We have such a minimal amount of income at our church,
why do we need to write up a budget?
EVEN if a church is so on its uppers that it decides to spend
nothing, the PCC will still have diocesan quota, insurances,
repairs, and any utilities as its responsibilities. And there are
churches where as much as 90 per cent of income seems to become
swallowed by such necessities.
A budget allows you to prioritise and plan your spending. Types
of spending by the church may be broken down into "Essential",
"Important", and "Desirable".
Under "Essential" you could put insurance, maintenance, and
utilities. Maintenance can be a small budget if you keep up to
date, but items ignored can become monsters later. Utilities must
be paid, as you have normally used the supplies by the time the
bill comes, although you could break the expected costs into
monthly allowances rather than face a large winter-quarter
Your diocesan quota is on the border between "Essential" and
"Important"; in a short-term crisis, you may be able to negotiate
change. In the long term, if we want trained clergy, we will have
to face this realistically.
Fire and security alarms and other such items may be
"Important", as are any contracts on boilers and lifts. Anything
under "Desirable" could, in hard times, be left out without a
disaster happening. Candles, flowers, and service sheets are
But the budget that lays out all these items over the year can
help you to ensure that you do not spend all your cash when it
comes in, when in fact you will need to accumulate cash to pay the
annual insurance, or the quarterly electricity bill. Cash in the
bank is not an accurate guide to your funds, as you will have
already committed income towards future expenditure.
Having a budget helps you to assess your spending to ensure that
it is in line with your values as a church rather than a recurrent
demand that you fear.
Many people who avoid budgets do so because they feel that they
cannot predict income. In that case, the church should not
undertake any activity for which payment comes after the event.
Power is an example: if you want to spend hand-to-mouth as income
comes in, then having a pay-as-you-go meter would be logical, but
utterly impractical. It is better to use the pattern of the
previous year's income as a model for how money will be received
next year, and make plans accordingly.
If predicted income cannot meet predicted costs, then you have
nearly a year to deal with the issue. A really good stewardship
programme, such as "The Responsibility Is Ours", in Southwark, can
help members become more realistic, consistent, and predictable in
their giving. My own, inner-city church chose to go from one jumble
sale each year to ten, and went into the black on the budget, and
later in the treasurer's report. Some enjoyable summer event
fund-raising can lift spirits as well as the bank balance.
But, ultimately, we have to have a diocesan-wide and nationwide
conversation and financial planning, as there must be more models
of financial planning which will enable more churches to plan
annual budgets that have some surplus of income over expenditure
rather than the opposite.
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