Budget Planning 101

Leadership //

If you’re new in ministry and planning a budget, or if you’ve been at it for years but need to take a fresh look, here are some thoughts to consider:

1. Keep the main thing the main thing. What’s the main thing? Ultimately, that’s something for you to determine. Maybe it’s a solid curriculum, or a way to engage parents as spiritual leaders, or something else. Whatever your main thing is, be sure to put that first in your budget and guard it at all costs.

2. Don’t just think in terms of a year, but in terms of weeks and months. Take time to plan properly. For example, don’t just decide to budget $2,500 for curriculum unless you have calculated the weekly cost of curriculum and know that is what it’s going to cost. If you put a bunch of big numbers on a spreadsheet for the year without thinking through your ministry year a week at a time, you’ll probably find yourself broke at the end of the year.

3. Build flexibility into your budget. For example, you might budget $500 for an overnighter and not touch half of it. However, a month later you’re $200 short on an appreciation event for your volunteers. Being flexible gives you some breathing room through the year.

4. Plan for income, not just expenses. My philosophy has always been that not everything in life is free, so why should children’s ministry be any different? While I would never charge kids to come to Sunday school, I don’t have a problem charging them for special trips and events. Include projected income in your budget. For example, if an overnighter is going to cost $200, include that in the budget. If you are planning on having fifty kids and charging them $2 each, include the $100 of income in the budget as well.

5. Prioritize the money. Please don’t spend half of your budget on TVs, game systems, and toys within the first month of the budget year. You will end up falling way short, and the important things, like curriculum and volunteer training and appreciation, will be in trouble.

6. Budget for new things. Every year when submitting a budget, I include at least one new big thing we’ll be doing. Normally, it’s three or four new things. This shows the senior pastor and the powers-that-be that the money is going into a ministry where exciting new things are happening.

7. Invest in more than kids. Will you attend a conference this year? What will you do for your volunteers? What about parents? Consider these (and more) as you put your budget together.

8. Include others along the way. Before submitting my budget proposal, I always run it by my senior pastor and my wife. Also, including other leaders in children’s ministry and allowing them to give you honest feedback about your budget proposal will help as you prepare this important piece of your ministry.

Those are eight tips for helping you plan your budget. What would you add to the list?