One important characteristic of a successful church planter is the ability to handle finances well.
Most church planting organizations require a church planter to have a good handle on their own finances before they try to plant a church. It goes back to the idea that one must manage their own household well before managing the Lord’s resources.
As a young adult, this was hard for me to accept. For years, I resisted budgeting because it felt like all a budget did was tell me no. Eventually, I interacted with some generous folks who helped me change my thinking on budgeting. When I was able to adopt this in my personal life, it made all the difference for it in church planting.
Just like in home budgeting, I learned early on that where your money goes shows where your priorities are. That is why we set up a values driven budget for our church plant that reflected the kind of church we wanted to be.
I’d love to share share a few areas to consider as you create your first budget for your church plant.
Missions and Giving
We wanted to put giving into the budget from the beginning, so we began setting aside money for future church planting and for world missions on day one. In the Vineyard, one of our commitments is to give 3% to Vineyard USA which is used for church planting, missions, and administration. Our church decided to give another 7% to missional pursuits like church planting, world missions, and evangelistic outreach. Then came money for rent, equipment, supplies, insurance, and payroll. If you wait to get big or have “enough” before you give, you will never do it.
Rent is a big issue for a new church plant. The location you rent is so important. When looking for a place, consider the condition of the building, the amount of space, and the level of traffic going by. In my experience, churches we planted in high traffic areas were more successful. Planting in harder-to-find locations made growth painfully slow.
We chose less square footage in order to be in a highly visible place. We had to hold multiple services from early on, which was hard, but also multiplied our chances to reach people and created more places to serve.
Payroll is an area you have a lot of discretion and on which most people overspend. I suggest getting your volunteer teams into place before looking to hire staff.
Paying employees can easily consume well over 50% of your offerings. Large churches typically try to keep payroll at 50% or less, but for a small church this is imperative. I suggest Bivocational pastors limit payroll to 25%.
Insurance is an often neglected area for church plants, but you need to have good liability coverage for the ministry and renters’ insurance for your space and your equipment. You might be tempted to dismiss this, but theft or an accident can be quite damaging to your budget.
Whatever you do, don’t make financial decision by the seat of your pants. Spend real energy making sure that your financial culture reflects the values you are trying to establish. When you make financial choices that aren’t thought through, you can wreck your strategy.
If you’re looking for a resource setting up financial records and your budget, I recommend the services of Stadia. They have a package deal just for church plants where they will help you create and manage those systems as a new church at no cost.
Hal Hester is the lead pastor at the Vineyard Christian Church in Brooksville, FL. Prior to moving to Florida, he planted churches in Canada, Michigan and Mexico, and he served in numerous pastoral capacities in Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, and Ohio. Hal holds several advanced degrees including a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary. Hal is happily married to Dawn and enjoys triathlon activities, kayaking, cooking and good theology.
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