When It Comes to Making Your Budget, Hope Is Not a Strategy

When It Comes to Making Your Budget, Hope Is Not a Strategy

“We hope to increase our budget from 800K to $1 million.” That was what a person told me their pastor stated a few years ago at a congregational meeting. Hope? The saying, “hope is not a strategy,” first came to my mind. When churches use the word hope it is far different than when the Bible talks about hope. Hope in the Bible is firm confidence. Hope, when used by a church about giving means, well, maybe, perhaps. But, When It Comes to Making Your Budget, Hope is Not a Strategy. I liked that line so much that I made it the title of this Coach.

I have a question for the pastor in the above story. How do you plan to make that hope a reality? That would have been my question. What is your plan to increase giving to meet the increase in the budget? The truth is in the illustration above; the church has no plan. How would I know if I was not there? The person who related this to me would have told me about the plan. Not mentioning a plan means none was shared. Most churches have no plan for how they will increase giving and givers. None! Do you? If you don’t, then hope is your strategy. Good luck with that. I’ll share about the importance of planning but first I want to ask a question.

Who “owns” making sure your church is fully funded? If you are going to be fully funded this year, you must answer the question of who owns making budget at your church. This is perhaps the most crucial key to being fully funded. It is the difference between having the money in July for that camp or event. It ultimately could be the difference between whether you get a raise next year or even if you get paid this year.

If no one “owns” an event or task it is questionable if it will ever happen. Owning something doesn’t mean you actually own the rights, or you possess them. By owning giving I am asking who is in charge. Who sees increasing giving and givers as their responsibility? Have you ever thought about that question? Think about other areas of your church. The effectiveness of your ministries is tied to someone or some group “owning” it. Someone must “own” the nursery, which might be the most challenging job of all! If no one “owns” something it gets neglected. Things are left undone.

When it comes to giving in the church, I find that few if anyone in a church actually “owns” whether or not that church makes their budget. Sure, there are finance teams and staff but after the budget is set most churches act like giving will automatically come in. Then after a challenging winter, or simply failing to see giving rise to meet budget increases, along comes summer. Most churches are already behind budget and now comes the most challenging time of the year in terms of giving. We hope giving will improve but no one is there with a plan because no one “owns” the process.

Who has the time to “own” giving? Typically, a lay person heads up the finance team or committee. Yet that person probably already wears several hats in the church. Not only that but they themselves work forty or more hours a week. They then have multiple activities to attend outside of the church. Then we expect them to come up with a plan to increase giving. Frankly, they don’t know what to do and they certainly don’t have more time to give. So, who then “owns” giving?

The one person that might be viewed as “owning” giving is the pastor who is overwhelmed with a mountain of things to do already. The Senior Pastor, in my view, is the overall leader but that doesn’t mean “owning” the execution of a plan. Whoever “owns” stewardship planning and execution really isn’t the question I’d ask. I would want to know, does that person have the expertise to build out a plan of action for increasing giving? I don’t know about your training but in seminary, no one taught me how to increase giving and givers. Before I started working for stewardship firms, all I knew about stewardship I learned from listening to John Maxwell’s tapes. Through the wonder of 20th-century technology, cassette tapes, John coached me through building my first stewardship plan. No wonder I went to work for him!

I am your coach when it comes to everything stewardship related. My entire Stewardship Coach Platform, this newsletter included, gives the person “owning” your plan their best chance at succeeding at that plan. If a pastor reads this newsletter weekly and then forwards it to the staff and the finance team, they will have their own Minister of Stewardship/Generosity. One reason I can provide the coaching I do is because of the support of Stephen Ballard, the founder and owner of OnlineGiving.org. His charge to me is to build the best stewardship platform. OnlineGiving.org is my sponsor. Find out more about what they provide here, https://www.onlinegiving.org/.

OK, back to that plan thing. Because after you settle who “owns” assuring there is a plan for increasing your giving, the question is, What’s your plan? The fact that we have to think about how to answer that is telling. If you couldn’t answer that question, don’t feel bad most churches don’t either. But think about it, you have plans for every major important ministry in your church. Why is it we don’t have a stewardship plan? One reason why is that we have never had the struggles to fill our offering plates as we do today. Those days are gone.

What is your plan to replace your retiring Baby Boomers? 10K of us a day turn 65 which means your top donors are moving into their retirement years. This will immediately impact giving as our donor base continues to age. What is your plan to raise up the next generation of donors to replace Boomers? If you are not implementing some type of stewardship education you are heading for disaster. So, you need a plan.

I write giving plans. I use the calendar to write step-by-step guides on improving giving around that time of the year. I call them Playbooks. For every season of the year, I have a strategy in place guiding churches to financial stability. I have a plan for the end-of-year giving to make up for any giving deficits. I have a start the year right plan. I have an Easter offering plan. I have a weather cancellation plan. I have a summer giving plan. I have a plan… You get the point. My newsletter tells you the why of an offering. The seasonal playbooks tell you how.

These plans work. Do yours? Oh, you don’t have one, do you? Let’s get you started. Email me at mark@acts17generosity.com and I’ll give you some ideas on how to use my plans to be your plan. I promise you that if you follow me you will have a better chance of hitting your budget numbers.

Let me end with one of my long-time Brooks’ Mantras. If you don’t have a plan you are planning on failure. Start today by making stewardship planning a key part of your thinking and planning. I’m your coach to show you how.

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

If you would like to read more of my thoughts check out these two resources.

Check out my blog on all things related to online giving sponsored by OnlineGiving.org at https://www.onlinegiving.org/blog.

You can also find additional help at my website https://acts17generosity.com/

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