This post is the second in a two-part series about narrative budgeting for congregations. Check out the first post here

Last week, I explained what a narrative budget is. Ready to try this out in your congregation? Here are some steps to help you create a narrative budget:

1. Collaborate: Creating a narrative budget involves more people than just the stewardship or finance committee. Invite congregational leaders, including other committees to get involved. Find articulate storytellers and artists who can make the stories of your shared ministry shine.

2. Discern: What is God calling your congregation to do and to be? If you have a mission and vision statement for your congregation – start there. If not, take time to discern God’s mission and vision for your congregation. Starting off the budgeting process with a period of discernment encourages congregations to spend time listening to how God is calling them – putting the vision for ministry first and allowing the money to follow.

3. Identify program areas: Take your congregation’s mission and vision and divide it into a few program areas or ministry categories. Reformation Lutheran Church in Reading, Pa., chose four categories: “nurture and education,” “outreach,” “greater church” and “worship.” I recommend not choosing “property” or “personnel” as a program area – they are tools for ministry.

4. Gather images and stories: Wrangle the storytellers, journalists and photographers of your congregation to begin gathering stories and images. Within each program area, you might choose a Bible verse, create a short description, highlight a specific story, list specific ministries and illustrate with pictures.

5. Create a line-item budget: Use your congregation’s mission, vision and program areas as a guide to creating the line-item budget for the next year.

6. Allocate the money: Ask the program committees and congregational staff to allocate the line-items that they are responsible for in the program areas. Many line-items will belong in more than one category. In that case, use percentages. For instance, property costs will likely fall into more than one category. In that case, you might allocate 50 percent to worship, 30 percent to nurture and education and 20 percent to outreach. Make sure that the pastor and staff take time to allocate the way that they spend their time and divide their salary among those categories.

7. Discernment check-in: Once you have everything allocated, take a moment to see if the allocations align with your mission and vision. Are you putting your money where your mouth is? If not, you might make some changes to the line-item budget.

8. Share: As I mentioned last week, this document should have many uses. You might begin by creating a hard copy that can be used during an annual meeting or given out to new members. You might put an electronic copy on your website or create a PowerPoint that could be shared during worship.

Creating a narrative budget certainly takes more time and effort than just creating a line-item budget. Know that this is time well spent. Narrative budgets inspire giving. They remind givers that their faithful stewardship is making a difference and that they are partners in their congregation’s ministry.

For more information on how to create a narrative budget, visit the Center for Faith and Giving’s webpage Building a Narrative Budget or view this narrative budget brochure from the Evangelical Covenant Church.

Grace Duddy
Grace Duddy Pomory is author of Stewards of God’s Love, an ELCA resource for doing year-round stewardship ministry. She also is a financial education specialist at Portico Benefit Services and is executive director of operations at Kairos and Associates Inc.

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