Group Project

November 30, 2022 | Daniel Shelton

The month of November is always a bit of a juggling act for Executive Pastors. For churches that align their fiscal year with the yearly calendar (like Venture), it's the final month to prepare, communicate, and approve the following year's budget. In my role at Venture, I help facilitate the creation of an annual budget. Notice I said that I help facilitate that process. Much like a healthy marriage, budget creation is a very large group project. Some have recently inquired about this process, so in my final blog post in this series, I thought I'd let you into our annual cycle of creating the budget.

The Process
In mid to late summer, our Finance Team looks at our giving and expense trends. These markers can begin to give us an indication of what's to come. By September, this team will present an anticipated giving and expense number to our elder team for approval. Once solidified, the elder team weighs in on how much we hope to invest in five large buckets. These areas include salaries, administrative and operating expenses, debt servicing, ministry expenses, and missions and outreach. While each congregation sets these percentages how they see fit, there are general benchmarks many churches aim for in these allocations. For instance, a good rule of thumb on personnel costs is 50%. Venture has historically hovered right around that mark.

Once the general budget and allocations are determined, I work with our ministry staff as they begin planning, dreaming, and number crunching. This process is a delicate balance of exhibiting appropriate stewardship and dreaming about what God can do over the next 18 months in our ministry. Once the expense targets are reached, a final detailed draft budget is presented to the Finance Team and Elder Team for final approval.

So how about Venture's 2023 budget?
Similar to your personal expenses, we have seen our expenses increase significantly over the last several months. Supplies, utilities, and maintenance have all increased. At the same time, we've also seen giving decrease. Our church is not alone in these trends. A study published this week by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) noted that churches our size have seen, on average, an 8% decrease in giving this year. To date, Venture is behind in budgeted giving by 5.5%. These indicators led our team to decrease the 2023 budget to $1,900,000 in income and expenses. This represents a 5% decrease from our 2022 budget. You can view next year's proposed budget by clicking here.

If you're an active member of Venture, you should have received an invitation to affirm the 2023 budget and elder candidates. You have until Sunday, December 4, to complete your ballot.

Do I Worry?
Our global economy is in the midst of uncertainty. In wavering economies, people often ask me if I worry about church finances. In general, no. There was a season where I would fret if offerings were unusually low or an unexpected expense busted a budget early in the year. Several years later, I finally realized a couple of things. 

  1. Church leaders are called to steward the funds, not provide them. That shouldn't stop us from teaching about giving, communicating our financial situation, or planning for the future. Rather, we trust that God will provide exactly what is needed exactly when it's needed.
  2. God is omnipotent. This applies to finances. He can and will do more than I can imagine - with or without our measly resources. Most churches (Venture included) are incredibly generous. When there's an evident need, God's people provide.
  3. Creativity abounds in seasons of constraint. When there are constraints, leaders find ways to make things happen. It may be more challenging, but many times it's also better.

To end, I'd like to thank everyone at Venture who sacrificially give on a regular basis. You truly help us to fulfill our mission. And to those who have yet to join us on your generosity journey, prayerfully consider partnering with us. If you have any questions about any aspect of giving at Venture, feel free to contact me. I'd be happy to help in any way that I can.