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Telling the Parish Story Through Narrative Budgeting

GlenMitchellIf you haven’t already started, it is time to be preparing your narrative (vision) budget for 2014. What’s that you say? The narrative budget is one that focusses on “what” you do – not “how” you do it.  If your parish does worship, pastoral care, Christian education, youth ministry and outreach, then those are the five headings to frame your narrative budget. Your parish might have different headings and you should use those instead.  Did you notice that there was no mention of salaries, heating, cleaning, staff or any other “normal” budget category?  If so, you are probably wondering: “how does this work?”

The narrative budget tells a story about the ministry and programming of your parish that integrates normal budget items by the individual ministry categories.  Let’s look at an example to explain what I’m talking about.  The parish in our example uses the Marks of Mission as their framework, which means they have five narrative budget categories: Tell (the good news); Teach (new believers); Tend (to the needs of others); Transform (unjust structures and situations); and Treasure (God’s gifts and care for God’s creation). They have an urban mid-sized congregation in a 30-year old building in good shape. There are two clergy, a youth worker and an active group of parish leaders and disciples. There is a growing population of younger families in the neighbourhood to whom the parish is reaching out.

This parish decided to build a narrative budget because they were getting comments from parishioners like “I have trouble understanding where the money goes” and “Every parish council meeting, we cannot get a handle on how we’re doing in terms of progressing towards our vision”.  The narrative budget helps answer these questions by describing the actual program goals and action plans and attaches a budget to support that work.  It creates a story that your parish can tell to donors and in the community where it resides. It will serve as a stewardship resource for the parish.  Instead of scratching their heads about what is going on, members of your parish will develop a passionate sense of ministry and mission based on this work.

So now to work; and there is some.  In addition to creating a short story and goals around each ministry and program category, this approach requires that all normal operating expenses be apportioned appropriately across the five categories chosen for their narrative budget.  Here is a basic storyline that you should flesh out with more detail depending on the nature of your programmatic activities.

  • TELL: We will tell our community about the Good News of Christ and welcome them to join us in worship that is creative and musical and inclusive. We offer 2 services each Sunday and 3 other services during the week. (This narrative and those below should be expanded to describe the whole “Tell” offering including goals, identified leaders, disciples and volunteers, etc. ; 42% of the budget.)
  • TEACH: We teach our community about faith, discipleship, prayer, caring, giving and other Christian values. (13% of the budget)
  • TEND: We tend to the needs of others who need our help in our neighbourhoods and afar. (12% of the budget)
  • TRANSFORM: We seek to transform unjust structures and situations in our communities, our country and across the globe. (12% of the budget)
  • TREASURE: We treasure all God’s gifts to us and we strive to protect the environment and minimize our environmental footprint as a parish community and as individuals. This item includes maintenance of their building envelope. (20% of the budget)

The table below shows how these stories are allocated financial resources to enable the ministry and mission. The parish has a $380,000 operating budget to spread across these ministries.

Expenses

TELL

TEACH

TEND

TRANSFORM

TREASURE

TOTALS

Priest 1

40000

15000

5000

10000

5000

75000

Priest 2

30000

12500

2500

2500

2500

50000

Youth Worker

2500

7500

5000

5000

20000

Staff Support

20000

5000

5000

2500

12500

45000

Musicians

25000

5000

30000

Operating

25000

5000

25000

55000

Donations

25000

25000

15000

65000

Repairs

15000

15000

30000

Miscellany

2500

1000

2500

1500

2500

10000

TOTALS

160000

51000

45000

45000

77500

380000

Percentage

42%

13%

12%

12%

20%

100%

This article is intended to inspire you to get started preparing a narrative budget. You are encouraged to look at the helpful and detailed resources including workbooks and examples that will help you prepare these important documents at http://thegoodsteward.ca/parishes/narrative-budgets/.  When you prepare your narrative story/budget, don’t hesitate to share it with us so that other parishes can benefit from your experience.

Glen Mitchell

About Glen Mitchell

Glen is the Director of Stewardship & Gift Development in the Diocese of New Westminster. He is a member of St. Mary's Kerrisdale Anglican Church. He leads a group at St. Mary's who care deeply about human rights and development issues in El Salvador. Glen is a member of the General Synod "Resources for Mission" Committee.
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