A church expense budget is an important factor in the operation of a successful church program. A careless, slipshod method of financing will become a source of discouragement to the membership of the church, and will hinder the progress of the work. The rank and file of our people desire a well-planned, businesslike policy which will adequately provide for the operating needs of the church. Such a plan will receive their wholehearted support. It will strengthen the morale of the church and help in causing the Lord's work to prosper. The well-organized church expense budget should provide sufficient funds to meet the needs of the church for a whole year. The plan should be such that numerous calls for funds will not be necessary. Such oft-repeated pleas will tend to create the impression that there is something wrong with the financial planning.
The first requisite in promoting a successful church finance plan is to educate the church members to give liberally for local needs. The pastor of the church must lead out in this educational process. The reason our people cooperate so well in supporting conference-sponsored mission projects, such as the Ingathering and the Sabbath school, is that they have been trained by a well-executed educational program to do so. They will give their support just as readily to local needs if properly educated.
One reason so many churches fail in church finance is that the local needs do not receive the proper emphasis. In the book of Malachi, God accuses His people of robbing Him. In response to their question, "Wherein have we robbed Thee?" God answered, "In tithes and offerings." From this we conclude that God expects His people to be faithful not only in tithes but also in offerings, which are needed to carry on the program of God. There was a definite financial plan in ancient Israel which provided for the needs of the temple and its services. This should be no less true of modern Israel.
I will describe a plan which has proved successful in assuring needed funds for operation of the local church program. At the close of the year the church board met to study the budget for the new year. All matters relating to the operating expense of the church received proper consideration. Then a budget which would meet the needs of the church was worked out. This budget was approved by the board and later submitted to the church for final approval.
On an early Sabbath of the new year a stewardship service was held, during which the church expense budget recommended by the church board was presented. It is better to devote one Sabbath for this purpose than to make repeated appeals throughout the year. The matter was presented in the proper spiritual setting. Giving for the cause of God, whether for the foreign fields or for local needs, is an essential factor in the development of Christian character. This should be the basic reason for financial giving, and this approach will be much more successful than any other.
"God planned the system of beneficence, in order that man might become, like his Creator, benevolent and unselfish in character, and finally be a partaker with him of the eternal, glorious reward."—Testimonies. vol. 4, p. 473.
During the service a mimeographed statement was passed out to the church members. On this the expenditures of the last year were listed, also the estimated expense for the new year. Thus the church members had a clear concept concerning the church expense of the past year, and also of the budget which was needed for the new year. Such a statement will help the people to realize that the church budget requires a goodly sum and that they must do their part to assure the needed funds.
The percentage plan seems to be the most equitable basis for church expense giving. The tithe of the church will indicate the approximate income of the church members. In most churches two per cent of the income of the members will be sufficient to meet the needs of the church. Giving for church expense on the percentage basis is in harmony with the Bible principle of giving according to ability.
After the recommended church expense budget was submitted and accepted by the church, an appeal was made for every member to make a liberal pledge for this important cause. The two-per-cent plan was suggested as the basis for their pledges. There are always some members who will not sign a pledge card. Such are encouraged to give liberally and systematically for this purpose.
When such a matter is presented, not all the members will be present. Such members should be visited by a committee which has been appointed for this work. If this is not possible, a letter should be sent to these members, also a pledge card. In this letter an appeal should be made for them to co-operate by filling in the card, and bringing it to the church or sending it to the treasurer. If the pledges are equal to the amount of the church budget, a great deal of appeal making will be eliminated, and the work of the church can be conducted in a sound, businesslike manner.
In churches where the expense budget is heavy, it is feasible to appoint a standing church finance committee. The church members are divided into groups according to the area in which they live, and members of the finance committee are put in charge of these groups. A pastoral letter should be sent out to the members, informing them of the plan and asking them to cooperate with the committee in raising the church expense budget. Such a letter will enable the people to be prepared when the members of the committee call.
We are instructed in the Word of God that all things pertaining to the work of the Lord should be done "decently and in order." Every worker should therefore study to formulate a plan which will succeed in giving the local work a strong financial foundation.