You may have heard other Pastors or Lay Leaders (or Stewardship folks) talk about the use of a Narrative Budget for their Annual Meetings. If it is new to you, it may sound complicated and a lot of work, or that it is a difficult process. The good news is that none of that is true. In short, a Narrative Budget is a process by which you tell the story of your ministry activities (that’s the narrative part) of how the congregation’s dollars have been spent to make those ministries a reality (that’s the budget part.)

One of my stewardship mentors always said, “Never use a statistic without telling a story.” And that is the foundational approach to a narrative budget. It puts the dollar numbers into perspective and shares the story of how they make a difference in people’s lives through the ministry of the congregation.

The process is also straightforward. You still need to make a Line-Item Budget (which you more than likely already have.) Then you list the categories of ministry – such as Global & Local Mission, Education, Worship, Stewardship, Property Use, Fellowship, etc. Place the line items into their appropriate categories. Your budget may include some other categories depending on the congregation.

When the budget is presented, use a pie chart of all the categories to show the dollars by percentage, you then tell stories of the ministry activities that have taken place, show pictures (especially of the youth ministries), thank those volunteers involved by name, and thank (multiple times), the congregation for their generosity in making those things happen. Celebrate the ways in which lives have been changed, faith has been nurtured, and the Good News has been shared.

What makes the Narrative Budget so valuable is that it helps make the connection between the dollars and the ministry that takes place. It is easy to see where the congregation is investing their financial resources. And rather than having an unexciting discussion about numbers, dollars, and debating about a budget; the conversation becomes a celebration of ministry, an opportunity to say Thank You to the congregation for the good work being done, and most importantly – a proclamation of what God is doing through your congregation for the sake of your community and the world!

Written by Scott A. Jacob, Director
The James Company
Phone: (218) 830-0335