The Hyles Church Manual

by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)

(Chapter 03 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)

3. The Church Budget

One of the more distasteful and yet more important phases of a church life is its financial life. In order to have the proper kind of financial arrangement it is wise to have a church budget. There are many ways to set up and adopt such a budget. By no means do we present the only way, but following is a system which has been proved successful in hundreds of churches.

1. Deacons compose the budget committee. In our chapter on the board of deacons we mention that the deacons we mention that the deacons form every committee of the church and that every church officer is chosen from the board of deacons. We also point out that the deacons have a meeting each Saturday evening, which means that every officer and committee of the church is present at the same meeting. This eliminates hundreds of hours of needless committee meetings. Now bear in mind that the committees are not chosen from the board of deacons but the board of deacons is every committee. The board of deacons is the nominating committee, the budget committee, the finance committee, etc. Hence, the budget is drawn up at their regular meetings.

2. If the deacons plan to prepare the budget at the regular monthly meetings with no extra called meetings then it is best for the preparation of the budget to start in September. Since the fiscal year should be the calendar year, that hives the board of deacons four months to prepare the budget for following year. We have found it more practical and more timesaving, however, to have weekly budget meetings enabling us to start as late as the latter part of October or even the early part of November. In five or six rather lengthy meetings a budget can be prepared if proper preparation is made by the treasurer, the pastor, and the staff.

3. A check should be made of the expenditures of the previous year. Each item on the budget should be examined very carefully by the treasurer, pastor, or both, before the first meeting of the budget committee. Much care should be given to compare the budget item versus the expenditures for that item for the previous year. This will enable the budget committee in deciding whether to decrease or increase each particular budget item.

4. A prediction should be made of the needs of the coming year. Once again this should be done before the first budget committee meeting. Perhaps a building has been built which would necessitate the increase of the utilities. Perhaps a new staff member has been hired which would necessitate the increase of salaries. Perhaps there is a building program being planned and the building will be completed before the end of the coming year. This should be taken into consideration. Using an old budget the pastor, or treasurer, or both, should then write beside the old budget item what they feel the item would need for the coming year. Following is a sample of such a page:

5. Outline the budget under main headings. For a church just starting a budget an examination of the expenditures for the past year would reveal that practically every expenditure could fall under one of a few headings. Our main budget divisions are as follows:

1. Administrative expense

2. Building and grounds

3. General office expense

4. Mission budget

5. Building

6. Program expense

7. Sunday school budget

6. The deacons, or budget committee, should discuss, at their meetings, each item and allocate its amount for the next year. One by one, carefully, prayerfully, and slowly the budget committee discusses the budget. When coming to each item, last year’s expenditures are considered; the recommendation of the needs of next year as given by the pastor and/or treasurer should be considered; then an intelligent decision should be made concerning the needs of each item. When each item has been examined carefully the budget should be totaled and divided by the number of Sundays in the coming year to see what the total budget would be if recommended, as is to the church. If the deacons feel that the average weekly budget is within reach of the people, then they should vote to approve the budget and recommend tit to the church. Bear in mind at this point that the deacons have no authority to adopt a budget. This authority rests only in the church. The deacons are only an advisory committee as always and, as always, have no power to act apart from the church.

7. The proposed budget is then presented to the church. The first week in December is a good time for this. A mimeographed copy is given to each member and an announcement is made that a vote will be taken two weeks later to approve, reject, or modify the proposal budget. This gives the members two weeks to consider the budget and also gives ample time for absent members to secure copies and become acquainted with the proposals being presented by the board of deacons. Once again, an informed church is more likely to be happy and satisfied church. Special care should be taken that nothing is being pushed through but that the church is kept aware of every step.

8. The church then votes to adopt the budget. Two weeds after the budget is presented the church meets in a regular business meeting and votes to adopt the budget as proposed by the board of deacons. This can be a brief meeting. Every member of the church has had ample time to carefully check every budget item. The pastor, acting as moderator, asks for questions or deliberations from the church floor. The budget may be changed by majority church vote. However, when the church has proper confidence in the pastor and deacons, and when the pastor and deacons have thoroughly thought out these proposals, we find that changes from the floor are very rare. In spite of this fact, however, the people should be aware that they may change the budget without bringing the wrath of the pastor and deacons upon them.

After ample discussion the pastor may then call for a motion for the adoption of the budget as proposed or as corrected. he may make such a statement as this: “Do I hear a motion that we adopt the budget as proposed by the board of deacons?” Someone makes a motion, the motion is seconded, the pastor then asks for discussion. Though discussion whatsoever is given. After the discussion the pastor may then say, “All who are in favor of the budget as proposed will signify it by standing,” and “All who are opposed may signify by like sign.” (This is one of those few votes in the year when I prefer standing or the raising of the hand rather than simply the “aye.”)

9. The operation of the budget. There are many successful systems for such an operation. In our ministry we have tried many but, following, you will find the system that has been best adapted to our needs:

(1.) A ledger book is prepared with a page for each budget item.

Since each item on the budget is numbered, then the page for that item bears the same number. This way a running balance may be kept, not only for the extra budget, but for each item in the budget.

(2.) Each Monday the weekly allocation for each item is credited to its page as follows: 

The annual allocation is simply divided by the number of Sundays in the year (usually 52) and 1/52nd of the annual budget is credited to the item each Monday.

10. When an item is ordered the price is secured and subtracted from the balance of its budget item. This is not done at payment. This leaves too much guesswork. It is done upon order. This means that the balance, when brought forward, will be the balance of money in the particular budget item after payment of everything that has been ordered. Hence, the balance on each page is an accurate one and will be even after outstanding bills are paid.

11. The balance of each page must stay in the black. This means that nothing can be ordered unless there is a sufficient balance to cover its purchase. Suppose, for example, that the secretaries need some stationery. They look to the ledger book under the item “Secretarial Supplies,” “Office Expense,” or whatever the appropriate title of that budget item is. They cannot order more stationery than these budget item will allow. Notice the following chart:

The above chart shows that we only have 94.62 in this particular budget item. Hence, we cannot order office supplies costing more than 94.62. Since EVERY ITEM MUST BE KEPT IN THE BLACK AND IF THIS ITEM IS KEPT IN THE BLACK, THEN THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT BUT THAT THE CHURCH IS STAYING WITHIN HER BUDGET.

12. Only one person should do the ordering. To make the above plan work, ordering should be in the hands of one person. If this is not possible, at least no one should be allowed to order without this person’s permission. The financial secretary or church treasurer, as the case may be, finds it his job to see to it that nothing is ordered under any particular budget item that would throw that item in the red. Consequently, each person, before ordering, must contact the financial secretary or treasurer who in turn goes to the ledger book and checks the balance on the appropriate page in order to approve or reject the order. Again, let us reemphasize the fact that the entry is made in the book upon order and not upon payment and that the balance determines the amount that can be ordered.

Suppose, for example, that we pursue with the ordering of the stationery mentioned above. We have found that we have only #94.62. Suppose, then, that we order $75.00 worth of stationery; the following entry is made in the ledger book:

You will notice that we have a balance of $19.62. This will remain the balance until another order is made, or until next Monday when the weekly allocation is credited to this budget item.

13. The same deposit is made into the operating account each week. Let’s suppose that a church’s budget is $300.00 a week. The deposit each week is $300.00, no more and no less.

14. A surplus account should be set up. Because we are depositing the same amount of money each week in the operating account there must be another account where the surplus is deposited. Assuming that our budget is $300.00 per week as aforementioned, suppose the offering is $362.98. $62.98 of this is deposited in a surplus account and $300.00 deposit covers every item in the budget and since every item stays in the black we know that the $300.00 is more than meeting our needs. This gives us the assurance that we may spend anything in the surplus fund without affecting the budget.

This surplus fund cannot be touched unless the offering is below the budget or unless the church votes for an expenditure. This gives us direction and constant awareness as to our financial condition. Over the period of the year this surplus fund builds up and offers great security to the church. In case of emergency the church may decide to use some of it, and in case the offering is less than the budget, the surplus fund is used to make up the difference. This allows us to meet our budget every Sunday and to know exactly where we stand financially at all times.

15. Following is an actual copy of a church budget we have used in the past:

16. It is a good practice to have the checks signed by more than one person. Perhaps the treasurer could sign and someone else could cosign. This other person could be the church secretary, another deacon, and in some cases the pastor. (I personally do not think it wise for the pastor to sign the checks.)

The plan that we have used for years is having three men whose signatures are acceptable. Any two of these may sign. This enables one man to be out on vacation or sick, and still the Lord’s work and business can go on.

17. The counting of the money. Under no conditions do we allow money to be counted during the services. We feel that everyone possible should be in the public services of the church, and so we discourage activities such as counting money to be carried on while the preacher is preaching. We have divided our board of deacons into four groups. One group counts each first Sunday, one group each second Sunday, etc. This means that each deacon counts money once each month. This is done on Sunday afternoon. The money is counted in a private, well-locked room with the best of money-counting equipment. The deposit slip is made up, the police department is called, and deacons proceed to the bank under armed guard to make the deposit. The money is placed in the night deposit vault where it is kept until the next day when the final and official deposit is made. Through all the years of my ministry I have left counting of the money in the hands of my deacons. We have found it wise not to let the same people count the money each week. Not only is there a security for the church; there is also a security for the counters in that the people realize that the counting of the money and the financial responsibilities are being spread out to many rather than controlled by a few.

18 The keeping of financial records. When a family is voted into the church they are given a packet of offering envelopes for the entire calendar year. There is an envelope for each Sunday of the year. 

You will notice that there is no place for the name of the giver. You will also notice there is a number. This number becomes the financial number of the couple or of the child. A ledger card is made in the church office and on that card is placed this same number. The amount of the offering on the envelope is transferred to the ledger card for the permanent record of the family or of the child.

This enables us to keep an accurate record of the contributions of each person and family. Each six months we transfer the information on the ledger card to a statement and mail to each family its giving record for the six months’ period. This gives the family official records for income tax purposes.

In summary, Mr. and Mrs. Doe take the envelope for the proper Sunday, place $10.00 in the envelope, write in the amount given on the outside of the envelope, and drop it in the collection plate. The deacons count the money on Sunday afternoon, taking the $10.00 from the Doe family’s envelope and leaving the envelope for the financial secretary. The financial secretary takes the empty envelope for the financial secretary. The financial secretary takes the empty envelope, finds that the amount given was $10.00, turns to the ledger card of Mr.. and Mrs. Doe, and credits them with a $10.00 gift. At the end of six months the financial secretary then sends to Mr. and Mrs. Doe their record of giving for this period.

19. The treasurer’s monthly report keeps the church family informed. At each monthly business meeting a check-by-check report is presented to the church family. This keeps them informed as to every expenditure made. They are informed as to the total expenditures for the month, total receipts for the month, and present balance in the church account. Then an itemized check-by-check list is also given. A portion of such a report is below:

Special Offerings
1. It is a good idea to take an offering each Wednesday evening. This enables those who do not attend the Sunday services to give their tithes and offerings. It also could be used to finance special projects. Many churches finance radio ministries through the Wednesday evening offerings. For a number of years we financed our bus ministry through the Wednesday evening offerings.

2. Easter and Thanksgiving offerings are taken. Twice a year we encourage out people to make a thank offering unto the Lord. This is over and above their regular weekly tithe. These can be used for radio, buses, rescue mission, or one of many other projects. Sometimes it is helpful to have such an offering for the purpose of meeting budget needs. Maybe the offerings have not met the budget for the year. The goal for these offerings could be to bring the offerings for the year up to the budget requirements.

3. There are several things to be considered in the taking of a special offering. Of course, the offering should be taken only when there is a need. The people should be given the true picture of the church’s financial program. They should be trained that the pastor will take an offering when there is a need and that if he says there is a need, there is a need. The people must trust the pastor completely. If he says we need a dollar, then the people should know a dollar is needed. If he says we need $10,000, the people should know that the need is $10,000. They should never feel that they are being used by the pastor to meet an objective. Complete confidence concerning these matters should be developed.

In the taking of a special offering, the pastor should be serious. There is far too much joking going on at offering time. When a person gives, he should have the feeling that it is a spiritual activity. This is not to say that something humorous cannot ever be said, but the general atmosphere should be one of sobriety. The burden and the need should be laid kindly, lovingly, frankly, and sincerely upon the hearts of the people by the pastor. Following would be some words the pastor could use:

“Dear friends, we face a serious need today in our church’s life. We find ourselves in need of $5.000 in order to meet our budget requirements for the year. Now you know that I would not come to you for this need unless it were a real one. You know how I have acted toward financial needs through the years and you also know that I am not an alarmist. If I act alarmed, then I am alarmed. Today I come to you presenting a serious need. Since I have been your pastor I have never presented a need that you have not met and I come to you sincerely and in faith believing that this one will also be met. Our receipts thus far this year have been $52,000. Our budget is over $57,000. That means that we need $5,000 in today’s offering. This may cause some sacrifice on my part as well as yours. I plan to do my part. I trust you will do yours. Some will have to give $300.00. Some can only give a dollar or two, but let each of us give whatever he feels he can and each of us give whatever he would have to give to make it a sacrifice. I’m trusting God to lay on your heart the need. Let us meet it together.”

Then the pastor should be honest concerning the raising of an offering. If an offering is taken for a certain matter, it should be spent for that matter. No money should ever be used for any purpose other than that which was told the people. It is certainly dishonest to take an offering and wrongly allocate the funds.

When the offering is taken and counted, the people should know the total given. Again, as we have said before, keep everything in the open. Never conceal anything from the people. Be honest with them and build their confidence in your financial responsibility.

It is often wise to have special envelopes for special offerings. Several of these are presented below:

You will note that there is always a place for an envelope number. This is the same number that is mentioned earlier in this chapter as is found on the ledger file and the regular envelope packet. This enables the financial secretary to credit every gift of every person.

By no means have we been exhaustive in this chapter. Simplicity has been our goal. We have not tried to confuse the reader with many plans but have tried to offer a simple, practical one that is being used and can be used. To be sure there are many others that God is using and the above is simply one of many plans. God has seen fit to bless it and use it in hundreds of churches around the world to carry out the greatest business in all the world-God’s business.


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