Church members understand that a portion of their contributions go toward church staff and facility needs. However many people are highly motivated to give to the part of the church budget that goes toward mission efforts to expand Christ’s kingdom locally and internationally.
Some people are so motivated to give to mission projects outside their local church, that they go around their church, self-designating their tithe and giving directly to missionaries or mission agencies. Others go a step farther by designating some of their tithe to pay for their own family’s spiritual development using funds set aside from their tithe and to pay to attend mission conferences, take classes, or go on short-term mission trips.
Church mission leaders often are similarly tempted to stretch categories using mission funds for a variety of their own ministries. When the church budget gets tight, it is tempting to use funds intended for missions and designate money toward other church projects that in one way or another can be categorized as missions.
For example, some church mission budgets allocate a high percentage of their funds for projects that may have mission content, but are really a discipleship or education focus more than a mission focus. Of course a key function of a church is discipleship and education, and each church should spend lavishly on these ministries. However, these items should not come out of the mission budget, but from the education budget. Examples of using mission budgets for education uses include hosting local mission conferences, short-term mission trip expenses, leadership and staff training, and vision trips. These may be great projects, but they primarily impact and develop local church members and often contribute little to unreached or needy people. Again, the point here isn’t whether these projects should be considered or not, but that church mission leadership should carefully monitor these funds to distinguish those designated for education and funds designated for missions.
Another category that gets mingled with mission projects is mission administration. Of course, any program needs administrative support, but sometimes this category can absorb excess funds, and without careful attention, become a larger portion of the budget than is intended. Examples in this category include local church mission staff salaries and expenses, mission and partnership conference travel expenses, expenses to visit missionaries on the field, vision trips, training materials and office expenses. These are helpful and sometimes necessary but should be confused with reaching unreached or needy people.
A final category to consider is local mission projects. When budgets are tight, it is very tempting for churches to categorize any local church ministry a “missions” and appropriate designated mission funds toward those needs. Here the point is not to defund local ministries, but to be careful to avoid using funds designated toward missions for ministries that should really come from other church ministry and staff budgets.
Just as individuals need to be careful to avoid categorizing their tithe in a manner that leaves little for their local church; churches need to avoid a similar temptation to categorize funds designated for missions into educational, administrative, or local ministry projects that leave little for mission projects. Churches expect their members’ tithes to go to their church and church members expect their church mission funds to get to ministries outside of their local church impacting unreached and needy people.
What percent of your church’s mission budget goes toward each category? Does this allocation reflect your church’s goals and values for missions? Have these allocations changed over the years?