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.

 

 

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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!

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)

Come to the Table

I was overwhelmed as I saw them come forward. They weren’t coming forward because of me. They weren’t coming forward to meet with the elders who were serving communion at the front of the sanctuary. As I sat to the side, watching our congregation – our church family come forward to receive the bread and the juice, I started tearing up.

Recieving Communion #2Usually I hand the trays off to our elders who them serve people by passing the trays of bread and juice down the aisles. While they are doing this, I usually sit down. I don’t see the congregation as they receive communion. I don’t see any emotions from them. But this time I had a view from the side as they came up

I watched them come and thought about what I know about that person and that person. I know one who came forward for communion who keeps telling me he doesn’t really believe all that stuff about Jesus. One older gentleman came up and as he received the communion elements, he winked at the elder serving him. And I thought of the pain he goes through every day. I watched as one of the young pregnant moms came forward. She came up to be served by her husband. What a privilege to serve communion to your wife. As one older lady came up I thought about her. Her husband has not attended church with her for many years. Not too long ago he was supposed to die from cancer, but he’s still hanging on.

As they came I thought about how Jesus welcomes all of us. We have doubts about Jesus and whether God is still answering prayer, but we are welcome at Jesus’ table. We have difficulties in our life that we struggle with every day, but we are welcome at Jesus’ table. Jesus says to the one struggling with pain and health issues – come. Jesus says to the one dealing with conflict – come

And he says to me – come! Wow!

Come to receive forgiveness. Come to be reminded of your salvation Jesus purchased for you. Come and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you again.

Come to the table.

Invite Your Congregation into Your Sermon Planning

I love preaching. I enjoy the creative process of building a sermon, but I especially like preaching a sermon that connects with me first, and then with the congregation.

And then I recognized that one of the men in our church was really interested in learning how to teach better. He is leading our men’s ministry and has a desire to teach the men at our monthly men’s breakfasts. So I invited him to help me in the preparation of my next sermon series. We met together for a couple of long afternoons, working through a series I called Rethinking the Big Ten. We were looking at the Ten Commandments and asking how they did or did not apply to us today in light of what Jesus and the New Testament had to say about them.

I really enjoyed this time. It gave me an opportunity to pass on some of the tools of Bible Study and sermon prep that I generally use. The end result was that he even preached two of the sermons for me. What a win! I had the privilege of learning along with another person who was seeing things in the text that I hadn’t seen, and I now have someone who is willing to preach for me occasionally! That is a great asset, especially in a small church where I’m expected to do most of the preaching. And I think the people appreciated hearing one of their own, a voice different from their pastor.

Now I’m on to round two. Except this time I have 3 new people at the sermon preparation table.  Five of us are working through preparing a sermon series on the Holy Spirit. The first guy is there, along with two of my elders and one of their wives. The elders had been in a study on the Holy Spirit and were suggesting I preach some sermon on it, so I invited them in.

It gets a little more difficult when you have that many voices at the table, but the first meeting went quite well. They seemed to really appreciate the opportunity to speak into the sermon series. I’m not sure if we’ll get a new preacher out of this group, but it gives me an opportunity to hear where some of the people in the pew are at regarding the topic and texts I’ll be preaching on. That is a valuable experience.

I don’t think I’ll want to do this every time, and don’t think I’d want the group any bigger, but it’s been a neat experience to have a few others involved in the development of a new sermon series.

It may be something you would like to try. After all, those of us in small places could usually use another preacher in the church who can preach when we can’t or when we have had a busy week with other duties. Try it!

Never be Satisfied with Average

I just had a conversation with my Elders Board about my dissatisfaction with the fact that we have less than 10% of our community in our church. And there was a comment made about how we should be happy that we have as many people in church from our small town. We’re doing pretty good. And even in other communities, there probably aren’t much more than 10% of their population in church either.

We are the only church in our small town, though some may drive out of town to attend elsewhere. But even if we have 10% and another 10% drive out of town, that leaves 80% of the people in my community who are still going to hell! Why would I be happy about that?

This conversation came up because, after me being here for five years, I’ve asked our Elders Board to work on refining and clarifying our purpose and vision. I want to us to prayerfully consider if we need to change things to do a better job than we are doing in reaching people for Christ.

We have a good church. We have many who work hard. But we also have some who have wandered away. Do we need to find ways to help people hold onto their faith? We have some of our congregation who are very much involved with their community and their neighbors, but others aren’t. We have some who seem to rarely connect with those who don’t know Jesus yet. But are we a church that is excellent in the eyes of Jesus?

Jesus wept over the lost. He wants none to perish. And yes, the Holy Spirit is the one who draws people to God, but I would hate for us to be lazy or not even try to win more people to Jesus. We too need to ask God for that love and passion for the lost. We need to recognize that without Jesus they are headed to hell. They are not headed to “oblivion” as a book I just skimmed was saying. Those who have not surrendered their lives to Jesus are headed to hell – eternal torment. Am I really concerned about my neighbors?

We need to remind ourselves regularly that we are on a mission with Jesus. We are not just running a nice club for friendly people.

Let’s not be satisfied with being average. Let’s pursue excellence in our hunger to win souls to Jesus.

Take Initiative!

Rural Ministry is often lonely. Not just lonely because you don’t have someone to work alongside of but lonely in figuring out what should happen next for your church. There are times that I have longingly dreamed of having a team to plan with and set vision with. Don’t misunderstand – I have a great Elders Board and they are willing to do planning and dreaming with me. The problem is that this is not their first priority. They have their own job and their own family.

So as the pastor, I have to find ways of taking initiative on what I do with my time and how I give leadership and direction to the church.

The easy thing is to do only what is required. I preach each Sunday and make sure there is a good service planned. I visit some people. And then what?

As the pastor, it is my duty to look ahead, to recognize areas in my church or in my community that things are not as good as they could be.

In the church – is there something lacking in meeting the needs of people in the church? Is there an aspect of discipleship that needs improving? Do I need to begin a men’s ministry? Right now I’m working on having the whole church focus on Prayer for three weeks in January. I’m asking all our Care Groups to study the same book on prayers from the Bible and will be preaching on a prayer from the Bible at the same time. I’m trying to give leadership on helping us to be more of a praying church.

In the community – is there a need that we as a church could realistically meet? Should we set up a Food Bank ministry? Should we provide a service in the community? One of the things we have done for the last couple of years is an Easter Eggstravaganza at our Community Hall. We put on a great breakfast, an Easter Service, and an Easter Egg Hunt. We do things to make it an exciting morning. It gives us opportunity to connect with many more people than if we had something at our church. Our church can only handle about 110 people. We had 250 at the last Easter event.

I hope that you are not just “coasting” along doing the bare minimum, but are asking God to give you a sense of what He is wanting you and your church to step into.

Take the initiative! God has called you to lead – so lead well.