Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Budgets....the long season

I have a love-hate relationship with church budgets. They are absolutely necessary to chart where church priorities and ministries need to go. A budget is primarily a theological document for that most tense item: money.
Most churches I have served followed a traditional January-December fiscal calendar with a mid-January annual meeting to vote in new officers and to approve a new budget. The new budget is based on the actual receipts from the year just passed. One church voted to shift the budget year to the program year: August to July. That made things much easier for staff and officers, but it missed out on the year-end push to meet the budget that aligned with members' tax status. It also was out of sync with other not for profits that made appeals for members' dollars while the church sat quietly mid-budget.
The crunch that I see is that making budget plans during November and December is one of the most stressful times for church leaders, who have their own family priorities and work responsibilities in addition to the long meetings sorting through line items and projected income. In 30 years of pastoring, these last two years have been some of the most trying with the economy in the condition it is and the push to go leaner and leaner.
I'd be interested in hearing from others out there, lay leaders and pastors, on your perspective. Have you discovered best practices for budget building that don't sap the energy out of leaders and staff? Does any church build a multi-year budget?


At 11:18 AM , Blogger m squared said...

I've always thought the budget was a lousy representation of priorities. The term 'Financial Mission Statement' (FMS) just doesn't work for me. The problem is that people often equate larger budget items with larger priorities. While this relationship says something... the size of a budget item isn't always related to it's priority if we were to actually prioritize everything. For this reason, I think churches can become hostages to their budget and things that seem to become annual 'fixed' costs that leave little money for higher priorities. I think a FMS or even better a Church Mission Statement (CMS) should drive the budget process -- not the other way around. By CMS, I don't mean the pithy phrase or statement from the business world. There may be value in that but I'm thinking of a document that indicates what is important to a church and provides direction throughout the year. IOW, when there's a surplus or shortage, the CMS guides decisions on how to proceed. Does a budget do that? The CMS shouldn't be limited to money. It should speak to the way we spend our time, effort and other resources. Furthermore, just because something is identified as a high priority doesn't necessarily mean it's related to a large budget item (or even a single item).

At 8:35 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...



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