Not many of us enjoy doing reports or making out budgets for our department, but they are an important part of ministry. Reports (for me, Board Reports) give our governing body an idea of what is happening in your department, and budgets give you the funds you need...or at least let you know what you have to work with. However, when I was first starting out in ministry, I was unfamiliar with how to write either one of these papers. Fortunately, my Dad had been writing both for years and he helped know what should be in each one. So, this week, I will share a couple of tips that he gave me as well as a few that I've figured out over the years that have helped me where writing budgets and reports are concerned.
In my denomination (Nazarene), I am expected to turn in a report each month to our Church Board. This is very important because, for the most part, none of the Board will have been in my Children's Department during any of our services. If I want them to be aware of what God is doing, what series we are studying, or how many children are involved, then I need to make sure that is in the report. So, here is a simple breakdown of what is generally in my monthly Board Reports.
1) What we did last month - This is a brief overview of the events or programming you want to highlight from that last month. How many attended the events, were there any conversions in your services, how many new children are attending and any other pertinent information.
2) What is coming up this month - Make sure they are aware of what you are planning the the days ahead.
3) Upcoming large events - It may only be August, but if you are beginning to prepare for your Annual Christmas program, the Board needs to know. Keep them informed.
4) Who is helping you - Throughout your report, give credit where it is due. Make sure you mention the names of those who are helping you consistently or have been of special help in the last month.
5) What have YOU been up to - The last paragraph of my report is always a highlight of my activities for the month. Be detailed where you can. This is not to say that you need to list every single thing you did, but let them know the basics. An example might be:
In the last month I attended 3 staff meetings, prepared and led 4 Wednesday night services, attended a workshop on Children's Ministries, made two hospital calls, prepared and led 4 Sunday Morning services, prepared the monthly newsletter, led one Children's Council meeting and one Kingdom Crew meeting, met with one potential volunteer, as well as completing regular office duties.
Being detailed each month will help you if you have to fill out an end of the year report. Recording how many times you preached over the course of a year or how many hospital calls you made over the last twelve months is easy if you have been detailed in your monthly report. But it also helps your Church Board to know what you do throughout your working hours. Ministry is unlike most 9-5 jobs and they need to know what you spend your time doing.
When you put together your yearly budget, there is a fair amount of guesswork involved, but if you keep decent records throughout the year and stay in touch with your church treasurer, you can simplify the process a bit. The easiest thing to do is to make a list of all the things you will need to purchase over the course of the year and give each one a line item. (Examples: Christmas Musical, Curriculum, Trunk N' Treat, Easter Eggstravaganza, Volunteer Appreciation, Camp, Publicity, etc) After you have made your list, go through your records and see what you spent last year on those items and make adjustments for the coming year. For example, if last year you spent $100 on your publicity, but you know that you are doing an extra event this year, perhaps put $125 in the budget this year. If you spent $500 on your Christmas Musical last year, but are planning to borrow a musical from another church this year, perhaps you only ask for $250 this year. Take into account what your plans for the coming year as well as what you spent the year before to come up with the budget you submit.
When you submit your budget, be prepared to have it cut when it comes back to you. Some people take it as a personal affront when the budget for their department is cut, but the reality is that the finance committee will have to cut in many places in order to come up with a workable budget for the church, so be prepared to receive less than you asked for. It's not that they don't like you or don't think that children's ministry is important. Generally it is simply that they have to make sure every area is covered with the funds allotted. Yours won't be the only one cut and you will simply have to do the best you can with what the church can give you. So be gracious about your budget being cut. No one likes to take away funds from ministries within the church, but we need to work together to make what we have work for our department. Remember, as the old song says, "Little is much when God is in it!"
Reports and budgets may not be the most exciting part of being in ministry, but it is no less vital to what we do. I hope these tips make writing them a bit easier.
Until next week!