Churches “do” a lot – from evangelism to worship services to community outreach to supporting missionaries. Churches own property, pay bills, and employ people. But, your church does not exist to do any of those things. What a church does and how it does it are examples of methods to accomplish the mission, but they are not the mission itself. For most Christian churches, Matthew 28:19-20 is the basis for their mission. When trying to budget for something this important, it is helpful to know what to include, exclude, and adjust when building the ministry budget to separate methods from the mission.
What to Include: Church Budget – Ministries
Since the ministry budget uses various methods to accomplish the church’s mission use the following list as an example of how to structure a ministry budget. Use discernment when deciding which, if any, of these categories best fits your church’s method to accomplish the mission.
- Adult Ministries – Several sub-categories help break down the areas that usually fit within the Adult Ministries category: groups, care & help, men’s, women’s, and seniors. Depending upon the specific structure of your church, each of those sub-categories may contain another level of detail to show curriculum, volunteer appreciation, and event costs.
- Family Ministries – Investing in the spiritual growth of children and young adults is a strategic venture for any church. Building the budget for this area takes time and forethought. Here are some top-level sub-categories for Family Ministries: children, middle school, high school, and young adults. Depending upon the level of reporting detail, additional layers of sub-categories can exist within each of the top-level sub-categories like camps, non-camp events, curriculum, volunteer appreciation, supplies (everything from snacks to crayons to Bibles), and training.
- Outreach – Global outreach includes missionary support, short-term trips, and materials. Local outreach includes community efforts and events. (Helpful Tip: Unless the short-term outreach trip is entirely self-funding, include the church’s portion of the cost, insurance, and other administrative costs when planning the trip.)
- Weekend Experience – This category is broad by design and therefore requires sub-categories to forecast costs and accurately report on the spending. Top-level sub-categories include first impression (hospitality), worship arts (software specific for performance, copyrights, music, etc.), worship tech (equipment, repairs, consumables), and Sunday mornings (elements for a service like communion wafers and juice). Include volunteer appreciation in these top-level sub-categories to show some love to the teams making worship services happen.
What to Exclude: Church Budget – Ministries
- Compensation – All ministry staff compensation belongs in the Compensation section of the budget.
- IT Equipment – Check-in stations, check-in printers, even computers should not be in the ministry budget. A separate IT budget should include hardware, software, infrastructure, and support.
What to Adjust: Church Budget – Ministries
The changing trends of attendance and donations favor leaders that are nimble when building a church budget. Here are a few ideas to help if a pivot is necessary.
Cuts to the Budget
- The cost of youth camps continues to rise. Many churches budget a certain amount to drive down the cost to make camp affordable for as many students as possible. During lean times, it may be necessary to reduce or eliminate the church portion of the cost of camp. (Helpful Tip: inform the camp of the possibility of reduced attendance or even cancellation early on to avoid losing the deposit.)
Increase to the Budget
- Increase the amount the church can subsidize for camps or events and include scholarships for the under-resourced in your community.
- Determine if increasing missionary support is appropriate and sustainable.
- Evaluate audio/visual equipment for replacement. Properly functioning equipment goes a long way in creating a distraction-free environment to worship.
Churches can “do” a lot of good locally and globally. To avoid mission drift, church leaders need to understand the categories and structures of a ministry budget. These tips help determine the adjustments to make to ensure the church stays focused on its mission without getting attached to the method.