Going on holiday is always best when we have made proper preparations. Holidays  can be a lot of fun and we certainly expect to enjoy ourselves when we are at the holiday destination or on tour.

When we arrive there is a real sense of  fulfilment for all the preparations that have been put into getting there. No matter what type of holiday – whether a short weekend break, a week or two away in the country or at the beach, or the extended international holiday, there is always some form of preparation.

I know some people who get excited in the preparation – searching for places to go,  searching for accommodation and the transport for how they will get there. At the same time it is essential to prepare a budget – costs per day, including all spending, accommodation, fares, meals, and so the list of spending goes. Then the holiday is simply relaxation – before planning the next adventure.

Stewarding and managing the finances of our churches is just like a holiday – although many people don’t quite think of it like a holiday. In this regard we are referring to the planning, preparation and participation in the ministries and activities that make up the financial management of the church.

Just as it essential to plan and prepare for those holidays, it is essential to plan and prepare for the life and work of our churches. When the planning is done well then the ministries and activities can be enjoyed to their fullest.

What are the best ways to plan, prepare with a budget for your church?

Here are 10 points to help you prepare your next church budget. These points apply no matter the size of the church in terms of numbers of people or amount of the budget. Preparation is a matter of only a matter of detail and complexity – just like those holidays.

1. How are you going until now for 2018? How are you compared with the budget?
What lessons can we learn from this period that we can use as we consider the next period?

2. At the same time what lessons do we have in scripture to learn from about how to plan and budget?

Here is some scripture that teaches us clearly, and of course there are plenty more examples:

Luke 14: 28-31. Jesus speaking to the people, “For who would construct a house/tower before first sitting down to estimate the cost to complete it? Otherwise they may lay the foundation and not be able to finish. The neighbours will ridicule them, saying, ‘Look at them! They started to build but couldn’t complete it!’

“Have you ever heard of a commander who goes out to war without first sitting down with strategic planning to determine the strength of his army to win the war against a stronger opponent?” (TPT)

3. The starting point has to be the Vision of the church and how the next period is part of that Vision. Where are we going as a church?

What do you want to achieve in this next period towards that longer term vision?

The answer to these basic questions is generally referred to as “the strategy”. What is the strategy for your next budget period?

Be sure the strategy is in writing and available for the people who will be preparing the budgets.

4. The next point is to bring together the planning and budgeting team.

At this juncture it is important to consider carefully who will be involved in this process because there are so many aspects of the life of the church community that will be touched and impacted. 

Our experience at Benkorp, in relating with hundreds of churches who go through this process, highlights how essential it is to have very appropriate people involved. A meaningful and effective budget can only be prepared by involving a team of people with a variety of skills and connecting with a wide cross-section of the church ministries and activities. A budget is only a collection of monetary numbers when it is calculated by one or two people in the rush to prepare the annual accounts for presentation of reports at a meeting. It is exactly the same as that holiday – if the planner does not confer with the holiday-makers then it is highly probably to be a miserable holiday.

Having gathered the team it is time to start the preparation.

5. The obvious point here is to identify what resources will be required to implement the strategy?

Consider all the various aspects of the church-life of your church, every department, ministry, building and other physical assets, and how they fit together to form your church’s ministries – make lists. Consider all the people involved including staff and volunteer leaders – more lists. Consider the giving, which is the source of funding – tithes, offerings, special giving for new missions or campus expansions – more lists. These lists are important because they form a picture of the resources that your church has available already, before you enter the next budget planning period.

6. The next point is essential as it can raise real challenges for the planners because the issues will have significant impact on the budget preparation.

How do these resources match, or not match, with the resource requirements to progress the strategy?

Where there are gaps in the resources required compared with resources available then the plan must address the resourcing of all required resources.

7. The outcome from this review is to determine how the resources will be sourced and allocated for the planning period ahead. Sourcing includes funds as well as people, and both will require costing so that the budget can be prepared.

Remember that we are talking about a church community, and not a form of corporation. Therefore, we need to be sensitive to the ministry priorities of dealing with the already available resources, especially the people. It is necessary for the strategy, finance and budgeting teams to be alert to any pastoral issues and pass them to the appropriate ministries. I have been involved in situations where a person discovered about changes in their ministry, planned through the budget process, from meetings and news bulletins. It is very sad for finance and planning people to get so “carried away” with their planning that they lose perspective of the affects on people’e lives. Please be careful.

Having collected all the details of how the plan and budget will support the strategy, then the team will be ready to begin formulating the budget.

8. The outcome from this next stage is a draft budget which must be considered a “first pass budget”. It is not aimed to cause alarm or shock at the net results. The aim is to give the strategy some meaning in monetary terms. 

Again it is the same as our holiday analogy. Unless you look at the big picture, the best type of holiday that the person/family can consider appropriate, then you will never know whether you can take that holiday now or even in the future. You will simply settle for less than the best possible holiday.

The next point is an important lesson for many people who have not been prepared to give the planning and budgeting for their Church community the serious attention described in this article.

9. With all this information how can the team prepare a final budget?

This point is about iteration. This means reviewing and editing the first pass draft  budget through as many scenarios as necessary to come to a final budget. The final budget must be agreeable for the team and worthy of submission to the relevant committees and councils of the church as is required.

Recently we heard of a church community (with whom we are connected through a close friend) that has decided to take some radical steps in a strategy that is radically different from the journey the church had been on during their first 10 years. After a fresh Vision was introduced by the senior minister they setup teams with processes to strategise, plan and budget. Now they are at the implementation stage.

Of course there maybe items in the strategy cannot be funded and so there will have to be prioritising of what is necessary and what will have to wait until another budget period. The final iteration will result in the final budget ready to present to the relevant groups and committees and eventually the church community.

10. It will be the measure of an effective planning and budgeting process that these points are followed for an outcome that enlivens the church community into the overall Vision. The team must be pastoral in sensitivities and professional in financial management.

Be one of the people who are excited in the preparation of your church’s planning and budgeting, there will be great outcomes for the whole community.

People of your church community will want to participate in any and all of the ways that each person and family can best contribute to the Vision when it is supported by effective strategy and planning.

For assistance with your church planning and budget process, or help for your strategy team, contact the Benkorp team

© Benkorp Management Services Pty Ltd 2018