8 Tips for Leading a Church Budget Committee

I had a reader who was recently appointed the responsibility of creating the 2013 church budget and was asking for help in creating a meeting agenda, preparing to lead the church budget meeting and tips for keeping the group moving forward in the church budgeting process.

Here was my response:

Leading a church budget team meeting can be a fun and productive experience.  The secret is being prepared.

8 Tips For Leading a Church Budget Committee

1.  Gather Financial Data

Gather all historical budget data and create handouts for the church budget team to review. Make sure the information is in an easy to understand format and that complex accounting terms are translated for clear understanding. Most people are uncomfortable asking terminology questions especially if they have been asked to serve on such a prominent church management committee so help them by making it easy to understand.

2.  Set Date For Meeting

Schedule the budget meeting by providing several different time options for the committee members. The goal is for  them to feel like they have choices and working with them on their time availability will make them feel valued and will begin gaining credibility and trust from you as a leader.  Most people want to follow a leader who cares about them as individuals and being considerate enough to schedule around their availability is the first step to doing that.  Now having said that, there are always other variables that need to be considered also – ie; room availability, etc.

3.  Create Church Budget Meeting Agenda

Create an agenda based on the expectations that you have been given for the team. An agenda is merely a tool to help the team stay on task for what needs to be discussed and accomplished.  When setting an agenda try to anticipate how much time each agenda item will take and schedule that amount of time for that discussion point.  There is no easy way to do this, and it gets easier with practice, but it is important to have a guide to help you through the meeting so you don’t get 90 minutes into the session and realize that you are on the first point of the agenda.

Example Church Budget Meeting Agenda

7:00 pm                       Welcome/Introductions
7:15 pm                        Opening Prayer
7:20 pm                        Agenda Review
7:25 pm                        Ground Rules/Assign note taker/timekeeper
7:30 pm                        Review Historical Data
8:00 pm                       Revenue Projections
8:15 pm                        Budget Requirements
8:30 pm                       Budget Priority Discussion
8:50 pm                       Next Steps
9:00 pm                       Meeting Adjourned

4.  Facilitate the Meeting

As you facilitate the meeting encourage everyone to participate in the discussion and try to make sure there is consensus on any decisions. This sometimes involves letting everyone voice their opinions and then working with the group to come to agreement on the best answer with all ideas considered.  You don’t want anyone walking out of the meeting saying “they didn’t listen to me….”

  • Make sure the meeting starts and stops on time.  This will give you credibility as a leader for being respectful of the time of others.
  • Assign someone to take meeting notes and someone to watch the clock. This will provide a record of the discussion (what decisions were made, who is doing what, etc) and keep the group to the scheduled time.
  • Set meeting ground rulesbefore the meeting starts, things like:
    • turn off cell phones
    • no side conversations
    • be respectful of the ideas of others
    • confidentiality
    • start and stop on time
    • everyone participates
  •  These are common ground rules and a great way to start the conversation but be sure to ask the group to add any other “rules” for behavior.

5.  Team Development

The trick to a high performing team is allowing the group to bond.  This sometimes takes a few meetings to get the synergy going.  It is important to allow a bit of ‘social’ time before and after the meeting to help with relationship and team building.  When team members have relationships with each other they work better together.

6.  Moving Forward

To keep the committee moving forward, at the end of each meeting talk about next steps and assign or ask for volunteers to complete projects/tasks before the next meeting.  Have the note taker document these assignments in the notes.  A few days before the next meeting send out a meeting reminder and include those things that committee members were responsible to do and let them know that they will be asked to report on the progress of their assignment.  Create the next meeting agenda based on team assignments and start the next meeting by reviewing notes and then go down the list of assignment reporting.

7.  Pitfalls

The major pitfalls for most committees is either team conflict or getting stuck.  To avoid these, help the team develop as a group and hold people accountable to their assigned responsibilities each week (or however often they meet).

Open the meeting with your personal expectations of the group and make it clear about those things you will not be able to tolerate (for the sake of the committee responsibilities) and if people aren’t committed to fulfilling their job assignments they may need to be replaced.  It’s kind of like the first day of  school, the teacher sets the expectations just to get everyone on the same page.

8.  Anticipate Questions

As you finalize budget proposals make sure the team objectively thinks through any and all questions that might be asked.  You want to think of everything before it goes forward.  The last thing you want is to be presenting a budget and get asked a question that you do not have a good answer for.  Spend time trying to shoot holes in the budget so that you can anticipate questions before they are asked.

Leading any kind of team can be fun and rewarding but taking the time to plan is a critical first step.  The challenge comes when the team has been meeting for a significant period of time and gets stuck.  This is when it may be time to appoint a new team leader or shuffle some of the members around.  New perspectives always bring fresh insights into a group and what more important team can there be in a church than the Church Budget Committee!

photo by:  Tax Credits