Telling the Story of your Parish’s Impact-A Case for the “Narrative Budget”

Philanthropic theory indicates that people want their money to have an impact! So show them how their parish contributions are building God's kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven!

It’s that time of year again!  On top of Lenten journeys, Holy Week preparations and the deadline for income taxes, many parishes are also beginning the budgeting process.  Finance councilors and pastors are once again reviewing income and expenses, looking at spreadsheets, inflation and giving,  and wondering anew how to get those columns to balance.  The givers continue to give.  The rest continue to see the parish as an entity that doesn’t really have any influence on their lives or the lives of others.  But what if you could change that perception?  What if people really could see the impact the parish is having?  “Basic philanthropic theory indicates that people want their money to have an impact.”[i]

Introducing the narrative budget!  This is the story of the parish’s impact and how various parish resources are being used to participate in building God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.  It’s not the line item document used for accounting and planning.  It’s a marketing and motivation tool to move parishioners to invest in making a difference.

This is how it works.  You tell the story of your parish’s impact by allocating funds based on areas of ministry: worship, pastoral care, outreach, formation, evangelization, hospitality and inreach.  Choose those five to seven areas where the parish resources are being used to affect lives and make a difference.  Worry less about accuracy and more about creating a snapshot of parish activity wherein you explain what the ministry does, who it impacts and why it is important to the Kingdom of God.  Tell those personal stories of individuals whose lives were impacted by this work.  “These sacred stories of the parish’s ministry to real people resonate with what we are supposed to be about as faithful Christians.”[ii]

Create the booklet.  Distribute it with the financial update for the parish, and invite people to consider how their investments of time, talent and yes, money, ARE making a difference…and what a difference the parish can continue to make with their contributions.  Teach your people what is already happening and call them to invest in the Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven!  Narrative budgeting is a tool to help you do just that.

[i] Dave Ponting.  “The Importance of a Narrative Budget.”  September 10, 2014.  https://www.churchleadership.com/leading-ideas/the-importance-of-a-narrative-budget/  Accessed 3/13/18

[ii] Ibid.


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