By Todd McMichen
I suspect many pastors aren’t all that thrilled about the process of creating a budget and getting it approved. We know it’s necessary, but not exactly fun.
Vision may outstretch resources. It can be a real challenge to navigate budget requests by ministry leaders while keeping fiscal responsibility in mind. Many pastors tend not to gravitate towards numbers or hard conversations, but are drawn to people.
So let’s turn the budget process into a people-building process. Here are three easy ways to help your people grow in generosity while getting the budget approved.
1. Always Begin With Celebration.
I suggest this be a step from the beginning of your first team meeting in the budget development process all the way to the final board approval and congregational reveal.
Budgets, by themselves, are boring. They don’t tell a good story on their own, so we need to help them along.
This year, your givers have invested large sums of money into the mission of the local church. It’s been a long time since they witnessed the joy of Easter crowds, the student baptism service following youth camp, or the energy of the summer mission team.
People need to be reminded of the significant impact their giving has made and be given the chance to enjoy it. Help them celebrate.
Beginning with celebration will also enable you to guide resources toward your most fruitful ministries while setting a new tone for the life-changing power of a well-designed budget. Set a great money tone.
2. Host A New Members Gathering.
New members can be slow to join the generosity train. They’ll eagerly follow, however, a clear vision that’s shown to be working.
The budget-reveal season is a good time to help people who’ve joined your church over the past year take a huge step forward.
Gather them for a fun evening of food and fellowship. Celebrate the impact of the church they’re now a part of, and then educate them on how money works in your leadership setting.
Build their confidence in your financial systems and leadership competency. Get them up to speed with everyone else.
This will increase their level of engagement in taking next steps in giving. Additionally, you’re in a great season to move someone into membership because the vision for the next year is becoming crystal clear.
Use this season of revealing and approving a budget to move guests and new members forward in discipleship. As you demonstrate how the church’s budget is helping drive the church’s vision forward, both generosity and volunteerism will increase as a result.
3. Host A Key Leaders Event.
Key leaders and key givers love insider information. These people love your church and are just waiting for the next clarion call.
Host a wonderful evening with them. Thank them, celebrate with them, and share a preview of where the church is going.
Your best givers aren’t really motivated to dig the church out of a financial ditch, but they do love to help you tackle a mountain. If your vision is big enough, don’t be afraid to let them invest above and beyond dollars toward a clear cause of vision impact.
Create an above-and-beyond fund that’s focused on several visionary initiatives that possibly couldn’t fit in your regular budget. Givers love to give. They enjoy seeing how their money moves the dial forward for you.
Help them get in on all that God is up to.
Now, here’s one additional item that’ll help reduce your stress related to money in the next fiscal year. It’ll also increase the joy in your team and givers.
For the most part, churches tend to increase their total budget amount every year. In all honesty, most don’t feel great about it, but we call for vision and faith, and then move forward.
However, giving typically lags behind projections at the beginning of the year. This in turn, causes stress to mount for church leaders. By the time we get to May, we’re full into “one day offering mode” to make sure the summer slump doesn’t take us under.
To help overcome this, follow this important, but super-easy tip:
4. Build Some Margin In Your Budget.
When you build your budget, try making the total dollar amount slightly less than your current budget year’s projected gifts. Just build a little margin into your plan.
Do this every year. Try to go crazy by making a goal of growing towards a 10% margin cushion in future years.
Your leaders will be impressed, you’ll be less stressed, and you’ll likely see a large nest egg grow to help you pay cash for large items in the future. Turn self-imposed money stress into resource fun.
Budget season is a wonderful time to increase engagement, giving, and serving. Your decision-makers, key leaders, and church members can all take a step forward in discipleship growth. And your church will develop a new, healthy culture around the subject of money.
Generosity is something we all grow in and church leaders have to cultivate it all year long. The end of this year could be an incredible turning point in both your leaders and your givers.
Go unleash giving today.
TODD MCMICHEN (@ToddMcMichen) is Director of Generosity & Digital Giving at Lifeway and author of Leading a Generous Church: Making Disciples without Chasing Money.