It is the time for annual meetings in many, if not most, congregations. Are you ready?
I will never forget sitting in the annual meeting during my internship year. I was completely enthralled, and completely confused! Reflecting on that time, I think my confusion came mostly in the area of the budget and I am sure I was not alone!
Budgets are a confusing thing, especially for those individuals who might not even have a defined household or general monthly budget. At the time of this particular meeting, I had tackled the monthly budget but at the age of 25, that didn’t include too much. I was, and am, no different than many of our parishioners and it has had me thinking— are our budgets one of the walls that have been built and are keeping individuals from being further involved in the life and ministry of our congregations?
Over the last few years, I have tried to understand budgets a bit more. One class offering at Union that helped me greatly as I started down this road was “Church Business Administration” which is also available through our Leadership Institute over the course of 8 separate and focused classes (one class completely devoted to, you guessed it, BUDGETS!). I highly recommend it to any church administrator, pastor, and clerk of session! (Learn more about our CBA offerings in Charlotte and in Richmond.)
I have recently looked at several different budgets in an effort to learn more about the congregations I am serving through Church Relations and have seen some really great ones, as well as some not so great budgets. As you begin, or finalize, your work on this year’s budget I offer these models to you–
- The Narrative Budget– this just might be my favorite that I have come across. This budget tells a story and draws the people in. Each ministry within the congregation shares their story of what has happened over the last year and what they hope to achieve in this coming year. Numbers are attached to the story, but are not the focus. These are the budgets that I have seen as most successful because we see a story and want to be involved. We see successes and dreams, and want to support that however we can.
- The Line Item Budget– almost complete opposite of the narrative, these budgets give a line by line breakdown. They are easily seen and understood for the most part, but show very little of where the money goes beyond each committee. These might be harder for individuals in the congregation to invest in, both financially and with their time and efforts. In my opinion, this budget might work best as an attachment to the Narrative.
- Time Budget– This is something that I saw for the first time at Peace Presbyterian Church (Winterville, NC). Their 2017 budget offers a narrative and line item model, but also includes the amount of time that is used for each ministry and the monetary value of that time.
- Weighted Expense Budget– Another new budget for me, introduced by Peace Presbyterian. This budget breaks down the overall budget (or a line-item) and explains what percentage of the budget goes to different aspects of ministry. This particular budget even includes notes about the percentage of the pastor’s time, helping to explain the age old questions of “What do we pay you to do?” and “Don’t you just write a sermon and visit a few people each week?”
Budgets are a tricky a thing, but the good news is that there are so many examples out there! Ask your neighboring pastors if you can see how they do their budgets, or dig around online (several congregations will be sharing them on their websites this time of year!). Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something new or even ask your congregation what they would like to see!
I am a firm believer that many individuals are not as involved as they could be, because they don’t understand the language that many congregational leaders use. If we can make budgets accessible and use them as an avenue to share more about our ministry, we might be surprised at who shows up as a new committee member next month!
What type of budgets do you use in your congregation?
What has worked well for you?
I invite you to share your experiences so that might all learn from them!
Rev. Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer