Toward Establishing a Church Budget
BUDGET GOAL | The Glory of God in Christ Among All Peoples
We are blessed with material resources to serve the gladness of our neighbors and the nations in God (Ps 67:2, 6-7; cf. Matt 28:18-20). Therefore, we view our church budget as an opportunity to steward our material possessions in a way that aligns itself with God’s passion and purposes to make our neighbors and the nations glad in him. His self-revelation in Scripture has not left us without instruction on what such stewardship includes.
BUDGET CONSIDERATIONS | Some Biblical Principles in Establishing a Budget
According to Scripture, our budget should include the following components towards the great end of the world-wide worship of God in Christ. These components are by no means exhaustive, but give us a starting place in thinking through how to steward our money.
1. The budget should set goals that reflect the church’s devotion to the gospel, which motivates her to give regularly to prepare ourselves for Christ’s mission (1 Cor 16:2), sacrificially to reflect God’s generosity in Christ’s mission (2 Cor 8:1-4; Luke 21:1-4), proportionally to display God’s wisdom in Christ’s mission (1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8:3; 9:10-11), and cheerfully to rejoice in Christ’s mission (Acts 20:35; Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:7).
2. The budget should reflect the biblical priority of the regular preaching and teaching of the word of God by competent elders (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:5-10). This means that a church’s spiritual leadership will need adequate provision to free them up for laboring in the word to equip the saints (Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17-18; cf. Luke 10:7; 1 Cor 9:1-14; 1 Thess 5:12-13). This does not mean extravagant provision but simply meeting their needs (cf. 1 Tim 3:3) with some leaders’ needs exceeding those of others (e.g., size of family, medical conditions, other income).
3. The budget should allow for adequate provision to sustain the local equipping ministries of the sending church (1 Cor 16:11; Phil 4:14-19; 3 John 6).
4. The church should reallocate any funds that do not serve the mission of the church to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20).
5. The budget should reflect the biblical priority of meeting each other’s needs—especially the poor in closest proximity to us—realizing that some needs will vary and be greater than others at different times (Acts 2:45; Gal 2:10; Tit 3:14; 1 John 3:17).
6. If there is any remaining debt, the budget should aim to pay it off as quickly as possible to free up funds for things like more vocational elders, other local ministries, and frontier missions (Rom 13:8).
7. Every line item in the budget should reflect the biblical priorities summarized in our church vision statement to equip the saints (inreach) to delight in God’s glory (upreach) and to declare God’s glory to our neighbors and the nations (outreach).
8. In setting goals for yearly giving, a church should be mindful of its membership (e.g., How many members and how much they can give?). Different members of a local church will vary in their level of income—some making more (Rom 16:2; 1 Tim 6:17-18) and others much less (Rom 15:26; 1 Cor 1:26). And different members will encounter different needs in supporting their own families (1 Tim 5:8; 2 Cor 8:13; 12:14). While overall goals should show trust in the Lord’s provision, they also should not overburden the people with unrealistic expectations.
BUDGET ORGANIZATION | Making Biblical Priorities Visible from the Budget
As much as possible, we try to organize the budget using categories that express the priorities already established in the Bible for the church and Christ’s mission to the world. By arranging the budget in this way, we will not only make such priorities more visible, but provide further accountability in how we steward the Lord’s money in allocating funds. That is, if we are giving large sums of money to line items not necessarily mentioned by the Bible, then further evaluation needs to take place.
1. Ministries in Word
INREACH: Those funds which directly relate to the biblical priority of the regular preaching and teaching of the word of God by competent leadership, whether elders or other appointed teachers (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:5-10; Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17-18; cf. Luke 10:7; 1 Cor 9:1-14; 1 Thess 5:12-13).
OUTREACH: Those funds which relate directly to serving the advance of the gospel to our neighbors and the nations (Ps 67:2, 6-7; Matt 28:18-20; Luke 24:47; Acts 4:37; Phil 4:14-19; 3 John 5-8).
- Neighbors (Near). Funds allocated to the evangelization and discipleship of people groups where churches are present and the gospel is accessible.
- Nations (Far). Funds allocated to the evangelization and discipleship of people groups where churches are nonexistent and the gospel is yet known and/or inaccessible.
2. Ministries in Deed
The line items reflecting the biblical priority of meeting the needs of the poor both in and outside the church (Lev 19:10; Prov 14:31; Isa 58:7; Matt 19:21; Luke 4:18; Gal 2:10; Tit 3:14; Jas 1:27; 2:2-6).
- Inside the Church. Funds designated to meet each other’s needs while realizing that some needs will vary and be greater than others at different times (Acts 2:45; Rom 12:13; 1 Tim 5:1-16; 6:18; 1 John 3:17).
- Outside the Church. Funds designated to meet the needs of others outside our local church context, especially the poor in closest proximity to us (Rom 15:25-29; 2 Cor 9:1-15; Jas 1:27).
3. Corporate/Gathered Worship
Funds used to assist the ministry of the word through song, creed, celebration, etc., but for which we find no explicit mention in Scripture.
Funds designated for meeting facilities, supplies, and other matters of prudence, but are not explicitly mentioned in Scripture.