...even with a budget. suzyhazelwood@pexels
And all at once summer collapsed into fall.
I couldn’t have said it better than Oscar Wilde. So, I shan’t try. Lucky you.
Here we are on the precipice of fall. In the mainline church, that generally means it’s time to start thinking about next year’s budget. Next year’s budget…already? Have I ruined your day? Please accept my apologies.
It’s true. There’s no time like the present to start planning for your future. Unfortunately, that generally involves needing financial resources – which also means creating a budget – to make your congregation’s vision a reality.
Recently, a clergy friend asked for information about a “creative budget.” Besides the chuckle I got thinking about the many “creative” budgets I’ve seen in my life – usually involving expenses far exceeding income – I knew she was talking about a narrative budget.
In years past, the narrative budget (aka the missional budget) was all the rage. Even though they are considered best practice in theory, I haven’t seen too many over the years.
What is a narrative budget? It’s the story of your congregation. People like me find their eyes glazing over when looking at rows and columns of numbers. Don’t get me wrong, I find those numbers fascinating in their own right. As a grant writer and as the chair of our church’s Finance Committee I have to know how to read and understand budgets. Those numbers on the page? They tell a story.
However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There’s no nuance. No vitality. No excitement.
That’s where the narrative budget shines.
A narrative budget gives you the opportunity to bring those numbers to life.
And yes, they are a lot of work.
It’s one thing to conquer the arduous task of determining income and expenses in a regular budget. Then to additionally ask that those numbers be put into words? That’s hard.
But friends, it’s worth it.
I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again: the narrative budget allows you to tell your congregation’s story and vision. Doing that can be inspiring – not only to you but to your congregation.
- Utilities suddenly become an opportunity for ministry.
- Custodial staff’s purpose is beyond cleaning.
- The choir director helps build up the body of Christ.
- Your preaching inspires spiritual growth moving people beyond church walls.
Where can you find examples of narrative budgets?
A simple Google search yields plenty of illustrations for all church sizes:
Hixson UMC, Tennessee
Zionsville UMC, Indiana
Aldersgate UMC, Indiana
And here’s one of my old favorites from Battleground Community UMC, WA.
These narrative budgets tell their congregation’s story in a positive, uplifting way…in a way that a spreadsheet never can.
Is the narrative budget still relevant? Is it worth all the extra work? Even during COVID?
If you’ve developed a narrative budget that you’d like to share – please do! Email it to me at email@example.com.
It’s time to get your budget ready. Be sure that through your budget you paint a whole and joyful story of the exciting ways you’re impacting your world.