Games People Play During Budget Season

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Is budget season in your church plagued with political maneuvering and game playing? Watch out for some of these common ploys that Richard J. Vargo names in Essential Guide to Church Finances (with coauthor Vonna Laue, Your Church Resources/Christianity Today International, 2009).

Churches that fall prey to these games may be allocating their resources in wasteful or unwise ways, says Vargo. His points underscore the importance of maintaining discipline and objectivity in budget processes.

  • A Foot in the Door. Advocates of new programs may claim their idea costs very little in order to get a budget line established. But once a constituency develops, future costs can escalate.
  • The Pastor’s Blessing. Those responsible for planning the budget can have a hard time objecting to a request that is said to have the pastor’s approval, even if the proposal is weak on its own merits.
  • Implied Support. Watch out for statements like “A lot of members want this” without specifics to back up the claim.
  • But They Do It. Another common ruse involves comparing the church with the one down the block or with a church in a neighboring community.
  • The Flood. This tactic involves overwhelming the finance committee with more data and information than necessary to impress the finance committee members.
  • Out of Town. Here, a program leader requests an amount for the year but makes excuses for failing to prepare anything formal.
  • We’ve Always Done It This Way. Long-established programs can become deeply embedded and sacrosanct. Those who argue “we’ve always done it this way” are implying that it would be somehow inappropriate to consider varying from tradition.

Churches that fall prey to these games may be allocating their resources in wasteful or unwise ways, says Vargo. His points underscore the importance of maintaining discipline and objectivity in budget processes.


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