Folks, fall has officially arrived! This season brings so many cool things from changing leaves to the dreaded pumpkin spice. Yes I used the word dreaded to describe pumpkin spice. I was driving the other day and saw an auto garage advertising that they had pumpkin spice motor oil. It is definitely a huge problem in our society!
The fall season brings something not so exciting, though, for many churches and organizations across the country. It is budget time! This is usually the time where most in ministry are evaluating the past year and trying to decide what the next year looks like in terms of dollars and cents. This can be exciting and frustrating all at the same time. How do you essentially put a price tag on the invaluable ministry that you provide week in and week out? The investment that you all make on a daily basis is, indeed, priceless.
Budgeting has always been something that excited me. Yes, I am weird. The hours of figuring out how to best utilize the dollars that God has entrusted us with can be stressful for sure, but this can also be a time to really allow the Holy Spirit to speak new life and vision into you and your team. This can be a time to really look into how the last year went and make crucial decisions on how you want to move forward during the next 12 months. The process I have used in my 15+ years of ministry hasn’t changed much. It is honestly fairly simple. It all begins with asking questions. Do you feel like the vision you had at last year’s budgeting time was accomplished? If the answer to that is yes, then you are ahead of the game. If not, then what were the circumstances that hindered you? How can those issues be resolved as you move forward into the next season? Has God given you a bigger vision for the next year? What do you need to accomplish that vision? Finally, is it time to remove or innovate your current programs to make room for something fresh?
These questions can be challenging to ask ourselves. We must be realistic in terms of evaluating how well we managed. We also have to consider the reality of our limitations while still operating in faith.
For many of us, thinking strategically in terms of the upcoming year can be a definite stretching point. There are a lot of us out there who are just trying to make sure we have everything needed for the upcoming week. I have broken down the major areas that each of us should consider when formulating an annual budget. My hope is that this outline will help you determine your needs as you step into the future.
Common Categories in NextGen Ministry Budgets
1. Curriculum: What are you going to teach during this next year? Has the current curricula met the needs of young people and families in your church? If the answer to that question is “yes” then you should be able to very easily pinpoint the cost of this. If the answer is “no” then it is time to research how you are going to innovate this crucial area of your program.
2. Events: What major events do you provide each year? It might be a fall outreach, a quarterly Family Experience or even a mission trip. Do you charge for these events? Does the income you receive from these events truly cover all of the costs or do you need to add budgeted dollars to cover all of the costs?
3. Recruiting: How do you plan on drawing in new volunteers? Maybe you are planning on having interest luncheons every month. Maybe you like to take potential volunteers out for coffee to help them find the right place to serve. Either way, you will want to make sure that you have enough dollars set aside to really connect with people.
4. Training and Appreciation: We spend time and money on drawing people in. This category is about keeping them. What tools do you plan on using to ensure that the people who serve in your area of ministry are equipped and valued?
5. Supplies: I usually look at this through the lens of how many students or children our program serves on a weekly basis. How much did you spend last year in this area? If you plan on growing, it is wise to add a percentage to what you spent last year to facilitate that growth.
6. Marketing: How are you going to get the word out to the community regarding what you provide? This could be a website, social media strategy, printed materials, or a combination of all of it.
7. Technology: Do you have enough working computers, printers, and all that jazz? What needs to be refreshed or replaced to ensure that everything is in good working order?
8. Environments: Things wear out and get old. Do you need to replace furnishings? Maybe some of your classrooms need a fresh coat of paint. Maybe some carpeting needs to be replaced in high traffic areas. This is also a good place to put the needs that come up from theming environments in your ministry in regards to seasons.
9. Staffing: Is it time to hire someone? This is also a good place to suggest raises for current staff. Many ministries hire summer staff or interns. This would be the place to list those needs.
10. Personal Development: How do you plan on growing in your leadership, personally? You will most likely read books, attend conferences, or pursue a mentor during the next year to make sure that you continue growing. What is that going to take?
Once you have figured all of these areas out, you need to put them in a simple document that breaks it down for the leadership of your church. They may even provide you with a template. It is important to note for them which areas could possibly be adjusted and which areas are solid needs that don’t really have any wiggle room. You might feel that it is all concrete, but I want to encourage you to try to remain kingdom-minded here. The leadership of your church has the responsibility of weighing your requests against the needs of the entire church. They may ask you to make adjustments by the dollar or percentage. You should be prepared to do that.
When it is time to submit your completed budget for review and approval you should also attach a letter to it. This letter should highlight some of the major accomplishments you experienced over the last year. Tell some stories about how the budget you had last year translated into changed lives. It is also important to try and be proactive in answering potential questions about your asks. If items need to be replaced, take pictures so they don’t have to go looking around the church for what you are talking about.
Finally, when you receive your approved budget, I would encourage you to move forward with joy. Rejoice in the fact that you have been entrusted with a portion of your congregation’s faithful giving. Do the best you can do with the blessings you have received.
This process doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be a great way to allow God to speak new life into the hard work that you do. Remember, well thought out requests that are attached to a vision that supports your church’s mission will always be looked at in high regard. This is your chance to show your leadership what could be in the upcoming year. Embrace it! Happy planning!