Budgets aren't fun for most of us, but how does Xenos come up with its budget and set priorities for the year to come?
In 1993, Xenos elders formed a group financial supporters to help decide budget priorities. This group, the Fiscal Support Team (FST), was composed of those who participated in the Voluntary Pledge Program, and who were willing to donate at least 5% of their gross income to the General Fund.
First, the elders and the church department heads must meet to communicate. In order to do this, two retreats were created near the end of the fiscal year where many financial decisions would be made. This became the planning retreat and the budget retreat. At the planning retreat, all the Elders, Division Coordinators and Senior Sphere Leaders gather to set the direction for the next year of ministry. Each day, the morning is spent in study and prayer together. Evenings are spent in fellowship and discussion. Through the late mornings and afternoons, sphere leaders and division coordinators present on what is happening in their sphere of influence by describing and analyzing key spiritual health metrics. As the week presses on, vision and direction for the next year begin to coalesce.
The Budget Retreat is similar to the Planning Retreat only it’s shorter and is often shaped by what was discussed at the Planning Retreat. The coordinators go over the costs of attaining the goals decided upon at the earlier retreat. The elders sign-off on what is indispensable in their proposed budget (such as critical staff costs, key program needs, facility expenses, etc.) From the debate at this retreat, a "core" maintenance budget and a "wish list" are generated. The division coordinators draw up how the different plans from Planning Retreat will look and decisions are made about the way forward, from a financial point of view. Alan Burkholder, the accounting and finance department director, is also in attendance.
Second, the elders must communicate this plan to the rest of the church. In January, Xenos holds a State of the Church meeting followed a few weeks later by the Vision & Stewardship Meeting. In 2016, the State of the Church will be held on Friday, January 8th at 7:30 pm and the Vision and Stewardship Meeting will be held on Saturday, January 23rd at 9 am. The Vision and Stewardship Meeting is open to anyone interested in the church's finances and planning. There, the elders and coordinators go over the conclusions from the planning and budget retreats and present their budget requests, including the core spending budget and Strategic Initiatives (“wish lists”) for each division. Essential items are funded before the less essential items. By breaking spending into initiatives, the budgetary process is simplified enough to explain in a large group. The rationale for each initiative is explained and discussed publicly.
To illustrate the close connection between these spending decisions and everyday ministry, Steve Bauer, Operations & Administration Division Coordinator, gives us a few examples, “Two years ago we started the HOP program to provide childcare at adult home churches. The adult home churches (with high numbers of children attending) who got to test it really embraced it. Because of it's success, that program has expanded to more adult home churches. That could not have happened without prioritization from the FST via the Vision and Stewardship meeting. In the same way, this past year we shifted Jim Leffel's salary partially to Missions, allowing him to work on developing leads with indigenous leaders in South America to further God's kingdom work through our equipping ministries.”
One home church member had this to say, “[I feel informed because] there is easy access to annual reports via the website, open book/open door policy when questions arise, also having announcements and in depth information on new projects that money is being spent on at various meetings…nothing is hidden.”
Please pray for the planning and budget retreats and we hope you'll join us at the State of the Church and Vision and Stewardship meetings in January.