Tag Archives: vision

Funding the Vision


budget (Photo credit: 401K 2012)

Many churches start their new budgets in September.  So with that in mind, I am writing this blog post with a few thoughts on creating a budget.  I’ve been working with budgets for years; personally, in business settings and in ministry settings.  One thing I have learned is that you do not set a budget based on what you need, but on what you have available.  A budget says “If” we bring in this amount of money, this is how we are going to spend it.  They are actually designed to focus on making effective use of income rather than searching for money for expenses.  With that said, you should always start with a clear understanding of your income for the set time period.  When you are calculating this, you should never use percentages of increase to project your budget.  Always use real numbers.  If the past two quarters showed an increase of $2,000 each, trends would tell us that there is a good chance that the next quarter will show and increase of around the same amount if all other factors stay the same.

Projecting Your Income:

  • Numerical Projection:  Determine what your history has been.  You can look over a given history to help you in looking forward.  If possible, use at least two to three years of history to get a clear picture of giving.  Use this picture to identify trend of giving based on your history.  If in looking at the previous two to three years, you see that each year you had an increase of $50,000 annually, then you can project that conservatively you will see $50,000 in additional giving in the coming year.  You don’t go up on your projected giving until you have a track record that shows your giving can increase.  Use real numbers.
  • Per Capita Projection:  What is your per capita giving?  Take your average attendance and take your average weekly income for the year and divide it.  You will come up with the per capita income per person per week.  (The longer the length of time is for your averages, the more accurate your per capita giving will be.)  You then can use your average attendance and your projected attendance to make an calculated per capita projection.

Calculate both the numerical projection and the per capita projection and compare these together.  If there is a huge difference between these, you may need to look at what some variables may be that would be causing a huge difference.  Have there been some huge one time gifts?  If so, you may need to pull these out because they are skewing your results.  I’ve found that, generally, using both of these calculation methods put me very close to the same projections.  Once you determine an annual projection using real numbers, you can begin to move forward.  It is a good idea to be conservative on your projections.  You can always do more with increased giving, it’s harder to cut back from initial projections when the giving falls short.  Conservative budgets also will give your staff freedom to spend their budget as it is needed.

Creating Your Budget:

Once you have a good understanding of your estimated income you can then create A, B and C budgets.  The A budget is if God really blesses and everything goes right (could be anywhere from 10 to 20% above budget).  The C budget is if things get tight and things go wrong (maybe 10 to 20% below budget).  The B budget is the primary operating budget and this allows shifting up or down.  You need to plan all three budgets in advance.  It’s easier to make alternate plans in advance than when you’re in the middle of the storm.  As you create these, have a simple one page broad budget by major categories.  Don’t get too detailed, just list general categories (i.e  Children’s Ministry, Student Ministry, Evangelism etc…)  Have 2 or 3 line items in your budget that are open and flexible, these could be designated as “Special Projects & Events”, “Ministry Expansion”, etc…  This gives you opportunity to also meet needs as they arise through the year using these categories.  When you are assigning dollar amounts to budgeted areas, don’t make it so tight that ministries can’t function.  Allow room for flexibility.

Filling in the Details:

Look at the overall pie and determine the percentage of the pie that goes toward Staff.  Keep in mind that churches are largely volunteer in structure, so we need staff to lead them.  Only use percentages for allocations.  Payroll should be no more than 50 to 55% of budget.  If your payroll is below 30% you are probably understaffed or not paying your staff enough.  Building needs should be 20% of budget.  Missions should be at least 10% of budget (this is all missions including international, national, state and local). Areas of Ministry should be 10% of budget.  This leaves 5 to 10% for other areas.

You need to know your seasons so you can manage cash flow.  When is your biggest quarter? When is your weakest quarter?  Are there times in the year that the cash flow expenses may naturally increase, but at the same time the cash flow income slows down?  Generally first quarter is going to be one of the strongest quarters.  At the same time, the end of second quarter and third quarter can also be a struggle.  Have a plan of action in place for if you consistently miss budget.  When will you move to “C” Budget?

If possible, allow your ministries to have the same budget as previous year plus half of the planned overall percentage of increase.  (i.e. if after you determine your dollar amount projection, you determine it will be a 8% increase, allow each ministry to increase their budget by 4%.)  Then look at what was spent in each ministry.  Identify growing ministries that may need slightly more of an increase to cover needs.  Prior to having the staff develop their budgets, give them the specific dollar amount they will have to spend for the year.  Don’t give percentages or expect them to calculate their overall budget.  Once they have their overall budget, have the staff submit 3 budget requests.  The first request is their General Budget Request (this will match the number they have been given).  The second request is a One Time Request.  This is when a ministry has an expense that is not a reoccurring expense.   The third request is a Ministry Expansion Request.  This is to expand their current ministry into a new area that will be an ongoing part of the ministry from that point forward.


Don’t think you have to spend surplus just because you have it.  At the same time, you shouldn’t hoard what God has given to the church just because you’re not sure about what will happen in six months.  We serve a big God who is capable of providing our every need.  You can set aside a Cash Forward Reserve (2 to 4 weeks of operating budget) in a separate account so that if things slow down, you have a few weeks to make budget adjustments.  Anything past this amount would be considered idle money.  One of the principles from the parable of the talents is that God hates idle money.  It should be put into play for the Kingdom.  Not doing so will limit God’s blessings on your church.  Our faith is in God, not in our money.

Note: You should never promote that you are behind on budget.  People do not want to give to a sinking ship or a need, they want to give to a compelling vision. So promote a compelling vision.  What is God doing? Where is He leading? What needs can be met? Make it a habit to talk vision at every opportunity.  It is also good to identify your annual turnover rate of individuals/families in your church.  This number is good to know as it will help you not only understand the importance in developing a culture of giving in your church, but also realize that every year there is a portion of your income that is always changing.


A plan for getting there!

I recently had the opportunity to fly to a couple of different areas of the country.  On both instances, I noticed that, although, the airplane was the source of travel, there were a lot of things in place to make sure that both the passengers and the plane were able to make it to where it was supposed to go.  For the passengers, there is a solid system in place of what happens with luggage, what happens with passengers, what happens at security check-points and even what happens when boarding the plane.  For the airplane itself,  there are teams of people directing and guiding the plane to where it should be.  Additionally, the airplane is pointless without a runway for takeoff.  Someone had to think of how all of this would work in order to accomplish the overall purpose of actually riding an airplane from where you are to where you want to go.  A system is simply a plan or structure for doing something that will consistently get you from where you are to where you want to be.

In ministry, our main goal is helping people become who it is God has made them to be by reaching them where they are and helping them to get where God wants them to go.  That is our goal.  But how do we get there? Is there a process, a system, strategy, or a structure in place that will serve as the runway?  The truth is, many times we want the big goal, but fail to put a system in place to accomplish it.  I’ve noticed that having a system or structure is, in fact, a Biblical principle.  If you examine Scripture, you start to discover that God is a God of order and plans.  He has overall goals that He wants to accomplish, but He usually uses a system to accomplish it.  Explore the first chapter of Genesis, the book of Nehemiah, Jesus sending out the disciples, the plan laid out in The Great Commission, Acts 1:8, God’s redemptive plan of Salvation.  In all of these, you can see some sort of structure that was used to move toward the desired goal.

I’ve also noticed that not only is structure a Biblical principle, it is also necessary for us to be able to efficiently accomplish the overall goal.  Below are a few things that help us better understand how it is necessary:

A system is necessary to:

  • Focus our Efforts.  We need to work smarter, not harder.  In order to do this, we must have a plan to include others in the ministry.
  • Minister in our Context.  There are needs that exist around us that can’t be met if we don’t PLAN to meet them.
  • Work with a Team.  If we’re going to all work together in the same direction with the same goals, it must be structured.
  • Communicate Clearly.  We should be able to communicate our vision and our plans simply enough that even a fifth grader can understand them.
  • Stretch our Faith.  As we develop our ministries, we will dream bigger than before, reach further than before and trust God even more in the process.
  • Get us There.  We need to have a system or systems in place with an overall goal that we can see is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time sensitive.  The system doesn’t just help us get there, but it helps us know when we accomplish the objectives of our ministry as well.
The system created must always connect back with the overall vision of the church.  This will ensure that all of the ministries of the church exist to accomplish the overall vision of the church in the community and beyond.  It must also work in unison with all other ministries of the church.  We shouldn’t create anything that competes with or conflicts with the goal of another ministry of our church.  As we develop our system for a specific ministry, it will give us a framework for allotting our time as well as our resources.  Additionally, it allows us to know if we’re moving in the right direction towards our goals or away from them.
As you develop your structure and begin to move forward, it should provide vision for change and focus for the ministry.  It should also give your team, not just a plan, but also a sense of purpose and make it easier to bring others into the ministry.  As I have been developing ministries, I have discovered that failing to provide a clear plan and structure will continue to  cause confusion and frustration for all who are involved.  I would encourage you to start  developing some simple systems that will help you get to where God wants you to go.
The reason I started this blog, www.insideministry.me, is to provide system and structure ideas for various ministries and other random thoughts as I discover new truths in ministry.  If you have any questions or would like help in moving forward with systems, I would be glad to help.  I have just recently started coaching individuals through personal, professional, and ministry related decisions and would be glad to tell you more about it if you’re interested in coaching.  You can go here to find out more.

Organizing Your Time

Organization would be at the top of most of our to do lists if we had time to make a to do list.  But the fact is that most of us go through life each day just trying to survive.  We live as though we are a passenger in our own lives.  We’re simply along for the ride.  We go through each day with no real direction other than the urgent demands of our days.  And then we often wonder why we aren’t moving forward in many areas of our lives.  What would your life look like if you began to live intentionally? What would change if you made an effort to become organized in how you approach your days and weeks?  What would be different for you if you began to try to organize things in every area of your life?  Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

In the 1960s, Time magazine reported that a subcommittee of the United States Senate was assembled to discuss the topic of time management. Essentially, the best experts in the field were concerned that with advances in technology the biggest problem by the end of the century would be what people would do with all their free time. It was actually suggested that workers would have to cut back on how many hours a week they worked, or how many weeks a year they worked, or else they would have to start retiring sooner. The truth is that the average workweek is now 47 hours – up from 43 hours two decades ago. A recent Gallup Poll found that 44% of Americans consider themselves workaholics.  As a pastor, I am no different.  I see the needs of people around me and because I haven’t set up boundaries in how I will use my time, I find myself being pulled in multiple directions at once and feel guilty when I can’t rise to the demands.  But this isn’t a biblical perspective of how we use our time.

Would you classify yourself as a workaholic?  It’s not something that we should brag about.  In fact, to be a workaholic is to be out of God’s will for your life. Part of his plan for your life is to have downtime as well as time with family and opportunities to build relationships.  The reason we find ourselves in these situations and often facing burnout is because we don’t discipline ourselves with how we use our time.  Organization is discipline in action.  Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity”.  The questions we should ask ourselves is are we being careful? Are we being wise? Are we making the most of every opportunity?  How we organize our day will determine how well or how wisely we will live that day.

This is why I have four basic areas I work through when I am trying to make sense of my days, weeks and months.

  1. Itemize.  Be detailed in your plans.  This is where you randomly write down everything that you have going on.  What is it that is consuming your thoughts.  Write it down (i.e. pay bills, get groceries, pick up kids, write sermon, etc…).  We often fail to start with this very simple step of actually writing down what it is we have to accomplish throughout the day or week.  Then when we remember it, we go into panic mode because we are rushed for time to accomplish everything.  So I would encourage you to take some time to write it down.
  2. Categorize.  Assign relevance to the details.  Once you have your list of items written down, you will start to notice areas that go together on your list.  You may notice some main categories like Ministry/Work, Personal, Family, etc…  Then you may also notice some subcategories with these.  Under Personal, you may notice several Financial things that must be accomplished and can group them accordingly. (I would put it on my priority list as follows – Personal: Financial: Pay bills.)  As I began to pull all the personal things together, I would also group the financial areas.  You can do this in every area to start to gain clarity in what is really taking place. This also works great in ministry when you are working in multiple areas within the church to begin to gain clarity and focus of objectives.
  3. Prioritize.  Determine the order of importance.  Let’s face it.  We have a lot to do every day.  But the truth is there are some things that we do that could be done at a later time (or eliminated all together).  Place importance on the categories that match up with who God made you to be and what He wants you to accomplish.  There may be some things on your to do list that have nothing to do with where God is leading you in your family, ministry, work, etc… These are areas I usually start eliminating because they are simply noise in my life.  Once you have successfully itemized, categorized and prioritized what is going on in your life, there is one last area that can’t be missed.
  4. Strategize. Plan your day and work your plan.  It’s great to have an idea of what is going on and even to assign priority to it.  But what does this look like on a daily basis?  This is where the strategy comes in.  I think it’s important for us to realize that mentally and emotionally, we can only go in a few different directions in one day.  Because of this, we need to be strategic in what we allow ourselves to be focused on each day.  It may be that you group all of your Personal:Finance items into one day along with a few other personal categories and make that a part of that days strategy.  You may have different areas of focus in ministry.  I would encourage you to have certain days of the week designated for certain areas of focus.  (i.e. Monday Ministry: Communication: all emails, phone calls, newsletters etc…, Tuesday Ministry: Sermon Prep: Finalize sermon for Sunday, continue to develop sermons for following weeks, Wednesday Ministry: Staff: Work with staff concerning areas of need, etc…)  The key is when we get phone calls to pull us into a different area that we push those into the days where we are actually going to be working in that category.  (There may be emergencies that come up, but most of the urgent demands that come up can actually wait.) This will help reduce stress and also help us stay focused on what needs to be accomplished that day.

Now, I know you may be thinking that this will cost me more time and I can’t spend time doing this with everything else I have going on in my life.  I would say that you will actually gain time by making this process a priority.  This approach to my schedule has helped me stay focused even in some of the most chaotic times of my ministry.  I’ve heard it said, “If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”  And I believe this to be true.  When I find myself getting stressed or overwhelmed, I can usually look and realize that I have stopped being wise with my time and I am letting others control my time for me.  A good example of this process in practice is found in Genesis 1 when God created.  He took chaos and gave it order.  He didn’t create all at once, but allowed different things to be accomplished on different days.  He had details that he wanted accomplished, but worked through categories and priorities to accomplish His strategy.  I would encourage you to read through that chapter again and see how God organized that one week according to the above areas and see what changes you could make to model that in your life.

Update to blog:  As requested, I have put together a sample to do list of what a finished week might look like.  You will need to discover your own categories and priorities, but maybe this will help you as you are putting it together.  You can download it here: Sample To Do List

Note: I use evernote one my phone and have used docs to go to keep track of this electronically.  It’s easier to manipulate once it’s in the computer.

Can we do anything to increase giving?

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

I’ve heard many ministers in these economic times make statements that their people just aren’t giving like they used to give.  Offerings have dropped drastically in many churches.  This may not be a testimony of the people as much as it is a testimony of how we are doing as leaders to cast vision for giving.  This subject is at times avoided from the pulpit so as not to give people the idea that all we want is their money.  But the truth is that Jesus spoke more on money than He did on Heaven or Hell combined.  I believe this is because Jesus knew that we hold tightly to our money when we’re trusting in IT, and loosely to our money when we’re trusting in GOD.  This is why one good measurement of spiritual growth within your church is increased giving in the life of the church (not just financially, but in other areas as well).  We should realize that this is an excellent tool for us as pastors/leaders to use to identify where our people are in their walk with God.

If those who are attending our churches are to understand the value of giving in their lives, we as leaders are going to have to be brave enough to cast vision for giving in a way that honors God.  I think there are two approaches that we can take in casting vision for giving:

1.  The ‘Give or else’ approach.  This approach is what is most often used in churches today.  If you don’t give, we won’t be able to pay our bills, support ministries, reach people.  This approach often is used as a ‘sinking ship’ approach.

2.  The ‘Give and see’ approach.  This approach is what I believe the Bible encourages and works better to cast vision.  We can’t motivate people to give to a sinking ship.  What they will likely do is jump ship.  What we can do is let them know that our purpose for encouraging giving in their lives is far from selfish.  I often say it like this, “My biggest reason to see you give to our church is so that your life will be honoring to God and you will be able to see His blessings in your life.  I believe God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and can take care of our light bill.  I trust Him that much.  But my motivation is so that you will be blessed.”  I often encourage people to follow the teachings in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” The key is really knowing in your heart that your motivation is for the people.

We also should realize that as we’re casting a vision for giving, we must also cast vision for what the giving will be used for in the church.  How will it change lives? How will it impact our community? How will it impact our world?  We must make the vision clear so that people will desire to give freely to such a compelling vision.

We have to believe that it is a God honoring thing to encourage our people to give and that it is for their good as well as the good of the church.  As we understand this, we can begin to cast vision for giving to the church using the some or all of the following methods:

Ways to Cast Vision

  1. Use Messages (Sermons)
  2. Do a series of sermons on stewardship, giving, money, finances.  You can deal with more than financial.  (i.e. influence, service, giving, etc) Do this at least once a year.  You can also do a sermon on giving as part of a series or simply do a standalone message if it makes sense.  Within a different type of sermon you can include an illustration about giving.  It is important to evaluate your preaching to stay balanced … It may be good to create a preaching matrix to see what you’re preaching about and what you’re not preaching about.  An example preaching calendar is shown below:
    1. January – Preach on Money in January (Maybe later in January) – at least 1 sermon
    2. June – sometime in the summer is a good time to do a money sermon
    3. November – November and December is a good time to speak on Money with the Holidays approaching
    4. Every 3 years include a series on money during the month that school starts (The other 2 years could rotate between service & evangelism)
      1. Always challenge people to move forward and encourage them to take the next step.  Have them make a decision or a change and define it.
  3. Use Quarterly Giving Statements to cast vision about what God has done and is going to do as a result of giving.
  4. 3 month Tithe Challenge – Use this to encourage people to commit to tithing for a period of time to follow the teaching of Malachi 3:10.
  5. Use New Member Workshop/training along with membership agreements (Click here for a related post on this)
  6. Use Small Groups
  • Small Group Agreements
  • Small Group Studies on Finances/Giving

The truth is that we can identify if people are engaged with the vision and direction of the church by how they are giving to the church.  One of the first indicators that someone is disconnecting with the vision of the church is they will stop giving.  In light of this, let’s work hard at casting a God given Kingdom vision for what God can do as we cast a vision for honoring Him with what He has blessed us with in our lives.

Have you found this helpful? I would be excited to hear what you have found useful in encouraging this in your church.

The value of the Stage

English: A Sennheiser Microphone

Image via Wikipedia

The stage (which is anything you communicate while you are in front of your congregation) is the most valuable communicating tool you have.  This is a time when we have the attention of a large percentage of the people in our church.  This is why it is important to be intentional about how you use this resource.  I’ve been in many services where there is no thought put into what really needs to be communicated from the stage other than the time spent preparing the sermon.  But if we realize that this is a perfect opportunity to cast vision and direction in snapshot segments, we can move our people down a path together.  Realizing this, I developed a team of people that would work within the Communications Team to make the best use of the stage.  It’s not a matter of using a lot of time, it’s a matter of how we use segments of time to convey our messages.  I developed a plan for Service Hosts, which I am including below:

Service Host Handbook

Thank you for serving as a part of the Service Host Team! Your role is incredibly valuable to the staff as well as to members, attendees, and guests. Because you are a key representative of our church, we encourage you to live a life that represents Godly values, starting with honoring the Service Host Agreement and being at your best when you serve. You are more valuable than you know!


  • Help set the tone for worship.
  • Are viewed as a leader here at our church.
  • Reinforce our core values.
  • Promote the vision of the church through: Welcoming the crowd, Directing the offering, Announcing Events

Our Core Values

  • Take it past Sunday.
  • Be real.
  • Talk to people, not about them. 
  • Be generous.
  • Every member in a ministry. 
  • Keep it simple. 

Before Stage

  1. Be prayed up and fed spiritually. This will reflect in your presentation.
  2. Be prepared. For live hosting, go to Planning Center by Friday to review the host notes so you are familiar with them. This will help you feel better prepared and give you time to become comfortable with the material and ask questions about the announcements. You will be less stressed on stage because you’ll be comfortable with the details. For video hosting, review the notes on Planning Center at least a few hours before taping.
  3. Be coachable. Meet with the Service Host coach 30 minutes before services start. This is a time to ask questions, receive last-minute instruction, and, most importantly, encouragement and prayer before you host. If part or all of your hosting will be done by video, be prepared to meet by phone with the coach prior to taping. 

On Stage

  1. Be welcoming. You are setting the tone for worship. Be positive. Everything you say is a chance to build up and encourage our guests, members, staff, and ministries. 
  2. Be yourself. If you’re a kidder, crack jokes. If you’re passionate about our church, let it show. If you were moved by the worship or the message, let that shine through. If you are excited, don’t hold back! Authenticity makes you a great host and helps people connect with you and with our church. 
  3. Be concise. Convey what is important in short, easy to understand sentences. Be focused on others. Members, attenders, and guests need the information and to feel good about being at our church. Going to church can be intimidating for some. Your job is to show them that there’s nothing to be intimidated by.  

Host Notes

The host notes are detailed not so that you will read or recite them verbatim; it is so you have the necessary information on each item you speak about. Host notes are always broken down by sections with specific purposes:

Purpose of the welcome:

  • Create a welcoming and worshipful atmosphere
  • Orient guests, members, and attenders

Purpose of the offering:

  • Promote worship through giving
  • Encourage everyone to fill out communications cards
  • Provide testimony about how their giving has had an impact

Purpose of the closing:

  • Promote upcoming events and challenge those in attendance
  • Only one event will need to be emphasized from stage

Planning Center

Service Hosts receive invitations to serve through an online program, Planning Center. You are likely familiar with it. This is a vital tool at our church – with more than 50 people serving on an average Sunday, it keeps us running smoothly and prevents scheduling conflicts. When you receive e-mails from Planning Center asking you to serve, simply click accept or decline. The program also allows you to block off dates when you know you’ll be unavailable. If you know in advance that you will be unavailable on a particular Sunday, please log in to Planning Center and block those dates ahead of time.

Serving Schedule

Most volunteers at our church serve on a six-week rotation. The Service Host rotation is subject to change to accommodate new team members, multiple hosts, special services, etc. When you are asked to serve, please make every effort to accept.

Even if the person communicating from the stage is the Pastor or a staff member, this doesn’t need to be a time to ‘shoot from the hip’.  The time spent preparing how best to communicate various messages within the scope of the vision will pay big in the long run.  Let me know if this post has been helpful to you or if you have found any ways to make this more effective.

%d bloggers like this: