6 Ways to Steward Finances in Your Church Plant

By Travis Cunningham

What's ours is God's. Here are six ways to steward what God has gifted our churches as we seek to live on mission as His church.

Holistic Stewardship

I’ve heard it said that the whole of the Christian life is a life of stewardship. We steward our time, gifts, belongings, children, money, and more. When it comes to our new churches, we must be careful stewards of the finances God has entrusted to us as well. Because most church plants are operating on a shoestring budget, this magnifies the need to be wise and discerning of the resources in our care.

So, here are six ways to steward your church plant’s finances, making much of the Lord and the resources He has entrusted you with.

1. Budget annually

Learning the basics of how to create and follow an annual budget is a must for every new church. For many of us, this is a steep learning curve. As time passes, more regular data of giving and attendance will present itself, making budgeting easier.

Early on, it is wise to have the help of your denomination or sending church to help form your budget. A few key line items to consider as you begin: personnel, facilities, missions, and other ministry expenses. Finding a good percent of your budget to attach to those line items and staying within that will help you steward well.

2. Review monthly

As your church continues to grow, the giving will grow alongside it. You can expect a 6-8 month lag from someone calling your church home and then regularly giving. As an aside: make sure you talk about giving weekly. However, as the giving grows, this will give you some wiggle room on what to do with these finances.

Create a financial accountability team and then work together to decide what to do: send, save, or spend the money.

3. Spend wisely

The tension we all walk in with church finances is a scarcity or abundance mindset. If we are always in the scarcity mindset, we will never spend—even toward good missional endeavors. If we are always in the abundance mindset, we are at risk of overspending on unnecessary things.

Develop a decision-making grid when it comes to spending. Bring the finance team into that. Perhaps some questions to ask are: Does this fit our vision? Will this reach people? Is this is a “must-have” or “would-like-to-have” thing? Does this decision maintain transparency and integrity? Will I be able to confidently tell our members why that money was spent?

4. Save reasonably

The general rule of thumb is to keep around 3-6 months of operating expenses in a rainy-day fund. There will be seasons where you have less and seasons where you have more. Getting to that place may mean that, at the beginning of your church plant, you save 10% of all giving to build up the reserves. As the budget grows, you would maybe save 8% instead.

One thing to resist is the inclination to hoard from a fear-based mindset. Constantly saving and refusing to spend money on God’s mission shows a lack of trust in God and His provision. I am not advocating for frivolous spending, but also not advocating for fearful saving.

5. Track regularly

Every week, you should look at the giving and spending. And you should keep track of it with one of the many software systems that are available. Push your congregation to set up digital giving and to make that giving recurring. This will help you accurately forecast what your budget will become. It will also help you track giving by simply pulling a weekly report from your software system.

Additionally, you need to track expenses. Every single one. This will help you know how things like inflation are impacting your budget and how you may need to adjust on the fly. This will also help you maintain healthy transparency with your membership.

6. Submit to accountability

Become ECFA accredited and submit your church finances to regular audits. My recommendation would be to do so once a year. Have your financial team do an internal audit and an external team do an external audit. Have a board of advisors from your sending church that help you set your salary, decide on big expenses, and share the stewardship load with you.

In Trusting Submission to God

These are just a few principles to consider implementing when it comes to stewarding your finances well. Above all, we need to keep in mind that this is God’s money, so we must always walk in the fear of the Lord as we submit to His will for our churches.

For the final part in this series, we will consider how to move toward financial sustainability.

Published May 8, 2024

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Travis Cunningham

Travis Cunningham serves as the Lead Pastor of Story Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. He is married to Katy and has two kids: Peyton and Owen. He earned a Master of Divinity from Western Seminary. Story Church was planted in 2019 and desires to see the Inland Empire region of Southern California transformed by the gospel of Jesus to the glory of God.