Recently a Senior Pastor friend of mine attempting to lead his church of 180 in growth asked if I had any thoughts I could share with his governing board about crafting an effective budget for their church.
Since I know this is something many of you are thinking about right now, I thought you might appreciate listening in on the conversation.
Dear Governing Board,
I appreciate you asking my advice.
Here are eight things to keep in mind when budgeting for the growth of your church:
1. Growing churches always budget to last year’s income.
That means if you took in $168,000 last year, then that’s the total amount you budget for the following year. Increases in giving are placed in reserves.
2. Growing churches under 400 always hire part-time worship and part-time children’s staff before they hire a secretary.
We were 320 as a church before we had our first paid part-time secretary. I’d suggest splitting your $9000 a year salary for your secretary and hiring a very part-time worship minister for $4500 a year and a very part-time children’s staff member for the same. Both will fuel growth. As I say to guys I coach, “Never underestimate the power of $50 a week to motivate a gifted college kid or stay-at-home mom to deliver a superior performance.” I have 12 full-time people on my ministry staff and most started this way.
3. Growing churches keep expenses low but put together aggressive plans for income growth.
I would suggest reading my article on increasing giving. If you encouraged your Minister to lead the charge in implementing some of these changes (particularly online giving – we at CCV receive 50% of our giving through online giving) you will experience at least a 10–15% income growth by year’s end. That’s no exaggeration.
4. Growing churches budget 5% of their overall budget for marketing and outreach events.
Skip this at your own peril.
5. Growing churches run back-to-back Capital Campaigns that bring in an additional 1-3x’s the annual budget over three years.
Given the excellent facilities you already have in place (light-years ahead of other churches), a few key investments in your website, sign, exterior signage, branding, and way-finding graphics would completely transform your campus and make it the inviting place on the outside that you know and love on the inside. So, for instance, if you ran a Capital Campaign you could net an additional $170,000 to $300,000 over three years. Not knowing the depth of the giving units at your church I’d tend to guess on the lower end, near $170,000.
6. Growing churches do not plan for an even distribution of income across all 12 months.
They do the mental elbow grease necessary to know, for instance, historically, if you took in $170,000 last year, what percentage of it came in January? February? March? Each month of the year? If, for instance, 12% of the total budget was given in January, then you can only plan 12% of your upcoming budget to be spent in the upcoming January’s budget. Figure that for each month of the upcoming budget’s year. Since giving is cyclical, so should be your expected income and expenses.
7. Given point #6, Growing churches manage their budgets NOT by whether they meet their budgets every week, but by whether their reserve funds target is met at the end of each month.
When you budget, showing monthly income and expenses across a 12-month income/spending plan, you want to show at the bottom of each month your expected reserve. Manage to THAT number. That is priority #1. If you projected to receive 12% of your income during January, but only received 10.5%, then that obviously affects what your targeted reserve balance should have been at the end of that month.
Yes, managing expenses is key too, but not as important as managing your cash reserve balance. Here if we don’t hit our targeted reserve balance the congregation hears about it immediately.
As leaders, don’t make the mistake of huddling in a room and worrying yourselves sick over the finances. Be completely transparent and make everyone aware of the situation. Sagging offerings are ALWAYS a symptom of (a) lack of strong biblical teaching on giving two times a year and (b) a lack of vision-casting.
If you stand up and tell the congregation that you are short, tell them what you want to do with their money. Tell them how you can’t do certain things they want to see happen because they’re not giving. Dream with them out-loud. Get them excited about the potential result of their gifts.
8. Growing churches plan their income model based on last year’s giving, but they expect to grow 5-10% every year.
Because of that they’re thinking about this year’s budget, next year’s and the following years budget at the same time. “We’ll hire this position, then do this project, and then hire this position, and support that mission, and that, and that, and that.” Our tasks as Ministers and governing board members is to go out to the future, three years away, get a clear look at what will be happening, and then come back and tell our people about it.
Hopefully this helps. It’s an honor to get in the trenches with you all.
Senior Pastors – what other encouragement would you give to church leaders creating their budget?