If you read our last blog containing church management “math hacks,” you may already be aware that large, unexpected gifts should be kept separate from your general budget. But that doesn’t mean they don’t require intentional thought.
Everyone dreams of that ridiculously large gift that comes out of nowhere, the one that allows all their ministry dreams to materialize.
In an instant, leaders would imagine debt vaporizing. They would blow the dust off their wish lists as Disney-sized cogs begin whirring in their heads to the tune of Hakuna Matata…“what a wonderful phrase, it means no worries for the rest of your days.”
Yes, they would eventually sit down and plan out how to spend the surprise funds, but this gift would also be perfect timing for the furnace that just puffed its last breath and died. The interest payment on the capital campaign is coming due, as well.
“It’s a God-thing,” everyone would say; “the answer to prayers.” But is it?
The History of Lottery Winning
As anyone who follows the history of lottery winners knows, sudden large influxes of money rarely work out to be the blessing most people think they will be. Lottery winners don’t usually end up viewing their winning as a “ticket to paradise.”
Eddie Money, journalist for TheTimesTribune.com, says “A lot of ‘Big Money’ misery comes from not having the necessary systems in place. Many lottery winners weren’t ready for their 15 minutes of fame and the hangers-on who want a piece of them.”
Pre-planning for Provision (or Lack Thereof)
Planning how to spend money is tricky business when you don’t know how much you’ll have. Crafting a budget assumes that:
- Every line-item you forecast will be there
- The items themselves will not change
- No surprise expenditures will show up
- All the resources you expect to be available will be there
Life being what it is, however, there is a good likelihood that you will be either: 1) over budget or 2) under budget. A budget is just a loose framework; you can’t expect your forecasts to be spot-on.
The Wisdom of 3 Church Budgets
Inevitably, unexpected donations that are not preceded by a carefully planned wish list and leadership agreement will be frittered away on the first, loudest or shiniest demand that surfaces. Likewise, unexpected deficits can create chaos or stress unless priorities have been established beforehand.
That’s why it’s a good idea to create your church budget based on your best evaluation of funds (i.e. your data). Then, we recommend two auxiliary budgets, one for bonus funds and one to make preliminary, non-emotional decisions in the event of shortfalls. It’s as simple as asking “Where can we afford to cut back if the funds aren’t there?” and “How would we allocate bonus funds?”
Develop a Bonus Funds Mentality
If you ponder the question “what would your church do if someone offered your church $10 million?” long enough, and you recognize the absolute necessity of having a plan in place at the outset, you will realize that having plans in place might be useful NOW. In fact, that may be what God is waiting for.
- Perhaps the flow of financial blessing favors the prepared.
- Perhaps those who are dreaming big but also putting their dreams on paper with healthy doses of wisdom, prayer and Holy Spirit guidance are the ones who will receive the blessing of unexpected gifts.
- Perhaps, since large sums of unexpected money bring out rampant, irrational emotional responses that could ultimately tear a church apart, God is careful with large sums of money.
A wise leader, then, if offered a $10 million gift, would ask for a year to plan for such a generous but potentially damaging gift.
Are You Dreaming or Are you Doing?
Is God placing huge dreams in your heart that you’re wondering how to fund?
James 4:3 warns, “You ask and receive not, because you want to spend it on your pleasure.” Why not flesh out those dreams by asking Him to help you plan and put systems in place for how you will manage the funding of the dream? (Note: we’re talking manage, not necessarily earn. As the saying goes, “If it’s God’s will, it’s God’s bill.”)
The process of planning and honing the vision will be a transforming exercise that reveals obstacles you might not even know you’re facing, while also building your faith.
Visionary influencers don’t wait for the gift to arrive to start scrambling for how to manage it! They get the systems in place first.