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 funds that carry over from year to year.
In 2007, Wheaton Bible Church in Illinois started a ministry R&D line item in its annual budget. The funds help meet opportunities that might arise during the course of the budget year. Scott Landon, the church's director of finance and administration, says the fund has allowed the church "to pursue new ministries and extend existing ones." Ministry R&D funds fueled the start of an Alpha program in the middle of a budget year, when the staff felt strongly that the timing was right to start it. The funds also helped advance the development of a bookstore, prepare a Family Worship Guide (age-appropriate Bible study materials for families), and pilot a transportation program for seniors.