Balancing the Budget

January 24th, 2011

When I started out in ministry nearly 35 years ago I wandered into my first church board meeting with wide eyes and my mouth firmly shut. I did not know much about running a church business meeting. None of my theology or Bible classes dealt with that. I watched as the first report was called for. It was the report from the Finance Committee. The chairman handed out a line item budget and went over the status of the church. If the budget was balanced then everyone seemed to be happy. If it was not, then there was considerable consternation and demands for what were we going to do about it. All the other reports were secondary to this one. To a young neophyte it was very clear as to what the priority was . . . balance the budget. I even discovered in many instances this was also the priority of my superiors in the church. If I got my connectional obligations paid then I was doing a good job in ministry. One learns early on what is required and how to succeed and the message was brought home to me that finances were the key to the kingdom.

Since that time, I have been a part of church leadership meetings from Baptist congregational gatherings to Presbyterian sessions to Methodist councils and consistently I still see that the first report often given is from the finance committee and that seems to be the one that most persons want to discuss (or argue over, as the case may be). I have especially watched in the last two years as many churches have focused like laser beams on what is happening with their internal finances. Personnel and programs have been slashed, sometimes not because of a lack of money, but because of fear of impending doom.

Now I do not want to be misunderstood and for anyone to think that we should never see how we are managing our money or that we do not need to be good stewards of every dollar that is given to the church. It just should not be the center focus of our church lives. Nowhere do I see in the Bible that balancing a budget should be our concentration. It even appeared that Judas was resolutely criticized by Christ for doing just that when Mary was anointing him with oil. Judas’ eyes were on the checkbook and Jesus said they should be on him.

We should be starting our business meetings with how we are doing with why we are in business. What have we been doing since our last meeting to make disciples of Jesus Christ? How many new converts have we won for the Kingdom? What evidence do we have that persons are growing in their relationship with Christ from what we are doing? Have we grown in the number of persons who are coming to worship, been involved in learning opportunities, or committed to giving their life away in missions?

If Boeing concentrates on making better airplanes than Airbus they will sell more planes and make more money. If General Motors concentrates on making better cars than Toyota they will sell more cars and make more money. If MacDonald’s concentrates on making a better burger than Wendy’s they will sell more burgers and make more money. If any of these concentrate as a first priority the making of money they will eventually be out of business.

One of the best things you can do to raise more money for your church is to give evidence to your donors that you are focused on why you are in business – making disciples - as a first and only priority. You do that well and the budget will take care of itself.

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