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.

 

 

Learning from Rural Pastors, from Duke, and from Billy Graham

I am having one of the greatest privileges of my life right now. I am writing while on a “field trip” to North Carolina.

I am on a team with 3 other pastors who lead the Rural Church Pastors Network. We have had the privilege of spending a couple of days with pastors and professors connected to the Duke Divinity School at Duke University. What a great opportunity to learn as we got to visit with three United Methodist pastors and learned how God was working in their churches. It was encouraging to see their passion for rural ministry, their joy of the Holy Spirit, and their love for what they are doing. We were able to sit in on a chapel at Duke as well as help lead a Rural Thriving Communities colloquium on the campus of Duke.

And now we had a day of touring both the Billy Graham Library and the Cove. These are a great tribute to the man and a celebration of what God has done as Billy has faithfully preached Jesus. Billy is nearing the end of his life, but there are many who are continuing the work and ministry of what was begun by his crusades years ago.

The four of us have been talking as we drive and as we eat meals together. It has been a great experience of sharing what we are hearing and learning and as we are listening to God for the future of the Rural Church Pastors Network. God has great things in store. We believe it. We are looking ahead with great anticipation!

Hey Church Guy!

What are you called? I don’t mean just your name, but what do people call you? I have a lot of labels. I’m Dad.  I’m Lion Andy (I’m part of the local Lions club). My pharmacist greets me, “Hi Henry”. The other day I was being introduced to a new neighbor just 3 houses down, when the lady from across the street – who doesn’t attend our church – yells across the street, “That’s our pastor!” I’m Pastor Andy. A boss I had when I worked at Zellers always called me Andrew. Henry is my first name but I go by my middle name, A100_0735ndrew, but that isn’t even quite right as I have always been called Andy.

The other day, one of the 4 yr. olds in church was trying to get my attention while I was talking with his mom so he said, “Hey Church Guy!” I like that. He wasn’t quite sure what to call me and only knew me as the guy at church, but he really wanted my attention.

People give us a label based on how they know us. So how do people know us? What is the name that people give you when you aren’t around and they are talking about you to someone else? Joe and Terry might call me neighbor. Rob might call me a friend. Gary might call me a fellow Lion.

My relationship with people determines what label they might give me. I guess Church Guy isn’t that bad. But I hope there are people in my circle of influence who see me as more than a church guy and more than a pastor and more than a fellow Lion but who see me as someone who loves them with the love of Jesus! Do I care for people? Do I take time to listen to what is going on in their life? They may not call be “Care-er”, but I would love it if they saw me as someone who cares. They may not call be “Confidant”, but I would hope they felt free to confide in me when they need someone. I don’t ever want them to call me “Jesus”, but wouldn’t it be great if they felt the love of Jesus through a friendship with me – or with you?

I Need A Retreat

To retreat is to back up. Sometimes it is to regroup, re-energize, to plan a new attack. I need a retreat regularly, and when I don’t get it often enough my work suffers.

I am not talking aboutCalendar_0 a holiday, though everyone needs a vacation. You need some time to get away from everything with your spouse, with your family – sometimes without your children.

I am not talking about a holiday, but a day or more to get away from phones and from people and from your messy office. We all need to find a place where we can look at how things are going and take some time to look ahead.

This past week I had one day like that. I’m not too far away from the city of Calgary and Ambrose University College. I went to the Ambrose Library and hid there all day in a quiet cubicle surrounded by books. I took a calendar with me. I took my laptop. I took a binder
that is a “collect-all” for articles and plans and dreams I have had over the years. _1 Old Binder

My retreat is usually about what is going on in the church. While I take some time to set some personal goals, my main goal is to come away with a plan for my preaching for the next half a year or more. I want to know when I’m scheduling in a communion celebration. It’s usually the 4th Sunday of the month, but not always. I want to know where I’m planning special prayer times. I check what Sunday Advent starts so I’m ready. I even sometimes figure out what kind of testimony I would like on a certain Sunday. I plan in our Special Days like our Annual Open House & Chili Cook off in September.

I need a retreat because it is too hard for me to get that kind of planning in when I’m sitting in my office surrounded by the mess and a thousand other things to do.

I hope you get some time to retreat this summer – for a vacation, yes – but also for some planning and dreaming about what God might have happen in your area of ministry and influence.

I need a retreat. So do you.

Making the Tough Calls

Every church needs a youth group. Isn’t that right? That is the impression one gets. But what if the majority of the people in your community and in your church are young families and seniors, do you still have a youth group?

We had to make a tough call recently. I’m still not quite sure if there will be fallout from it or not. We, meaning the Elders Board, had to make the tough decision of deciding we would not have a youth group this next year. We don’t know about the year after that or the next, but this year we will not be running a youth group.

When I arrived a this church 7 years ago they had  a great youth center and a part time youth pastor. A year or two after I arrived they celebrated a Grade 12 Grad in our church and had about 12 grads. But from then on the youth group slowly declined. A year ago our part time youth pastor resigned. Last year we tried running with volunteer help. But we had very irregular and very low attendance. The volunteers were discouraged and decided they would not help with youth this year.

Recently, the Elders Board has been working through our church Vision and Purpose and Plans. In our discussions we realized that we have a church with hardly any youth in it. Our church and our community are predominantly young families and seniors. We do not have a Jr. or Sr. High School in town, so families with teens do not choose to move here and those whose children become teens choose to move out of town. tough_decisions_aheadWhile there are some youth, we need to understand our limited resources and focus on who we have right now. We might have a youth program again, but not this year.

This is not an easy decision and may be misunderstood by some, but it was a decision we felt we needed to make. We are presently thinking through how best to talk with our congregation about this decision. There will be questions, but hopefully they understand. Some might see us not having a youth program as “going backwards”. Instead, I see it as a step forward in clarifying our vision. If we really felt we needed to make this happen, then we would find a way, but it is not part of our vision for this next year.

As leaders, we need to make the tough decisions even if they may be misunderstood. As a pastor of a small church, as leaders in a small church, we can’t do everything. We have to be more focused. Young families and Seniors is our new focus.

Don’t be scared to make the tough calls.

Transforming Church in Rural America: Breaking all the Rurals – Shannon O’Dell

I look for books that speak to the rural ministry context from the rural ministry context. These are few and far between, but I found a great book that I want to encourage you to read! This should be a “must – read” for every rural pastor.transforming-church-in-rural-america

Shannon O’Dell is writing from the experience of small church and small town. He knows of church with 40 people and about how rumors fly through a small community. He is writing from the American experience, but it is really not that much different than our Canadian rural context.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

“I realized I needed to be focusing on growing individual congregants, not a big congregation.” p. 39

“”MAKE US BELIEVE! Because when the Church does not believe, when the ‘us’ (the Church) is removed, guess what? I’ts just MAKE BELIEVE. See, many of us believe in Christ. We recite the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed and confess that we believe in Him. But many of us have not jumped the hurdle of believing Christ. We believe in Him theologically (mentally), but we don’t believe in Him practically.” p. 63

“That day I learned that people say they want to reach the lost, until we start changing things they are familiar and comfortable with in order to do what it takes to really reach the lost.” p. 73

“Are you really called to rural America? If you are, you better pony up because it is going to be the greatest opportunity and also the biggest challenge you have ever experienced, particularly when people leave, because even though they leave your church, they are never, ever gone from your life.” p. 74

Okay, that’s enough. You need to get the book. In reading it, there were times I really identified with what was being said, there were times I was challenged, and most of all I was encouraged that there are still people with innovative and creative ideas called to rural church ministry.

 

 

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!

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.

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.

What’s the Next Step?

In the busyness of planning events and running programs and ministry, I tend to forget the “what’s the next step?” principle too often. I was reminded of this after an event I attended recently.

We all showed up for an outdoor church service in the park. It was a great morning. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, neighbors were passing through the park, ball players were cheering in the distance. We enjoyed some great music and worshiping together. The sermon was very encouraging and uplifting. But there was no next step. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else, I’m just being reminded of how often I forget about that.Next-Step-720 It might have been nice to explain a little about the church and what the next thing was that people could take part in.

The “what’s the next step?” principle is something I came across some time ago and strive to make a part of all my planning and running of events. Though I forget about it more than I’d like.

The Next Step principle is that everything we do in the church or through the church should lead people to a next step.

  • Sunday Morning Worship Service: What’s the next step if people show up for a Sunday morning service? I would love to see people connect – specifically through joining a small group. Even though we are a small church, we use Connection Cards which invite people to leave their contact information with us. If it is during the off-season, then I at least send them an email as well as a letter welcoming them back. And when we start up our small groups again, I have the information so I can contact them and invite them to join one.
  • Sermons: I usually include some Next Steps on the back of the Connection Card. This is usually an invitation to respond to the sermon in some way. It may include the next step of memorizing a verse from the sermon, or a response to God, or even an action to take that week in a practical way.
  • Special Events: The Next Step for our Big Days (Fall Chili Cook-off, Easter Eggstravaganza, etc) is to invite people to come to our services again, with the prayer that they would be drawn to our church family and to God through them.
  • Small Groups: One Next Step we would love people to take is to step into leadership. As they grow as part of the small group, we want them to see that they don’t need to just continue as participants, but they can step into a ministry and serve there – maybe even into leadership.
  • New Believers/ New Attendees: One Next Step is to encourage those who have come to faith in Jesus to attend a Baptism Class and to consider Baptism as an expression of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

All of this means we need to continually think ahead. Where are we hoping to lead people to? What is the next step of growth that we can invite people into?

Enjoy planning your Next Steps.