Thanks to all of you who wrote in about last week’s post How Hairspray Healed Me. What seems certain is that grief is universal and so is the power of music to restore one’s soul. Your stories and comments moved me. Thank you.
In comparison, everything else feels mundane but as the adage goes, an apple a day (wait…that’s not the one). Let’s see…what should we write about today? Oh! Oh! I know! Let’s talk about the beauty of spreadsheets!
God must have been having a hearty chuckle the day my now-retired pastor called and asked me to chair the Finance Committee. After the initial shock wore off – and clearly when my defenses were down – I said, yes. No doubt (I thought), it would be a good learning experience. No kidding.
And a learning experience it has been. For many of you, getting into the weeds of budgets, spreadsheets, and projections is old hat. But for me? I was swimming upstream. Thank goodness there were many competent people around to help me.
In order to understand all the numbers and what they mean, I began writing a narrative (a story) every month about how the church was doing financially. In addition, I continue to send out the budget statement – a condensed version of the current budget – and the income and expenses documents that have been prepared by our Bookkeeper/Business Coordinator.
My main goal as Finance Chair has been to tell the monthly financial story to our church leadership. In numbers, our fabulous bookkeeper tells one story. She makes sure all the financials are clearly laid out in a format that people can understand and that she can easily explain.
Spreadsheets tell stories.
In words, I let our leadership know how our income is doing. Any time I can, I highlight the generosity of our congregation. I explain any anomalies in our expenses. For example, the unexpected increase in electricity because a flood in the basement had fans running for 24 hours for two days to dry it out. Our congregation has also built up a reserve fund. I report whether or not we have added or subtracted from our reserves.
The other thing I attempt to remind leadership of in this monthly report is the fluctuation in giving. For a variety of reasons, people (generally) are not steady-eddy givers over the course of twelve months. So, when giving goes down in February there’s no need to lie down on the fainting couch. In the spring and definitely in November and December, giving will spike back up.
Want to see an example of what I send out monthly? Check out our February 2023 report.
Where could I do better? If I had my proverbial act together, I would turn the narrative I send to the leadership into a monthly article for the church newsletter. I do this occasionally but I would prefer to be more consistent. I’m hoping the lack of outcry for the information indicates that there is a high level of trust around the work of the Finance Committee, the Administrative Council, and our staff.
My three-year stint as the Finance Chair is almost over and it has indeed been a learning experience. Here’s hoping my experience might be helpful to those of you who feel a little intimidated in your ability to deal with financial spreadsheets.
Have I forgiven my now-retired pastor for urging me to be the Finance Chair? Why yes, yes, I have. In fact, even as someone who would not seek such a job, I’d say “sure” all over again.
Remember: keep your congregation’s budget story at the forefront. That’s something everyone can understand.
Image by Jonathan Harford at flickr.com