Narrative Budget

The vestry and stewardship committee need an effective tool for showing church members how their giving supports mission. Too often, they have only the church’s line-item budget to use for this purpose. Although a line-item budget keeps track of church income and expenses, it reveals little about how a congregation’s mission is funded. However, a narrative budget shows the purposes and goals of the congregation and focuses attention on mission and ministry.

A narrative budget shows what ministries were supported by the previous year’s offerings and also shows how the vestry is budgeting resources to carry out the congregation’s mission. It helps the vestry demonstrate its accountability to the rest of the membership so that its accountability inspires trust, and trust inspires commitment. When church members see that the ministries they make possible are continuing Christ’s work in the world, offerings increase.

Also, the narrative budget reminds the congregation that the church’s leaders manage the ministry resources. For example, some expenditures in church budgets such as salaries and utilities are commonly considered fixed, contracted expenses. Sometimes, the congregation sees these so-called fixed expenditures in the line-item budget as overhead expenses and identifies “real” ministries with expenditures for Sunday School supplies and various social programs. The narrative budget clarifies that every budget expenditure affects ministry. The people give offerings to support the ministries of the church. Thus, each ministry carries out the overall ministry of the church.

Three great benefits are derived from a narrative budget:

  1. It demonstrates that most congregations are very cost effective.
  2. It identifies not just contributions of treasure, but those of time and talent as well.
  3. It heightens awareness in the congregation of the diversity of ministry presently taking place.

Many of our parishes are already producing narrative budgets on an annual basis because they see the difference between an “item-line” budget and one that brings the ministry of the church community to life. Some individuals may make the connection between their giving and the needs of the church on their own and increase their support accordingly. However, without its presentation within the context of a sacrificial giving campaign, the true potential to increase giving may be lost.

A good narrative budget should include information that reflects:

  • The parish mission statement and vestry stewardship statement.
  • The big picture.
  • The parish’s mission priorities: worship, outreach, in-reach and Christian education.

It should also tell the story about how lives have been changed.


Three examples of narrative budgets are currently in use at:

For more information, please contact Peter Misiaszek, Director of Stewardship Development, 416-363-6021 ext. 246 (1-800-668-8932).