The young pastor sat with his wife, staring blankly through the tears. The dream that had led him to his first pastorate had become a disaster. His problems stemmed from church finances, and he took little comfort in the fact that many young pastors before him had failed for similar reasons.
John had little financial expertise. His family was well-to-do, so finances seldom had been discussed in the home. His college and seminary training were underwritten, thus some important financial "learning experiences" were by-passed. The few courses in seminary had been elementary, and he hadn't thought much about church finances. Now the day of reckoning had dawned, and all the challenge and romance of ministry seemed to fade into nothingness.
Financial problems cast a heavy spell over all they touch. It's essential for a pastor to develop good financial tools to properly handle church finances. There are some basic steps to take in handling the finances of your church in these economy-chaotic days. Whether they serve as a primer course for new pastors or as a refresher course for established ministers, these basic principles can help develop successful church finances.
Work Out a Budget
A budget will establish the priorities for ministry and improve money management, as well as provide a periodic review toward goals achievement. The church budget reveals what the congregation thinks is worth an investment.
Three considerations should be made:
1. Carefully select the people who fashion the budget. If developed by a group whose sole purpose is to save money, a lot of ministry and not a little future will be sacrificed. Input should come from the leaders of the church who are on the front lines of making ministries happen, and who also have the future growth and spiritual development of the church at heart.
It's been said, "Non-tithers cannot have the same vision for a church as tithers." The giving base of a growing church in my district consisted mostly of those who were deeply dedicated to the evangelistic outreach of the church. They were primarily persons who gave beyond the tenpercent tithe. However, the board had invited some newer members into the financial planning session, hoping to involve them in a meaningful way.
As the session got down to the nitty-gritty of working out the budget, several of the newer members, who were not yet accustomed to tithing, voiced real opposition to budget expansions. Some of the core group talked to them about "giving a little more" for outreach, but the idea was received with resistance. The level of commitment, to a large degree, does determine final dollars in a church budget.
2. Budgets also should be put together by those who may not know finances, but they do know the church's priority to ministry. Although others may be experts in percentages and budgeting, they might miss the point of ministry by being overly concerned with the mechanics of finances.
One church asked three of its members who worked in the financial world to prepare its budget for the coming year. When it was returned to the board it had severe cuts and adjustments. Although financially sound, it presented a number of ministry problems. When the board discussed the various allocations, three things surfaced:
¥ The finance committee had given more attention to investing escrowed funds than they did funding for ministry.
¥ They had built in recession anticipations, ignoring inspiration giving.
¥ They had eliminated programs on a dollar-for-dollar basis instead of their usefulness in ministry.