It’s budget time at our church.
Like most churches at this time of the year, our committees and staff members are working hard to figure out how best to use our tithes and offerings as we plan for the coming year.
It’s uncomfortable to talk about money and personal finances anywhere, and it can be nearly unbearable to talk about them at church.
But money is a necessity in this world. It’s necessary for families and households, and it’s necessary for churches.
Here are four ideas that can guide us as our churches – and families – plan and prepare the finances for 2015:
1. Budgets are spiritual documents.
Good budgets represent our dreams for our future. Great budgets flow out of our understanding of God’s dream for our future.
Budget time is a time for dreaming, giving us an opportunity to re-align our priorities if we need to. This is a time for spiritual self-assessment as we organize our plans to accomplish God’s dreams.
2. Giving is a spiritual discipline.
Disciplines are cultivated practices that take effort at first, but that eventually bring great joy to the one who has mastered them.
Think about the discipline that goes into becoming accomplished athletes or musicians, chess champions or artists.
We ought to think of giving as an acquired skill and look forward to the joy that comes with being an expert, accomplished, creative giver.
If Christian giving is new to you, you won’t become a champion giver overnight. It will be frustratingly hard at first. And you won’t be able to give as much or as well as you would like starting out.
But over time giving becomes a passion and a privilege. Expert giving should be admired as a hard-won skill.
Few people are in positions to become tithers overnight any more than people become Bible scholars or expert violinists overnight. But small steps lead to great changes over time.
Don’t underestimate the long-term effects of gradual changes in giving habits. And remember, as with the development of any discipline, steady, regular giving on a weekly or monthly basis trumps great bursts of sporadic giving every time.
3. Healthy church budgets are an outgrowth of healthy family budgets.
Here’s a challenge: Take a close look at your personal budget priorities. How are you spending your money? How much of your spending is planned spending and how much of your spending just happens?
Spending can happen by accident; saving and giving don’t.
Can more careful planning make you a better steward of God’s resources? Can it help you save more? Can it help you give more? Can it help you live with some margin in your financial life?
Remember, careful budgeting isn’t just about making the numbers on the page work. It’s about identifying priorities and clarifying purpose for your family; it’s dreaming about God’s future for your life.
Every budget requires that we make choices. What do your choices say about your partnership with God for your future?
4. All budgets are statements of faith.
All future-oriented documents are statements of faith and budgets are no exception. None of us is guaranteed another day or another dollar.
But budgets are crafted with the optimism that we have plenty of great days ahead of us and are statements of how we will use each day and dollar given to us.
Where are you committing your resources? How are you dreaming with God about the future? What does your budget say about your priorities? Are you asking God to partner with you as you plan and prepare for the coming year?
Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, your budget is a spiritual document. It says a lot about your priorities. It identifies what’s important to you.
So give some thought to how you spend your money. Pray about your plans for the next year, as well as those of your church, asking God to bless our dreams for 2015.
Matt Sapp is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton, Georgia. A longer version of this article first appeared on Heritage’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @MattPSapp and Heritage @HeritageCanton.