Help Your Committees Develop a Budget that Means Something


Help Your Committees Develop a Budget that Means Something

If you’ve read Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate or Ask, Thank, Tell you know that J. Clif Christopher and Charles Lane are both fans of the “missional budget.”  This is not your standard line-item budget; it’s a narrative budget that tells the story of your church and its vision for the future.  Both Christopher and Lane are adamant that the narrative - not the line-item budget - should be given to your congregation for review.  And, I agree.  More on that in another blog post.

However, every good organization (or family for that matter) needs to develop an old-fashioned line-item budget.  Every year, we ask our church committees to tell the Finance Committee how much they need so that a number can be plopped into the overall church budget.  Usually it’s the committee chair that looks at last year’s budget and maybe ups the amount by 10%.  Committee members are usually unaware of the budgeting process.

What if the budget was a driving force in helping a committee engage in deep discussions about its goals for the following year?  For example, in addition to submitting a financial request, what if individual committees grappled with the following questions:

1.  What impact did last year’s budget have on your ministry committee (i.e., what difference did having the funding make)? 
-  Highlight at least three accomplishments or share three areas of impact your ministry area has made between November 2012 and October 2013.    At least two of these should be measurable (e.g., There was a 2% increase in worship, 20 people participated in service outside the church, 6 people were provided rides to church).

2.  After reviewing your budget request for 2014, what are the measurable goals that you plan to achieve (e.g., a 5% increase in worship attendance, increase adult Sunday School from two to four classes, Service Sundays will see 15 new people participate and 3 new agencies will be assisted)? 
-  How will an increase in your budget impact your ministry area? 
-  What will be the impact if you do not receive everything you request?

If you want to see a sample that you can use with your committees, click here. 

The process is not designed to be overly cumbersome – the answered questions are to be a total of no more than two pages.  And here’s the great outcome: committees will be
•    talking to each other
•    working together
•    celebrating what was accomplished in the previous year and
•    dreaming about what they envision God could be having them do in the future. 

You could have committees that begin to see what they are doing as vital to the life of your church and community…all because they talked about the budget.  And that almost qualifies as a miracle.

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 inspiringgenerosity@gmail.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.