Making Tough Church Budgeting Decisions

Rock and hard place-thumb-570xauto-99

If you have clear mission and roles for those involved in the budget process, making tough decisions about how to allocate the church’s resources is easier, but it’s still tough. All of the ministry a church is involved in is good. Saying no is difficult no matter what. However, wise churches will learn to say no when they have to. Here are some spending principles that have served me well over the years.

  • Feed the geese first. The geese are staff, key local ministry and leadership development. Like it or not, Missions and Benevolence depend on the geese. Starve the geese and ultimately you’ll starve your missionaries and the poor as well.
  • Feed the baby geese second. Baby geese are ministries that are growing like crazy.
  • Feed missions and benevolence through special offerings/designated giving. There are many reasons for this. The two biggest are: you’ll raise more money and it gives you a chance to better highlight the ministries in the course of raising the money.
  • Those who overspend their budgets (especially without good cause) aren’t rewarded with more. They will tend to get less money allocated. This isn’t punitive. It’s to get them in line with where the church needs their spending to be.
  • I’m a fan of sunsetting ministries that produce sideways energy or high drama in the church rather than cutting 10% across the board. Budget cuts are an objective way to provide a nice Christian burial to ministries that need one.
  • If you must choose between funding one ministry over the other, it’s also wise to ask two practical questions: which most fully advances the church’s Kingdom mission? and, Which ministry leader we believe in more?
  • Build in some contingency and some savings. Roughly, 10% contingency, 5% savings. If you need to cut, start with contingency. Rather than put in a 10% contingency budget line, we budget the amount over all the ministries and allow ministries to spend their money up to the contingency point. After that, they need authorization.
  • Avoid the illusion of thinking Jesus likes all ministries the same, or that He only cares about certain ministries. It’s amazing how much Jesus’ views resemble those of the one making his/her case for their ministry 😉
  • Money is given fundamentally to be spent wisely for God’s purposes, not saved. Remember the Parable of the Talents.
Thoughts?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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