Preparing the Church Budget
THE preparation of the annual budget presents a real challenge. Few of us have a background that would provide experience in dealing with finances, and our professional training has barely touched the subject. There are various ways of planning for the financial needs of the church, but the procedures the Ukiah church uses in developing a workable budget are as follows:
Utilizing the best help available in developing the church budget is important and so a finance committee is appointed by the church board. It is made up of those with recognized ability in financial matters. This committee of five members is not necessarily chosen from the church board and their term of office is for one year.
The Ukiah church budget includes both the finances of the church and school. Thus, when it is mentioned, it is the combination of the two. The finance commit tee begins to work on its combined budget the middle of April so as to begin the fiscal year on July 1 in order that it may carry through the school year. If the fiscal year begins in January, it would be well to have the budget finalized by the first of December. Ingathering occupies our time in December, and it would be difficult to sing "Silent Night" with enthusiasm while being concerned about a new budget.
The school board chairman and the principal study the needs of the school and note any changes in enrollment, utilities, salaries, proposed capital expenditures, and conference subsidies. They meet with the finance committee and discuss the pro posed budget. Usually, any necessary adjustments are made and it is presented to the church board.
The heads of all departments and organizations within the church are requested to submit a careful estimate of their needs for the coming year. The items in the church budget include everything paid from the church expense fund. The finance committee then carefully examines all expenditures and may recommend that items be included under church expense that had not been in the former budget. For example, this year the finance committee included such items as Pathfinders, social committee, annual banquet, and Liberty. Certain items that might be included in the budgets of other churches were excluded because these were covered by special offerings. Some of these were the poor fund, scholarship fund, literature, et cetera.
Presentation to the Board
It is important that when the budget is presented to the church board, each item can be defended. The chairman of the finance committee is assigned the task of presenting the budget to the board. There may be minor changes as a result of their discussion. After careful deliberation, the board recommends the budget to the church at a business meeting. Experience has demonstrated that it is advantageous to call a business meeting in conjunction with some social event in order to be assured of a good attendance. The finance committee chairman introduces the budget and gives a step-by-step explanation of what it means. Ample time is given for questions and answers. The budget then becomes official by a majority vote of those present.
The Business Meeting
At this business meeting, time is taken to review the pattern of giving for the financial year about to close. This will include a review of all funds that have gone through the treasurer's books in conference funds, church funds, and the building fund. It has been shown that the tithe is one indication of the ability of the church to support the over-all program.
The month of May is stewardship month in the Ukiah church. During this month materials provided by the stewardship department of the conference are used in preparing sermons on stewardship. A pastoral letter is sent to each family including a copy of the budget and a covenant card. This year the church board voted to send each family a copy of the book God and I Are Partners, by D. E. Rebok. Each family is asked to prayerfully make a decision as to what they plan to do and to bring their completed covenant card to church on a specified Sabbath. At that time, a consecration service is conducted and all are asked to bring their cards to the table before the pulpit as an act of dedication. Most of the cards are turned in at this service.
A committee is formed to contact those who have not made a commitment. Since the church operates a ten-grade school strictly from the church expense with no tuition charged to its members, an urgent appeal is made for enough funds to cover the total budget of the church and school.
The impression must not be given that once the budget has been approved by the church that everything automatically falls into place. There must be continual reminders of how things stand. The church board requested that a record be published in the bulletin each week. This is one way to remind all members in the congregation to be faithful in their stewardship.
Do not hesitate to impress on the hearts of our people the continuing needs of the Lord's work. How true is the statement, "Divine wisdom has appointed, in the plan of salvation, the law of action and reaction, making the work of beneficence, in all its branches, twice blessed. He who gives . . . blesses others, and is blessed himself in a still greater degree." --Counsels on Stewardship, p. 13.
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