Leading a ministry is an act of stewardship. Much of a ministry budget is dependent on generous donations by members of your church. Because of that, many ministries have a limited budget, especially in this recovering economy. We must be cautious how we spend what we are given.
Although many ministry leaders would agree with the paragraph above, most don’t enjoy dealing with budgets. Most of the time, our energy is spent on building relationships and creating great ministry experiences.
Budgets, as do many other administrative tasks, fall to the bottom of our list of priorities.
However, managing our budget well allows us to be more effective as ministers and to expand our ministry outreach. The better we manage our ministry finances, the better steward we become with what God has given us to use for our ministry.
One of the aspects of budgeting that ministry leaders have to be careful with is going over budget. I’ve gone over budget more times then I care to admit. I work hard to accurately plan my budget so as to be a good steward.
Here are 5 reasons your ministry goes over budget every year:
- My yearly goals are named AFTER the budget has been submitted. In my current ministry, our fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30. That means my budget for the following year is due in late February or early March. I have made the mistake of setting my budget early, but then waiting until my performance evaluation, which typically takes place in May, to set my new programmatic goals. Then I look back at my budget and realize there is no way I can accomplish my goals with the budget I submitted. Fortunately, there is a quick fix. I now set my new goals BEFORE the budget is due. I tell my money where to go, as opposed to my budget telling me what goals to accomplish.
- I don’t have an accurate plan of events and programs. Have you ever had a good idea in the middle of the ministry year that you wanted to implement, just to realize that your budget could not accommodate that fabulous idea? Unfortunately, ministry leaders are not necessarily well known for their long term planning. The more organized I am in my long-term planning, the better my budget can match my ideas.
- The budget is set by others. Ministry leaders have told me many times that they take no part in the budget planning process for the ministry they are responsible for. Some leaders have told me that they are lucky to even see a budget during the year. Others are told just to spend until they are told otherwise. None of these are good strategies and often lead to going over budget. Find out what your budget looks like and get involved in the process. You need to have input as to how you spend ministry money.
- I don’t bring in as much revenue as planned. I sometimes set ambitious goals to have a certain amount of people register for an event or program. Often times, I don’t meet that goal. That means I don’t bring in the revenues I thought I could bring in. Yet, I spend based on how much I thought I was going to raise. For me, I’ve had to learn to set more realistic goals and plan my budget accordingly. After having multiple programs go thousands of dollars over budget, I’ve learned this the hard way.
- I don’t accurately plan for the little expenses. Like what? Photocopies. Pens. Markers. Paper. Resources and books. These are the types of things that go overlooked in the budget planning process. For each program or ministry you oversee, think about the small expenses as well as the big ones.
Question: What are some of the reasons you go over budget?