With the help of our friends at PSK, CPA, an accounting firm that specializes in churches, we’re talking about church budgets this month.
Most projects can benefit by starting with definitions, to make sure everyone is on the same page.
According to Verne Hargrave, one of the PSK partners, if you were to look for a definition of a budget, you might come across something like these:
An accounting device used to plan and control resources of operational departments and divisions. (Warren, Survey of Accounting)
A plan of financial operation consisting of an estimate of proposed expenditures for a given period and the proposed means of financing them. (Beams, Brozovsky & Shoulders, Advanced Accounting)
One of the most effective internal controls… (ECFA, Accounting & Financial Reporting for Christian Ministries)
If you look at the bolded words in these definitions, you would notice a theme of CONTROLS & CONSTRAINT. Typically, that’s how many people think about personal budgets in general…they’re there to cramp our style. Come to think of it, that’s how some view the Word of God.
Viewing the Word as a love-letter from God and not as a fun-busting rule book produces different results. In the same way, a similar shift in thinking on church budgets can completely change the outcome of our financial plans and execution of those plans.
So, let’s look at some new definitions. Do you see the words that can help us make this shift?
- A strategic budget guides the church in allotting and spending its money in congruence with its deep, defining core values to accomplish a specific, biblical mission and a clear, compelling vision. It focuses on where God is taking the Church.” (Malphurs & Stroope; Money Matters in Church)
- “A church budget is simply the vision of the church for the next twelve months expressed in dollars, rather than words.” (Verne Hargrove, PSK)
Did you spot them? Perhaps you saw core values, mission, vision and focus. A budget concerned only with controlling things and not including the vision and mission of the church is not adequate. A church budget that focuses on where a church is going will have a completely different outcome.
Perhaps, a good starting point for your 2016 budget is to ask all stakeholders to define a church budget, because, whether stated or not, whether conscious or not, those definitions will affect the direction your budget takes your church.
And that may not match where God wants to take it.