I once read a personal finance guru who said that people don’t need budgets. They just need to make more money. I’m doubtful of his advice. There is one thing I’m pretty sure of: your church needs a budget. Unfortunately, some church leaders run the church finances like they run their personal finances…with no budget in sight. There are ten reasons that this is (to put it gently) a very bad idea.
Maybe your church has a “budget,” but what does it look like? A half-completed Excel spreadsheet on someone’s personal computer? An envelope stuffed with receipts dating back to 2007? Some figures jotted on the back of a church bulletin? If that’s the case, this is for you, too.
- You are paralyzed whenever you are faced with a spending choice. When you don’t know what’s supposed to happen to your money, you can’t spend correctly.
- You develop liability for fraud. Financial fraud is, quite simply, being deceptive with money. You may not be intentionally deceiving anyone with the money, but if there are no books to record financial information, you’re automatically open to charges of fraud. When that happens, you can get fired.
- You have no plan for saving, thus putting your local church at considerable financial risk. A budget is intended to keep a church from careening off a financial precipice. Unless you have the protection of a budget, you could suddenly find your church in big money trouble.
- You have no plan for regulating church spending. This can lead to overspending, binge spending, unnecessary hoarding, and a ton of stress.
- You run the risk of mismanaged money and irate givers. When people give money to the church, they expect that money to be handled in a responsible way. If the money is not being handled responsibly, those givers may just be incensed and quit giving.
- You place yourself and others in a position of temptation. When the finances are in disarray, it’s much easier to steal church funds. That means that you are faced with the temptation to snag an extra few bucks, or maybe those who have a hand in church finances. If you are a church leader in a church with no budget—even if you’re as honest as can be—people will begin to question you.
- You are wasting money without a budget. One reason to have a budget is to find out where your financial leaks are. Most churches are wasting money in some way or another. Possessing a budget enables you to spot the leaks and plug them up.
- You have no plan in place for when finances increase. It’s every pastor’s dream—increased giving! A church with more funds is able to do more. But without a budget, what are you going to do? You are paralyzed by indecision. A budget makes things so much easier. And, as little word of advice, you don’t have to have a lot of money to need a church budget.
- You are unable to strategically analyze your local church’s mission and vision. The way a local church spends its money indicates its mission. Unless you have a clear purpose and plan for spending, you are compromising the church’s ability to communicate with intentionality and effectiveness.
- Your church business meetings are awful experience. Wild church business meetings are the stuff of legend. Want to see a really bad church business meeting? Try one with no budget. Someone is going to get upset. Someone is going to lose their temper. Someone is going to leave the church. Something bad will happen.
Need help in drawing up a budget? You may have someone in your church who can help. Or, with a bit of learning, you can create your own budget using some inexpensive software.