When I first started in ministry, I had no idea how to deal with budgets. I didn’t really set a budget and I just spent money until my associate pastor told me I couldn’t. Needless to say, that was not an efficient way to run a ministry.
Although many ministers profess not to be gamblers, the way we manage our budget says otherwise. In fact, most of us don’t treat our budget the same way we treat our personal finances. We feel like our ministry budget is not really our money, so we act differently with it.
Don’t gamble with your budget. Here are 5 ways to take responsibility for your budget.
1. Ask your supervisor for a budget. When I first started in ministry, I didn’t see my budget. I think part of it was because I was young and didn’t know about budgets. Asking for a budget allows me to have greater ownership for my ministry. I begin to know what my events actually cost. Take responsibility for your budget. Don’t let someone else, who doesn’t know your ministry as well as you do, run your budget.
2. Ask for money in your budget and say why you want it. Sometimes I don’t even want to ask for the money because I think I won’t get it. However, I never know until I ask. I have often been surprised by what gets approved in my budget. If you think it is a worthwhile project to spend money on, then ask for it. If you have strong reasoning for why you are asking for it, sometimes that’s all it takes to get extra funds in your budget. Know exactly how much money you want for each project and be prepared to justify the cost. If you can’t justify the cost, don’t ask for the money.
3. See the total picture. You don’t really know what your total budget looks like unless you add your salary and benefits to it. Most ministers are surprised by how much health benefits, payroll taxes, and pensions actually cost. They add up. Just because you make $50,000 a year does not mean that’s all you cost the church. When it is budget season, ask your supervisor for the full numbers of what your ministry costs.
4. Review your budget regularly. At least once a month, review your actual expenses and revenues. If you are spending too much money, it’s better to know that in advance when you still have time to do something about it. If you wait until the end of the year to notice that you have overspent, your church budget ends in the negative for the year causing you to have less money in your budget the following year.
5. Find creative ways to bring money in. Budgets are not just about expenses. It is also about the revenue you bring in. When you find creative ways to bring money into your ministry, it allows you to do more with your ministry. I’m not a big fan of small fundraisers like bake sales and car washes. They are nice and they work. But you have to do a lot of these small fundraisers to bring in a decent amount of money. Instead of doing 10 small fundraisers a year, do one big event a year that will bring in a substantial amount of money. I used to put on a St. Patrick’s Day dinner dance and would raise about $10,000 in one night. I’d rather fundraiser once then multiple times a year. One caveat: make sure your fundraising is working in concert with how your church does stewardship and development. It is better for a church to have a unified plan then for each ministry to go off and do it’s own thing.
Too many of us are not well trained in budgets. To be successful ministers, we need to become efficient and effective stewards of the money that has been provided for our ministry.
What do you like or dislike most about budgets?