Why I Hate Budgets!

Well, it seems every year about this time there is a lot of work done to prepare budgets for the next calendar year.  Usually there is pressure because the Church is already behind in pledges for the current year and the finance committee seems to forget that Advent tends to bring the balance sheet out of the red and back into the black.  So the annual predictable result is having to “prove” or “justify” each Youth Ministry budget item and plan for trips and retreats that 1) we are going to fundraise for anyway, 2) nobody has signed up for and won’t for 6 months, 3) that specific costs can fluctuate in a huge way closer (or during) the trip. [Remember the year gasoline went from $1.97 to $3.85? I do.  And I remember explaining to the Finance Chair exactly why I had planned so poorly on the cost overruns.  UGH]

Well-meaning members of finance committees say a lot of hurtful and frankly stupid things.  My all-time favorite was a committee member that declared that each Youth should do some significant work to earn the right to go on a mission trip to Appalachia.  My most loving response was something like “Well we believe that the significant work happens in the 10 days the Youth donate to the trip and work in extreme conditions while sleeping on a floor and cooking their own food.  On top of this, their family is paying for over half of their trip already, we are just wanting permission to do fundraising for the rest.”

Which bring me to one of the big myths I see all the time: the idea that the reason church members don’t give enough to the regular budget is the mission fundraisers.  Of course, this is really not an accounting problem; it is a spiritual problem, if it actually exists at all.  I have seen many churches cut ALL fundraising for a year or two to “get the budget healthy” and you know what?  In each case that I know about, the overall budget giving goes wayyyyyy down.  I wonder why.

Now, let me be honest: budgets ARE important.  We must do a better job of planning expenses to be good stewards of what we have financially.  We must also involve our Youth in this planning so that they can learn what it takes to make a significant ministry in the Church happen each year.  No organization no matter how entrepreneurial can just “wing-it” whenever they have a great idea for ministry.  I have had people argue with me that we need to allow for the Holy Spirit to move in the moment.  I agree.  But, I also think about it theologically, and I believe that sometimes, most times even, the Holy Spirit moves best with a plan, a budget, and many weeks of prayer and discussion to make things happen in a Godly way.

I don’t hate having to fill out the forms each year.  I don’t hate the plan.  I really don’t even hate the actual budget.  I just hate what it turns the People of God into around this time of year.  We become people of scarcity talking about all the things we just cannot do because money is such a problem.

So let me say it clearly: Money is NEVER the problem.  People are the problem.  I am the problem.  You are the problem.  We need bigger vision.  God-sized vision.

So, what are your budgets woes this year?  

Are things going well?  

What do you wish you knew how to do better when it comes to budgets?  

How do you involve your Youth in the process?  

Do you go it alone?


Peace and Grace,

Charles W. Harrison

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