Church budgets can be hard to keep under control. Pastors should get a paycheck. Administrators need money to keep up with recurring costs. Other leaders require their own allotments of funding to execute their individual ministries within your organization.
With so many people getting in on the financial planning and execution, it’s important to consider how to keep tabs on your church’s spending as you go along. Here are seven ways you can set up an investment strategy that keeps your church’s budget under control.
In Ephesians 6:18, Paul emphatically exhorts the church at Ephesus by saying, “and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” This universal call to prayer applies to your budget as much as anything else.
Prayer is the unequivocal starting point for your budget. Start with prayer and then keep praying (not just individually but as a leadership team) as you manage your budget over time.
Yes, this one’s obvious. Is it really, though?
Tithe.ly points out that a budget is different from a financial report. The former considers how you’ll spend money, and the latter reports on how you spent it. As a responsible ministry, you want to have both of these in place.
It’s easy to make a basic budget to guide simple church operations. But taking things further can provide key insights and curb expenses before they become a problem. Consider everything from income streams and various operational costs to expenses related to outreach, church growth, debt, and even reserve funds.
Sometimes, the trick to keeping your budget under control is stepping back and considering the big picture. This is easiest to do with a third party offering financial consulting services.
Working with a professional can shed light on where your ministry is spending money that it shouldn’t. They can also help identify things like tax deductions that are easy to miss.
Ideally, you should look for a church-focused accountant. Chaney & Associates has worked with over 1,100 churches, and this has given us a deep understanding of what ministry budgets of all kinds look like.
God’s plan is always the best plan — which is why you want to take the time to pray even for something as practical as a budget. (See Tip 1.) With that said, it’s also wise to use that prayerful process to put a financial plan in place.
By setting parameters and creating guidelines for your budget, you create an estimate of what you’re planning on spending for the year. This also makes it easier to stick to commitments. If you find that your Christmas program is getting out of hand, for instance, having a financial plan to refer to makes it easier to put a stop to any unnecessary spending.
There’s nothing like having to go through someone else for approval to temper profligate spending. If you find that your ministry’s financial outflow is a little too fast and loose, appoint specific people to oversee and approve each major spending event. This is a powerful way to improve transparency with your budget.
This doesn’t mean they need to have an eye on every single financial transaction. Instead, set a lower limit, such as anything over $500. If an expense creeps over that number, it must go past your approval committee (and we mean committee — require multiple signatures).
Financial goals are a great way to work toward specific outcomes. They can help you support missions, put on a splashy Easter event, effectively conduct local outreach, or fund a new building.
Financial goals also have the natural side effect of helping to reign in unnecessary spending. When you are working toward larger monetary goals as an organization, these long-term focal points make it easier to cut out unnecessary expenses and keep spending low whenever possible.
Technology is redefining life as we know it, and it’s impacting how churches manage their finances. Payroll services, tracking expenses, bill pay, direct deposit, remote giving, and many other tech tools are transforming how churches handle their financial resources.
This can naturally simplify your money management and can even create cost-saving opportunities — when implemented correctly. That’s why Chaney & Associates commits all of our time specifically to helping churches implement financial solutions.
Our services include setting up comprehensive payroll solutions, online bill pay, and complete accounting and financial management systems. If you want to use tech to improve your church budget, we have proven systems that can streamline activity, cut costs, and take your ministry’s financial acumen to the next level.
Your budget should never be your primary focus. Nor should it hold you back. Use the tips above to create a better budget for your church. That way, you can focus on your ministry’s activities in the here and now without worrying about whether you can afford to keep your doors open in the future.