Developing a church budget - part 1

Developing a church budget - part 1

It’s that time of year when your church should begin the process of creating its budget for next year.

The problem I seem to be discovering in many of our smaller churches is that they don’t really have a budget. They have a checkbook, and they deposit money into the checking account, and they write checks. The church treasurer delivers a monthly report that, essentially, is a printed version of the checkbook register. And, to some extent, the church might be operating under the assumption that if we still have checks left in the checkbook, we must have money in the bank.

There may be a spending goal that resembles a budget, but the church does not actually have a budget that balances revenue against expenses. The “financial report” the church sees is often a year-to-date compilation of deposits and expenses, but it may not be sufficient for church members to be able to see just how the church is actually spending its money — a clear presentation of revenue and expenses for the current period in comparison to the period and annual budget.

What I mean by this is that the “chart of accounts” is poorly developed and does not easily articulate revenue and expenses. Additionally, the church does not get a true assets-and-liabilities (or “balance sheet”) report that distinguishes cash assets from restricted liabilities in a way that is easily understood.

Much of this is attributable to the mechanism the treasurer uses to keep track of the church’s money. It could be something like Quicken or Quick Books, or a simple spreadsheet with lots of manual data entry. The more effort a person must exert to run an accounting process, the more likely the possibility for mistakes.

A robust contributions and accounting program, such as Aplos Software, will not only relieve the church treasurer of unnecessary effort when it comes to preparing financial reports, it will effortlessly keep track of the “money-in, money-out, money-left-over” church members need to see to have confidence the church is being a good steward of the resources it has, through proper attribution to the various elements in the chart of accounts.

We strongly encourage our churches to take a closer look at Aplos Software and give it a try. New CSBC churches (incorporated fewer than 24 months) can use the program at no cost for the first 12 months, courtesy of Cooperative Program gifts. CSBC will cover half of the $40 monthly fee in the second year, and $10 of the fee in year three. Visit for more information.

In next month’s column, I will reveal how to budget correctly, including CP giving and support of your local association. By “budgeting correctly” I mean how to account for giving without affecting program needs. It’s the answer to the question your members also ask: “Do I tithe off the gross or the net?”

The answer is in Developing a Church Budget - part two here.

This Convention serves our culturally diverse congregations as we fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.