Pastors Rob Ketterling of River Valley Church in Minnesota and Herbert Cooper of Peoples Church in Oklahoma know a thing or two about church budgeting and ministry growth. If you’re wondering how to balance smart financial principles with faith when it comes to the budget, here are five practices that have served these pastors well:
1. Identify the gap
Ketterling says, “I believe there should always be a gap between what you want to do and what you need.”
A general rule of thumb is to budget off of 80% of the church’s income (tithes and offerings) and put the rest in reserve. But as a leader, you may be called to dream outside financial comfort zones. Ask yourself, what has God placed in your heart to do, what do you need, and what’s the gap?
2. Set realistic goals that stretch faith
Once you’ve identified a financial gap, it’s time to set goals. However, presenting a goal that’s completely unrealistic can discourage your congregation.
According to Ketterling, most churches have three kinds of gaps: small “forecasting” gaps, larger “faith” gaps, and unrealistic “foolish” gaps, which are probably best kept between you and God rather than shared with your church. By presenting your forecasting and faith gaps, you’ll be able to effectively lead your congregation toward the vision and stretch their faith without breaking it.
3. Design a budget that lets you save toward goals
Faith and smart money practices are not mutually exclusive. A church budget is imperative for helping you reach goals while protecting you against unexpected expenses.
“Don’t spend all you bring in,” Cooper advises. “Give. Put some away for a rainy day. Have a plan in the budget for the next dream that’s been placed in your heart, while you’re casting vision and believing in faith and raising money.”
4. Monitor budget performance
Don’t let months go by without checking your budget’s performance. Regularly monitoring bank statements and expenses allows you to see areas that may need adjustment. The goal is to make sure you are staying well within the church’s income and allocating resources according to ministry needs and goals.
“I had a pastor tell me, ‘Always keep your eye on the money,’” says Cooper. “I don’t want just a report given to me. Show me the bank statement. I’m not going to go five months and ask, ‘How are we doing?’”
5. Connect givers to the church vision
Proactively share the church vision with specific people in your congregation, challenging them to support it through strategic giving that goes beyond tithing.
Each year River Valley Church invites people to become “kingdom builders.” Ketterling simply tells them, “Here’s what we know we’re going to bring in. Here’s what we want to do. You’re here as a part of this to close the gap so we can do what’s in our heart.”
Ultimately, balancing smart church budgeting with faith is a continual process. These five practices can help keep your church on track toward the goals God has put in your heart.
Ketterling says, “Someday you’re going to need to step out in faith. You don’t want just a comfortable, forecasting church. You want a church that’s been stretched and can budget for growth in faith.”
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