The end of summer vacation and beginning of a new school year signals the start of the annual budget process for many churches. As we enter this season, let me mention five very practical things for your church to consider in conjunction with your budget planning this year. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but, these five ideas are particularly important for congregations in our current times.
#1 Fully Engage Your Staff & Ministry Team Leaders in the Process
Churches can easily entrust the budget process to a select few individuals. Without question, there is wisdom behind a small committee. After all, too many opinions can often bog down the process. But, a small committee in the driver’s seat of the overall plan must still work hard to hear from all staff and leaders of critical ministry areas. A lot has changed in the last 12-18 months. In most churches, COVID has led to some ministries going away, others being added and many being reimagined. This means that financial needs have likely shifted significantly in several ministry areas and the perspective of leaders of these programs are critical.
#2 Strive for an Overall Budget Figure that is Both Challenging Yet Attainable
Church finances are all over the board these days. Some churches have come through a dark financial time. Others are in roughly the same place now as they were before the pandemic. Still others have seen a remarkable uptick in giving that they never imagined was possible. All of this leads to many churches needing to dramatically rethink what their overall budget number should be for this next calendar year. Rather than take the path of least resistance which often means simply approving a plan very similar to the year before, planning for 2022 provides a prime season to think honestly and at the same time creatively.
#3 Prioritize Your Staff’s Well Being in Your Budget
The last 12-18 months have been the hardest period of most ministers’ careers. In many cases, church staffs have sacrificed on numerous levels in order to see their church through this challenging time. It is critical that your 2022 Budget reflects an appreciation for your staff. Of course, salary raises are always a clear, tangible sign of appreciation. At the same time, a budget that includes extra funds for conferences, sabbatical time or other opportunities for self care are equally good ways to communicate appreciation.
#4 Have Budget Conversations Within the Context of Talking About Your Vision
Many church goers are no longer motivated by giving to institutions or line items. This means that expecting your presentation of the new church budget to inspire strong stewardship is likely wishful thinking. Instead, talk about what your church hopes to accomplish from a ministry and missions perspective as your share your vision for the next calendar year. As you do, emphasize how faithful financial support will help these dreams become realities.
#5 Use the Budget Planning Process as a Time to Be Thankful
One of the most important but easily overlooked aspects of cultivating generosity is communicating gratitude to those who have supported your church with their gifts. As you work on and talk about next year, take time to be thankful. This work of gratitude should be carried out in general and in specific ways. First, always tie gratitude for recent giving to any conversation about future generosity. Second, reflect on individuals or families who may have been particularly faithful in giving during COVID and who might deserve a specific expression of gratitude. Depending on the size of your congregation, you might even consider dividing up your entire list of giving units among staff and financial leadership in order to write thank you notes to all your people who have seen your church through this challenging season.