If you’re going to teach people to live God’s way, doesn’t it make sense that you should operate according to His rules?
When you dedicate your life to ministry, you usually spend a lot of time studying the Bible and teaching other people about what it says. Scripture provides profound truth and wisdom on all sorts of topics, from sin and salvation to work, marriage, parenthood, friendship and more. The Bible also has a lot to say about money (which is why this site exists). So why is it that ministries dedicated to teaching the Word often fail operate according to the Bible’s financial principles?
If you run a ministry, a church or another faith-based non-profit organization, managing your group’s finances is one of your most important duties. Handle it rightly, and money can help make great advancements for your cause. If you manage your money poorly, however, you severely limit the effectiveness of your organization, and possibly even threaten its existence.
We’ve mentioned before that the same wisdom that God gives us in scripture for our personal finances also applies to business finance and ministry finance. Today, we’re going to look at six key financial principles that can help your ministry succeed with money.
1) You need a long-term financial strategy.
Proverbs 29:18 tells us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” and that’s certainly true in when it comes to our finances. In order to succeed with money, we need to have a long-term vision for what we want our ministry to accomplish, and how money is a part of that. All too often, individuals and ministries alike just float along financially from month to month, without a clear understanding of their financial position. Living without a financial strategy may seem easy, but it’s actually dangerous. As a ministry leader, you need to spend a significant amount of your time managing finances, and creating a vision for your organization’s financial future that the other people involved with your work can come behind and support.
2) Budgeting is a must.
Monthly budgeting is a natural outgrowth of good long-term financial strategy. Individuals and businesses use budgets to map out their income and spending each month, and ministries should do the same thing. You may think that you have a pretty good idea about what your income is every month, and perhaps you can ballpark the amount that you’re spending. But that’s a far cry from the effectiveness of a written, well-planned budget that shows how every dollar should be allocated each month. With a good budget in place, you can see where your organization has surpluses, or where you might be falling short. A good budget helps you know exactly what your fundraising goals should be, and allows you to be precise and intentional in planning how your money is spent. Put a good budget in place, and you may find that you have more money to work with than you thought.
3) Spend money carefully.
With a budget in place, you may find yourself being more careful and intentional about the way you spend money, and that’s a good thing. Out-of-control spending is one of the biggest risks to American personal finance. And while you probably don’t spend ministry money on excess or luxury, if you’re not strategic and intentional about what you spend, you may not be maximizing your organization’s buying power. It’s worthwhile for you to invest some time looking at your spending history and analyzing whether there are more cost-effective options for fulfilling your ministry’s needs and accomplishing its spending goals.
4) Emergency savings can be a lifesaver.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times: You need to have savings in place to protect you from life’s emergencies. Unforeseen circumstances and their related expenses can wreak havoc on your finances if you haven’t prepared some emergency savings to deal with the difficulties that befall everyone from time to time. This is as true for ministry organizations as it is for individuals. While money may be tight for your organization, it’s imperative that you set aside a certain amount of money each month to help cover your ministry in case of big emergencies. Emergencies happen to everyone — it’s a question of when, not if — and without a good emergency fund, one mishap can sink your ministry financially. With a good base of emergency savings, though, you can operate with the confidence that your organization is protected from unforeseen financial trials.
5) Absolutely avoid debt.
If you’ve spent much time on this site, you know that we’re no fans of debt — debt is financial slavery that traps millions of people in bondage for years. Debt is bad for individuals, bad for businesses and bad for ministries, and should be avoided at all costs. This can be difficult to walk out, especially at first, because borrowing money seems like such a quick and easy way to solve financial problems or to get your hands on new facilities, supplies, etc. But debt actually causes more problems than it solves. It costs your organization money in the long run, and it decreases your buying power. The biggest danger is that borrowing ties up money from your monthly budget, limiting the amount that you’re free to spend on other things. And if it isn’t quickly dispatched, the weight of your debt burden can grow so large as to crush your organization financially. Absolutely avoid debt — if something can’t be done debt-free, then it’s not worth doing at all.
6) Remember your Source.
When we begin spending a lot of time managing money, it can be easy to get so focused on the details that we forget the big picture. Yes, we work in a world where dollars and cents matter, and the rules of math are absolute. But we should always remember that God is our source. He owns everything in the world, and He directs money to us according to our needs. In the course of your work in ministry, there may be times when you worry about your financial future. But don’t let worry rob you of your peace. We serve a God who is big enough to meet your ministry’s financial needs. If you are faithful to be careful and diligent with the financial resources that you have, He will be faithful to provide for you in your times of need. Our God always pays for what He orders.
Photo by Frederick Bisson. Used under Creative Commons License.