Budget Blues

The wide variety of financial challenges which can discourage any Christian worker quickly is what I call “Budget Blues.” These challenges come from a variety of financial issues that hinder Christian workers. These challenges can stem from both church and individual budgets, though they do not always come from a lack of funding.

During a period of time when I led Children’s Church, our church leaders requested the teachers buy their needed class supplies upfront and then get reimbursed from the church treasurer afterwards. For many people this worked out well, but not for me.

At this time, I was a single mother trying to raise two young boys on a wage of $6.25 an hour. Though I also got a child support of $300 per month, my income was so low that I barely met our personal expenses. I did not have the money to purchase class supplies and wait for reimbursement from the church.

In addition, working full-time didn’t give me flexible hours so I could go shopping for supplies. Nor could I get enough free time to go to the church on Monday during the hours our treasurer was in the church office.

Between the financial and scheduling challenges, I found it extremely difficult to get the supplies needed for Children’s church, and I became discouraged. Consequently, I prayed and continued hoping that something would be done to solve the problem.

After a year in Children’s church, I committed to teaching a Sunday school class of students grades 4-6. A couple oversaw the Sunday School, and they would ask us if we needed supplies. The couple took down our list of needed supplies and said they would get them for us in time for class. For the most part, they were faithful to this task, but occasionally the supplies were not delivered or wrong items were purchased. After several messed up orders, I finally gave up on them and did the best I could to either buy my own supplies, improvise, change or eliminate the lesson activity.

Eventually our church set up a supply area in the Sunday school office, in the basement. We had to sign out the supplies we took for class, and then the Sunday School Administrators restocked the room. This supply room helped me a great deal but eventually brought a whole new set of challenges for the church leadership.

One challenge with the supply room was people who were not responsible. They would not lock the door to the supply room when they left or they would leave the supply room open during class time so the students had opportunity to go in and out, taking supplies without writing them down or returning things to their proper place. The room was left in a big mess.

In addition, people would bring in items from home to donate to the supply room. I appreciate the donations but, in my opinion, many of these items were junk or trash, and were not useful. For example, people brought in mostly used gallons of house paint, scraps of cardboard boxes, partially used rolls of twine or wire, and scraps of material that were so small that it was hard to find a use for them. These items added more to the existing mess.

A temporary discontinuance of Sunday School left the room unattended for quite a while. Also we had challenges with the basement flooding. A large part of the paper and supplies got ruined and ended up getting thrown away. This flooding challenge was unexpected and could not have been foreseen.

Another budget blues challenge is when people ask for more supplies and expensive equipment than they need. This can be a continual problem for church leaders. As Christian workers, we need to be mindful of what we ask for and not go overboard. We need to work with the church leadership and help make the most out of the available resources.

A lack of funding and resources in small churches can be a challenge for everyone involved. Christian workers need to be sensitive and work with church leadership to find ways to improvise. By working together, we can get the most return for the money the church has to spend.

Rules, organizational steps, church and personal finances, and people challenges can all contribute to Budget Blues. By praying, listening to and loving one another, and by working together, churches can usually find a way to overcome Budget Blues.