Our Budget May Blow Up – Now What?

Generosity+Leadership // July 13, 2020

As the Covid pandemic continues to disrupt our world and the way we are accustomed to engaging in ministry, the impact on giving and the 2020 budget immediately brought many questions. How do we maintain, or even better, grow generosity in light of this situation?

I’ve fielded dozens of calls from pastors and church leaders all around the country.

It’s been interesting to hear the wide range of situations that each is facing, depending on their location in the US and the severity of the pandemic in their area. It has been encouraging to hear the multitude of stories of how giving has remained strong for many churches. I’ve read emails, texts, and letters from givers to their pastors as they have included special offerings and shared stories of how God has blessed them “for such a time as this”.

Back in March I posted in this blog 8 Action Steps to Address Giving During Covid-19. All that was written at that time is still valid today, so you’ll want to take a look at that post if you haven’t already in order to not only maintain giving, but to grow generosity in your church.

The last recommendation offered was to have a contingency plan in place. And I wanted to reiterate the importance of that action step once again. The number of infections is surging in several states, causing some who have reopened to throttle back on their plans. Others have slowed their timeline for reopening. You may have yet to reopen, still worshiping online. Others have begun in-person worship, but have yet to restart life groups on campus. And still others have fully reopened services, life groups, student and children’s ministries, though with social distancing protocols in place.

Regardless of which state of reopening you find yourself in, I suspect we’ve yet to see the full and final impact of this pandemic. I’m no prophet – far from it – but it appears this thing is going to be hanging around with us for the foreseeable future. The momentum gained by reopening may be slowed, or reversed, if we are required to shelter in place once again. Like you, I’m praying that doesn’t happen, but if it does, we need to be prepared.

Here are two action steps –

  1. Build your reserve fund. Set aside every possible dollar and delay expenditures that are less than necessary to fund your ministry. Proverbs 21:20 tells us “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” (NIV) Should giving take a downturn, you’ll have the needed funds to make ends meet through 2020. And if giving doesn’t decline further, you’ll be able to fund those delayed items you put off for now.
  2. Revisit that contingency plan that you created back in March. (If you didn’t write one then, do it now.) I recommend having a budget plan for each of three scenarios. The first you already have – that’s your current budget plan (likely revised since Covid set in). The second is a cash flow plan should the church realize a 10% drop in giving through the remainder of 2020. The third is a cash flow plan should you realize a 20-30% drop. You can modify those numbers anyway you like. Just pick your levels and work up the plan. What would we do as leaders in the church if our giving were to decline by 20% from now through December? Thinking through that now – before the stress of that reality should it occur – will be much easier than if you wait until drastic decisions are needed. Write those contingencies, put them in your drawer, and let’s continue to pray that we won’t need to implement any of it. But if a time comes when we do need to pull them out, we can rest knowing the difficult work has already been done, during a time when we had clear heads processing the necessary actions.

Here are two resources for you –

  1. The first, a blog post by my friend and colleague Jim Sheppard, President of Generis. It’s Not Over Yet is an excellent read that you’ll want to review.
  2. The second, a new ebook that you can download here – Stabilize – Protect Your Budget, Grow Generosity, Accelerate Impact.

About Rusty Lewis

As a church leader, there’s nothing more frustrating than not having the funding to do what God’s calling you to do. But when you think about trying to address that problem, you feel overwhelmed, you dread the potential pushback from your congregation, and you’re not sure where to turn for help. Over the last 18 years, I’ve helped more than 120 churches close the gap between their current financial reality and what they need to move forward in ministry.

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