Budgets Matter

Written by: Pastor Ed McLeod
First Presbyterian Church, Raleigh, NC


Church budgets are theological documents.  So, too, are family budgets.  Budgets provide a snapshot of what we value and hold dear.  The allocation of our resources, and perhaps even the order in which they are allocated, is a window into our deepest priorities and the hierarchy of our commitments.

As an act of Christian stewardship, the portion of my income which is set aside for the work of the Kingdom, set as my first priority, should then determine what level of mortgage or rent or car payment I can afford.  Thus, my financial commitment to the work Christ’s church shapes what sort of house in which I live, and what sort of car I drive.  What too often happens, though, is that I stretch to buy the house and car I want, and then allocate what is left over for what are obviously my lesser priorities.  Thus, my lifestyle determines what I can give to the church, rather than my tithe determining my lifestyle.  We can speak eloquently about our deepest devotions, but our checkbooks tell the story.

Those who set church budgets are making decisions about what the church values, what is of first importance, and what is non-negotiable.  Some churches decide that a certain percentage of their annual budget will go to support missions beyond their own walls, and then build the rest of their budget around that.  Other churches make the philosophical decision that they will pay their mission commitments first, lest those commitments suffer if there are shortfalls during the fiscal year.   There is no prescription for this, only the reminder that the allocation of our resources makes a clear statement about what is important to us.

For this reason, in my view, the Pastor should be a part of the budget conversation.  For just as the Pastor helps shape the worship and educational life of a church, if it is true that the allocation of our financial resources says something profound about our ethos and our identity, then the Pastor should be engaged in budget decisions as well.  This provides an important platform for us, in our role as Teaching Elders, to bear witness that budget work is holy work, for the dollars we have to spend, have been entrusted to us by followers of Jesus, who have made, in many cases, sacrificial investments in God’s kingdom.  We honor that trust by crafting church budgets which make a clear statement about our deepest loyalties and allegiances.


Questions for Reflection

  1. How are your own theological priorities reflected in your own household budget?
  2. Jesus suggested a connection between our hearts and our treasure, what we love and what we do with our money. Do you feel called to help people see that connection?  Do you see that connection?
  3. How fluent are you with your own church budget? In your setting, is the church budget a private or a public document?