The Top 8 Church Budgeting Mistakes

Avoid These Mistakes To Strengthen Your Church’s Financial Health


Your church’s budget may be hindering your mission.


If you believe God’s called your church to make a meaningful Kingdom impact this year—whether it’s a radically new direction or staying on a course you’ve already set—your teams are probably aligning with you, helping to figure out how to accomplish it. 

But here’s the kicker: Your church’s budget should align with your vision too.

Unfortunately, sometimes leaders see the budgeting process as (a) unnecessary or (b) counter-productive to their vision. Poor experiences in the past have reinforced this bias for a lot of church leaders (including some of us now working for Parable!).

So yes, church budgets can be problematic. But they don’t have to be. Look out for these eight mistakes so your budget will set your church up to accomplish your vision this year. Need help with your budget? Parable can help!

What are the top 8 church budgeting mistakes?

  1. Not having a budget (or acting like you don’t.)
  2. Not aligning your budget with your vision.
  3. Not involving your ministry leaders.
  4. Not being realistic with your budget.
  5. Being too complex or too general (lacking balance).
  6. You’re being too rigid … or too lenient.
  7. Not having a wish list.
  8. Not praying through the budgeting process.

Want to learn more? Watch our free webinar “Be a Budget Hero” and hear tips on how to avoid these mistakes!

1. Not having a budget (or acting like you don’t.)

Not having (or not living according to) a budget is akin to driving a car without a fuel gauge. You’ll only get so far, and you’ll never know you’re out of gas until the car sputters to a stop in rush hour traffic.

Additionally, just like you wouldn’t fill the gas tank once and forget about it, a budget isn’t meant to be a task on someone’s checklist that you forget about until the following year. It’s important to continually review and operate within the guidelines of your approved budget.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. Operating any kind of organization without a budget is still a form of planning—for eventual failure. 

Make sure you prioritize on-mission budgeting. Check your financial reports monthly.

2. Not aligning your budget with your vision.

Oddly, many people view their vision and the budget as two separate things: The vision is what the pastor gets excited about. The budget is boring, but somebody has to do it! 

But a budget is a plan to align the money with the mission. If God’s provision follows His vision, the budget is a roadmap to ensure those dollars stay on mission to fulfill it. 

Because of this, pastors should always be involved in the church budgeting process, not from it. After all, they’re the ones who ensure the money and mission remain connected.

3. Not involving your ministry leaders.

While it might be tempting to lock your business administrator in their office with some Gatorade and granola bars until they are done with the budget, having them create a budget in isolation is an unfortunate—and costly—mistake. Church budgeting shouldn’t be done in a vacuum!

When it comes to ministry budgets, it’s important to get input from the leaders running those ministries—whether it’s staff or volunteers—to ensure the ministry dollars are being spent on mission. 

It’s vital to ask the ministry leaders to pray about how God wants to use their ministry for His glory, but that doesn’t mean just sending them a spreadsheet and having them struggle through filling it out. If your ministry leaders cringe at the word “spreadsheet” consider meeting with them to fill out the budget request template together.

Get our budget templates that help you involved your ministry leaders!

4. Not being realistic with your budget.

Whether it’s setting the expected income too high (“hyper-faith budgeting”) or the expected expenses too low (“no-faith budgeting”), both lead to their own set of problems down the road. Setting a healthy budget involves using historical data, previous budgets, and spending trends.

Greg Daley, our visionary and fearless leader, says it this way: “Add your faith to the income side of your profit and loss statement, not to the expense side.” In other words, have faith that God will provide, and be flexible enough to change your spending plans if the income isn’t what you hoped for.

Related: Watch our free church budgeting webinar with tips on how to avoid making these mistakes!

Don’t forget: It’s also wise to account for unplanned expenses such as vehicle repairs or building maintenance in your budget. Failing to do so can put your church in a difficult financial position.

5. Being too complex, or too general (lacking balance).

It’s possible to get so granular with the budget that it goes from a benefit to a burden. Listing how many pencils you can purchase in a given month or splitting purchases between several budget categories is simply too burdensome to be realistic. 

Conversely, having a category that’s simply labeled “ministry,” yet ten different ministries are included in that category, means it’s far too general to be helpful in tracking expenses. 

One possible solution to avoid being too complex in the budget categories is to utilize individual budget requests where some of the details can live, and then just list the overall total for that ministry as the budget category.

Remember, you create budgets to serve your ministry, not the other way around.

Our budgeting process and tools can help you get the right balance for your budgets!

6. You’re being too rigid … or too lenient.

The budget is a plan, and like all plans, it needs to be flexible. Circumstances change, as do the needs of the ministry. It’s important to do your best to get the budget correct at first, but then be open to evaluating and making adjustments when needed.

We recommend creating a budget for the year and then re-evaluating it quarterly or when a unique situation arises. All adjustments should be intentional and with the same team that created the original budget weighing in.

7. Not having a wish list.

Sometimes, it’s possible that giving increases or large gifts are given. In those moments, it’s important to have a wish list! These items didn’t make it to the approved budget, but can still be on the team’s radar should the finances permit. The last thing you want to happen is to realize that God provided the money for an item you originally had to remove from the budget, but you spent that money on less important things and you still can’t afford it.

However, a wish list should also be prioritized and intentional, not arbitrary and pointless. After all, any additional financial resources you receive are still your responsibility to steward well.

8. Not praying through the budgeting process.

We must never forget that God is our provider, the One who builds His church, not us. He calls us to be good stewards, which means we need to fervently seek Him for how to use His money for the Kingdom.

Our goal shouldn’t be to have the biggest bank account or prettiest buildings, but to make the biggest Kingdom impact with the financial provisions He has entrusted us with.

Need help budgeting? Let’s talk.

Learning from our mistakes is one thing, but learning from other people’s mistakes is even better. The mission of the Church—and the mission of your church—is too important to leave to chance. Find out how we can help you create a budget on mission for your church.

Pro tip: Grab your team and watch our free webinar on acing your church’s budgeting process this year!

Parable Church Accounting and Bookkeeping is a team of financial storytellers that specialize in church accounting, bookkeeping, and consulting. We help leaders place every dollar on mission so their money can tell a better story about God’s kingdom.

If you want to see if we’re right for you, schedule a call.