General CBF

A Narrative Budget? Four Possibilities for Presenting Your Church’s Financial Plan

We all know that people learn in different ways. 

For instance, if a person wants to develop a hobby, there are generally numerous ways to pursue this new interest. Some folks pick up a book and learn through reading.  Other people immediately look for videos online that teach the same techniques in a more visually stimulating way. 

Then there are those who have no interest in reading a book or watching a video. They simply want to go and learn by doing. In their case, it is the experience itself that becomes their teacher. Finally, there are those who appreciate all three methods. It is reading the book, watching the video, and then getting out and learning by doing that all go into perfecting a skill or delving deeper into a new hobby.

While this all makes sense to us when it comes to pursing a new passion, we rarely employ the same thinking when it comes to presenting church budgets. Yet, our congregations are inevitably made up of all types of people who often respond very differently to various ways of hearing the same data. This all leads to several best practices around different, but equally effective ways of presenting your next budget.

Here are four possibilities for sharing your financial plan for the next year in creative ways that can capture the attention and interest of the unique people who compose your church.

First, Consider Preparing a Narrative Budget

Narrative budgets are nothing more than a recasting of your financial plans for the next year using sentences and paragraphs rather than only numbers. A narrative presentation of your budget provides space for a deeper explanation, vision casting and context in ways that numbers alone can never provide. Translating your budget hopes and dreams often engages people in a very different and helpful way.

Second, Share Your Budget Using Various Media Tools

Like a narrative budget, recording a video or posting pictures and a short description on various social media outlets allows for recasting your numbers in more of a story-driven and visual format. During COVID, churches have learned a great deal about both the power of video and the ease with which quality pieces can quickly be developed for church websites, social media pages and for use in worship. Why not live into this growing aspect of church life with how we present our budgets?

Third, Offer a Tour of a Planned Budget Focus

If there are special additions to your budget or expanded resources being allocated for new projects or ministry areas, think about how you can give members a first-hand experience with the need. Sometimes, the chance to visit a local ministry site or the opportunity to tour a neglected area of your building that is included in next year’s financial plan can be an eye opening, powerful way of showing why something deserves the church’s focus and generosity.

Fourth, Present a Traditional, Numeric Based Budget

As creative and helpful as a narrative budget, videos or a budget tour can be, there remain people who simply want to study the numbers. These members and their preference for a presentation of the budget in a form that they have learned to expect should not be overlooked. Remember, everyone is different and there remain plenty of people for whom the basic numbers and bottom line are all that they really want to see.

In the end, while all four of these are valuable, choosing two or three of these approaches and using them in complimentary ways is likely the very best way forward. As churches, we can never meet all the needs of our people or cater to every possible learning style. But we can offer more than one approach to connect in a meaningful way with as many of our members as possible as we seek to foster both excitement and generosity for our church’s financial vision.

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