As an accountant, I love a line item budget. It speaks to me as clearly as a short story, but I’m in the minority. The vast majority of people need to hear the story in order to understand the budget. They don’t need more numbers. How do you transform your budget into a meaningful story about how your church is and is planning to impact this world? That’s what I walk you through in this video.
A narrative budget is a lot of work. Is it worth it? If a narrative budget helps you align your budget to your mission and helps your congregants see how their giving is making a difference, what is that worth? That’s like hiring a leadership consultant mixed with a capital campaign consultant which would normally costs thousands.
Like individuals and families, the church also needs an emergency fund. Assuming that the Holy Spirit hasn’t told you specifically otherwise, not having an emergency fund doesn’t show your reliance on God. It shows your lack of respect for the work of God. Emergencies happen…COVID-19, flooding, fires, and tragedies happen. Do you care enough about Jesus Christ to prepare for the emergencies so ministry doesn’t have to go on hold while you scramble to respond? I walk through how to actually build an emergency fund.
The other danger is for these emergency funds to take on a life of their own. A lot of church trustees have a savings account or checking account that acts as an emergency fund. I’ve heard plenty of stories where the trustees abuse their control of these funds to try to control the mission of the church. That’s an issue that can be solved as well by getting clarity on the purpose and use of those funds. Sheri Meister of the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation addresses this in a recent webinar.
For those of you that are Dave Ramsey students, you probably appreciate the value of an Emergency Fund. This is useful when the car breaks down or you lose your job or if the furnace dies…in January. But what about those smaller emergencies that you haven’t planned for? When you have unexpected company and need to buy extra groceries or you finally run our of printer ink or the school fee you forgot about?
These aren’t exactly emergency-fund worthy so how do we care for them. Most churches just allow all their programming staff to pad their budgets to be prepared. Actually, if you’re the one program that fails to pad your budget, what do you do when the unexpected happens? I like Steve Stroope’s strategy of removing the padding and creating a simple process for when programs have an unexpected expense or opportunity. In this video, I illustrate the strategy:
For many churches, the program committees and staff worry about running the programs while the treasurer and finance committee worry about the money spent to run the programs. There is a constant tension here that isn’t altogether negative. Where it turns negative is when programming ignores the concerns of finance or finance ignores ignores the concerns of programming.
“People support what they help to create.”
Randy Hedge, Pastor of Madison UMC
That quote by Randy is key. How do you include the program committees and staff in the budget process? What are some helpful tips to getting good budget requests from these groups?
For too many churches, the budget is just an annual chore that we have to go through. The treasurer and/or the finance committee take charge and plug in numbers. The church board then approves it which is then approved at the annual meeting. For too many churches, the budget is also the annual reminder that we’re failing financially, and we don’t have a plan to turn it around.
If you don’t have a clear vision/mission for your church, that’s the first priority. The vision needs to be clear enough to where you can see how it should affect you financially. The budget then becomes the plan or assignment for each dollar to move us one step closer towards realizing that vision. It’s no longer a chore. It’s a vital part of the work.
If you watched the previous videos, the problem with the traditional church governance is clear…to you. Also, the solution of the Single Board Governance is clear…to you. But you need to remember that pushing for change, even good common sense change, is hard and often dangerous. Kermit Culver has over 40 years of experience in leadership, and he does a great job in describing the dangers and strategies in pursuing a change like this.
In the previous video, Kermit Culver talked us through the issues with the traditional church governance…where you have 20 committees each with 10 members. One of the issues with this is no one knows who is in charge or how an actual decision gets made. How do you replace all these committees with just one? What does that actually look like? Kermit does a great job explaining how his church restructured and how it actually works.