A budget is a strategic plan for dispensing available resources to various areas of your ministry. One thing is clear right from the start – there is no single perfect way to do church budgeting. Yes, nearly all budgets involve electronic spreadsheets or sophisticated software - but budgeting is so much more.
A budget sets priorities for every activity of the church. It reflects your values to ensure that you spend money on the things you believe are most important. It is both a compass and a map to help you achieve the goals of your ministry in a way that is fiscally responsible.
As Richard Vargo and Vonna Laue remark in their Essential Guide to Church Finances, “A good budget process means that 11 acts of war can be eliminated because one annual battle is substituted for 12 monthly skirmishes.”1
Budgeting includes evaluating past spending habits and deciding what you are going to do in the future. You must make decisions and establish priorities for all the possible ministries your church may undertake during the coming year. Every aspect of ministry, from salaries and facilities to the senior and youth programs, must be taken into account.
A budget causes a church to decide whether to fund each ministry fully, partially, or not at all. Staffing costs must be considered within those decisions, since some programs carry significant staffing costs while others may be heavily supported by volunteers.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, biblical texts provide insight for mapping out budget categories. Galatians is a particularly helpful New Testament letter for budget managers because it was one of Paul’s first letters written at a time when the early church was making financial decisions (c.48-49 AD). In Galatians, budget managers learn to be sure to care for the poor (Galatians 2:8-10), to minister to the needs of those who teach, which in modern terms means pastors and other church staff (Galatians 6:6), and to work toward programs that bless the congregation as well as the larger community (Galatians 6:10).
For nearly two millennia, these areas have been the basic components of church budgets, but building and administrating these budgets is a complex process.
ECFA’s eBook,aims to assist leaders in today’s churches to budget efficiently and effectively, and in accordance with the biblical model.
Be sure to watch for next week’s blogpost, which will highlight a recent podcast on the topic of Church Budgeting as well.
Lastly, don’t miss our upcoming companion webinar on this subject,, in which ECFA’s Vonna Laue and John Van Drunen will pull insights from the eBook, and also allow time for Q&A. This webinar is FREE for ECFA-certified churches as well as for ChurchEXCEL subscribers. !
1Richard J. Vargo and Vonna Laue, Essential Guide to Church Finances (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today International, 2009), 11.