When the annual budgeting process rolls around, I know executive pastors can often get overwhelmed because your plate was already full before the annual budgeting process ever began. If that's you and this process doesn't just fire you up, I want to give you a few suggestions on how you can simplify your budget that will not only make your life easier now, it will save your staff time over the course of the year. Doing so can certainly result in more focus on ministry, additional cost savings, and a much simpler process for your accounting team.
The absolute most important step in the budgeting process is to clearly convey the vision for the upcoming season. I get that it might not be too different from last year, but you want to paint the picture of where you'd like to be at the end of the following year. It's critical this is communicated and understood before anyone starts talking about what they want included in the budget for next year. The vision sets the stage for all ministries and resources to be allocated to accomplish that vision accordingly. If the vision has to do with a renewed focus on equipping the church to self-feed, comprehend, and apply biblical principles, then we need to be allocating additional funds to corresponding areas to make that happen. That means age-group ministries such as kids, students, and college, as well as adults may need to shift their focus to how that applies to their specific ministries and what it will take to make that a reality. That also means you'll be saying no to certain things that were in the budget previously. In fact, it might mean saying no to something that has always been in the budget. Said another way, effective budgeting is about prioritizing resources to see the vision become a reality. Anything that isn't focused on that vision is secondary.
When talking about the structure of the actual budget, less is more. Here's what I mean - once the vision has been cast, understood, and the ministry leaders have applied it to their specific area, it's absolutely necessary to think through the approach(es) they will use and the resources they believe are necessary to make that happen. However, once they can articulate their approach, they do not need a line item for every expense as a part of their budget. No church budget needs to have such detail where there are individual accounts for individual items. If the student ministry will hold an event each quarter to bring in parents to help equip them in their role as parents, we don't need separate line items for paper, printing, food for the event, or to pay the speaker. Keep it simple. Create a budget in the student ministry for quarterly equipping classes and call it done.
While this could apply in so many different ways, I'm suggesting you eliminate anything in your budget, account structures, or designated accounts that doesn't align with your vision and your objectives. All too often churches open themselves to bringing in all kinds of contributions because a member or visitor would like to give towards a specific area or cause. I'm not suggesting you prevent anyone from contributing towards a specific or designated area. I'm recommending you identify the few key areas that you will be taking specific contributions (outside of the general budget) and communicating that to your congregation. All too often I see the Pew Cushion Fundraiser of 1992 that sits on the books until Jesus returns. It's challenging because it's another account your accounting team has to manage and even more frustrating when someone actually gives towards it as it prevents those funds from being spent where the greatest need exists. Again, don't hear me say that designated accounts are a bad thing. I'm simply saying that if you have more than a dozen active areas that your church members can contribute to individually, you really need to consider consolidating or eliminating some of those items. You'd be amazed at the time it frees up from your accounting team and the resources it frees up to use where they're needed.