Budget Categories


Church budgets have only three categories: buildings, staffing, and programming. The following analogy is not exact (no analogy is) but is useful for illustrative purposes.

  • Buildings are the skeleton of a church
    • Facilities and grounds contain many, but not all, the activities of the church. This is the place where society expects to find members. This is the place that is considered by everyone to be a safe place, a sanctuary from the world.
  • Staffing is the heart and brains of a church
    • Personnel are what decide the vision and leadership of the church. The staff guide the volunteers to do more, worship better, reach out to others, learn deeper, and care more thoroughly for others.
  • Programming is blood and muscle of a church
    • The activities of the church provide the energy and excitement; they demonstrate to the world what the church is all about. The programs, mission trips, worship services, educational activities, outreach efforts are the tools the church uses to attract and retain others.

Too often I’ve seen churches decide to reduce one of the three (typically, programming) without understanding the full consequences of their actions. Reducing programming can leave the church paralyzed. Not having a building can cause the church to lose its relationship with the community because it can meet elsewhere anytime it chooses. And not having staff (or having little staff) could mean having nice facilities & volunteers but they are aimless.

Think about the synergy of all three. They are a tripod which support each other and the purpose of the church. But if one of these is weaker or stronger than the others, the church can get lopsided.


Lead On!



  1. Great post Steve. I had a conversation this week with a church about their health plans (I’ll not include the name of my favorite one without your permission).

    The finance chairman specifically said they have no programming budget left because of the growth in health plan costs. Our solution would put significant resources back in the programming budget (his words, not mine).