Church Budgeting Basics – Mission & Vision

Chris Miller, President of Miller Management, is the host of this week’s episode. He is joined by his colleague, Laura Sappington, an Accounting Senior Team Lead at Miller Management and an assistant treasurer at her local church.

Church Budgeting Basics – part one

September is all about cooler weather, pumpkin everything, and budget planning! Wait, what was that last one? Yep, you heard us correctly, for fiscal year-end clients, fall is the time to start setting those budgets for the upcoming calendar year.

Mission & Vision

Miller Management likes to use a book by Will Mancini that says your mission is a mandate. It describes what a church should ultimately do or be about everyday to support the vision. While the vision is your overarching goal. If the mission and vision aren’t clear, it can create frustration, hinder budgeting, and lack overall direction for your ministry.

We had a whole month of episodes devoted to this topic, if you want to hear more, start here.

The Budet Meeting

In preparation for the finance meeting to confirm the budget, Laura’s team looks at the General Ledger detail of what was spent for each ministry. Just to get the history. But the main part of the meeting, Laura says, is to re-focus on the church’s mission on a whole and see how that specific ministry is going to align with the mission.

This way does require a little more effort than say, just keeping each ministry budget line the same, or increasing for inflation, etc. According to our guest, this leads back to stewardship. If you see a ministry has gotten off track from the mission, or hasn’t produced enough fruit, you can shift resources and try something new.

“It helps make sure we are using what we’ve been given to the best of our abilities and to use it to further the gospel as best we can.”

– Laura Sappington, Miller Management Accounting Services, Senior Team Lead

The finance team at their church meets in November, checking revenue and budgets from the past couple years. The group has numbers in mind for projected revenue, and comes together to create an average guess to work with. And yes, of course this is all in a nice spreadsheet shared with the group in the room. Because, they are number people after all.

The ministry leaders creates a list of wants and needs for budget approval from the team. The finance team starts with the needs (again, matching up to the vision/mission) and sees how far they can get for each budget line’s needs first. Then moving on to the wants.

Fun or Faithful?

Our host wants to know if the budgeting process is a fun meeting to have. While our guest laughs a little (she is an accountant after all) but sometimes these meetings can produce some difficult conversations and decisions when money is more tight. Overall, she says that there is this inherent joy that they all have getting to utilize these kingdom resources. Not neglecting that this job also comes with immence responsibility to be good stewards. Ultimately, they have an opportunity for kingdom advancement, no matter what their actual budget numbers may be.

Turning dollars into disciples is a motto around their church. And one they don’t take lightly. There are soles behind those numbers. And their church has decided to have that as one of their benchmarks.

But how do you know if you are succeeding?

Our host asks if there a way to see if you succeeding with the budget. Our guest says that accountability in stewarding their resources is a big one. When you have those benchmarks, it leads to a way to compare if those resources are matching their mission. If the ministry is showing fruit, or if it’s time to move on.

What You Wish Pastors Knew about Budgeting

What would you tell the Pastor that isn’t really a numbers person, our host asks. Laura says, “Remember, we are all the same team! We might have different opinions or different scopes of how we look at the numbers, but ultimately, it’s all towards the same goal.” Also, you are not alone. Grab a team of number people, so you don’t feel you are off on a strange island by yourself.

What about other staff, lay people, and volunteers? Our guest says that their imput is valuable because they have the day-to-day operations in mind. But it is also good for them to focus on the direction of the mission. Lastly, because she is an accountant she is compeled to say, code things to their correct budget line. Just because that budget went over, don’t start using an underbudget account instead. That doesn’t give a clear picture for next year’s budget meeting. Even if it’s overbudget, if you have approval for the purchase, please use the correct coding. 🙂 This will help provide clarity and understanding to the finance team.

Coming Up

We hope this episode inspires you to get ready for Budgeting Season (not just #PSL season). We’d encourage you to take the time now to look over your mission and vision before going into your next budgeting or finance meeting.

Join us next week as we continue our budgeting basics with MM staff, on setting goals and objectives with Ashley Hurlbert.

Join the conversation, see behind the scenes, and learn more on our Instagram and Twitter.

Special thanks to our guest, Laura Sappington, and our masters of all things Podcasting, Chris and Lauren Miller, for this first episode in our Budget Basics series.