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Some advice on preparing and presenting a budget that fulfills your ministry needs.

Coach Shef took the “money man” at his church out to lunch to see what he (we) could learn about budgeting. 

Everybody needs something, and there’s only so much to get stuff with. How do the people who decide…decide? Who gets the resources?

I don’t know how it works in your organization, but there are some basic principles to keep in mind.

Always – Present your idea within the context of mission and strategy. For middle schoolers, attention is always an issue and containment is key. Sixteen groups in a large room will never cut it for quality community. When presented in the context of mission and strategy, there was no doubt that the leadership wanted to help. It was just a matter of “when.” When the money was available…we got our small group rooms. It was huge for us and continues to be!

Never – Assume you are different or smarter than those who came before you. “It’s new” is not a reason to spend money. 

Always – Shop prices. Don’t present a project without getting a few quotes. 

Never – Get wrapped up in the “excellence” trap. What do you need to do…in order to do what you want to do…as well as you need to do it? I see this a lot with sound systems in youth rooms. Buy wisely…but don’t get wrapped up in having the greatest system of all time! 

Always – Present Pro’s and Con’s. It should be clear you are aware of the limitations of what you want to buy. There is no perfect solution to an issue. Be clear that you know the down side…and you are still comfortable making the purchase.

Never – Chase other organizations. Everyone else is doing it is a terrible reason to spend money. It may make sense to do it…but competition is not ever going to be a good reason. 

Always – Get to know your “money person.” Learn how he/she thinks. Let them in on how you think. Let them in on your passion and vision. Help them understand how to help you and how to understand your strengths and limitations when it comes to this.

When making a budget request…

Never – Make a mistake twice. Not a lot to expound on there.

Always – Be organized. Last minute requests are a reality of ministry. Don’t do it more often than you have to.

Never – Surprise your “money person.” If you made a mistake, own it. Be the first to break the news.

Always – Read the culture and fall in line. Spending is cultural. Make sure you don’t act as though your ministry is any different than any other. Strategy may call you to vary from cultural patterns…that’s fine…get permission and don’t surprise those above you.

Never – Use the fact that another ministry got something as a reason to request money. Andy tells us regularly that “fairness ended at the Garden of Eden.” Fair doesn’t even make sense in an organization like a church. Being relevant to different groups of people (babies, children, middle schoolers, high school, etc.) takes different strategies and different budgets.

Always – Remember…Perception is reality. Your church congregation is watching you spend their money. If you’re going golfing with their money…it doesn’t matter that a small group leader got you on the course for $10…you’re still out there golfing with their money and they have no idea what you paid.

Are there any other “Always” or “Nevers” that I missed? What other tips can you share about getting stuff you need for your ministry?

I hope you can join me in improving our reputation when it comes to stewardship.    

Orange Leaders The Orange Group is a gathering of leaders who are passionate about engaging churches and families to influence the faith and character of the next generation. Contributors include some of the most widely respected thought-leaders in children’s ministry, including Reggie Joiner, Sue Miller, Kendra Fleming, Jim Wideman, and Bre Hallberg. New blog entries, podcasts, webcasts, and video downloads are available every week to help you keep leading yourself and growing with your team.

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