How to Create a Budget for Your Children's Ministry
Monday, January 15, 2024
As a church leader, your top priority is likely to impact the members of your congregation. For your children’s ministry, this means engaging kids as you teach them about God and His Word. However, the resources you use to do so require funding, and it’s your responsibility to budget wisely so that you can access these tools.
To do so, you’ll need to understand the basics of budgeting as it applies to your children’s ministry. That’s where this guide comes in—we’ll explore four steps to creating a budget for your ministry’s funding that will help you master financial management:
To truly make the most of your ministry’s budget, you’ll need an understanding of your current financial position, goals for the future, and a plan to bridge the gap between them. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how you can achieve this.
Analyze Your Expenses
Before you can determine how to allocate your funding, you first need to know the current state of your finances. How do you currently use your program’s financial resources? What does it take to keep your children’s ministry running?
This includes all expenses associated with your children’s ministry, which might be broken down into the following categories:
- General fund: This includes most of your church’s expenses that allow it to continue operating. For example, your general fund might cover the cost of your children’s ministry curriculum or Sunday school supplies.
- Missions or Community fund: Any philanthropic good your children’s ministry does is covered by your missions fund, such as youth mission trips or community service days. These initiatives can be especially important in impacting kids as they allow children to put their faith into action.
- Special Programming fund: This might include special holiday plans, events you plan for your ministry, and anything in between!
This organization of expenses is often referred to as fund accounting. Fund accounting for churches helps ministries account for each expense, even as costs fluctuate over time. Include every expense in your analysis and categorize these costs appropriately to track each cost your ministry incurs.
Determine Expected Budget
Whether your children’s ministry hosts fundraising events, receives a budget each year from church leadership, or builds additional funds through the year from the church’s offerings, you likely already have an idea of where the funding you’ll use to cover your program’s expenses will come from.
Determine your expected annual “revenue” and categorize each source of income to balance your budget. This allows you to evaluate the affordability of your expenses and sets the expectation for your financial goals.
Even if your children’s ministry is given a set budget for the year, knowing this number is still important. The amount you have to work with allows you to plan for resources that can truly make an impact, such as Bible study books or other teaching materials.
Plus, evaluating your budget can help you manage restricted funds. According to Double the Donation’s guide to nonprofit accounting, this means that some church members may give with the stipulation that their money be used for a specific project. For example, a member of your congregation may donate and ask that their contribution be used to rebuild the children’s playground. Honoring that restriction allows your ministry to remain accountable to its donors, building trust with them.
Set Your Goals Within the Budget
Equipped with an overview of your ministry’s current finances, it’s time to get specific about how your funds should be allocated for effective financial management. For example, how much should you raise for your budget for the year, or is your budget fixed? How much do you plan to spend on children’s holiday parties?
To structure your financial goals, use the SMART framework:
Instead of profitability, your ministry’s accounting goals will be to further your mission with the resources you have available. Keep your children’s ministry objectives in mind as you set financial goals and ask your senior leadership to do the same when thinking about your budget.
For example, you might want to focus your teaching more on pointing kids back to the Bible in the coming year. In this case, Wonder Ink’s guide to children’s curriculum recommends choosing a curriculum with core values rooted in biblical truth. Set a budgetary goal according to the price of such a curriculum so that your finances support your ministry’s mission.
Create a Plan
Using the information you gathered about your ministry’s finances and your specific goals, create a concrete and actionable plan for your ministry’s funding. This involves aligning your expenses with your fundraising, ensuring you allocate your funding in a way that achieves your budgetary goals.
For example, let’s say your children’s ministry is expanding to reach fifth graders when it previously only served kids in preschool through fourth grade. You might look for a children’s church curriculum for this new group that is age-appropriate, but your budget must support the expense of this new curriculum in order for your ministry to fulfill its goals.
Use the following tips to develop a financial plan for your budget:
- Prioritize your expenses. Determine which expenses are necessary and what new expenses your program should incur to further its mission. Identify any areas where you can reduce costs without taking away from the value you provide to ministry participants.
- Measure your income. Will your expected revenue for the year cover your expenses? If not, determine how you’ll raise more for your ministry. If you’re left with a surplus, create a plan for the leftover funding so that nothing is wasted.
- Expect the unexpected. Throughout the year, your ministry will encounter unexpected costs. Leave room in your budget for the unexpected, such as broken or lost supplies.
Your budget should account for all of the funding that your ministry receives and uses in a given year. However, you should also plan ahead for your potential future revenue and expenses. If you want to grow your ministry, you’ll need to identify the expenses associated with expansion and determine how you’ll raise the funds to do so.
The budget for your children’s ministry will depend on your program’s unique needs and goals. To ensure you develop and follow an effective budget, consider asking your church’s finance manager for help as needed. Since the person in this role is familiar with your church’s budget, they’ll also be well-equipped to assist you in budgeting specifically for your ministry.
You can also outsource your ministry’s budgeting to a professional accountant. This allows you to leave the finances to accounting experts who have likely dealt with various types of budgets and financial situations. With their help, you can focus on what truly matters most: impacting the kids in your children’s program.