Many of the crashes that happen during the church budgeting process happen because lines of authority are unclear or are inappropriate. Clarifying who does what, when is vital to the process. Here are the roles I’ve found work the smoothest for a typical church in which you have ministers, elders and some sort of finance team.

Elders. To set the overall spiritual direction of the church and provide the “ends” to which the church aims. They also ask “major” questions and sign off on the finished product.

Finance Team. Their role is to project fixed costs, expected costs, and what we can reasonably expect to come in the offering plate. Granted, that number is dynamic and difficult to project with precision. I ask them for a financial estimate…not the faith estimate. We get to the faith part later. Having that objective number helps me know what’s “faith” and what’s insanity. Finance teams usually have financial people on board who are a huge help compiling this information. I also seek their help in coming up with the year’s stewardship plan (i.e., spiritual formation of generosity and ways to raise resources to fund ministry). This keeps a ministry mindset in the room.

Ministers. To make decisions as to what money should be spent on what. Some may ask, why the ministers? They are on the ground in the ministries. They work most closely with the people who lead ministries and see their work up close. They have time, training, and expertise. Also, like it or not, in a typical elder-led church they will be held responsible for the results of the spending decisions made. Accountability and responsibility should match.

Having these three teams working together well is vital to the process. That will require both clarity of roles and strong relational chemistry. Chemistry without roles gets muddy. Roles without chemistry gets bloody.

The roles above assume you have capable ministers and elders that have a clear spiritual direction. I’ve seen cases where the elders are more capable and the minister has the sense of direction. It’s OK to flip the roles. Whatever the case, have the people who are equipped spiritually and with the capabilities required making the decisions they are equipped to make. I’m a little different in how I see this issue than some. I believe it’s the responsibility of church leaders to make sure the best people are making the best decisions, regardless of title–provided they are supported by those with titles.

What do you think?