How Your Budget Works

Courtesy of sushi♥ina’s/Creative Common

Last week I was reading an article on Discipleship Family Ministry where someone asked, Dear Youth Pastor “How do I increase my budget?”  It was a great article because when it comes to budgeting in youth ministry you are left to your own accord.  There isn’t a  course showing you what’s a fixed expense and what’s flexible.  Nothing show you how to push for a stronger budget.
When I inherited my budget I remember thinking, “Okay, where do I start?”  I had everything from crab feasts (It’s a Maryland thing) to ski trips.  I had volunteer stipends and non-capitalized equipment (Not sure what that meant).  I just took a stab at what I thought it would be and to my surprise it got approved.  To tell you the truth not much was different from the previous year.  That next year I would go over my budget in some areas and under on others, which is typical.  What caused some anxiety was how the ministry I was running began to change and evolve; therefore, my budget needed to follow suite.
Chances are you don’t like to look at your budget because it either causes:

  • Intimidation
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Or All Of The Above

Our inclination is that our budget needs to increase each year because we’ve earned it through longevity.  Unfortunately the economy, the ministry, the church and the giving change.  The goal is to have it increase; however, before you can request a budget increase you should know how it works.  To get started:

  • Sit Down With Your Financier:  Maybe you don’t have one, then sit down with the person who runs the overall church budget and ask them to explain how it works.  Where is the income for your budget?  Is it purely giving? Is some of it through tuition and camp registrations?  Where is the money coming from?  As soon as you learn that it doesn’t grow on that tree out back and realize the source you can than begin to identify the limits.
  • Consult The Experts:  If someone in your church is an accountant or is just awesome at budgeting, sit down with them and get their insight on how to track a solid budget.  Sometimes the challenge isn’t creating a budget as much as it is tracking.  You might feel comfortable with receipts and a pad, others might need an expansive spreadsheet, or Quickbooks, get some recommendations and sit down with them for tips on how to do this effectively.
  • Categorize: Whether your budget is itemized or just one big lump, it’s important to categorize.  When your budget is in categories it will help you track where money needs to be spent and what need to be eliminated.  Early on I had to eliminate certain things from my budget (i.e. crab feasts) because they were no longer relevant to the program.  This can be hard, but it’s important.  Sit down, look at where you spend your money and categorize it.  
  • Ask The Tough Question: Do you really need it?  Is there a different way of doing this?  Am I being a wise steward?  It’s easy to assume everything on your budget is necessary because you put them there.  But if an outsider were to sit down and look at your budget could you justify to them why you spend, what you spend?  I found that I was over budgeting on a lot of items.  While it’s good to plan margin, I had too much.  This might be an area where you need to consult your volunteers or other staff members and gain the insight you need to build a better budget.

If you can accurately build and maintain your budget you’ll be able to give accurate information to leadership when they decide whether or not to increase it.  It won’t happen every time; however, they’ll value the work and research that goes into it.  Times are tough, everyone is living tight and that’s why we need to be wise with our money.  If you don’t get an increase in budget it shouldn’t deter you from being a wise steward.  When we are wise with our money, we open ourselves to God’s blessings.

What other money wise tips would you add?

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