Managing ministry money is one of the first places where vision drift creeps into a church. It happens in the absence of bold vision and a coherent ministry strategy. It also happens with short-sighted or visionless leadership.
Making financial decisions is the golden moment when a church shows its true priorities. A church can say it has strategic priorities, but how it budgets and spends money is a far better indication of what it values than anything it might say.
Why the disconnect? Why do we so often say one thing but do something completely different with ministry money?
Consider the answer in these 6 ministry budget traps:
- Silos vs. Vision – Before starting a new budget process, pull staff or volunteer leadership teams together to review vision as well as key strategic areas and initiatives. Work to reduce and eliminate ministry silos with a compelling ministry vision.
- Past Spending vs. Future Focus – Previous year spending patterns can be a consideration for budget cuts, but exercise caution. Ask important questions about why the money wasn’t spent. Above all, don’t allow low spending to determine future budgets in key areas.
- Programs vs. Purpose – Budgets are a good time to evaluate ministry programs and purpose. Consider the things you should stop, start and continue doing. Does a ministry program need adjustment? Should an existing program (and budget) be ended in favor of something else?
- Events vs. Strategy – Ask leaders who supervise budget lines to think strategically. Require that budget requests be linked to church vision and clearly-defined strategies and action plans. Work with your team to prevent last year’s calendar from automatically determining future plans.
- Personalities vs. Priorities – The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Some church budgets reflect this, as more money gets allocated to louder voices and departments. Well-reasoned—but quiet and low key—ministry priorities get pushed aside in these situations. Commit to avoid this trap with a coherent, priority-driven budget process.
- Status Quo vs. Change – Create a budget process that encourages a vision-aligned, strategy-driven openness to change. The best stewardship of the church’s financial resources is a Q&A attitude about the status quo.
So what’s the Big Idea?
Allocating money strategically is the best way to manage limited financial resources. Make your budget choices completely dependent on what you are called to do (vision and values), who you are called to reach (outreach focus) and how God has called you to reach them (goals, strategies and action plans).