Most church leaders have a general sense of budgets just based on household examples, e.g., “We have X amount for rent, Y amount for food, and Z amount for insurance.” As anyone who has run a household knows, setting and sticking to a budget is essential for long-term financial health. The same is true in ministry.
Yet there’s another side to budgets that we often don’t think about: tying budgets to goals. How do you make sure your money is going to the most important parts of your ministry that will truly help propel the whole organization forward? If you value outreach and have set your ministry goals around reaching the surrounding community, but you are spending ninety percent of your budget internally, that’s a budget/goal mismatch. Just like it is with people, if we look at how ministry organizations spend their money, we can see what is truly valued.
So don’t start by setting a budget. First, figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, then what that will cost. Put all the proposals together (from various staff people, if you have more than one area of ministry), and as a team prioritize what’s most important to the overall mission right now.
Then consider the worth of the goals themselves. Is the amount of investment (time, money, personnel) worth the potential return? Don’t just give money to staff members to put into their ministry. Have a clear goal for what they are supposed to accomplish with it. No goals equals no budget. Each staff person or ministry leader must be clear about what goals they’re supposed to accomplish with the funding they have.
To do a quick assessment of your ministry budget, try this 15-minute exercise:
- Pull out a copy of your current budget for reference.
- On a blank sheet of paper, create a three-column chart, with the column on the right being largest. Write down each major budget area in the left-hand column (e.g. youth group, music, etc.). Then in the center column write down the amount of money budgeted for that area. In the third column, write down the goal for that ministry area.
- Take note of any ministry areas with no goals. Take note of any goals with no budget.
- Pray for what may need to be adjusted.
What is truly important in the kingdom of God? That is what we should invest in. Consider the types of spending that will yield fruit and get the long-term results you are looking for.
If you found this exercise helpful, look for more practical ways to strengthen your ministry in my latest book, The Leadership Difference.