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Six Steps to an Inspiring Budget

Image of the word Budget in colorful blocks. Courtesy photo.
Image of the word Budget in colorful blocks. Courtesy photo.

Churches seem to build budgets in one of two ways:

Option 1. You determine what God is calling your congregation to do. Depending on what your congregation has done in the past and is capable of doing in the future, you build a budget.

Option 2. You look at your budget and either stay constant, cut items, or do a small increase.

Oversimplified? Yes. But hear me out.

Option #1 looks to God first. Option #2 looks to the budget first.

Option #1 puts mission first. Option #2 looks at the budget first.

Option #1 is hopeful and future oriented. Option #2 is cautious and tentative.

Here’s the big secret: Option #1 doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. It may take work, it may take sacrifice, but it doesn't necessarily cost more money to get to where God is calling you.

I get why Option #2 is attractive, I do. Especially if you feel like you are on a shoestring budget and worry about where every penny will come from. It makes perfect sense. But – and this is critical – it’s not very inspiring.

To inspire giving, you need to show that you have a mission that people believe in and that their giving will make an impact.

So figure out what God is calling you to accomplish next year. How can you best express the values of your faith community or organization? What can you do next year to make the world a better place? Guess what? Do this and your budget will follow and …(bonus!) people will be far more excited to help your mission come to life.

Here’s a suggested six-step process to inspire excitement around your budget:

1. Start with prayer by reflecting on what you think God is calling your faith community to do.

2. Bring a set of three or four inspired ideas/goals to your leadership group or council. Have these goals written down and include what you hope to accomplish.

For example: In 2020 we will increase the number of children (grades k-5) in Sunday School by 10 children.

Here’s how we might do that:
a. Develop a modern-looking flier focusing on Sunday School, what happens in Sunday School, and where and when it happens, etc.

3.  Lead a discussion about the direction you’re proposing. Find out what people think. Are these goals off base? Right on target?  Which ideas resonate most strongly with the leadership? The more buy in, the better.

4.  Ask for approval for the proposed direction. Then you can begin talking about your faith community’s goals in other meetings, sermons, and in written documents.

5.  Let your Finance Committee base the budget around your approved direction.

6. Be accountable. Go back to your leadership group in six months to report back on your congregation’s progress.

A six-step process like this means you’re planning your budget based on an abundance mindset (future-oriented, doing what you do well, and with what you have) versus a scarcity mindset (what you’re trying to avoid or fearing what the future holds). It’s developing a budget based on what God is calling you to do. And it’s out of a belief in God’s abundance and abundant love for your faith community. That will be inspiring. And heck, it just might be inspiring to the whole world as well.

excerpt of a story by Cesie Delve Scheuermann, consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing, Oregan-Idaho AC,
Click here to subscribe to her blog: "Inspiring Generosity." 

United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about the generosity of United Methodists click here.

Originally published 2016.

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