Budget early. No need to fly by the seat of your pants.
In this world there are two kinds of travelers. The ones who love to plan every part of their trip down to the last detail, and those who fly by the seat of their pants. I know this will be shocking, but I fall into the latter category. But it does come with consequences. Like freaking out the day before the trip starts. Today I am trying to say some kind of Jesus-y prayer as I breathe in to a count of four, “Help me Jesus, help me Jesus” and then after holding my breath for five seconds gasping for air saying, “Help me Jesus, help me Jesus” again. I may need to work on my Jesus prayer.
All that being said, don’t do as I do (except for the praying part…for heaven’s sake, keep on praying). The past two weeks I have been writing about the process of developing your faith community’s budget. And for that you must plan. Week one was “2 Ways to Build a Budget.” I’m sure you’ve memorized this by now but here are the two ways again:
1. “You determine what God is calling your congregation to do” and build your budget accordingly or
2. “Look at your budget and either stay constant, cut items, or do a small increase.”
One of those is inspiring and one isn’t.
Week two addressed: Is your budget built with a mindset of abundance or scarcity?
For week three, let’s get down to brass tacks. If you’re interested in determining what God is calling your congregation to do, you don’t want to fly by the seat of your pants. It doesn't need to take a lot of time, but it will take time.
Here’s a suggested six-step process to inspire excitement around your budget:
1. Start with prayer. And not the stressed-out prayer that I have been breathing recently. Spend time reflecting in prayer on what you think God is calling your faith community to do.
2. Bring a set of three or four inspired ideas/goals to your leadership group or council. Have these goals written down and include what you hope to accomplish.
For example: In 2020 we will increase the number of children (grades k-5) in Sunday School by 10 children. Here’s how we might do that:
a. Develop a modern-looking flier focusing on Sunday School, what happens in Sunday School, and where and when it happens.
b. Every member of your congregation will identify two kids they think would benefit from a great Christian education experience.
c. The parents of each of these kids will receive a flier in the mail with a hand-written note from the person who thought of them.
d. Determine the cost: in this case, minimal – printing, mailing, and postage plus the time to design a flier. However, if you have a Sunday School program that needs improvement, you may be looking at more money to review, revise, and invest in your children’s program.
Repeat – with as much detail as possible – for each of your goals. To begin with, set no more than three to four goals, lest you get overwhelmed and loose focus.
3. Lead a discussion about the direction you’re proposing. Find out what people think. Are these goals off base? Right on target? Which ideas resonate most strongly with the leadership? The more buy in, the better. You may want to present the goals, have an initial discussion, and ask people to prayerfully consider your proposal over the course of a few weeks.
But don’t let your goals – your dreams – go by the wayside.
4. Ask for approval for the proposed direction. Then you can begin talking about your faith community’s goals in other meetings, sermons, and in written documents.
5. Let your Finance Committee base the budget around your approved direction.
6. Be accountable. Go back to your leadership group in six months to report back on your congregation’s progress.
A six-step process like this means you’re planning your budget based on an abundance mindset (future-oriented, doing what you do well, and with what you have) versus a scarcity mindset (what you’re trying to avoid or fearing what the future holds). It’s developing a budget based on what God is calling you to do. And it’s out of a belief in God’s abundance and abundant love for your faith community. That will be inspiring. And heck, it just might be inspiring to the whole world as well.
Originally published September 28, 2016.