Church Budget Planning in a Pandemic

Church Budget Planning in a Pandemic

I know every church doesn’t follow the same rhythms, but in the last two churches I pastored, Labor Day to Christmas was my most hectic time of year.  In addition to the normal busyness of congregational life, we created our annual plan for the next year.  And at the top of the list of significant planning was the process of creating the next year’s budget.  

Most of the time, we look backwards before we look forward.  We make our decisions about our financial future based on the recent past.  Of course, that suggests a certain amount of stability and predictability, but what are we supposed to do when the recent past has been anything but stable and predictable? Can anyone tell me what unemployment is going to look like six months from now?  Does anyone know when we’re going to have global access to a vaccine? Yeah, me neither. 

So how are we supposed to plan during all this uncertainty?  Here are three suggestions you might consider as you start your process.

  • Make a plan but build in flexibility.

    A few years ago, I was pastoring a church and we were in the middle of a major stewardship campaign that was going to have an enormous impact not only on the budget but also on the strategic direction of our congregation. We had decided, however, that we were going to base any plans we made on actual pledges that year.  That made budget planning a real challenge. So, believe it or not, we made out three different budgets. We called them our Chevrolet budget, our Buick budget, and our Cadillac budget. The basic idea was that we had some definite costs that were in all three budgets but variations on the theme that made up the rest.  

    Taking that kind of step involves a lot more work for the staff and lay leader(s) that oversee the process, but it also enables you to be intentional with your spending no matter what happens. Every church budget has some costs in it that are basically set.  You’re going to pay your electric bills, your insurance costs, and you’re almost certainly going to pay your personnel what’s in the budget. So, when a downturn hits, churches tend to cut back on mission and ministry. There are ways, however, to structure your budget to make certain you pay for what’s most important in your mission and ministry budget – not just what happens first in the year. If you start with a lean budget but with the flexibility to scale up as the year progresses, then as long as you’ve got what’s most important in that lean budget (even if it’s later in the year), you’ll have the funds to carry it out. 

    Part of the reason we took the step of creating several different budgets that year was for planning purposes, but another reason was more about what that kind of effort communicated to the congregation. Doing that kind of work earned our leadership a significant amount of trust from the congregation. We didn’t just make a plan – we told them what the plans were and why we were making them.  
  • Over-communicate what you’re doing and why.

    Information relieves anxiety and builds trust, and I probably don’t have to tell you this, but these are anxious times on a variety of levels. On the other hand, if the members of your church know that you’re taking the challenges into account and making a plan not just to keep the lights on but to engage in meaningful mission and ministry even during this pandemic, they’re going to do everything they can to support that. You may feel like what you’re saying about any financial plans that you’re making is incredibly obvious, but not only should you be stating the obvious, you should probably be repeating it over and over. People always gravitate toward calm certainty in the midst of crisis, and so one of your most important jobs in the coming months will be to calmly remind your people that the work of God is still ongoing and that they can help make it happen with their stewardship.  

    And speaking of stating the obvious, I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s also a good idea to name (acknowledge) that some of the people in your church are being pinched by the financial aspect of this crisis and that you expect that to have an impact on their ability to give. In its own way, naming that out loud and reminding them that part of the financial ministry of the Church is to care for its own will also stir the ones who can give to do so. Words matter – even more so in a crisis. Use yours to build trust and set direction. 
    
  • Emphasize impact.  

    Providing information is one of the two most important things you can do to build and maintain a positive spirit in your congregation in the midst of this crisis, but there’s a second thing that’s just as important – giving people a way to make a difference.  

    Part of what makes this pandemic so challenging for so many of us is that it feels so out of control. There’s nothing you and I can do to make a vaccine get here faster.  And yet, while that’s true medically, we can certainly provide a way for the people of God to make a real impact on those who are hit the hardest by this pandemic. Over the past few months, I’ve been paying close attention to the congregations who seemed to have side-stepped the worst financial aspects of this pandemic. The ones that are doing the strongest financially almost all seem to have something in common – they gave the people in their congregations a way to make a substantive impact on the people who were hurting. One staff team in Richmond, Virginia, asked the Finance Committee of their church to take all the staff development money in the budget for this year and next year and shift it to local missions. The word got out in the congregation, and checks started coming in to match the amount. In a few weeks, the church quadrupled its local missions line item and started advertising that they had a fund to help the unemployed and the underemployed. A church in Florida set a goal to help a local non-profit focused on hunger relief. A member of the church gave a matching gift and once again the word spread. When it was all said and done, the church doubled the amount of its highest donation ever.  

    It would be easy to look at next year’s budget and simply hold the line or make a small cut, but a budget isn’t just a bunch of numbers. It’s a statement about values and about your faith. You may very well need to cut next year’s budget for your church, and you shouldn’t feel like a failure if that’s the right decision. But next year’s budget should still make a statement about what’s important. My advice is to make a plan that gives your people a way to make an impact on the people hit the hardest by this crisis. If you make that kind of plan and you spend some time and energy telling them why that’s the plan, you might be surprised at the result.

For Reflection and Discussion

  1. What has been the most challenging aspect of budget planning over the last year?
  2. How can you incorporate the concept of a flexible budget into your planning?
  3. What steps can you take to communicate effectively with your church/community about budget needs and plans as you prepare for the coming year?
  4. How can you celebrate the impact of what God has done and is doing through the faithful generosity of your community?
United in Christ: The Power of Praying Together

United in Christ: The Power of Praying Together

“… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians 2:2 (NIV)

There is unquestionable strength in numbers, but that strength becomes supernatural when people align around a common mission. In a world that all too frequently seeks to show what divides us, the last year has also revealed what can happen when we allow love to unite us. 

Unity in Action

On March 6, 2020, I boarded a flight in Washington, D.C. It would be my last for the year. A week later, the United States government declared a national emergency, and sobering reports of the rapid spread of the coronavirus began to pour in from Baptist sisters and brothers around the world. Our team at the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) scrambled to respond to the crisis, but it was unlike any we had witnessed in our lifetime. For a ministry whose mission is to network Baptists to impact the world for Christ, how could we effectively do so at a time when the world was forcibly isolated?

When the best step to take is unclear, the best choice to make is draw near.  

Physical distance mandates had separated humanity, but there was no need to socially distance from our Savior. The best choice was to pray. Our team got to work planning a global prayer call that would feature brief interview segments with ministry leaders from an array of institutions ranging from healthcare to higher education. The call would serve as a kickoff to a 24-hour prayer marathon with an invitation for people to intercede in one-hour time slots. More than 600 people from 44 countries joined the initiative, which led to the formation of a global prayer team and intercession for thousands of prayer requests in the months that followed. 

There are few things that can unite the people of God more effectively than praying together. This is the basis for our Baptists One in Prayer resource, a weekly email that highlights several countries each week and how to specifically pray for God’s work in those areas. Over the course of the year, recipients have the opportunity to pray for every nation in the world as well as for specific needs that arise when disasters strike or religious freedom is threatened. Using the One in Prayer email as our guide, the BWA team gathers each Wednesday for a strategic time of prayer for the world and for one another. 

At a time when international travel is limited, you have the opportunity to bring the world to your people. 

  1. Invite your community to sign up for the weekly One in Prayer email at BaptistWorld.org/prayer.
  2. Set aside a time for a global prayer focus within your worship services, Sunday School classes, and Bible study gatherings.
  3. Seek out and share firsthand prayers from ministry leaders serving in other parts of the world. The BWA shares such prayers in both video and written formats throughout the year. 
  4. Consider placing a map in a prominent place in your home as both a reminder to pray for the world but also as a teaching tool to encourage children / grandchildren to become global prayer warriors.

While we long for the day when Gospel witness can again take place face-to-face, we must make certain we are ready for the doors God will open. We have long prayed for the Spirit to ready the hearts of the lost, but we will have missed the mark if do not seize this time to ready ours. The challenges of this pandemic have prepared the way, softening what was once hard soil into fertile ground awaiting harvest. 

  • Write down the names of five people in your life who are in need of Christ’s love.
  • Ask God to open doors for you to be a source of encouragement and hope in their lives and for the Spirit to bring Colossians 4:6 (NIV) to bear so that “your conversation [may] be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

I wholeheartedly believe praying people are powerful people. Imagine the revival that might await if believers around the world are united in prayer in the pursuit of our shared mission. 

But may we never forget the object of our pursuit is a Person. A post-pandemic world without our ever-present Savior is a sad world indeed, so let us pray together as Moses did: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15, NIV). Lead us on, Lord.

For Reflection and Discussion

  1. Why do you think prayer is often perceived as the last resort rather than the first step?
  2. In your spiritual life, has prayer felt more like a passive step or an active one?
  3. What steps can you take to incorporate a global prayer focus into your daily life? Into your community? 
  4. What lessons have you learned during this season that you can share as part of your Gospel witness with those seeking answers? 
  5. What steps can and will you take in your community to ensure no one loses sight of our shared mission?
Projeto Cuidar

Projeto Cuidar

A pandemia trouxe para igreja étnica nos EUA, ao mesmo tempo apreensões, incertezas, medos e expectativas. O primeiro choque foi a necessidade de “manter” a igreja sem a possibilidade dela reunir-se presencialmente. Isso trouxe o desafio de encarar com seriedade e determinação o uso da tecnologia e o necessário investimento de tempo, recursos e treinamento, numa urgente imersão nas avenidas virtuais e seus naturais dedobramentos, que fariam sugir a igreja online, presente junto aos que não podiam mais estar presentes. Os primeiros mêses foram de tentativas, estudos, frustrações, descobertas e aprendizado. Depois a igreja foi se encontrando e entendendo melhor como deveria se mover em meio às turbulências da crise pandêmica. 

A Family Church (Igreja da Família) em Windermere, fica na chamada Grande Orlando, na região central do Estado da Florida, nos EUA. Ela é uma igreja de 54 anos de vida, que há 6 anos fez um “merge”  com a CBBO – Comunidade Batista Brasileira de Orlando e, há 3 anos iniciou um ministéiro com hispanos. Hojé é uma igreja com 12 cultos dominicais, relizados em 5 campus, em 3 línguas (8 cultos em Inglês, 3 cultos em Português e 1 culto em  Espanhol). Cada comunidade (americana, brasileira e hispana) precisou buscar alternativas e encontrar caminhos para alcançar pessoas e ministrar a elas a graça de Deus. 

A comunidade brasileria da igreja logo percebeu que alcançaria melhor as pessoas de fala portuguesa através das plataformas digitais. Os brasileiros não reagiram positivamente à transmissão de cultos em tempo real, tampouco gravados. Descobrimos a plataformna Webex da Cisco, e a usamos tanto para a realização de cultos interativos quanto para os encontros dos pequenos grupos que precisamos organizar, para cuidar das pessoas. Durante a pandemia a igreja recebeu novos membros, realizou batismos, iniciou novos pequenos grupos online, os pastores e diáconos realizaram visitas virtuais e até uma conferências jovem – AWAKE 2020 –  totalmente online, foi realizada com inscrições de mais de 7 mil jovens de cerca de 22 países! 

Assim aprendemos na prática o que em muitas partes do mundo, onde os cristãos não podem se reunir em templos, já sabiam: Igreja não é prédio! A igreja de verdade somos nós, espalhados pela cidade, vivendo o Evangelho de Jesus Cristo. Durante o ano 2020, Deus nos permitiu assimiliar esta verdade na nossa praxis de igreja. Até que as reuniões presenciais começaram a ser possiveis, com as devidas restrições e protocolos de segurança. A igreja começou, aos poucos, a reunir-se presencialmente novamente. 

Pessoas dos chamados grupos de riscos, anciãos, pais com filhos récem nascidos e as que nutrem ainda receio de se expor a ambientes com mais pessoas, retardam, naturalmente, a retomada de sua frequência. Os cultos são transmitidos  em tempo real pelos canais da igreja nas redes sociais e também pelo website. Não há pressão nem obstinação para que todos voltem a reunirem-se presencialmente, mesmo estando hoje vivendo na Florida uma realidade bem mais amena, com boa parte da população já vacinada e a curva de contaminados e mortos por COVID-19 em decréscimo. Tudo segue com tranquilidade e a igreja muito zelosa com observância constante dos protocolos de segurança, colocando sempre a segurança de todos em primeiro lugar. Graças a Deus, no entando, nos últimos mêses os cultos seguem regularmente, presencialmente e online, e verificamos cada vez mais pessoas vindo às reuniões presenciais. 

No início do ano realizamos mais uma mini-vigília interativa pela plataforma virtual. Foi uma grande bênção. Durante os momentos de reflexão bíblica, Deus tocou muito em meu coração, mostrando-me que a igreja não poderia de conformar com o papel de trabalhar para se proteger do vírus, de ficar numa posição de retaguarda, reativa às notícias e alerta às orientações das autoridade, ao tempo em que tentava ampliar seu alcanse de vidas pela Internet, analisando métricas e criando formas de estar mais e mais presente online. Isso estava sendo pouco demais… 

A pergunta com a qual Deus sacudiu meu coração foi: Como nós, como Igreja, podemos ajudar os brasileiros que vivem na Grande Orlando durante esta pandemia? Responder a esta pergunta implicava em mudar radicalmente a nossa perspectiva da crise, saindo da condição de meramente vítimas para a de agentes de mudança. Só esta sacudida do Espírito Santo já nos abençoou grandemente. 

Veio logo ao meu coração os brasileros em quarentena. Como ajudá-los? Como demonstrar amor a eles? Como chegar junto com carinho e solidariedade? Não era o caso, necessariamente, de auxílio com comida etc, pois a quarentena não visitava apenas pessoas materialmente carentes. Surgiu o PROJETO CUIDAR

Nos propusemos a identificar famílias brasileiras em quarentena por conta da COVID-19 na Grande Orlando. A ideia era encontrar brasileiros em quarentena, levar a eles o que batizamos de ‘cesta de carinho’, com bolachas, bolos, pães, queijos, sucos, requeijão, chás; também máscaras, alcool em gel e outros mimos. Juntos colocamos uma cartinha demostrando a solidariedade da igreja e também um exemplar da Bíblia Sagrada. 

Formamos as equeipes: Logística, Captação de famílias, Doações e Compras, Organização das bolsas e Entrega. Logo vários irmãos se voluntariaram! Lançamos o projeto, as equipes começaram trabalhar, começaram as doações, os brasileiros em quarentenas começaram ser identificados etc. No primeiro Sábado de manhã, lá estavam as bolsas prontas e a equipe de entrega a postos para a primeira ação de carinho aos brasileiros em quarentena! 

Desde então, cada Sábado, uma equipe sai da igreja com as bolsas, às vezes poucas famílias, às vezes mais. O PROJETO CUIDAR foi uma resposta da Igreja da Família à crise, olhando-a agora como oportunidade para servir e demonstrar o amor de Cristo. Incrivel como esta mudança de perspectiva abençoou e edificou a igreja? 

Logo começaram chegar os testemunhos. Gente emocionada recebendo o nosso gesto como um abraço de Deus em suas vidas. Pessoas escrevendo agradecendo. Sorrisos largos de gente sendo surpreendida com o carinho recebido. Abrir a porta de casa olhar e ver um linda cesta com tanta coisa boa, apenas para dizer: Você não está sozinho! Começou ser uma experiência boa demais para muitos brasileiros. 

Enquanto eu escrevo este texto o PROJETO CUIDAR já havia contabilizado 61 famílias abençoadas! Não é maravilhoso? Já fizemos diferença na vida de 61 familias de brasileros em Orlando, enquando elas vivenciavam a quarentena! Deus seja louvado por esta mudança de perspectiva em nossa igreja! Deus seja louvado por voluntários que abraçaram a visão! Deus seja louvado por nos permitir chegar em 61 famílias até agora, apenas para demostrar o amor de Cristo! 

Na verdade todos podemos fazer algo para ajudar e servir durante a crise. Mas para que isso aconteça, é necessário mudar a perspectiva. Precisamos entender que não somos meramente vítimas de uma pandemia, antes somos chamados por Deus para sermos, como igreja, agentes de mudança. Isso, a igreja é a maior agência de transformação de vidas e de realidades do mundo! 

Realidade não é destino! A igreja, com sua visão sarada e de posse de uma perspectiva transformadora da crise, muda a realidade! 

LINKS PARA RECURSOS: 

Prayer

Lord, we ask for your mercy in all the places where the pandemic is causing the death of so many people. We ask for your comfort for the families who now suffer the pain of the loss of their loved ones. Finally, we ask that you wake up your Church to adopt a different, liberating, peacemaking, and transforming perspective. We pray that the world may believe that you have sent us at this time to activate a true and profound project of change in the world, beginning with ourselves. In Jesus’s name, Amen. 

Para Reflexão e Discussão

  1. Qual tem sido a perspectiva da sua igreja neste tempo de pandemia? 
  2. Será que definir se vai ou não suspender os cultos presenciais é única decisão que sua igreja precisa tomar neste tempo de crise? 
  3. Olhando para a crise como ambiência geradora de oportunidades, quais seriam as oportunidades que Deus tem colocado diante da sua igreja? 
  4. Onde está o foco da liderança da sua igreja, ainda na grande comissão ou alimentando a vitimização? 
  5. Em que o PROJETO CUIDAR encoraja e desafia sua igreja a fazer diferença neste tempo de morte, tristeza e solidão? 
Resolution on Religious Liberty in the USA

Resolution on Religious Liberty in the USA

BWA General Council Resolution 2017.3

The Baptist World Alliance General Council, meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, July 5-7, 2017:

AFFIRMS freedom of religion and belief as a core value borne out in Baptist history and opposes all forms of discrimination based on faith or religion;

RECALLS that freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental pillar in the Constitution of the United States of America;

NOTES that the current travel ban on residents of several Muslim-majority nations raises serious concerns about religious freedom and contravenes the BWA conviction that no law should be used to discriminate on the basis of religion;

URGES President Donald Trump and the United States Government to affirm the historic commitment to religious freedom for all people as the legal process around the travel ban continues; and

CALLS upon Baptists in the United States to defend the cherished Baptist principle of religious

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Callam, Neville, editor. Baptist World Alliance 2017 Yearbook: Minutes of the General Council Meeting and Directory. Falls Church, VA: Baptist World Alliance, 2017.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Neville Callam, ed., Baptist World Alliance 2017 Yearbook: Minutes of the General Council Meeting and Directory (Falls Church, VA: Baptist World Alliance, 2017), p. 147.

Online Document Full Citation: BWA General Council Resolution 2017.3 Resolution on Religious Liberty in the USA; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (BWA General Council Resolution 2017.3).

USA | Seventh Day Baptist General Conference USA & Canada, LTD

Seventh Day Baptist General Conference USA & Canada, LTD.

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Information

Phone: +1 608 752 5055
Fax: +1 608 752 7711
Email: contact@seventhdaybaptist.org
Website: www.seventhdaybaptist.org
Number of churches:  74
Number of church members: 5,000
Executive Director: Carl Greene
General Council Member: Carl Greene

Location

P.O. Box 1678
Janesville, WI 53547-1678
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA