Big churches and small churches design their budgets very differently.
While large churches spend their time balancing percentages, designing requisition sheets, and tracking an increase or decrease of giving as one measurement of the church’s health, small churches deal with an entirely different set of issues.
For instance, I just Googled “what percentage of a church budget should be salary?” and I found several helpful articles.
One of them, from a very good church consulting ministry, acknowledges that while “…every church is different,” their team “…generally encourages churches to try to stay in the range of 45 to 55 percent of total budget. We’ve seen churches that have gone as high as 65 to 70 percent… (but) these higher percentages raise red flags. These ministries may be in a danger zone.”
This is good advice, based on years of experience and sound stewardship principles. But those percentages mean nothing in most small churches because the smaller the church, the more likely you are to fall into the “every church is different” part that they mentioned.
Each Small Church Is Different
While 45 to 55 percent of budget going to staff is healthy for mid-size to larger churches, the range is much wider for small churches. As in zero to one hundred percent.
There are healthy small churches in which no money goes to staffing costs at all (house churches and bivocational pastors, for instance), and healthy small churches where every dollar in the budget goes to pay the pastor’s salary.
No, those pastors aren’t draining the church dry, it’s just that in some situations the church may not have a building or other overhead, so everything that goes through the official budget pays the pastor’s meager salary, while all ministry expenses are done off-book. Not underhandedly, just on a more personal level.
With the possibilities for small church budgeting being so flexible, are there guidelines that are universal? I believe so. Here are nine of them.
(This is part of an ongoing series, Money and the Small Church.)
1. Don’t spend more money than you bring in
This is Stewardship 101. No matter how big or small the church is.
As I’ve mentioned in several previous articles, spending money you don’t have isn’t faith, it’s bad stewardship.