Most churches work under a budget system, and have meetings every year to discuss this. What are their Biblical justifications for doing so?
Since of the Bible doesn't have a direct reference/listing of budgets, I believe the idea would come from teaching throughout.
Everything from Joseph's wisdom
Genesis 41:35-37 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials.
To the Temple tax
Exodus 30:13-15 Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives.
Exodus 23:19 “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God...
The teaching of Jesus
Luke 16:10-11 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
Luke 14:31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?
1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
And many more.
So, I would submit that managing what we have been given wisely, which is what a budget is, is very biblical.
In the UK, independent churches are often legally registered as charities so they can be part of the "Gift Aid Scheme", a scheme set up by the UK Government which allows the income tax portion of a gift from a UK Income Tax payer to be reclaimed back from the Inland Revenue. So if I give £80 and am a taxpayer who has already paid £20 on the £100 originally received in wages, the £20 that went to the Inland Revenue can be claimed back by the church.
It is a legal requirement that charities submit accounts. All charities must be able to give evidence to the Charitable Commission that they are using all incoming funds to further the purposes for which the charity exists as described in its Trust Deeds.
I believe, all charities must also be able to show that in general they are being effectively run. Having a budget seems to naturally follow on from these requirements.
And Churches choose to become charities in order to maximise their income which seems a wise course of action.
I expect there is something similar in other countries too.
Now to try(!) to give some scriptural backing, though we do not need specific scriptural backing for everything we do: for instance, what scriptural backing is there for having radiators, or other heating, in our places of worship? Or chairs? Such things are not regulated in Scripture, we can use our own judgement, and as God blesses us we can try to ensure we worship God and hear his word preached not having our minds distracted by feeling freezing cold or feeling uncomfortable on a rock hard bench.
Scripture tells us a Bishop, by which Baptists interpret meaning a church Elder, "should be blameless" (KJV) or "above reproach" (RSV) (1 Timothy 3:2) and a list is given of his required demeanour/character/behaviour. "Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without" (KJV) or "he must be well thought of by outsiders" (RSV) (1 Tim 3:7).
From this clearly it isn't enough for an elder to do what is right: as far as he is able he must be conscious he needs to be highly thought of; not as hypocrites do, who only care about the outside of the cup, but as a sincere believer. An elder should not only care about the inside of the cup, but about the outside also.
Deacons are also required to be of a similar disposition: "Likewise must deacons be serious..." etc (1 Tim 3:8)
Included in the list of requirements is their attitude towards money: an elder should be "no lover of money" (1 Tim 3:3), and deacons should be "not greedy for gain" (RSV) "not greedy of filthy lucre" (KJV). The same is spoken of in Titus "a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God: not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine", "not violent or greedy for gain" (Titus 1:7).
Speaking to all believers the Apostle says that the "love of money is the root of all evil" (or "the root of all kinds of evil") and "it is through this craving that some have wondered away from the faith and pierced their heart with many pangs" (1 Tim 6:10, RSV).
Drawing these things together it seems that those who profess faith can still be greatly tempted with "filthy lucre". The leadership of any church should above reproach, blameless, they should endeavour to ensure that they cannot be easily criticised by either church members or outsiders in anything, including in their dealings with money.
The best way to seek to ensure they are above reproach is to have all the financial matters of the church scrutinized by someone who is not one of the elders/deacons and who is qualified to examine accounts, ie an external accountant. This will help to put them "above reproach".
When it comes to forward budgets rather than simply producing accounts: churches are not generally meant to store up money in their banks for no purpose other than just having "healthy" bank balances: they are meant to use the money they recieve: that is why the fellowship has put the money into the offering. Seeing as it is not usually going to be too difficult for an established church to estimate what their income is going to be for the next year then a budget of how that money is going to be spent is just a way of forward planning their expenditure to ensure they do not have too much left in the church bank account at the end of the year nor too little.
Finally, in independent churches, the elders and deacons are the ones planning the future direction of the fellowship, but in most fellowships they usually need the approval of the membership which is given, or withheld, in the annual, or bi-annual, church members' meeting. The older independent churches have written constitutions which must be adhered to, describing how the church will be governed. Members will vote upon each "major" decision to approve or to say nay. The decision of the members' meeting is final, so the leadership does not want to upset the members in any way! "Nay votes" can be very upsetting for the leadership!! Where the members of the fellowship have real confidence in the elders and deacons then the decisions of the leadership are likely to be approved in the members' meeting without much difficulty; and where confidence is low there might be resistance from the fellowship. It is important that members do not feel they are being "rollercoasted" or in some way manipulated by the leadership in the decision making in the members meeting: the leadership if they have any sense would want every members' meeting to go as smoothly as possible and would want all the members to feel they have been fairly treated by the leadership: the leadership must show respect to the members, and fully allow the any of the members to raise concerns if they so wish. (Any time the leadership upsets the membership it is very possible it will have a negative knock-on effect on future meetings.) Part of this endeavour to ensure that the members feel valued, together with their opinions, is to present to them the budget and plans for the coming year.
The aim of the leadership would be that the whole membership approve and feel that they "own" the plans, to get behind them, to feel they have given their approval. If the leadership do whatever they want without accountability to the members then the members may get to feel less valued; if the issue is about the way money is being used by the leadership then the offerings might take a hit, or members might leave.
If the leadership have presented a case where the church needs to spend more money than usual then it needs the membership to get behind these decisions, approve them, and be willing to increase their giving as needed.
These are the kind of dynamics that exist at least in many independent churches.
It is for these kind of reasons that a forward budget and plan for the coming year is presented at an annual members' meeting(s). Such showing of respect and valuing of the church members simply falls under the Biblical command that we should "love one another deeply" (1 Peter 4:8) and "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3).
Christians should plan for the future; God has plans saying, "I know the plans I have for you" (Jeremiah 29:11); the Apostle Paul planned to go Spain telling the Christians at Rome "since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain" (Romans 15:23,24 NIV). So it is right for us to make plans too.
As said already we do not need specific Biblical backing for everything we do. There are two principles which apply when interpretting Scripture: the Regulative Principle and the Normative Principle.
- The Regulative Principle is usually agreed as applying only to the
manner in which we worship God, in the worship of God all is
regulated / specified by God.
This I gather from the great detail that God gave to Moses for the building of the Tabernacle - nothing was left to Moses's taste or opinion or choice. All was decided by God and given to Moses.
- For most other things the Normative Principle applies: it is OK to do it this way as long as it is not forbidden by Scripture. With the exception of how we worship God more general commands of Scripture are sometimes our main guide for how we do things.