Planning an Effective Church Budget: Following a Budget Planning Timeline.

A guest blog from the accounting team at PSK.

Financial planning in churches varies as greatly as worship styles, mission projects, and building architecture. Some churches operate without a budget, a practice that’s definitely not recommended. But many churches swing to the other extreme, expending exorbitant time and energy to fix and control budgets. A budget is a planning tool. It can help maximize resources and reach goals. But the budget itself is not the goal. At its best, a budget supports and complements the church’s overall values, mission, and strategy.

Follow a Budget Planning Timeline

Strong planning is the most important step in developing a church budget. In addition, clear communication about the budget frees leaders to plan the year’s activities and submit realistic budget requests. Following is a suggested budget development schedule based on a March 31 year-end. Notice that the work begins six months before day one of the fiscal year being planned.

September

• Establish a calendar to chart the process.

• Revisit the church’s overall vision.

• Develop ministry goals for the coming year.

To develop a budget, every church needs to know three things:

+ Who it is. (Values)

+ Where it’s going. (Mission)

+ How it’s going to get there. (Strategy)

October

• Project the church’s revenues for the upcoming year, based on recent giving history and trends.

+ Review giving receipts over the past three years or so.

+ Look at attendance levels to evaluate any noticeable trends.

•Review fixed or ongoing costs.

• Determine available funds.

• Distribute budget request packets to church staff and leaders charged with budget responsibilities. Ask them to project their financial needs for the upcoming year, supported by their ministry goals. Give a deadline for returning their packets.

November

• Collect and analyze all budget requests submitted by staff and other leaders.

+ Confirm that the requests are within dollar amounts previously established and consistent with the church’s mission and vision for the next year. A few questions to address during this process include:

+ Do numbers reflect the church’s mission?

+ Is there balance between in-reach and outreach?

+ Should any of these budget items no longer be funded? (Are they carrying out the vision/mission/strategy?)

• Approve budget requests.

• Develop preliminary budget.

• Communicate approvals and preliminary budget with staff and leaders.

January

• Make final analysis of the budget.

• Adopt the budget, and communicate details with staff and leaders.

February & March

• Communicate ministry goals and giving needs to church members.

April

• Implement the budget.

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