Church Budget and Stewardship

By Olga Lobas

An annual parish budget is a valuable tool to be used by the Church Council to meet its financial goals. It can also be an aid to the Stewardship Program. Just as in each home there are various expenses that must be met, so there are financial obligations in each and every parish that must be paid.

The initial preparation of a budget may be time-consuming. However, it will bring into clear view all necessary expenses. The Parish Council President, Financial Secretary and Treasurer can use financial statements from the year-end to arrive at a workable budget for the Church. Upon presentation to and approval by the Church Council, the budget should be presented and explained to all of the members of the Church.

Expense Categories

Salaries of all persons employed by the Church should become one portion of the budget. Included in this would be salaries, taxes, benefits such as hospitalization and car expense, and items which may be deducted from salaries and paid through the Church.

Another category is operating expenses. This includes all utility payments. Keeping this separate makes for easier comparison of the budget to actual expenses at the end of the fiscal year.

A very important item which warrants careful consideration in setting up a budget are repairs and maintenance to all church property. This would include the church, the rectory and any other property owned by the parish. Potential sizable expenditures such as a new heating system, roof, carpeting or extensive repairs can be anticipated and funds set aside prior to work actually being done. Seasonal expenditures such as grounds maintenance or snow removal can be included under this heading.

Mortgage payments, insurance and real estate taxes on church-owned property is a separate category. Separating these from utilities, repairs and maintenance will provide a clear picture of the funds needed for this usually highest budget necessity.

Annual assessments to the National Church, Diocese and Deanery should be calculated for each member of the parish. This is entered as a budget figure. Usually members’ pledges adequately cover the assessments, but if they are not, the difference is taken from the general operating fund.

Monies should also be allocated for All-American Councils, Diocesan and Deanery Assemblies. Any donations which are made regularly should also be included as a fixed expense although those like the annual missions, seminaries and charities appeals would be an in-and-out, entry, as the monies collected are simply passed along.

Another category which should be studied and provided for is Educational Expenses. These include the church school, the library (though most expenses here are met by memorial donations), special projects, and assistance in attending educational conferences. Ads, contributions, charitable and special projects make up another category. Then there are the smaller operating expenses: church supplies, office supplies, petty cash, offering envelopes, postage and miscellaneous.

Each church will have its own individual expenses which can either be grouped together or, if a sizable amount is needed, a separate item with breakdown figures can be provided.

Totals derived from these various categories should provide a basic amount which is needed to operate the parish for the following year. These figures should take into consideration inflation and raises. Realistic figures will provide a working goal for the coming year and a fair share per capita figure can be established. If the per capita amount is not considered 100% attainable from pledges alone to provide for the total budget, other ways of providing income should be implemented to make the budget workable.

Income and Contributions

The year-end financial report will also furnish information on the income of the parish. Figures complied by the members of the Financial Committee will show whether or not all of the expenses of the parish are covered by contributions of the parishioners. Income can be broken down into various categories such as regular contributions, memorials, building fund donations, fund raising, etc. Each individual parish may also have other sources of income.

The Stewardship Committee can use the figures from the Financial reports and budget as its basis to arrive at a contribution-per-member figure. All parishes have special circumstances which should be taken into consideration for arriving at a specific amount per member offering.

Our parish uses a yearly pledge system with the per capita figure in mind. The pledge covers all the normal expenses including the assessments. If a large, unforeseen expense occurs, a special meeting is called to determine how to meet that expense.

The Stewardship Committee, in our parish consisting of the priest, the president, the treasurer, the financial secretary and a couple of other members, (usually not on the Council), makes a special presentation to the parish to encourage thoughtful pledging, usually every other year. It has taken several forms. In all cases, charts and figures are used to show the accomplishments of the past year and the needs for the year ahead. Printed matter is available to take home and study. One year the Committee made team visits to the homes.

Another year committee members prepared a home video that included a short presentation from each of the church organizations about its activities. Presentations have also been made to the entire church body in an evening meeting or after Liturgy on Sunday. An after-Liturgy presentation followed with a simple, free brunch creates a congenial atmosphere. The presentation is repeated a second time a few weeks later for those who were absent, and to answer any questions that may have surfaced in the meantime. We are fortunate that most of our financial needs are met by the pledges so that we don’t have to rely too heavily on fund-raisers, and the events we do organize can be more for social and fellowship purposes.

The needs of a parish can also be supplemented by the giving of time and talents, priceless gifts which cannot be measured. Often a parishioner is hesitant about offering a specific talent because he or she doesn’t know it is needed. Physical skills such as painting or washing and waxing of pews, or professional skills, such as those of an accountant or attorney, can prove very beneficial to the parish when coupled with the giver’s financial support. The talents are there - seek them out. The more people who get involved in the life of the parish, the stronger it becomes.

(The following is a sample budget sheet. It is good to remember that a budget is just a guideline. It is not written in stone.)

Salaries & Benefits
Salary Taxes Hospitalization Auto allowance Pension Plan
Choir Director - salary and taxes Church Custodians - salary and taxes Secretary - salary and taxes
Electric Gas Telephone Water & sewer Total_________________
Repairs & Maintenance:
Snow removal Grounds maintenance Trash removal Traffic control Exterminators Window cleaning General repairs and maintenance Total_________________
Insurance, Notes and Taxes:
Insurance Notes - principal Notes - interest Real estate taxes Total_________________
Assessments & Donations:
OCA, Diocese, Deanery, Local clergy association, etc. Donations - (missions, seminaries, charities (annual appeals) Total_________________
Educational Expenses:
Church School Library Conferences - registration and travel Special Projects Total_________________
Ads, Contributions, charities
Other Operating Expenses:
Church supplies Office supplies Petty cash Offering envelopes Postage Miscellaneous Total_________________
Grand Total _________________

Olga Lobas is an active member of Holy Trinity Parish, Parma, Ohio where she served as Treasurer of the Parish Council for four years.