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.

 

 

Advertisements

VBS Still Draw Kids!

It has been a while since I actually helped with a Vacation Bible School even though our church has run one just about every summer, but it’s awesome! We have a great team and have had attendance that exceeded our expectations! Here are some of my thoughts about VBS.

It still draws kidsDSCN0168 DSCN0162

We have had more kids show up than we expected. In our small town of 650 with an attendance under 100 in our local elementary school, we thought we should plan for about 40. We had 34 show up the first day and new kids have come each day. We have now had close to 50, though not every kid has come every day! It still draws kids.

It’s worth doing

It’s worth doing. In a small town with not much happening, it offers something in town for the kids to do. I’m sure that part of why the parents send the kids is so they can have a few quiet hours at home. But it is worth doing because you can share the gospel with children, many of whom do not attend church regularly, if at all. It’s worth doing.

It’s worth doing well

Too often we do what we have always done and don’t take time to add in something new. I pushed our group to develop a team and to meet to plan things months in advance. It’s too easy to just expect things to work without putting in the effort. It’s worth doing well.

Make sure that it connects with the kids

Do your best to find a theme that connects with the kids. There are all kinds of great curriculum out there. Find something that will tell the salvation message but in a creative way. You want something that allows for great decorations and songs. Maybe your crafts and games can even tie into the theme. Make sure you connect with the kids.

Connect with the families

We have the privilege of meeting the parents or grandparents as they drop off their children. And we plan a Friday night Wrap Up Supper and Program specifically with the hopes that the parents will want to come see what their kids did all week and we will have the opportunity to meet them. Connect with the families.

Thank you ladies

Most VBS programs happen during the day. Most men work during the day. So thank you ladies. You are the ones who are leading VBS programs all across the country. If you have men in the church who can come and join in, do your best to get them involved. It’s great to have ladies, but the children benefit from seeing that the men are also part of the church activities. Thank you ladies.

It’s a great outreach

VBS still works in rural communities as a means of sharing the gospel message with the children of your church and community. The message come out in the songs and crafts as well as in the Bible stories. And the message can be shared briefly as part of the Wrap Up night so the parents hear it as well. It’s a great outreach.

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!

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?

Are we in Danger of Chaining the Bible to the Pulpit Again?

I had the privilege of having four weeks of vacation. It wasn’t so much vacation as setting up one daughter in Vancouver for Vancouver Film School and the other daughter in Toronto at Tyndale University. One of the neat opportunities was to take in four different churches, and it was an eye-opener to me.

C1900PULPITMINIATUREI’m wondering if we are in danger of “chaining the Bible to the pulpit” again. When the Bible was first printed, the average person couldn’t afford one, so there was one in the church, which only the clergy had access to. Only the clergy studied it. Only the clergy explained it to the people. I’m wondering if we are coming back to this system today.

In three out of four churches I felt like they didn’t really preach the Bible. Walking across the parking lot and into the service carrying my Bible – I actually felt a little embarrassed to be carrying my Bible. I’m a pastor. I shouldn’t be embarrassed, but even walking in there seemed to be a culture that no one else was carrying a Bible. Only in the fourth church did we see others opening their Bibles and following along with the sermon.

In one church the pastor preached from his iPad, he did not open up a Bible and preach from it. It wasn’t that he had bad things to say, but they didn’t really come across as being “God’s Word” for the people. He was just a great charismatic preacher, with not a whole lot of content.

In another church, the text of the morning was read during the singing, with the whole text up on the screen. Later when the pastor begin his sermon, the first slide told us they were doing the “Stories Jesus told” – parables. Well, the text that had been read earlier was a parable – I can’t even remember which one. The preacher referred to it but never read it in the sermon. He talked about how the parable was about Grace and then proceeded to preach on Grace – not on the parable. He never once asked people to open their Bibles – or even to open it on their phones. He quoted Paul a couple of times but didn’t tell us where it was from. It was on the screen so you could follow along, but he just said: “As Paul says, …” and then quoted. He also quoted Dallas Willard in the same way. And I was left with the feeling that Jesus and Paul and Dallas Willard all have equal authority in what they are saying to the topic of Grace.

In the fourth church, the pastor opened the Bible, he held the Bible in his hand as he preached. And he walked through the passage in Acts he was preaching on. Occasionally the verses he read were on the screen, but he asked people to look in their Bibles – unlike the “iPad pastor” who only read the scripture from the screen.

All of this to say, I’m concerned. If people are not encouraged to open their Bibles in church, will they at home? And if people don’t see that you are preaching Scripture and let Scripture speak as God’s authoritative Word to the People of God, then the authority rests in the hands of the preacher like the clergy of the chained Bible.

Our churches need to see that we are preaching the Word of God. And they need to be clear that nothing else speaks with equal authority. Quoting from others is fine, but people need to understand when it is the Word of God speaking. Preachers – we need to open Scripture for people in such a way that they are hungry to read more and so that they see they can actually understand and apply it to their lives personally.

Ask your congregation to open their Bibles and read along. Take them back to the passage again and again as you walk through it. Some read on their phone – but again – are they understanding that this is the Word of God – not just something else they can find on Google? I still like for people to read from a Bible because just opening the Bible to a certain passage physically reminds you – oh, this is New Testament, or This comes after the Gospels, or this is the last book of the Bible. There are aspects of Bible understanding that will not be as evident when people are looking at their 2 inch screen.

The Bible is the authoritative Word of God. Let’s make sure we treat it as such and make that clear to our people. And let’s make sure we do our best to make them thirsty to read more.

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!

Bored? From Blah to Ah-ha!

“There’s nothing to do.” If you are a parent you most likely have heard those words at some time, quite possibly partway through summer holidays.

Some days I feel like that – especially in the summer. Most of the year, as a pastor, I have no problem finding enough things to keep me busy. There are usually plenty of things on the schedule that I purposely put there or that others did by asking of my time for some purpose. But there are seasons of the church where there is less expected and demanded of the pastor. Summer, for me, is one of those times. So what does one do with the slow times?

Here are some of my suggestions of how to enjoy the slow times instead of feeling bored.

1. PLAN AHEAD

Because there are less weekly commitments, I actually have time to look ahead to the next church season. I love to take a day or two to get out of the office with my laptop and my binder of all my dreams and wishes and go somewhere quiet and dream of the next year. Sometimes I end up at Ambrose College where I use the Library, other times I end up in a coffee shop somewhere where no one will recognize me. I want to get away from everything else and focus on dreams and plans for the next year.

I plan out my preaching schedule. I like to have the whole year planned out. I try to get a theme and scripture for each Sunday. I like to preach a book of the Bible at a time, so that means figuring out how many sermons it will take to get through the book I’m working on, and then scheduling that in appropriately. If I can fill in a few basic ideas as I go along, that helps. I even try to think of some special things to include on the special days of Christmas and Easter and so on.

I plan out special events. I do some initial dreaming on some of the special days and what could be included in the service to make that Sunday special. I plan when to speak about things like baptism, membership, finances, etc. And if I plan those things in I know when to start advertising for those who need to be baptized or want to become members. If I can, I figure out when I need to recruit a few people to team up with me to make some of my dreams for a special day come into reality.

I dream of new things. Maybe there is a new idea I came up with or can steal from someone else. I don’t do this completely on my own. I try to have at least one or more “vision retreats” with my Elders so that we have worked through some of the big picture items before I even get to my dreaming time.

2. PRAY

I know I don’t do this enough. But if your bored, why not take time for a personal prayer retreat? Go for a walk and pray. Talk with God. Bring your bible along and read scripture and pray.

3. READ

I always have another book or two waiting on my desk. I love to read, why not take the summer to work through a few books?

4. VISIT

This may not be as easy as it may sound. Some of us have congregations that disappear all summer whenever they can, so it’s not always the easiest to connect with people personally. But I guess sending a few extra emails or texts would be meaningful too.

5. TAKE A BREAK

Go take in the Stampede or whatever is in your area. If you are like most pastors, you have no problem putting in plenty of hours during the busy season. Maybe one of the best things you could do for yourself, your family, even for your church, is to just get away for the afternoon. Take the slow times to refresh. And make sure you take your holiday time.

BORED? Find a way to turn you Blah into a meaningful Ah-Ha!