Often budgeting can digress into a time of mindless regurgitation of last year’s budgeted amount, when a pastor/director simply slides the amount in each line item over to a new budget or does some slight rearranging. However, it instead can be a time for robust discussion around mission and strategy. After all, your budget is a clear indication of your strategy. What you value as a ministry, you resource. Jack Welch once commented, “strategy is simply resource allocation.” You really can tell what a church values by looking at their budget.
As you budget, here are some questions to consider:
- What do you say are your church’s top priorities (discipleship, local missions, children, etc)?
- Does your budgeting reflect those priorities?
I remember one budgeting year when our Director of Operations pointed out the amount of money we were spending on air-conditioning costs. It was pretty high and only looking to escalate as Florida Power and Light were letting customers know of looming increases. In one sense we could articulate that the AC served the whole mission of the church. But in another sense, we wrestled with the possibility of funneling some of that expense to other areas. We were involved in local mission endeavors: financing a woman’s center that helped ladies choose not to abort, feeding the homeless meals on Sundays, etc. We figured that if we would raise the AC settings 2 degrees throughout the facility we could save more babies and feed more people. We did the same calculation on lights, and encouraged staff and leaders to think of the least of these in their monitoring of the AC and lights.
Looking at the budget through the lens of our stated priorities surfaced great discussions. Your budget should be a reflection of your stated strategy. If the two are not in harmony, your budget wins and your strategy is a nebulous statement with no traction. Align your budget to your strategy. Or admit that your strategy is merely wishful thinking.