How to Stay on Top of Your Budget

There’s a significant flaw in me that is attracted to small acts of rebellion. I don’t mean anything serious that will land me in the slammer, but I walk around some days wondering what I can get away with. It’s my struggle and the older I get, the more I’ve been able to control it (and my wife of course helps). There’s a somewhat famous line for people like me: “Ask for forgiveness, not for permission.” I’ve heard this quote probably 100 times in my life, and at least 75 of those times it was said by a youth pastor. I’ll do whatever I want and if I get in trouble, “I’m sorry. My bad.” And then move on like it never happened. It’s this kind of mentality that many youth pastors have adopted when given a budget. “I don’t understand it. How to organize it. How to plan it. How to document it. But I do know how to spend it. So, therefore, I’ll ask for forgiveness, not for permission.” But this is important. Extremely important. Check out what Luke 16:10-12 says:

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

We need to be trustworthy with our budgets. People are faithfully tithing expecting we’re on top of it. So here are some thoughts on where to start.

  1. Have regular conversations with your boss about finances. Ask for his or her expectations on how you spend it. Ask for all of the proper protocols/procedures to document what you have been spending. Discuss how you have been and plan on spending the money and why you feel like it’s a worthwhile Kingdom expenditure.
  2. Plan out the entire year before the new fiscal budget starts. Think through every gathering and estimate what you may spend on them. Do you offer scholarships to students that cannot afford retreats, camps, or trips? Think through curriculum, food, games, operational costs, coffees, lunches, volunteer appreciation, football game attendance fees, etc. And then, plan a safety net for when you didn’t get the amount of paying students that you thought you would, or you underestimated how much a venue would charge, or when things break.
  3. Ask for help. Soon after I first started as a youth pastor, I realized that I was not the most organized when it came to my budget. I went and sat down with our finance department (it was a larger church if your church doesn’t have a finance department, talk to whoever is the official overseer of the entire church budget), and I asked them how they operated and how they wanted me to work within their systems. They told me they never had a youth pastor ever ask them for help. I learned what was expected of me, and we worked really well together. Furthermore, I also went and asked someone for help to plan out the year in advance and what might we be spending money on. I needed wisdom, so I asked the wise.
  4. Don’t complain about not having enough money. God does not need ___ dollars in order to make a difference in the lives’ of your students. If you were not given a budget or an extremely small budget, then go and get some more money. I know a lot of churches that have gotten the youth group to help raise the funds for the entire year. Make it happen. You got this.
  5. Talk to God about your budget (or lack thereof). In James 1 he says that if you need wisdom, ask God, and He’s going to give it to you. Tap into that infinite wisdom source daily. But also, thank Him for what you have. This needs to be a regular conversation that you have with Him. I’m sure He’s getting sick of us regularly complaining about what we don’t have. Praise Him for what we do.