The end of the year means it’s budget time. Preparing a budget can be tough sometimes, especially developing one that fits your philosophy of ministry. With the pressures of daily life in ministry, we can easily look at our budgets as dollars and cents rather than as tools to help us accomplish what it is we feel God wants to do. The quick and easy solution is just to put some rounded off numbers on the spreadsheet.
Each church has different ways of going about budgets. But, it’s important we look at budgets beyond dollars and cents. If we get stuck in this rut, we end up with a budget that limits us rather than frees us to do what it is we feel God’s calling us to do.
I’ve found that my answers to the following questions help guide my thoughts on how we’ll use finances to further ministry in the coming year:
- What do I say I value? It’s important to put money toward what you say is important to you. The inconsistency between words and actions, especially in the area of finances, can be a detriment to ministry. If we’re not willing to put money toward what we say we value, our words need to be rethought.
- If someone looks at my budget, what would that person say my priorities are? Remember, where you put your money will tell you what you value! Making sure your money is put toward what you hold as priority is crucial in accomplishing your goal. Too often budgets are contradictory to your words. If you say relationships are priority, your budget should clearly reflect that.
- What money did I spend last year that was poorly used? The reality is that hindsight is 20/20. It’s important to look back and see where the money was spent, and yet didn’t really help me accomplish what I wanted it to do. Look at all your balance sheets from 2008 and how much each event actually cost. Look through each part and determine whether or not that part was needed or effective.
- What money did I use that was truly an effective usage? All of us do things right-at least sometimes. It’s important to make sure you allocate funds that were used effectively in 2008 for your 2009 budget. But, it’s also important that you always evaluate the effectiveness of that again next year. Just because it worked in 2008 doesn’t meant it will work in 2009.
- How can I accomplish our goals for the least amount of money? A lot of times we spend money toward things that truthfully can be accomplished with far less money. From a stewardship perspective, we need to make sure we’re spending money where it’s necessary. Instead of doing the same retreats and events you always have, really think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish and if there are better ways of accomplishing that. I’ve found when I really think this through, there is a better way of doing things-and most of the time it even costs less, if any money at all.
- How will I measure our effectiveness in the area of finances? If we can’t measure whether or not our budget was effective this past year, we’ll end up just throwing out numbers blindly and unfaithfully. Having desired outcomes in sight will help us measure whether or not we’re being successful in our use of God’s money.
- What are the immediate needs we’re not currently meeting? We can often overlook these in budgets. It’s very easy to just keep the current line items, round the numbers up or down to make the bottom line make sense, and move on. Answering this question will greatly assist you in being effective with your money allocation.
- Can I stand in front of the church with a clear conscience and tell everyone how I’m using their tithes? If we cannot answer this positively, our budget needs to be rethought.