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May 9, 2013

Missional Budgeting

Does your ministry budget reflect God’s kingdom or church enterprise?


I remember creating my children’s ministry budget for the year. This is what it looked like:

• VBS (a program inside the building): $6000
• Sunday morning celebration (a program inside the building): $10,000
• Team building and training (for the people who volunteered inside the building): $1000
• Conference and further education (so I could get better at planning all my “inside the building” programs): $1000
• Mentoring/meetings (aka lunches out on the church): $500
• Outreach (which was really all about getting the community to come to the building): $500

It was a hard reality to see that most of the money given by faithful tithers was feeding ourselves and not really doing much outside our walls. I was only doing what I was taught in Bible college. Church ministry was my life, so I budgeted based on what I had been taught should be my priorities. To me, ministry was all about how many people we had on a Sunday morning and coming up with creative ways to get them out of bed and into our pews. I slowly started to become frustrated and wondered if I was missing something. Was this really what ministry was all about? filling pews?

I saw the way I was spending the church’s money and couldn’t help but feel a stirring dissatisfaction within. Since, I have adopted a more missional/kingdom mindset which has flipped my world upside down—including the way I look at budgets and finances. It started with a challenge to how I personally budgeted. I noticed my personal budget looked no different from my church ministry budget; most of my money was spent on…me.

I started budgeting based on what I would give (beyond my tithe). How could I bless others first? What contributions could I make to my community if I stopped buying a Starbucks every day? What if I stopped going out for lunch and invited people over to my house to share a meal instead? Where could the money be better allocated to bless others rather than feed myself…literally? This wasn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s amazing how as soon as you make a commitment to deny yourself a five-dollar coffee, that’s all you want! It helped when I started brewing Starbucks coffee at home and got myself a travel mug. I started to enjoy having people in my home for dinner more than going out. Somehow we experienced a deep fellowship around my scratched-up old table. I call it “communion.” I never experienced this during dinners out at restaurants.

Then I started to attend this crazy church that I still attend. As a staff, they were dedicated to flipping their church budget. They started pushing to move from 80 percent dedicated to what happens inside the building and 20 percent for missions and outreach, to 80 percent of the budget flowing out to mission and only 20 percent to internal church programs. Wow. My mind was blown. For two years, they have succeeded in actually turning their budget around to a ratio of 70 percent mission, 30 percent internal. I have been moved by their dedication and focus to be kingdom minded, specifically in terms of finances and budget.

This has modeled something significant to me. When we have a “church ministry” mindset, we will budget in that mindset. But if we have a kingdom mindset and start asking the question “What does a kingdom-building budget look like?” we may see our budgets shift in focus from inward to outward. It’s interesting that as my focus switched to learning what building the kingdom looks like, that’s when my concept on finances changed. What has surprised me most is how easy it is. Going from a focus on how to bring people into the building, to how I bless the community, first made me get out into my community to find out what the needs are! Once the needs are known, budgeting becomes simple.

However, it does involve a shift in philosophy of ministry. If our goal is to draw people to our Sunday morning gatherings with the latest and greatest, all in the name of “relevance,” the budget will reflect this goal. When I started getting to know the people in my community, I was surprised at how little they cared about the church’s attempt at “relevance” What we fail to recognize is that while we sit in our board meetings and conferences, strategizing all things innovative in “relevance,” society is moving along without any care for our attempts to lure them. If we knew this, how would this change our meeting agendas? Again, how would this inspire a new way of budgeting?

With a change in budgeting, I’ve seen substantial results in reaching people. Churches have been planted. Urban missionary projects have received funding. Innovation and creativity are thriving. Isn’t this what we desire? Don’t we encourage our churches to dream and innovate for the kingdom? Perhaps all that’s standing in the way is a slight switch from thinking about church programs to kingdom innovation.

Connie Jakab is passionate about rebelling against status-quo living and encouraging others to branch out. She’s author of the book Culture Rebel and founder of WILD (Women Impacting Lives Daily) and Mpact, a dance company that produces shows based on social justice issues. She can be found on twitter @ConnieJakab.

Related Tags: Budgeting; Kingdom of God; Missional; Money


I tend to agree that most churches of today are more worried about filling the chairs than actually reaching people. They are not mission minded and to me they are missing out on so much. I think that churches should go out into the community and show God's love through their actions throughout the week, not just on Sunday. Mission work is what God called us to do, not spend the money on lights, sound systems, haze, whatever else they think will make the church look good inside. We need to be out among the people in our communities showing God's love in action.

I find this fascinating. As the steward (treasurer) of a small congregation that just a few years ago was in "survival" mode financially, I cannot agree more that being focused on our mission to preach the Gospel from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth will change how you budget. No, we are no where near the 80/20 split mentioned in this article -- but we are increasing our mission budget by a minimum of 10% over the previous year, and we are seeing the results every year. This type of change does not happen overnight, but over time, you will see great things occur.

Connie, Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. I really believe more church leaders need to read this. I wish there as a way to get this article posted in CT and/or Leadership Journal. It really is as simple as us getting honest with ourselves and moving forward with what we already know. Would love to see you write, share, speak more about this important topic.

Our church just finished a sermon series on missional emphasis. We are a large church by LCMS standards (2,500). In the past I have noted that the problem in making change happen is lack of follow-up. It's like the leadership thinks that the message has been delivered and now it will happen, forgetting Follow-up, Evaluation, Communication, Involving Members, Inviting members into the work, Adjusting direction when needed. Our church members do a pretty good job of working in the community, but it just isn't an organized effort that lets the community know we are here to be of service to those in need.

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