Narrative Budgets: A Different Way to Develop Your Congregation's Spending Plan

One of the most beloved hymns of all time is “I Love to Tell the Story.” Perhaps just reading the title the notes and refrain have floated through your head. Just as the Church has the incredible and old, old story of Jesus and his love to tell, congregational budgets tell stories too. In any congregation if you look at the budget you’ll likely get a sense of the ministries that are most important to God’s beloved there and you might even be surprised by what you find. At the same time for some, using line items alone one can miss out on the depth and breadth of ministry taking place as eyes become crossed amidst all those numbers. This is where narrative budgets are helpful.

“A narrative budget… [is] the story of how your congregation practices good stewardship of the gifts entrusted to it. It provides a vision of where the church hopes to be in the coming year. While the bottom line of the financial goal of the narrative budget and the bottom line of the line item budget are equal, the approach and message are not.”*

In other words, narrative budgets make a direct connection between God’s story and mission taking place through a congregation and the financial resources entrusted to them by telling stories of how the Holy Spirit is moving in their midst. Using a line item budget alone can lead people to think only of how the bills get paid, is sometimes overwhelming for those who aren’t mathematically inclined and, quite honestly, focuses solely on the numbers. On the other hand, a narrative budget emphasizes God’s work among God’s people and can inspire people to engage in ministry in a new way.

As your congregation begins its budgeting for the next year, these resources created by the Southeastern Ohio Synod can help you get a conversation started on using a narrative budget.

Giving Thought to a Narrative Budget

Narrative Budget How-To

*This definition comes from the Southeastern Ohio Synod’s “Narrative Budget How-To”

Katherine Neugent