If it hasn't started already, your church is likely very soon to begin the process of anticipating a budget for the next fiscal year. Such deliberations have always been challenging in the context of a local church. Needs and wants usually exceed available and anticipated financial resources.
Because church budgets, like family budgets, have significant fixed costs — utilities, staff salaries and benefits, facilities upkeep, Bible study and discipleship literature, cooperative missions percentages and others — a huge chunk of the church budget is non-negotiable expenses. In lean times, even some of the above expenditures are re-examined with an eye toward operating more frugally.
Budget and finance committees and church leaders do their best to help their congregations be as effective as possible in their service to Christ. The vast majority of churches would like to do more to exercise good stewardship over their property; provide support ministries to everyone among the membership; engage even more strategically in local missions, ministry and evangelism; and participate at an even higher level in cooperative missions statewide, nationally and internationally.
Most are anxious to increase support for staff members, with generous salary increases, adequate benefits and resources to help leaders grow in their ministries. Unfortunately, in some settings it is the pastor and other staff who take the brunt of financial cuts.
While the budgeting process may involve making the dollars work, the committees of which I am aware treat it as a serious spiritual task. They realize a church budget says as much about a congregation's priorities and commitments as anything else it does. It is a responsibility that should be undergirded by a praying congregation. Committee members need the wisdom of Solomon.
Many of our readers come from congregations who choose — wisely, I believe — to invest in Word&Way subscriptions for every resident family. We realize this is not an automatic budget decision, and we are grateful for congregational leaders who see the value of what we do to benefit local churches and their members.
Word&Way leaders for generations have insisted that readers of the newspaper are the best informed church members and, in turn, some of the most committed and effective church members. We have strived to be that kind of ministry for more than 114 years. We haven't stopped.
Word&Way works hard to ensure that readers will have at their disposal a healthy does of "all things Baptist" in Missouri.
We trust that advocates in churches across Missouri will help their congregations understand the value of investing in church-wide subscriptions for the membership and even look at the possibility of our church-newsletter product to enhance the value of subscriptions and likely reduce the cost of some existing services. We expect group subscriptions to remain at $13 per subscriber for 26 issues.
We at Word&Way are mindful, too, that many Missouri Baptist churches have voluntarily budgeted additional funds to assist us, particularly since 2002 when we ceased to receive an allotment from the Missouri Baptist Convention. These congregations and individual friends across the Show-Me State have stood with us to enable a ministry that would not have survived otherwise during the past eight-plus years. We are deeply grateful.
For the next five years, our staff and trustees are encouraging congregations and individuals who resonate with what we do to renew commitments to assist us. To be good stewards, we are trying to shore up our base and secure the future of Word&Way, the print edition; our website, www.wordandway.org; our e-newsletter, "Between the Lines;" and still-to-be-discovered channels for reaching current and future generations with vital news and information about local churches, the causes they support and various broader Baptist bodies to whom they relate.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.