Telling Your Story through a Narrative Budget
It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of numbers. I thank God every day that calculators were invented. Hooray! My fingers were getting so sore from doing all that counting. I guess that’s why I have been slow to write about the dreaded budget – because it involves numbers – lots and lots of them. Believe me, I know budgets are very important – but inevitably when I see them, my eyes begin to glaze over and I start thinking about puppies or the latest “The Good Wife” plot line (give me credit, at least I’m not thinking about the Kardashians).
The opposite can be true too. Sometimes (though not very often) I get engrossed in the details of a budget – the same budget that has already been vetted by the pastor, the Finance Committee, and even the Administrative Council. I start scouring it, pulling out items to ask questions: How come copies cost so much? We pay how much for Advent candles? I don’t play bells, so how come we’re paying so much for a bell director? Ultimately, I begin losing sight of the overall work of the church and why we do what we do. I am not inspired, I am nit picky.
Enter the “narrative budget” also known in church circles as the “missional budget.” In one of my all-time favorite stewardship books Creating Congregations of Generous People, Michael Durall says,
The colorful pie charts so easily compiled using computer spreadsheets and color printers give parishioners an accurate indication of how money is spent in the church. While helpful, charts and graphs reinforce the notion that the pie has a standard size. A larger slice here means a smaller slice there. Your job is to introduce the idea that the pie itself can be infinitely larger, and so can all of its pieces. Don’t let your pledge drive be driven by budget figures and miniscule line-item increases.
Budget figures should be part of the information shared about how money is raised and spent by the congregation. But keep in mind that numbers are boring to many, misunderstood by others, and uninspiring to just about everyone – not ingredients for a successful pledge drive!
If you aren’t sure where your church is going, in other words, if your vision for your church’s future is not clear, it’s not easy to write a missional budget. But the good folks at Washington’s Battle Ground Community United Methodist Church seem to be on the right track. Rev. Rachon Hanson has written about her church’s budget in a way that is exciting and inspiring. Take a look at it here. The budget is transparent. Though it is not mailed out, a detailed budget is available to anyone who wants to see it. This missional budget maps out where the church hopes to go in the next year – and that’s what’s most important to the majority of the people in the pews.
How will your commitment to “making disciples” or “transforming the world for Jesus Christ” be real in your church in the coming year? Battle Ground Community Church is definitely on to something…and I hope it’s catching.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise nearly $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.