Here is a fun experiment for churches, run all Sunday morning services without bulletins, note sheets, check-in stations, WiFi, or online giving. You can imagine the results without sabotaging your church with this experiment – chaos would reign. It would not provide the ideal environment or experience for those who came to your church to worship. In the same way the facilities budget supports a safe, clean, and comfortable facility for people to worship, the operations budget funds all the other non-ministry aspects of a church budget. Even though the Operations budget is easy to ignore, it is fundamental and essential to the church budget. Understanding what to include, exclude, and adjust in the operations category of the church budget can help any church to run smoother – even on Sunday morning.
What to Include: Church Budget – Operations
It is difficult to create a definitive list of the Operations budget categories because every church is so unique. Some churches keep it simple and categorize all non-compensation categories as either ministry or operations, while others prefer a more detailed approach. This post assumes there are existing budget categories for Salaries, Facilities, and Ministries. The following list is not comprehensive but should spark an understanding of what belongs in the church budget category of operations.
- Finance – Several sub-categories fall under Finance, like bank charges, professional fees, taxes or assessments, and supplies.
- Office – Includes sub-categories like postage, office supplies, and copier expenses (lease).
- Information Technology – Technology changes fast. Making sure equipment and software are keeping pace is crucial for Sunday mornings and office use alike. Include equipment for infrastructure (internet access points, routers, hubs, ethernet cable, etc.), Sunday morning services, office use (including printers), and even check-in stations. Include software like Church Management (CCB/PushPay, Fellowship 1, Shelby), office suite, Dropbox, Google, Vimeo, YouTube, etc.
- Website – For some churches, the website may fall in the IT category. But a website is such a critical and potentially expensive line item it is worth separating. Sub-categories may include hosting, development, maintenance, SEO, images, etc. App development and support costs should also reside in this category.
- Marketing/Advertising – Sending postcards to the community, social media advertising, press releases, branded merchandise, etc.
- Printing – Think about budgeting for printing costs of posters, invite cards, bulletins, offering envelopes, and catalogs.
- Services – This title is a bit of a misnomer. Instead of Sunday services, think about services such as phone, internet, etc.
What to Exclude: Church Budget – Operations
- Worship Equipment – Include items such as cameras, lighting, and projectors in the worship ministry budget, not operations.
- Worship Software – Software used for worship services such as Planning Center Online, Resi, ProPresenter, Ableton, Multi-tracks, etc., are part of the worship ministry budget, not operations.
What to Adjust: Church Budget – Operations
Creating a church budget is a long process filled with adjustments based as much on attendance and giving as on mission, vision, and values. Here are a few ideas to help navigate when adjustments are necessary.
Cuts to the Budget
- Depending upon the age and quality of the IT equipment, develop a waterfall system when necessary. Waterfalling equipment means only purchasing essential equipment, determining who will benefit the most from the new equipment, and then systematically pushing down the older machines to allow an upgrade for everyone.
- Identify areas to scale back based on the reason or impact of the need for reductions. For example, if attendance is down, print fewer bulletins, postcards, etc.
Increase to the Budget
- IT Equipment – Replacing outdated, underperforming equipment will increase productivity and give the employees a morale boost.
- Marketing/Advertising – Getting people to know who you are, what you are doing, and why they should join you is all part of achieving your church’s mission. Fund it.
The operations of a church are a lot like working computer tech support. No one will ever call to tell you their computer is working perfectly. But, the moment something is not working, expect some calls. When putting together the church budget, identifying and funding all the operational needs goes a long way to ensure success and avoid unnecessary strife from malfunctioning equipment or services.