When you use the word “Line-Item” I hear…

How many words do you know that follow the phrase “line-item”?

Here’s what Google suggests when you type that in:

line-item really

Seriously. Budget. But more importantly, VETO! Line-item is a negative word.

So why do we keep using a line-item budget to communicate spending in our congregations? Here’s how it typically plays out:

First line… personnel. It’s the biggest category. Right at the top of the page. And so our members easily get the idea that our mission is “paying the pastor and staff.”

Second line… building and grounds. It’s the next biggest category. So far what we’ve learned is that we pay staff, then we pay to maintain this building.

Third line… programs. By now, we’re talking 10% or less of our total budget. It’s pretty obvious to see that the very things that nurture our spiritual lives and pass the faith on to the next generation are only worth 10% of our money.

Fourth line… missions. (At least, I hope it’s still in there.) The most exciting thing about being a part of a faith group, the fact that we can change more lives together than we could ever have on our own, is relegated to the bottom of the budget, and is usually the smallest line-item.

Give me a break!

Write a narrative missional budget. It’s easy to do – here’s my guide – Creating a Missional Budget.

Communicate your narrative budget to all members and other interested constituents. Tell them, “A detailed budget is available for review in the church office.” I bet you’ll get three people to ask for that detailed budget. Meanwhile, the other 97 people will have an even better understanding of your mission.

In fact, I’ll give you a dollar for every person that requests a line-item budget. Seriously. Let me know what I owe you.