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Stewardship Matters: Your Narrative Budget puts ministries front and center... where they belong!

Your Narrative Budget puts ministries front and center... where they belong!
Paul Shackford

Got a line-item budget? Of course you do... columns of descriptions of expenses, lots of numbers showing last year's actual results, this year's budget, year-to-date results, next year's budget, and often even more columns of numbers. While of course this information should be available for parishioners to see - and, in fact, the Vestry needs to approve that information – don’t use your line-item budget as part of your pledge campaign materials!

There's a much better way to show what you really do with the funds entrusted to you! You don't just use the funds to pay your clergy and other employees.

How? with a Narrative Budget. A Narrative Budget translates your Line-Item Budget into something meaningful that shows what ministries your budget supports!

For example, the largest line item in a church's budget is generally the cost of clergy and other employees - salary, medical insurance, pension, and other benefits. What is the most effective and enlightening way to present that? As the costs themselves, or what is accomplished because you incur those costs?

A Narrative Budget shows how the income you raise from your pledge campaign translates into how your church supports its key ministry areas.

How to do it? As a first step, you'll gather a small team – including the clergy and the treasurer and others who are aware of the various ministries in your church, and select those ministry areas that are most important to your faith community.

What might they be? For a start...Worship, Music, Formation and Education, Outreach ... each church has areas that are vitally important to them, and that is the place to start.

You’ll then convert your existing Line-item Budget into the Narrative Budget, by first allocating compensation, then specific and remaining expenses, and then creating a pie chart to help visualize the data. Then you can think of all sorts of creative ways to share that "new look" at the linkage between stewardship and ministries. A colorful pew card? An insert in your pledge campaign materials? On your website? All these ways?

We've organized the steps involved in preparing your Narrative Budget in this booklet for you to download: Narrative Budgeting for Stewardship. Download it, share it, pull your team together, and get started. You'll be glad you did!

This article is adapted from Narrative Budgeting for Stewardship (download it here!) by Paul Shackford, a member of the Diocesan Teaching Team. Paul retired as Chief Financial Officer of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in 2017.