Posted in Executive Pastor

Creating A Church Personnel Budget

Whether the personnel portion of your church’s budget is $50,000, $500,000 or 5,000,000, it should have at its core, some common elements.

If you’re involved in putting together your church’s personnel budget, here are key components and tactical steps you need to include (you can see it graphically here).

Step 1

Know and show your personnel budget number for the current year (ex. $200,000).

Step 2

Make any changes you’ve made to the budgeted amount throughout the current year (ex. you made a new hire and paid them $5,000 more than you had budgeted for the position. And you increased custodial hours from PT to FT, adding $14,000). You’ve then added $19,000 mid-year dollars to your personnel budget.

Step 3

This gives you your Revised budget number (in this example, $219,000).

Step 4

Estimate your insurance costs for the new year. An insurance broker can often anticipate increased costs based on what they’re seeing in the market. They can provide you the percentage increase for your plan before actual increases are determined (an estimate is usually available in late summer). For the sake of example, let’s show your needed reserve for insurance to be $6,000. (Obviously, if you’re church does not offer heath insurance, you can skip this step.)

Step 5

Determine your anticipated merit raise figure. While I don’t affirm the idea of a pre-determined % increase for everyone, and instead, prefer a merit increase that ties into a performance management system, you can still have a percentage as the average increase.

So let’s assume that on average, you want to be able to provide a 3% merit increase. You’ll do the math to add 3% to the base salary portion of your personnel budget (remember to add in the impact of merit on retirement benefits if you provide for them).

Step 6

Show any anticipated next year personnel hires. Or if you’re reducing your staff, you’d show that reduced number.

Step 7

Add these steps together. This will give you your next year’s personnel budget figure, you’d begin with your “revised current year budget,” add “health insurance,” add merit raise dollar figure, and add any new hires (or reduce any eliminations) to get to your total proposed next year’s personnel budget.

Here’s an example of how to show these steps in a personnel budget document.

The personnel part of a church budget is typically a large percentage of a church’s budget. So you’ll need to justify it by having a well thought out procedure and explanation.

Having this prepared budget will help you as you take the budget to your church’s decision makers. For other suggestions for presenting an overall compelling church budget, see this previous post.

Happy budgeting.

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Dealing With Admin vs Ministry Tension


Most ministers struggle with the day-to-day tension between administrative duties and pastoral duties. It sometimes feels like a competition: business versus ministry.

Can the two co-exist?

Some church staff roles are primarily operational, and some are primarily pastoral. But usually, whether it’s implied in your title or not, most roles are a combination of the two.

This is especially true for churches with smaller staffs. But whether your church has one staff-member or hundreds, most ministers face this tension everyday.

Meeting organizer or ministry in a home?

Controller of finances or stewardship teacher?

Staff manager or staff mentor?

Funding work or funeral work?

Preaching preparation or policy preparation?

The tension’s impact is highly visible on the resource of time. And in church ministry, it’s usually the “tyranny of the urgent” that wins out.

There’s also tension placed on a minister’s calling. Like many who lead staff, many of my role responsibilities are executive in nature (strategic direction, implementation, managing budgets, and staff). But God didn’t call me to be just an executive – He called me to participate in shepherding His church.

Do I use my spiritual gifts and executive experience to accomplish work for the church? Yes. But for me to be fulfilled in my Gospel Ministry calling, I must be able to connect performance reviews, rainy day funds, and information technology to people pursuing Christ. I need to perceive a clear connection between my executive work and the church working as God designed it.

If all my work is in the admin sector, then my work can seem meaningless, and unappreciated. If I’m all pastoral, well, usually the train begins to leave the track and it impedes ministry for me and even the church.

Does this resonate with you? If, like me, you need some help balancing these two elements of your role, here are a few techniques:

  1. Know and be comfortable with your role’s ebb and flow. There are seasons when one role may be dominant – and that’s okay.
  2. Be involved in hands-on ministry. Without it you lose touch, and your ministry becomes all head and no heart.
  3. Do an exercise with your team where you try to connect administrative duties you’re all engaged in to life-change outcomes. Can you connect the dots?
  4. Do some pastoral care, regularly – even if it’s not in your job description.
  5. Embrace those around you who are better at balancing these roles. See what they can teach you about working efficiently in each role, without losing balance.
  6. Be intentional in looking for and listening to stories of life-change.
  7. Even if it’s not you on the front-line, celebrate when work you’ve contributed to has an ultimate impact for Jesus.
  8. Plan for both ministry and administration in each day. A consistent disregard for administration for the sake of sermon preparation can have negative impacts. And a disregard for administrative tasks can really get in the way of sustainable ministry work.

All ministry matters, even it’s budget planning. You are a resource to the church and you need to allocate your time effectively so the church can be all that God called it to be.

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Church Crisis And The Media


Photo courtesy of iStockphoto®

I’ve been involved in many training sessions, but one of the most valuable was a one-day learning experience I had with a communications consulting firm. Our topic: dealing with the media.

I’d seen enough churches make mistakes in the media that reflected poorly on their church and on God, and often made matters worse. This made me think that developing my skills in this area would be a wise use of my time.

Here are a few practical takeaways from my training that should your church finds itself in a difficult situation (accusation of wrong doing, tragedy involving a child, protesters, etc.), will help you to communicate and represent your church well in the media.

Dealing with media during crisis:

  • Assume you’re always being recorded (even if told otherwise)
    Many prominent public figures have embarrassed themselves and others by making comments  they thought were “off the record.”
  • Provide the headline (or they will)
    Your comments need to start with a concise message that incorporates positive words. A headline is what you want the listener to remember and pass along to others.  It can be followed by stats, an anecdotal example, or a quote from someone meaningful to the target audience. (Examples of headlines are later in the post.)
  • Don’t use negative expressions
    Negative expressions crowd out positive expressions. Begin with key words you wish to be identified with as a church. Words such as “caring, opportunity, community-minded, Biblical, etc.” In an interview, the interviewer will often use negative words that will solicit a response. Resist the urge to repeat their negative word.
    Bad example
    Q: “Aren’t you misleading your church’s members?”
    A: “No, we are not misleading members.”
    Good example

    Q:  “Aren’t you misleading your church’s members?”
    A: “Absolutely not. We work diligently to communicate often and openly to our members about…”
  • Don’t say “no comment”
    You need to acknowledge the question. Many times “no comment” equates to guilt in the public eye. Instead, keep it short, truthful, and in a way that conveys you heard their question. Here are some phrases you can use to respond to questions you can’t or shouldn’t answer: “not necessarily“, “actually, I disagree”, “there are pros and cons”, or “it would not be fair or appropriate to discuss at this time”.
  • Don’t say what you don’t know
    Speculation will go a long way in the media, so don’t contribute. Less information is better than questionable information.
  • Have a point-person for the media and a spokesperson for the church (they can be different people, but if possible, have only 1-2 church spokespeople)
    This person(s) should make themselves available to media by providing easy access and ways in which to be reached.
  • Speak in short, concise sentences, making your point quickly
    Specifically on camera, long, drawn-out responses will likely not be used or will risk being edited into something that’s not your complete or intended thought. Also, the longer you take to make your point the less informed and authoritative you will appear to be.
  • Don’t treat the media as the enemy
    Despite their reputation for twisting the facts, generally speaking, members of the local media are people of integrity who are not out to get the church. Sure, they’re looking for a “juicy” story, but if you approach them with a defensive attitude, you’ll more likely get negative treatment. Speaking to the media is an opportunity to be a witness for Christ.

Here are some examples of headline statements that are both memorable and authentic, yet mitigate negativism. These examples involve the scenario of a bus tragedy involving your church’s children:

  • “Our primary concern as a church is for those impacted by the accident.”
  • “While we are still being provided information from first responders, we are already mobilizing our resources for those affected. This will include both spiritual and physical resources.”
  • “We’re being diligent to communicate what we know to the family members of those affected.”
  • “Our church is committed to safety. We rent busses often, but vetting is in place for each rental company that includes performing background checks, safety certificate checks, standard compliance…”
  • “We’re organizing digital and phone communication, prayer groups, and local counselors to help those involved, and their families.”
  • “As we know more information that we can pass along, we’ll do so promptly. Our church believes in prayer, and we ask for you to join us in praying for those involved.”

I’m thankful to Spaeth Communications for their training and also expertise from @brentwoodbc Communications Minister, @SteveSmith1969.

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