5 Budget Tips for Church Growth: Insights from Ketterling and Cooper

Category | Church Finance

At an Association of Related Churches (ARC) conference earlier this year, pastors Rob Ketterling of River Valley Church in Minnesota and Herbert Cooper of Peoples Church in Oklahoma presented a special breakout session with FCR.  Out of it came great insights for church leaders, which we’ll be sharing over the next few weeks here on the blog, including budgeting, financing, and multi-site expansion.

First up, budgeting. Specifically, how can leaders balance smart financial principles with faith when it comes to the church budget? Consider these five tips:

1. Dream Big…

As a leader, you may be called to dream outside your comfort zone. Ketterling said, “I believe there should always be a gap between what you want to do and what you need. People say, ‘Budget off of 80%,’ and that’s a great financial principle, but dream bigger than even your financial principles.”

What’s in your heart to do, what do you need, and what’s the gap?

2. …But Don’t Be Foolish

Presenting a goal that’s too big can discourage your congregation. Ketterling identified three different gaps churches have: forecasting gaps, faith gaps, and foolish gaps. “If you have a faith gap, your people will go with you on the journey and believe with you. If you have a structured forecast, they will live comfortable. But if it’s a foolish gap, for instance, ‘We’re gonna buy a building, and we’re gonna do three new ministries, and we need two million dollars,’ and the church asks, ‘What’s our budget this year?’ and you’re like, ‘$500,000’—that’s foolish. It just discourages everybody. Have your forecasted growth and your faith growth, and if you have a foolish-growth number in your mind, keep that to yourself. It’s okay if you and God have a foolish-level goal.”

3. Create Margin

A church budget is imperative for helping you reach goals big and small. Cooper explained why. “You have to know what’s coming in, and you’ve got to plan for what’s going out. I believe in having margin, having reserves, so we’re not going to spend everything. It’s shocking how many ministries don’t have just the basic financial principles: Don’t spend all you bring in. Give. Put some away for a rainy day.”

Cooper encourages churches to both exercise faith and save. “Have a plan in the budget for your next campus, your next dream that’s in your heart, while you’re casting vision and believing in faith and raising money.”

4. Track the Budget

Make it a priority to regularly check your budget performance so you can spot areas that need adjustment and note progress toward goals. Cooper shared, “I had a pastor tell me, ‘Always keep your eye on the money.’ I don’t want just a report given to me. Show me the bank statement. I’m not going to go five months and be like, ‘How are we doing?’ No, keep an eye on the money.”

5. Encourage Strategic Giving

Give people the opportunity to support your church’s vision through strategic giving beyond regular tithes and offerings. For example, each year River Valley Church encourages this higher level of giving by asking people to become “kingdom builders.” Ketterling tells them, “Here’s what we know we’re going to bring in. Here’s what we want to do. Here’s the gap. You’re here as a part of this to close the gap so we can do what’s in our heart, to do more than what our structured giving could do.”

As you plan your church budget, keep these five things in mind and consider how God may want to stretch your church. As Ketterling said, “Someday you’re going to need to step out in faith. You don’t want just a comfortable, forecasting church. You want a church that’s been stretched and can budget for growth in faith.”

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