Does your church have a funding plan?
No, not a budget. A budget is a spending plan that tells your money where to go. But don't you need to have money if you're going to end up spending money? That's the purpose of a funding plan - to get the money you need in order to make ministry happen.
Several years ago, my friends at The Rocket Company showed our finance team how to put together a great plan in one day. Here is what we learned.
1. Get Other People Involved
Please don't leave this project to the lead pastor or executive pastor. Take a half-day (or a full day) once a year and get out of town with the staff and volunteers in your church who spend the money in your operating budget. Don't worry about where someone fits on your org chart; invite anyone and everyone who is responsible for the money being spent next year.
There are two reasons for extending this invitation. First, it helps everyone understand that a spending plan (your budget) has to be funded. Second, each person at this retreat will walk away responsible for some part of the funding plan. Everyone influences the decisions that they will have to carry out in the coming year.
2. Write It Down
Don't spend all day putting together a plan and then ruin it by assuming that everyone will remember what to do. Write down WHAT you are going to do, WHEN you are going to do it, and WHO is responsible for making that part of the plan come to life.
3. Think Seasons
Instead of never asking for money or only asking for money when you have three bad giving weeks in a row, leverage the power of seasons. When you create your annual funding plan:
Teach on personal finances in January or February.
You have people in your church who spent way too much on Christmas. There are others who will make resolutions about getting their finances in order. Since they are already thinking about money, show them what the Bible says about the money God gives them.
And don't just teach theory or settle for a theology of wealth and giving; give them a system that enables them to grow their wealth and to be generous with it. NOTE - we have helped more than 50 people use YNAB, which has been a game changer for me personally.
Talk about automated giving in April or May.
A lot of churches take in less money during the summer because of travel and vacation. So why not take 2-3 weeks to talk about the importance of automated giving and show them how to do that through your giving platforms?
Summer is a great time to invest in high capacity leaders.
Invite your top-10 givers over for dinner to connect relationally. Thank them for their investment; talk about what the church is doing the rest of the year; answer questions, and don't make an ask for more money. That will come later.
A lot of churches recast their vision during the fall.
That makes it a perfect time to create 3-4 financial goals that paint a picture of where you are going this next year. Ask people to give to these projects in addition to their regular giving.
Your church is primed to be generous during Christmas.
So create a year-end or Christmas Offering that you begin to roll out in October. Decide what kind of impact you want to make: hit a single (one week of your regular giving); double (two weeks of your regular giving); triple (three weeks of regular giving); home run (a month of regular giving); or grand slam (more than one month of regular giving).
Personally, thinking about seasons transformed the giving culture in our church. Instead of feeling like I was always asking people to give, our funding plan allows us to fund our church by inviting people to give in a way that makes sense.
Oh, one more thing. Once you have your plan segmented by season, go ahead and write down specific tasks that need to be carried out. And if you have time, go ahead and create actual content (videos, blog posts, emails) while everything is fresh on your mind and heart.
4. Do Something Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Annually
A plan on paper is just that - a plan. The magic happens when you do the work of consistently executing that plan. Here are a few ideas:
- Talk about giving in your gathering each week - how and where to give; stories about the impact of giving.
- Thank consistent givers each month via email.
- Have the right people review your financial documents each month to make sure you're funding plan and spending plan line up.
- Send a quarterly contribution statement and include an update on the work your church is doing.
- Take time once a quarter and spend five minutes in your gathering to let your church know where the money is going. No need to give details; let them know what percentage of the budget is going to operations, staffing and outreach and let them know if giving is on pace with your plans.
Look, I know how you feel. I've pastored a church of a few hundred people in a college town for more than a decade. Writing all of this brings back the anxiety of struggling to survive financially and the joy of having a workable plan that enables our church to do the work that God has called us to.
Do The Next Right Thing
Go ahead and determine what day you are going to develop your plan. If you are reading this in January-June, don't schedule anything until you get into the back half of the year. If you are reading this between July and December, set a date for the next 2-4 weeks.
Then invite your team. Anyone and everyone who spends the church's money needs to be part of developing your funding plan. It will give them perspective and ownership.