Inspiring Generosity


Is Your Budget a House of Cards?

         Please! Not your budget. Willi Heidelbach@pixabay

Several years ago, a dear friend of mine (who I’ve known since third grade) became the pastor of a small church. It was Paul’s first congregation.

He called me and said, “I’m worried. My biggest giver is 90 years old. He gives $30,000 a year. Our next largest giver donates $9,000 a year. Our budget is around $240,000. What’s going to happen when he passes away?”
I’m afraid I wasn’t much help.
A year later, I received the call.
“Cesie, he died.”

Yikes. Death comes to us all. Even people who carry the weight of funding your budget.
First, let’s give kudos to Paul for even knowing that he had an outlier who was giving 12.5% of the church’s budget.

For some reason, knowing who gives what in your congregation is still an issue for some of you. Sigh.
Yes, you’re a church and what people give is between them and God.
But apparently, it’s also between them and your church’s Financial Secretary.
It’s between them and the bank teller who deposits the check.
And it’s between them and the IRS clerk.
The person who actually needs to know – for a variety of reasons – is the pastor. You are expected to not only be the shepherd of the flock (what a great image) but also the administrator who understands the overall financial health of the congregation. This means you, the shepherd, need to get into the weeds of the church’s income stream.
Need reminding why this is important?  Re-read my three-part series Should You Know Who Gives What? Or another post, The Power of Secrecy.
One more thing. I have worked for many secular non-profits over the years. It would be absurd for the Executive Director not to know who is giving and who the top donors are. They know they need the information to thank, tell the story, and plan for the future effectively.
Back to the budget built on a house of cards. In 2011, Lovett Weems wrote a highly influential article: The Coming Death Tsunami. Even then, Weems passed out hard truths:

  • It is predicted that between 2019 and 2050, there will be more deaths and a higher death rate than at any time since the 1940s when medical advances such as antibiotics were introduced.
  • The total number of deaths each year is predicted to go up every year until 2050 as Baby Boomers pass away.

So, what can you do with these stark numbers?

  1. Determine if your budget is built on one or two outliers.
  2. Though painful but necessary, right-size your budget.
  3. Make building a legacy program a priority.
  4. Rethink the purpose of your congregation’s ministry.
  5. Bring in new people.

There’s no easy fix, especially for small churches. Clearly – though you may feel like it – putting your head in the sand is not the answer. Too many have done that to their congregation’s peril.
Take a look at that budget of yours. Instead of a house of cards (or sand), build it on the solid rock…not only of Jesus, but realistic numbers too.
I have a feeling that there are a few of you who have had to deal with the very issue that my friend Paul has grappled with.
How have you handled it?
If this is a theoretical question for you, how would you handle it?
The hive wants to know.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. This blog post is too depressing. For respite, she suggests that you listen to We Banjo 3’s peppy, “Happiness.” You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/inspiringgenerosity or at CesieScheuermann.com.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
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.