Create a Research and Development Fund
Budget for unexpected ministry opportunities.
Create a Research and Development Fund

In my own ministry experience, I have found that the best ideas for new ministry often come in the middle of a budget year. A new evangelism or outreach ministry idea, for example, suddenly energizes lay leaders, who approach the staff for funding. Or the church is approached by outside partners, such as a school or youth center, with a community ministry idea. Or a community crisis, or a new need, may present itself, and the church is asked to respond.

In the middle of the budget year, how can you respond? One option is to simply say: "It's not in the budget, wait until next year." But that approach has costs: It may throw a wet blanket on the energy lay leaders have for a new ministry, or it may allow the budget calendar to block the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Here's another way to respond to mid-year opportunities: develop a ministry research and development (R&D) fund. Funds either are set aside in the annual budget as a line item, or through a separate fund established with money that carries over from year to year.

Your church might use a ministry R&D fund for the following kinds of expenses:

  • Purchasing equipment or materials needed to start a ministry. Depending on the ministry, you may need to purchase curriculum or books, musical instruments, signs, sports equipment, a vehicle, or craft supplies, among other things.
  • Sending staff or lay leaders to training. Leaders might attend training to help with a new ministry, such as implementing a new spiritual formation or discipleship curriculum, or learning about community ministry models through a conference.
  • Investigating ministry models locally or elsewhere in the country. There is no substitute for seeing with your own eyes what is possible through site visits to other congregations that have implemented a ministry program. These visits also give you a chance to talk with staff at the site about possible pitfalls and to ask them for advice on your situation.
  • Piloting a new ministry idea to test its effectiveness. Trying a new ministry out for a short period of time might help staff and lay leaders see whether developing the program on a larger scale is merited.
  • Hiring a consultant to help design a new ministry. A consultant may help you locate resources, tailor the ministry approach and content to your church community, and develop a plan for launching a new ministry. As a neutral third party, a consultant may have insight into your church culture and needs that staff may not, and may be able to raise issues that would be hard for lay or staff leaders to identify.

This article is adapted from "Creating a Ministry 'R&D' fund," appearing at ChurchLawAndTax.com.

For more on budgeting, see the downloadable resources Essential Guide to Church Financial Health, Essential Guide to Church Budgeting, and When the Budget Is Tight

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