During the Great Recession, many ministries experienced an unfamiliar reality: dramatic income declines. Those that didn’t respond by quickly cutting expenses learned some key stewardship lessons the hard way. One was that it’s much easier to stay on mission when you build a healthy budget and stick to it. Do you wisely plan and diligently monitor your spending? Here are some tips to help you stay on track.
In his article How to Have a Healthy Church Budget, financial expert Dave Ramsey says that wise spending starts with healthy budgeting and cites five things must be true from the get-go:
- Your budget’s priorities reflect your church’s mission statement.
- It’s based on projected income, not just the past.
- It includes a spending plan.
- Leadership agrees on the plan.
- The plan is communicated clearly to all involved.
Note that the spending plan sits strategically at the heart of this list. Of course, for any plan to work, two things have to happen. You have to follow it, and you have to monitor as you go. “The budget won’t work perfectly the first quarter,” Ramsey says. “Look at it monthly and quarterly to keep things on track, and make adjustments where they’re needed.”
Another key to having a healthy budget, Ramsey says, is to reduce your debt so you have more money available to spend on mission-focused ministry. In The Church in Financial Crisis, he advises paying off all church debt, excluding your mortgage. “You’ll gain momentum as you knock out debts, one by one,” he says, “and free up cash flow to reach other goals.”
For a thorough look at healthy church budgeting, check out How to Take Charge of Your Church’s Finances by Leah Readings. As for a clear perspective on wise budgeting, Ramsey says look to prayer because it “unlocks your ability to join God in what he is doing.” He says God’s power is what “fuels every good work” and “it’s God who crowns our efforts with success.”