Church Budgets: Why Are They Important?

I don’t remember any course in Bible College or in Seminary where I was taught about Church Budgets, yet every year, I have to work with my Board, and then with my Church Members to build a Budget we can agree on for the next year. So I thought I would put out a couple of my thoughts on church Budgets. The points below aren’t in any specific order.

1. Budgets help determine how much money you expect to need for the year

Every church, like every family or business, has certain things that have to be paid every year, like utilities or mortgages. You need to make sure that you know how much it will cost to run your facilities. You need to know how much it will cost to put on your programs or run your ministries. 

Along with the things that you have little say on and just have to pay, are the things that you can dream about and wish for. Maybe you want to upgrade facilities. You can budget that over a year or more, but it helps to know how much you need. Maybe you have some specific costs involved with your Children’s ministry as you buy curriculum or even put on a Children’s weekend. You will need to know how much that will cost. You need to know what you expect to do and how much it will cost in every part of your church life. That becomes your budget.

2. Budgets should reflect how much income you expect

Once you have determined how much you have to spend as well as how much you would like to spend, you need to see how this matches up with the reality of your projected income. While there must be an aspect of faith that God will provide what you need, you also need to recognize how much money you can realistically expect to have come in from your offerings. If you have been tracking things, you can check back on last year’s income and make a good projection from that.

Your income must be the same or higher than your budgeted expenses or you will be in trouble. You will have to either reduce your wish list, or increase your income in some way. But these have to match with each other.

3. Budgets help determine where or how money that comes in will be spent

Your budget helps you know how to designate your money. By building the budget  you have determined what is needed for every aspect of you church. Now direct the money to those specific things. Don’t just spend it on any whim that you, your board, or your church may have.

4. Budgets are guidelines, not ruleswebsite-budget-factors

Budgets are “best guesses”. This means you do your work on figuring out what you expect will come in and what you expect will need to go out, along with faith that God will provide for the things he wants to have happen in and through your church. But these cannot be “rules”. If you budget $2000 for utilities but your furnace dies and it costs more than the budgeted amount, you still need to get the furnace. If a certain ministry has $600 in its budget, but it realizes that it may cost $675 to do what they wanted, then there may have to be some leeway on what is needed. It would be wise for the leaders of that ministry to check with the board to see if this will be a problem. Obviously you cannot spend money you don’t have – at least you shouldn’t. But the Leadership Board should have the freedom to adjust the budget a little as you go. You should stick to it as closely as you can, but be open to discuss changes if necessary.

5. Budgets are best put together by the people or ministries or departments directly affected by them

I like to have the leaders of the different ministries work through what finances they expect they will need for the coming year. That way they will know what they have allotted to them and will not just think the Board came up with an arbitrary number out of nowhere. Help the leaders think through what their costs will be. Help them see that some ministries could also have ticket sales or donations that counter some of the costs. 

6. Budgets should reflect your vision and goals

Budgets should reflect what you believe is important for your church. If your vision is focused on youth, you probably should have a significant portion of your budget going to youth. If you have certain goals you have set as a church, and these goals include certain costs, that should be clear from the Budget. Your money should go where your dreams and visions and goals are.

Just a few of my thoughts. Enjoy dreaming and then planning with good communication and by faith in God. God will always fund the ministries that He wants to take place in His timing.

 

 

Encouragement – I Need It, I Love It, I Don’t Do Enough Of It!

Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting the local ministerial. Actually, all the ministers are from then next town north of our little town of Carseland. I’m the only one from my town, but we take turns meeting at everyone’s church,so they all drive out of their town of 13,000 and come down to our community of 650 to meet for our monthly meeting in my little church. That in itself is an encouragement to me.

But one lady Encouragement Cardcame in and gave me an envelope from her senior pastor he was not able to attend. I was curious, thinking it was maybe a late Christmas card, but it wasn’t! It was an encouragement card. This pastor, whom I haven’t been able to get to know all that well as he is a little newer, and who couldn’t make it to the meeting went out of his way to hand write a not of encouragement to me! And it wasn’t just something generic.

Glenn wrote, “…over the last couple of months from multiple people I’ve heard of the depth of your character, genuineness of your commitment and the quality of ministry in Carseland.” Wow! He added  a few more things, but that really lifted me up.

I love to be encouraged. I need it. But I know I don’t do enough of it. We all need someone to tell us that they appreciate us and love us and think we are doing a good job. Hopefully my little celebration of my encouragement might encourage you and I to do more of that for others!

A Church Prayer Plan

I decided to apply something I was preaching on. I know…novel idea, right?

I was preaching from 1 Chronicles 13-16. This is a text about King David bringing the ark of God back to Jerusalem. The ark has been captured by the Philistines, been brought back into the land of Israel, and then basically ignored for the last 20 years throughout the reign of King Saul. There are two verses that really stuck out to me. Chapter 13: 4 says, “the whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to the people.” In chapter 15: 13 we read, “It was because you, the Levities, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of him about how to do it in the prescribed way.”

The people all agree that bringing up the ark is a great idea, but they don’t do it in the prescribed way and Uzzah dies. When the try again and have the Levities carry it in the proper manner, everything goes well.

The difference is what happens is that this time they have “inquired of the Lord”.

Our Elders Board is meeting in 3 weeks to evaluate and prayerful dream about what we should do as a church. I felt that God was reminding me, “this is what you need to do with your church. You need to inquire of the Lord together and not just rely on your human wisdom.” Probably good advice.

Prayer-Banner

So I called our church to three weeks of prayer and fasting as we inquire of the Lord regarding our direction and our future. I am asking the congregation to fast and pray for the next three Thursday lunches. Those who are able are invited to join me at the church as we fast and pray. Others are encouraged to stop and pray during their workday. On the final Thursday we will also meet for a prayer night. I’m trying to communicate a few prayer suggestions and hear from the congregation as well.

I don’t know if you have been hesitant to try an ongoing prayer emphasis, but I would encourage you to try it. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated or challenging, but there is something right about inviting the church into an extended time of corporate prayer.

May we grow closer to God as we pray!

I hate the word “busy”.

busyIt’s been a while since I blogged again. It’s been one of those “busy” times. I don’t even like the word. Yes, I have had a full schedule. I have worked with my church to plan and put on a wonderful Easter Eggstraganza that reaches out to many community people. I have been part of planning our next round of Rural Church Pastors Network events that are starting this next week. I have just attended a great Biblical Exposition Workshop. I have had a number of medical appointments in the last while again. I have had ongoing issues with my computer and finally just got it to print last week after not being able to do so for about a month or so. I have had meetings with people in the church and in the community. I have had car issues to fight with. And on and on.

We all find things to fill our life. We call it being “busy”. I would rather call it “having a full schedule”. When I hear the word busy it sounds negative. I don’t want people in my church to ever think I’m too “busy” to spend time with them. I don’t mind telling people I have a full schedule, because I do – and I should. While we were meant to have sabbath rests, we were meant to be living our lives in connection with people and the world around us. We weren’t meant to be doing nothing with our life.

A full schedule is good. The main thing is to make sure that we are in control of our schedules and are not just running at a fast pace because of the expectations of others. We need to realize that WE decide what we do with our day. As a small church pastor I have a lot of flexibility with my schedule. There are certain expectations that the church has of me, and rightly so. I need to be ready for the service on Sunday. I need to make sure my sermon is ready and well prepared. I need to make sure that I am looking after the general affairs of the church and encouraging people. Yet I have a lot of freedom in what I do when and with whom I meet where. I need to be in charge of my schedule.

My problem is that I love to be involved in many things. I like serving my church. I enjoy serving in my community. I am privileged to be part of the leadership team for the Rural Church Pastors Network. And I have access to wonderful courses and workshops that I believe will be enjoyable for me and contribute to me being a better me and doing a better job with all that is expected of me.

But I would never want people to think that I’m too busy for them or too busy to lead the church well. A full schedule that we are purposefullly and prayerfully filling is good, but let’s make sure we are never too “busy” to meet with the people we care about the most.

Can’t Wait For You to Get Induced!

Some years ago, a fellow pastor was joking with me about his upcoming Induction Service. In their church, when a new pastor came to the church, they would have the denominational leadership come to lead the service. His church knew that the date had been set and they were looking forward to it. One lady came up to him and said: “I can’t wait for you to get induced!”

Some churches have Installation Services when a new leader steps into his role. This pastor’s denomination called it an Induction service. Sometimes Christian leaders are Commissioned as they step into their role.

I think we should be doing this for our leaders in our church, not just the pastoral staff. We need to celebrate that we have godly individuals willing to give of their time and energy to serve. In our smaller rural congregations we know that we often don’t have many people willing and qualified to take on a leadership role, so we value those who do it year after year.

How do you celebrate your leaders? One of the ways I’m planning on doing this is by having a specific Commissioning Service for our church’s new Elders on Sunday as part of our Worship Service. I’m attaching a copy below. If it is helpful, feel free to use it.

COMMISSIONING OF ELDERS CEREMONY

Pastor’s Statement

 Our church functions under the leadership of an Elders Board. That Elders Board consists of a Pastor – who is hired – and some Elders – men who are prayerfully nominated and elected. These men are just that – men. That’s not a bad thing… What I mean is this: they are not super human and super spiritual men. At the same time we have asked God to lead and guide our process to determine the right men to lead us in this next year. Part of that process does include expecting that the men who we elect are men who love God with their whole hearts and who desire to be led by the Holy Spirit as they give leadership under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

 Our ceremony today will include a couple of statements to our new Elders. It will include a statement to you, our church family. And then we will invite the past elders to come and to pray for our new elders, laying hands on them as they do so.

 No, we don’t think there is anything magical about laying on of hands, yet at the same time there is a symbolism of passing on the torch, passing on the gift of the Holy Spirit to these new leaders. There are a number of times that this symbolism was practiced in scripture and so we will continue that this morning.

 Charge to Elders

Will you make it your priority to live in daily communion with God through regular time in Scripture and in prayer? Will you live in daily obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit? And will you lead this congregation as its servants, striving to be examples of Christ in the midst of those whom He has set you as leaders?

Response: “I Will”.

 Charge to Congregation (please stand)

Church family, will you pray for these men, will you follow their leadership, and cooperate with them in the direction they believe God is leading us?

Response: “I will”.

 Prayer by Past Elders (lay hands on and pray for)

Is Tithing For Pastors?

In my reading through the Bible plan I stumbled across the following verses from Numbers 18: 25-26:

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering.

So the people of God were to tithe. A tenth of everything was to go to God, given to the Levites. But then the Levites were to also give a tithe from those tithes! It was their income like everyone elses, and they were to give a tenth of that to God in the same way that any other average person was supposed to.il_fullxfull.328187965

I know that some of you will think that there is no connection, but it makes me think of pastors who think they do not need to tithe or give offerings to God. I believe the Bible makes it clear all the way through that God wants us to give at least a tenth of our income to Him and to His work. I as a Pastor have to also do the same with my income from the church. If there were ten tithing families and the pastor received an income that was the average of those tithing families, and if the pastor also tithed, then not only would you have the pastor’s income paid for but would already have some money for ministry. Any extra tithing families would then just increase the amount of ministry that your church could pay for.

But the real point here is, even the Levites were to tithe. Even the pastor should tithe. A pastor can’t say, “well I don’t get paid what I should get paid so I won’t tithe.” It doesn’t matter what we get paid, we need to show that we trust God to provide by tithing from our income. Some think, “I’m giving so much of my time to the church, I don’t need to tithe.” So what? It’s your job. Your time you are giving to the church has nothing to do with whether you tithe or not. Your tithe is over and above your normal service.

Tithing is a reminder to us pastors that we too want to honor God. We too trust that he can provide our needs even though we regularly give a large amount to the church. And as we tithe, it is an example to others. We can then preach on tithing with more boldness because we are doing what we are preaching about.

Do you tithe?

The Blessing of a Praise Offering!

My church has a great tradition that started before I arrived, in fact, I think it came from the mother church that planted us back in 1996. Every October we receive a Praise Offering and have a special Praise Sunday. This is a Sunday dedicated to Praise. We read Praise Psalms. We wrote praises on large posters on the side of the room. We sang praise songs. And took up a Praise Offering that was over and above our regular tithes and offerings each week or month. All this was followed by a great lunch together!

Our Praise Offering this Sunday brought in $15739.60, that’s about 11% or 12% of our total budget in one Sunday!! (and people can still add to that total over the next few weeks if they want) But our hope is not to need any of it for our General Fund Budget. We want to give at least a tithe (ten percent) of the Offering to something outside of ourselves. Here is how we are designating it:

  1. $850 goes to sponsor a nursing student in Africa who is going to use her training to move to an unreached part of her country
  2. $2000 will be given to a church plant we are part of. They had their first public service this past Sunday.
  3. $2000 will be set aside to find ways to “love on” our community or people in our community over the next year
  4. We will use what we need to cover Budget shortfall as there often is as we get to the end of the year
  5. The remainder will be put in our Building Project Fund

Everyone is always excited when those counting the money bring the little post-it-note with the total to me and I announce it as they are finishing up their lunch. This year again, there was great Praise even in the result of the Praise Offering.

How Can You Walk Away from Your Ordination?

I just had the privilege of meeting the pastor I will be mentoring in his ordination over the next 2 years. I enjoyed meeting him and am excited to walk with him in his journey. In the process I looked through our denominational paperwork regarding the whole issue of ordination and the requirements pastors have to complete.

As I was going through this material, I began to think of the many pastors I know, who were ordained and now are doing anything but pastoring a church or working in a specific mission or ministry. And I wondered: “How do you walk away from your ordination?”

I understand Ordination to be a recognition by a local congregation and the denomination they are part of, that the person being ordained has been called and gifted by God to serve as a spiritual leader – a pastor. This is a process determined over some time and affirmed through the person’s ministry over that period. God has called you and gifted you for this role. You have acquired the necessary skills and developed spiritually. Your congregation and Elders agree that you are called by God to be a pastor. You have passed the rigorous testing and requirements of the ordination process.ordination

And so I know of pastors who served one church, two churches, or even more. And then they decide to drive a bus or become a carpenter. How do you walk away from God’s calling? How do you walk away from who God called you to be and what He called you to do? Isn’t that what is happening? Maybe I’m seeing this incorrectly?

While ordination is a “human process”, I really believe that God has put a special calling on those who are ordained as pastors. How do we walk away?

An “I’ve Been Everywhere…” Day

Rural ministry often overlaps to surrounding communities. This was one of those days. It made me think of that old song, “I’v been everywhere man, I’ve been everywhere”.

Saturday begin with me being at the Church Office in Carseland before 7 am so I could do some last minute bits of work for the weekend. By 8:30 I was in Strathmore for a breakfastCarseland area map meeting. A little before 10:00 I was on the road to Calgary to do a hospital visitation. Luckily the person was in a hospital on my side of the city. At about 11:10 I left the hospital to head back to Carseland so I could get dressed for a wedding. I got home about 12:15. I tried to sit down for a 15 minute rest, then got dressed and headed out the door to do a wedding just south of Champion on the bride’s farm. The backyard wedding ceremony went great, followed by the receiving line and then we left in between the ceremony and the reception to drive another 45 minutes south to see my Mom and Dad in Lethbridge. We had exactly an hour with them before we had to leave to head back to the wedding reception at the Champion Hall. We enjoyed a great dinner and some speeches and left around 9:30. We got home just after 10:30. What a day!

And it’s interesting the variety of ministry I did that day. The office work first thing was finalizing the wedding as well as the sermon for the next day. Breakfast was with a man who is a member of our church but hasn’t been attending for more than a year due to some family breakup and disappointment with God issues. The hospital visit was with a man whose family is newer to church and who haven’t really connected with the church yet. He’s suffering with diabetes and other complications. And the wedding was a couple from our church. This was actually the only wedding – out of the 5 I’m doing this summer – where the couple were both church attending Christians.

Rural ministry in a small church is never boring. While not every day is like this Saturday, every week has all kinds of variety in meetings I have, people I see, “pastoral” duties I get to perform, and services I prepare for.

I love the variety. Do you enjoy it too?

Is Asking for More Okay?

Luke 10: 7 says, “the worker deserves his wages”. I remember a church meeting where the membership was discussing the pastors salary (mine). One member piped up, “Pastors should be so glad they can serve God in this way they should be willing to do it for free.” Unfortunately, there are churches that pay that way too.

What do you do if the church is not paying you enough? Do you just say, “I’m trusting God and he will provide?” Some of us probably do. Or do we quit and look for a better paying job?

I’ve asked for more money a couple of times in my ministry at different churches. I’m pretty  hesitant to do this. It feels really awkward asking for more money. But what do I do when I can’t afford a hair cut for my wife, and I can’t meet the bills without going into debt? I think there are times that we need to ask for more.

Why is asking for more okay? I think that many elders, or whoever is determining your salary, probably don’t even know what you get paid. It just happens. So asking informs the decision-makers of your current reality. I also think that some believe we don’t have to make as much as others because we get the clergy housing allowance. But the benefit is not as great as some people believe. And if we are going to provide for our families, we need to make sure we get an income that is fair. Our families should not suffer because we are in church ministry. Asking also invites the decision-makers to think of you and your needs and not just the budget and what came in last year. Churches tend to pay their pastors according to past income. It’s okay to ask the church to pay you a fair wage and to invite them to do so by faith, even if it means the budget will need to increase.

Okay, so if you do ask for more, how should you do it?

Make sure you are living responsibly already. I don’t have cable. I have a pay as you go cell phone I share with my wife. I have one vehicle. If we are spending unwisely we have no right to ask for more money. And you should be modeling responsibility anyway.

Check if your denomination or church has a Guideline for paying Pastors. If your organization has a guideline to follow, you might want to see if your church is already matching that. If they are coming up short, then you have some information to back your request for more.

Make your request to the appropriate people. Don’t talk about it with everyone in the congregation. Don’t spring it on your church at the annual meeting. Talk with those who have the responsibility.

Teach on biblical giving and tithing. If you are too scared to preach on tithing and giving then you probably shouldn’t be asking for more money. At the same time, never preach on tithing if it is only so that you will get paid more. But you can help your congregation be obedient in giving so that the decision-makers will be able to give the needed raise when requested.

These are just a few things to consider. May you be able to live responsibly, teach correctly, and ask bravely when necessary. And most of all, may you trust that God is going to provide for you.