Church Finances 101

church finances

We are in budgeting season at LifeWay for our next fiscal year, which begins in October. This is my first time going through the budgeting process at LifeWay. And while there are more zeros involved, I am finding many of the same principles I learned in church ministry to be true in this environment.

I know that many church leaders will be going through budgeting this fall, so over the next several weeks, I am going to offer some budgeting and financial lessons I have learned in leading. I am not a financial planner or stewardship guru, but the Lord has graciously taught me several lessons (sometimes through my foolishness) that have served me well.

My first challenge to church leaders is simple: manage church resources with the same care you manage your home’s resources.

When the Apostle Paul gave the requirements for elders, he said, “If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5)

God has used that verse to challenge me to manage resources in His church with the same care (or greater) that I manage resources in my home. In our home, we have always spent less than we received. When our income adjusted downward due to my wife staying home with our new baby, our spending adjusted downward as well. If I treat my home with that type of forethought and planning, I should treat the church or ministry I lead the same way.

In our home, we have always paid cash for everything that depreciates. We have never had any credit card debt or car payments because we always viewed debt as slavery (Prov. 22:7). We have, however, been comfortable financing a house as a house appreciates (over time) as long as the payments are well within our means.

To apply this same thinking and care to a local church meant we spent less money than we received and that I was uncomfortable pursuing debt on anything other than property or a facility that appreciates. And I believe the debt payments should be handled well within the current revenue (level of offerings), not what the hoped-for growth will produce.

I have seen several churches over-assume growth that a new facility would bring and their debt retirement becomes a very large portion of their budget, which subsequently hurts ministry and mission.

Are your personal finances healthy? If not, you will surely carry some bad financial habits into the ministry you lead. If you are not healthy in your personal finances, then I believe you lose the authority to make financial decisions for the church. God gives grace and mercy. Come to Him for wisdom, but until you are in a healthy place, allow others to make those decisions.

If your personal finances are healthy, treat the ministry you lead with the same care and concern. If you’re nearing retirement and you’re considering investing in physical gold or setting up a precious metal retirement account, check out Rare Metal Blog’s article on the best gold coins for investors to buy.