in the back seat. We need Jesus especially in times like now. Some churches have adopted a three-budget approach. They have a plan for if God brings an increase and a plan if God brings a decrease. Planning now will take the stress and high emotions away as you follow Jesus and navigate these times.
If you need help putting together a ministry plan or budgeting, please reach out.
by: Rev. Jason Scheler, Mission Executive of the LCMS Southern District