Six Quick Tips for the Upcoming Church Budget Season


Most churches budget on a calendar year, meaning the spreadsheets come out in full force about the same time as pumpkin spice lattes. Budget season is just around the corner.

Creating a church budget is a laborious—and somewhat thankless—task. It can take several weeks to finalize an annual budget.

Every line item matters. God brought this point to my mind a few years ago during the budget process at my church. As we poured over pages of documents, a mundane expense stood out to me: $1,500 for Bibles. It’s a small amount in our overall budget and easily overlooked. Then, I thought about all the stories tied to that budget line item.

We give away Bibles. We ask our members to take Bibles and give them to others. I’ve heard countless stories from my church about these Bibles. Stories of people coming to Christ. Stories of people weeping over receiving a copy of God’s Word. Stories of family members, coworkers, and friends who were reached because someone took them a Bible. God works miracles in the ordinary. Every line in the budget matters because every person matters to Jesus.

The process of creating the church budget is important. In many ways, it’s a ministry roadmap for the upcoming year. As you walk through this budget season, here are six quick tips to consider.

    1. Start by projecting revenue first. Too many churches start by projecting expenses. It’s an understandable mistake because expenses represent how funds are spent on ministry. The problem is you can’t spend the funds unless they are first given. Dreaming about big-ticket ministry efforts may be fun, but it’s not wise to dream up a budget. When you start with what you expect to take in, you can better prioritize your expenses.
    2. Include deferred maintenance in your operating budget. Deferred maintenance is what happens when you postpone needed repairs to save money. The problem with deferring these repairs is that they become more expensive the longer you delay them. Repairing a leaky roof doesn’t get any cheaper with time. Put a deferred maintenance line item in your budget to take care of delayed repairs. Some churches have decades of delayed deferred maintenance projects. Start working on them this year.
    3. Include a contingency fund in your operating budget. Many churches do not have a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses. A church should have about three months of expenses set aside for emergencies. Start building this fund through your operating budget. In essence, you pay yourself with this tactic. As funds come into the operating budget, a portion is set aside for the contingency fund.
    4. Keep personnel costs between 45% and 55% of the total budget. Personnel costs include the salaries and benefits of all employees, part-time and full-time. A church with limited or no debt can be on the higher end of this range. A church with substantial debt will need to be on the lower end of this range, if not lower.
    5. Create a priority list for any year-end surplus ahead of time. Whatever group makes the financial decisions for the church should have a good idea of how any surpluses will be allocated. Don’t wait until the surplus exists. It’s more challenging to prioritize projects after a surplus exists than before a surplus exists. People tend to fight harder for their own agenda when money is in the bank. Negotiate ahead of time and save yourself a headache.
    6. Pray through every line item. We should not expect God to work through the budget unless it gets special attention through prayer.

Crafting a budget is not the most exciting ministry, but it’s critical to the health of the church. A carefully planned budget will facilitate more efficient ministry and encourage generous people to give. God rewards a church that honors Him through good financial practices.

Posted on July 8, 2024

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Creating a church budget is crucial. Sam Rainer’s six tips include starting with revenue projections, including deferred maintenance and a contingency fund, keeping personnel costs between 45% and 55%, prioritizing year-end surplus allocations, and praying through each line item. These steps streamline budgeting and align it with the mission, fostering generosity and effective ministry at Zion Prayer House, a Telugu church in Irving belonging to Hebron Fellowship.

  • Hi Sam,
    I love this! I have a question about personnel costs. We are a smaller church (80-100 adults and 50 children and youth). We are emptying a Children and Youth Pastor at 0.8FTE which is the reason we are attracting so many young families in a regional setting. We’re the only church for 15 miles in any direction. The staffing cost of the CYP means that our staffing (Senior Pastor, CYP and 8hr Administrator) sits around 75% of overall budget. We trust that this level of staffing is right for the current and potential situations for the church, but it also means finances are very tight. We have referred maintenance and little savings. If we reduce the salary of our very talented Children’s and Youth Pastor, she could easily find a full time role elsewhere and it is hard to attract talent to rural and regional areas.
    I guess I’m trying to say that I appreciate the principle, and in an ideal world we would be closer to the 45%-55% staffing cost. But the reality of socioeconomics means we walk the tightrope. Pray that we don’t fall off it!

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Dan, the figures in the article represent what is typically best, but certainly there can be exceptions. In your case, I would not kill the momentum with a major staffing change. Though your personnel costs are high, it seems you have a great thing going. Finding a talented children’s/youth pastor is very difficult in any community–rural, urban, or suburban.