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The Case for a 48-week Church Budget

At first glance, if you are like most of humanity, you will tend to only glance at an article written for the church on the issue of budgeting.  Let’s face it, budgeting simply is not an exciting topic. But what if we stop seeing it as a dreaded necessity, and instead as a tool for…

Nov 17, 2016

Doug Leslie

At first glance, if you are like most of humanity, you will tend to only glance at an article written for the church on the issue of budgeting.  Let’s face it, budgeting simply is not an exciting topic. But what if we stop seeing it as a dreaded necessity, and instead as a tool for increased ministry capacities?  Let me explain.

Are you tired of going to your congregation with financial needs that crop up outside of your planned budget? Whether you have run a budget for years, or are just starting to put together a budget process for your church, we suggest a seldom-used option in your annual budgeting – create a 48-week annual budget.

With 52 weeks in a fiscal year, there are the quarterly occurrences of a 5th Sunday that marks the calendar. Many churches already do something special for these calendar normalities.

Take the opportunity to use this reality to your advantage.

You can write a short scripted statement like – and I am spitballing here –  “As we take our offering this morning, today is one of four 5th Sundays throughout the year. Because our annual budget runs on a 48-week schedule, today’s offering we set aside in our capital expenditure fund to help with unexpected costs and church building improvements. That means when a plumbing or tech issue arises, we don’t have to come to you to ask for additional resources to cover the costs. We value your tithe. Thank you for your generosity to our church.”

Of course, you could use it for whatever you wanted. Perhaps it is for a strategic mission outreach. Maybe, it goes toward a new building campaign that is used for the preliminary expenses – or combination thereof. It doesn’t matter, the point is that you are actively setting aside money outside of general operating needs on a regular basis.

It is doable. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. For those with legacy budgets, move to this model over the course of several years. Reduce the weeks at a rate of 1 week per year. In four years you have fully moved to the model and you will find you are not so worried about money for the miscellaneous.

There are a few really good reasons to think about moving your budget to 48 weeks.

  1. It creates a plan for the unexpected. When I served as an Executive Pastor and a water main broke on our aging property, it created a mild panic. Luckily we had some reserves to take care of it, but that meant other priorities had to be put off.  A 48-week budget would have remedied this without a hiccup to the normal programmatic and operational momentum.
  2. It helps to stockpile needed cash reserves.  It is always nice to have reserves built up for whatever may come up. Whether a natural disaster for which you want to be part providing relief, or simply updating the children’s ministry area, you have reserves available to use that are not part of designated giving.
  3. It can help jumpstart a building campaign. The preliminary expenses in a building campaign can get out of control quickly. If you know you will be heading this way in the next several years, start now. Even if you have a small church with a modest weekly offering of $3,000, you are setting aside $12,000 annually toward a new building and out of a temporary rental. On a five-year plan that gives you $60,000 cash on hand for your needs. And this is before you begin capital campaigns to raise actual construction costs. You can do a lot with that kind of money.
  4. It creates financial security for your congregation. Your congregation will thank you for your willingness to think and plan for the future and have cash reserves to handle the unexpected. No one enjoys an atmosphere of being concerned with the “what if?”  Financial stability and full transparency create psychological stability and confidence. Don’t be surprised if your giving increases as a byproduct. Increased security can directly translate to increased generosity.

A 48-week budget can be foolishness to some, but the logical move can result in a multitude of options for your church. It is worth considering.

Have you made other dynamic budget moves? Do you have weighing concerns about this type of transition?  Let us know.

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