Every church is different. Some are part of a large denomination like Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Assembly of God, Episcopalians, Lutherans, etc. Others are non-denomination and operate without a denomination’s structure, backing, or affiliation. And to make it even more complicated when trying to understand how churches function, there are different governance or leadership models for churches, like Episcopal Government, Congregational Government, and Presbyterian Government. So, if all of the differences listed above weren’t confusing enough, our church operates as an Elder led organization under the Policy Governance model. Per the PolicyGovernance.com website, Policy Governance is “an integrated board leadership paradigm created by Dr. John Carver, is a groundbreaking model of governance designed to empower boards of directors to fulfill their obligation of accountability for the organizations they govern.”
I wanted to start this post by highlighting the various ways churches run. It is impossible to present a one-size-fits-all approach to churches – they are just too diverse. While acknowledging all the differences and complexities, I find joy and satisfaction in helping churches develop their budget because handling God’s money in a way that pleases Him is timeless and spans all the differences. That’s why I gravitate toward writing posts that would have helped me when I first started in ministry and sharing information that may help others on their journey.
Recently, the Elder board at the church I serve requested funds to utilize a consultant to gain further insight and knowledge into the Policy Governance model. Since this is the model of governance at our church, it is a very reasonable request. And that led me to wonder if the Elder board should have a line item(s) in the budget.
Valid Elder Board Expenses
Generally, a non-profit organization, like a church, should have a budget line item for Board Related Expenses. But what should a church include in Board Related Expenses? Should the church pay the expenses like gas or transportation for a board member to attend the board meetings? No. What then qualifies as Board Related Expenses? Many board meetings happen after work, and buying food for the Elders seems like a reasonable request to allow them to serve at full capacity. In addition to food, include administrative items like printing or meeting supplies on the list. And if the board requires consultants to assist them in navigating the governance system’s complexities, add that too.
Building the Budget
Regardless of the size or structure of your church, crafting a church budget has numerous considerations. It starts with identifying the mission, vision, and values and the specific focus of the upcoming fiscal year. It requires investing time to gather the data and project a realistic budget target. Building a solid church budget demands evaluating key areas like compensation to ensure staff compensation aligns with church attendance and the total budget. The church budget purchases curriculum for children’s ministry and keeps the lights, heating, and air conditioning functioning. It supports the missionaries globally and locally. It allows the community to see the light of Jesus in a dark world. And yes, it buys a pizza or two for the Elder board, and when necessary, the church budget needs to allocate funds to ensure the church governance is solid. As your church builds the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, ask the Elder (or governance) board what they need and add the line items.