Rookie Review: Budgeting For a Healthy Church by Jamie Dunlop

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Who wants to talk about the church budget?!? Yeah I know, not the most exciting thing. If you have been in the church then the budget is something you are likely indifferent to or don’t have good feelings about. And if you have attended a church budget meeting you can see how messy that can get. I have long told our officers that our budget is the real world reflection of our values as a church. It is where we put our money. But to be honest I hadn’t developed it much further than that. When I saw Jamie Dunlop’s book Budgeting for a Healthy Church, if figured it would be worth my time. Boy was I right. Jamie has put forward a book that gets at the theology behind the church budget. Probably my favorite aspect of the book is the idea of using the budget as a tool for discipleship. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The chapters are:

1) Why does God Care about Your Church Budget?
2) Leadership: Budgeting Is Pastoral Work
3) Income: Aiming For Faithfulness
4) Staff: Supporting Servants of the Word
5) Programs: Equipping the Congregation for Ministry
6) Missions and Outreach: Becoming a Discriminating Investor
7) Operations: Helping the Church Proclaim and Portray
8) Communication: Using the Budget as a Pastoral Tool
9) Next Steps

Jamie is a baptist minister in a church with elders and deacons so the adjustments are fairly minor. In our church the congregation doesn’t approve the budget, the elders do. That’s part of the reason congregation elects elders. But we have been seeking how we can communicate more with the congregation so they can be informed. Jamie’s book is chock full of helpful information on just how to do that.

There is a lot of confusion about how church budgets work and what they should look like. There is also troubled history with giving and budgets. I know of a woman who told a pastor at her church, “This church belongs to Jesus and me.” She said this because she gave a lot of money specifically to cover the monthly mortgage. But as Jamie points out faithfulness, godly giving, is not about how much you give as it is about how you give. Similarly a budget is not more spiritual because it is big or because giving is up that year. The truth is not in digits, but in the hearts of the people.

Jamie’s fundamental point is that the church budget is spiritual. It reveals what the church believes and is committed to. Jamie argues that the budget is a tool for effecting the Great Commission. Further the budget itself is a like a spiritual mutual fund. It is the local church’s plan for investing in the work of making disciples.

I was challenged to take more leadership in teaching about giving in the church. I have taught on it in the past, but I am pressed to consider ways in which I can continue to teach on the place of giving in the Christian life.
The chapter on income was a great corrective as it puts the focus not on how much is given or even if we are meeting the budget. Rather the focus on giving is faithfulness. Jamie offers a lot of wisdom in the chapter on hiring staff and the chapter on operations is pure gold.

My favorite part of the book was in chapter 8 and learning to use the budget as a pastoral tool for discipleship. It is an opportunity to help Christians grow in their faithfulness to Christ.

Bottom Line

If you serve as a church officer, on a church finance committee or the like you should read this book. It will bring the budget out of the shadows of obscurity and clarify how exactly it fits within the mission of the church. I highly recommend this book and will likely be using it in officer training in the future.

What do you think? How has the church budget been used or abused in your experience? You can contact me here. Thanks for reading!

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