Putting together a budget rarely ranks high on our ministry to-do list. In fact, many of us would prefer to work back-to-back services with toddlers rather than plan out a year’s worth of income and expenses. However, a failure to budget wisely can quickly lead to frustration for you, other departments within your church, and even the children you serve.
Most of us did not get into ministry to crunch numbers, but a budget is much more than a math problem for you and your team to solve. In fact, a budget serves three key functions in your Sunday School department:
- A plan to achieve your ministry goals. No ministry can operate effectively without a budget. What will you spend money on? Why? With your Sunday School budget, it’s important to remember that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
- A measurement to keep you accountable. If we spend without measuring, we quickly get into trouble. You cannot expect your ministry to meet its budgeted goals if you never inspect how you are spending.
- A help in troubled times. No budget survives its first contact with the real world. However, a well-crafted budget will ensure that you do not lose sight of your mission when the unforeseen occurs.
With these perspectives in mind, let’s now dial in how to go about putting together your Sunday School budget.
This is where all budgets must start. What is the purpose of your ministry? What are you trying to accomplish? If, for example, your Sunday School exists to lead children to Jesus and grow them up in God’s Word, the majority of your dollars should be spent accordingly. Tip: Be sure and run your mission statement by the overarching mission statement of your church. Oftentimes, budgets run into conflict when there are conflicting missions.
While the mission answers the what, strategy answers the how. Let’s return to the mission of leading children to Jesus. How are you going to do that? Will that be through weekend services where the Word of God is taught, through community outreach events, or through Summer camps or VBS? Your strategies are where the real dollar figures get fleshed out. Tip: If you are unsure about a strategy, ask if it fulfills all or part of your mission statement. If it does not, it shouldn’t be in your budget.
Alright, so you’ve written out a list of great ideas, activities, services, and programs that will fulfill your Sunday School’s mission, …but there’s one problem; you don’t have enough money to do everything on the list. That’s alright. Now comes the hard work of establishing your ministry priorities. No ministry can do everything, and the budget is a great tool to deal with this reality.
Tip: Your top 3 priorities should always be essentials. In other words, without these things being funded, your ministry cannot fulfill its established mission.
No matter how well you have run your Sunday School’s needs through the funnel of mission, strategy, and priority, you will likely find yourself short of funds. Children’s ministries are notoriously underfunded. However, this does not mean that they are undervalued. Oftentimes, all that is required is making your needs known. Ask for a small chunk of time during a Sunday service to share your financial needs. You will be surprised how often people will give, once they know.
Tip: When sharing, always connect needs to your mission. People don’t give to increase your stockpile of crafts, but they will give when they hear how these crafts help lead their children to Jesus.
This last one is a biggie! A budget is useless if you don’t monitor your progress. There is nothing glamorous about saving receipts or comparing your monthly expenses against your monthly budget, but doing so holds you accountable to something that is very impacting: the mission, strategies, and priorities you established. All too often we get sloppy in the little things like receipts and it winds up costing us in the big things, like the mission.
Tip: If you are not naturally administrative, share the load with someone who is. There are plenty of people within the church who would love to help keep your accounting on track.