Over the years, I have learned that the term budgeting has different meanings for different people. I recently read a definition that described a budget as, “An orderly system of living beyond our means.” Hopefully, that is not what a budget is for most of us. This simply should not be the case with church budgeting.
Contrary to what some may presume, there is a biblical basis for church budgeting. First of all, 1 Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” As leaders in the local church, our responsibility is simply to be faithful stewards. God has placed a trust on us to serve Him in the local church. Jesus Christ Himself also taught in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” The Bible teaches that as leaders in the local church, we have a responsibility to plan ahead. Budgeting is simply part of counting the cost.
So what exactly is a church budget, and what is its purpose? There is a plethora of different reasons for a church to have a budget. Ultimately, it is a tool to honor the Lord with what He gives us.
A budget is a plan for spending with the purpose of achieving Christ-honoring goals. Goals can be very simplistic. The goal could simply be to make sure the staff gets paid or that the bills are current. There are also very large goals, such as building projects. Budgeting is planning ahead for these goals and spending the money to see the goals achieved.
A budget is a translation of the pastor’s vision into financial terms. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” We have a biblical admonition to follow—to support the vision of our pastor as he walks with the Lord.
A budget is a plan for allocating available resources. Let’s face it, there is never enough money in our churches to do everything we would like to do. Because of this, we have to focus the scarce resources that we have on the very highest priorities in the local church.
A budget is a tool for pre-deciding any of the financial details of daily ministry. In preparing a budget, we are thinking about 12–15 months ahead of what is actually going to happen. For example, if we are budgeting things like activities or events, we pre-decide a year in advance how much we are going to spend. The budget helps to make a more efficient ministry in this aspect.
A budget is a benchmarking tool for measuring financial performances. Most of the time, how we actually spend our money does not turn out exactly how we budgeted it. That is the nature of a budget. If we were favorable or unfavorable to the budget, we have a basis against which we can measure.
A budget is a communication tool for our church family. We communicate the budget to our church family primarily through our annual business meeting. During this time, we provide the church with the annual budget. This gives them a tool to see how the money they are giving is being used. This also gives them something to pray about and support over the course of the year.
Finally, a budget is a measure of accountability and transparency to our church family. Those who are giving in the church gain confidence in what the church is doing. We need to allow them to have an understanding of what is happening.
Ultimately, the budget needs to support the mission statement of the church. All church programs and ministries budgeted should flow from the church’s mission. Every financial decision we make needs to support that purpose.
While many people try to veer from the term “budgeting,” budgeting does have a biblical purpose in the local church. However, it is our duty to budget according to biblical principles by wisely stewarding what God has given us. We cannot expect the blessings of God if we are not faithful to Him with our finances.