There are good reasons to dust off this article from a couple of years ago. As we delve into 2017 we need to be every mindful of our finances. This story is meant to help your second largest budget - facility, get fiscally fit.
Consider these numbers for a moment: Eighty-two; three; two; one. These are all percentages in an average church budget. According to a study performed by the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, that anomaly in the set, the 82 percent, is not being used for children's ministry, adult ministry or outreach as one might think.
Unfortunately, those ministries are actually occupied by the three, two and one percent respectively. According to the ECCU, churches spend 82 percent of their yearly fiscal budget on administrative and maintenance costs which include personnel, facility maintenance and administration. Of the 82 percent, 53 percent is allocated towards staff salaries and benefits, and 18 percent is for facility expenses including mortgage/rent (eight percent), utilities (six percent) and maintenance/upkeep (four percent). Aside from this 82 percent of the budget, another four percent is used for the ambiguous "other" expenses, leaving the average church with a paltry 14 percent of its income with which to perform actual ministry.
There has to be a better way to allocate funds for today's churches. Facilities and administration are important facets needed to do church, no doubt, but are they 82 percent important? What can churches do to decrease the amount of funds that this albatross eats up from faithfully given tithes and offerings?
Budget Planning Pays Dividends
The place to start is obviously the budget planning room. Some churches avoid budgeting entirely, but generally the process of budgeting seems to pay dividends as it allows church leaders to tell the church's money where to go, rather than simply wondering where it went. This is especially significant when it comes to budgeting for administrative costs like the maintenance of a facility.
Peter A. Joudry, senior pastor of First Assembly of God in Wauchula, Florida, and founder of Battlefield Ministries defines a church budget the following way:
"A budget is simply how much money you expect to be given to your organization and how you expect to spend it," he says. "It answers the questions: How much will be spent on these items?' and Where will the money come from?'”
If church planners do not have a plan in place for properly caring for their facilities, those facilities could quickly devour church fundsto the tune of 82 percent.
Granted, deliberate does not mean set in stone. Budgets are tools for churches, and they can be fluid. They should be used to help the church meet its short and long term goals, namely to preach the Gospel effectively locally and worldwide.
"A budget is a mechanism that frees the church to reach financial goals and avoid pitfalls in poor financial planning," Joudry said.
Tracking Past Repairs
Many pitfalls of poor planning are exemplified in the handling of facility maintenance. To avoid these hazards, churches have to properly figure out how to budget in this area. Scott Wilson, Chairman of the board of trustees at Wayne United Methodist Church in the Philadelphia area, says that this process starts with trending or building an historical perspective. What repairs have been completed on the facility in the last year? In the last five years? In the last ten years? How has money been spent in the past? Answering these questions will help you answer the question of how much facility maintenance will cost moving forward.
Joudry emphasizes that a church budget should be based on faith. He says that churches should expect blessing, but realize that there are negative uncontrollable circumstances.
"The church expects God's blessing and growth that will enable it to charge ahead with new programs and spending," Joudry says, "But natural disasters can destroy a building and scatter a congregation."
Open Budget Process
Another key component to the budgeting process is to have an open line of communication between all planning parties involved, as well as pastors, support staff and ministry leaders. It is important to know what other ministries are hoping to accomplish in the coming year. Likewise, it is imperative that ministry and church leaders realize the costs that are associated with facility maintenance. One of the perks that should come from this communication is the development of new ideas and innovative ways to drive maintenance costs down.
Communication with the church as a whole is just as important as communication amongst decision makers. Budget planners need to be 100 percent transparent when it comes to the church budget. This is the only way to garner trust from givers and to let them know the expenses that the church is faced with on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.
Trim out Wasteful Maintenance Spending
When it comes to budgeting for facility maintenance, Wilson, a certified project management professional, has many ideas as to how churches can cut down on maintenance costs. He says that one area where churches tend to waste funds is electricity. This can be remedied by getting an energy audit from an outside organization.
Aside from an audit, simple changes like moving from incandescent bulbs to the LED variety and from T12 fluorescent bulbs to T8 fluorescents will not only cut down on energy costs by up to 50 percent, but also produce 75 percent less heat. This will save with cooling costs as well. Another lighting area that tends to be overlooked is emergency lighting. Replacing incandescent emergency lighting with the new LED variety will result in 80 to 90 percent less energy consumption. One final way to save energy in the lighting realm is to move away from lighting that stays on throughout the night. If no one is using the facility, there is little reason to have any part of it lit.
Moving from lighting to the heating and cooling system, Wilson says that programmable, network thermostats will more than pay for themselves by promoting an efficient use of the church's HVAC system. This is evidenced by the fact that heating bills can be decreased by one percent for each degree that the thermostat is decreased. Likewise, cooling bills can be decreased by as much as three percent for every degree the thermostat is set above 75.
As a project manager, Wilson stresses that churches should take the necessary steps to update lighting, HVAC and insulation to manage utility costs and even drive them down. Although these costs may only account for six percent of the average church budget, by shaving off one or two percentage points churches could easily find funds to double certain ministry budgets.
Making simple changes like the ones mentioned above can make large strides in moving churches away from that dreaded 82 percent of the budget and allow for more funds