Your congregational budget has become a straitjacket. What do you do to rebalance your finances for missional ministry? You have at least two choices. One is to take an allocation approach and the other is to take an innovation approach.
Allocation involves continual slicing of the budget pie in different ways, and thus allowing the Budget Creep to continue. This is the case with congregations unwilling to change their direction, or their commitments to staff leadership and buildings.
These congregations consider staff leadership and buildings fixed costs that are a contractual and even sacred commitment. To a certain degree this is true. From another perspective this is not.
Cut Missional Engagement? Making the allocation choice often negatively impacts missional engagement first. When missional engagement is cut this usually means cuts to the missional efforts of the denomination, or initially non-core and later core missional commitments of the congregation.
Missional efforts can still be carried out, but now participants are required to raise all or part of the money needed for these efforts. The number of missional efforts supported through the budget is reduced. Special missional offerings and fundraisers are now called on to raise funds for missional efforts.
Some congregational participants shift their personal generosity from the congregational budget to the missional efforts. Therefore, this is not new, but reallocated money.
Cut Missional Formation? Missional formation is the second area to be impacted. Funds allocated to programs, ministries, and activities are decreased. Some ongoing missional formation programs or special projects are eliminated, downsized, required to charge a fee, or told they have to raise their own funding.
Cut Buildings and Equipment? Third in line for cuts are the buildings and equipment. Some of these allocation actions produce a different type of deficit called Facilities Neglect. This involves neglecting routine maintenance of buildings and equipment because the money is not available. This is a “pay me now” or “pay me later” situation.
Long-term it is not unusual for portions or all of certain buildings to be abandoned. The first step is to use this space for storage or low priority activities. Eventually some of this space becomes neglected space and deteriorates to where it is unusable.
Cut Staff Leadership? Ultimately congregations must downsize staff. Often before they do this they delay or do not replace staff vacancies.
None of these allocation actions will rebalance congregational finances. It takes innovation actions; doing things in a way that involves creativity and a deeper commitment. Several approaches should be considered.
Idea One: Establish percentage ranges for what the congregation will spend on staff leadership, buildings and equipment, missional formation, and missional engagement. If the current budget is outside these ranges, then establish a multi-year plan to bring the budget within these ranges. Three years may work in many situations.
These are easy words, but tough actions! Moving to these percentage ranges can call for a modification of the behavior and spending patterns of the congregation. This is difficult to do and to sustain.
Idea Two: Discover ways to provide the same or similar staff leadership, buildings and equipment, missional formation, and missional engagement services at an alternative cost. Seek to do so without sacrificing quality.
Idea Three: Reconceptualize some of your staff leadership roles making greater use of outsourcing, technology, volunteers, and a type of staff called 22-44 Ministry Mobilizers.
Idea Four: Recommit to the core funding streams of the congregation surrounding tithes, offerings, and regular special offerings, and then expand the funding streams. Expanded funding streams include capital stewardship campaigns, planned giving, investments, fees for events and services, in-kind services and volunteers, grants from foundations, sale-lease-rental of assets, targeted fundraisers, and income from non-members.
What are your ideas for rebalancing your congregational finances for missional ministry?
Next: Downsizing Staff without Destroying Your Congregation
[This is the second blog post in a series. The first was “What do you do when your budget becomes a straitjacket?” and is found at http://www.abpnews.com/blog/leadership/what-do-you-do-when-your-budget-becomes-a-straitjacket-2012-10-05/.]