Most of us who work in Faith Formation ministry do so because we enjoy working with people, relish the non-profit atmosphere of ministry, and feel called to share the Good News of Christ. We are not accountants and most of us are not “math people.” Thus our faith formation budget (or lack thereof) can pose some real challenges to our ministry.
If your parish is like ours, your budget cycle coincides with the fiscal year rather than the calendar year. Our budgets renew on July 1 of every year and ends on June 30. This means that November is essential to take stock of how much you have spent and how much you have left for the remainder of the year.
Below are some basic ways to help manage your budget (without requiring a degree in accounting):
- Remember that your budget is a theological statement. Where you choose to allocate funds is an expression of what your parish values. If you look at your budget in these terms, it may take some of the “blah” out of managing your budget.
- Do not treat your budget like your checkbook. Make sure to draw funds from the appropriate line item every time -- even if there are no funds left in that particular line item. As long as you cut back on spending in another area of your budget, your bottom line will be in the black. And you’ll know where to allocate more funds for next year.
- If you have the funds, it is important to budget for volunteer appreciation. A Christmas card and/or a small token of your appreciation will keep volunteers coming back year after year.
- Be frugal … to a point. When I was in charge of the Young Adult Group at a previous parish, I would provide soda for all of the events. In an effort to save money, I bought the soda that was on sale… and this became the running joke of the program. I realized quickly that people in their 20’s and 30’s do not drink “generic diet root beer” and started providing a better selection of soda and even bottled water. My attendees were thrilled.
- Be prepared to explain your budgetary choices in a clear, concise manner. Most pastors, business administrators and/or parish councils are open and even interested in your rationale for budget allocation. Be honest if you need more. You may or may not receive it, but remember, "Ask and it shall be given unto you"!
- Finally, make sure that your fund allocations fit within the larger framework of the parish mission. It helps me to remember that our faith formation budget is just one piece of the overall church mission to form and serve Christ’s disciples.