Narrative Budget

A parish’s vestry and stewardship committee need an effective tool to show church members how their giving supports mission. Too often, they have only the line-item budget, which keeps track of income and expenses but reveals little about how a congregation’s mission is funded.

A narrative budget focuses attention on mission and ministry. It shows:

  • the congregation’s purposes and goals
  • what ministries were supported by the previous year’s offerings
  • how the vestry is budgeting resources to carry out the congregation’s mission

This helps the vestry demonstrate its accountability to the rest of the membership and inspire trust, which in turn inspires commitment.

Many parishes are already producing narrative budgets on an annual basis because they see the difference between a line-item budget and one that brings the ministry of the church community to life. When church members see that the ministries they make possible are continuing Christ’s work in the world, offerings increase.

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.


The narrative budget reminds the congregation that the church’s leaders manage the ministry resources. Sometimes, a congregation sees “fixed” expenditures in the line-item budget (like salaries and utilities) as overhead expenses, identifying “real” ministries with expenditures for Sunday School supplies and social programs. The narrative budget clarifies that every budget expenditure affects ministry, and that each ministry carries out the overall ministry of the church.

Three great benefits stem from a narrative budget:

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

Some people may make the connection between their giving and the needs of the church on their own and increase their support. But without presenting their gifts in the context of a sacrificial giving campaign, the true potential to increase giving may be lost.


Three examples of narrative budgets are currently in use at:

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