It might be a stretch to say that the day my wife and I started using a budget changed our lives, but not a big stretch. That day we substituted being frugal (our alternative to budgeting) for actually knowing our financial status. It was a liberating exchange.
The cornerstone of our budget is an annual “spending plan” that lists anticipated expenses, by category, based on our actual spending history. Your ministry probably follows a similar, though more complex, process.
As you’d expect, the first two categories in our spending plan are giving and saving. If you manage ministry money, you know why. So here’s a relevant question: Is saving part of your ministry’s spending plan?
So much budget work necessarily focuses on spending. Once you’ve set your annual income target, total expenses have to be at or under that number. So you naturally focus on keeping expenses in line and on mission. It’s easy to let saving take a back seat. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t let that happen.
- You don’t know what your actual expenses will be. From personal crises on your staff to national disasters impacting your community, all kinds of unexpected things can cause expenses to go up.
- You don’t know what your actual income will be. From declines in church attendance to public relations nightmares to economic meltdowns, any number of things can reduce your revenue.
- You can’t foresee irresistible opportunities. On short notice God may call you to pursue a ministry initiative, like fighting human trafficking, that you neither expected nor built into your budget.
Having adequate savings assures that despite unexpected increases, decreases, or opportunities, your ministry can stay on mission.
How much savings do you need? Here’s a little checklist to get the conversation going with your team.
☐ You budget 10% of your income for savings.
☐ You have 3-6 months’ operating expenses in savings.
☐ You have a saving plan and a savings account for facilities and maintenance expenses.
☐ You have an investment plan that maximizes the return on your savings.
☐ Your savings are secure thanks to internal controls and adequate deposit insurance.
If you checked five boxes, your savings are probably strong. Any less and it’s probably time to have that conversation with your team.