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Average Church Budget by Attendance

by Aplos Success Team
Typical church budget based on attendance

Every church is different and has its own unique needs, but there are some common denominators when it comes to budgeting. This post will break down church budgetary considerations to give you a better idea of what your church can expect based on the weekly average worship attendance.

Some congregations may be able to do many things within their budgets, while others have just enough funds left over after paying bills each month that they can only afford one additional activity.

While there is no surefire way to set the amount of money needed for a church budget, this article will provide an idea of the average annual income and spending requirements based on the weekly attendance at that church.

This article will show you how much money your congregation needs annually by determining its size (both membership and weekly attendees) according to some standard methods.

Church Budgeting Best Practices

Church budgeting can be difficult to determine. There are various resources that offer different opinions about what should constitute the annual ministry income and spending, but there is no single standard, due to variables such as church size, polity (whether it has a denominational affiliation), whether or not volunteers cover positions in addition to paid employees, or God’s provision for paid part-time and full-time staff members.

Property values across churches vary greatly based on location and the demographics within their congregations. Tithing patterns also fluctuate between congregations, which can make giving efforts a challenge.

Typical Church Budgets

A good metric suggests healthy churches are those that have a 10-30% budget for outside missions, up to 60% of the church’s money spent on local ministry, and staff expenses around 30-40%.

It’s also a good practice to have an emergency fund set aside for unexpected costs, such as replacing the air conditioning system or repairing storm damage. In doing so, those funds will already be available so your church can pay for what is needed when an emergency happens.

Carrying Debt

Churches often have a maximum debt payment of 25-30 percent of their monthly income. For fast-growing church plants, 40 percent is the ceiling for most types of loans. That ceiling may be up to 2.5 times your church’s previous year’s revenue if you are making payments on capital projects or other large expenses that will generate more money in future years. But be sure to discuss all this with an accountant before finalizing any decisions.

Many churches limit themselves to borrowing no more than 33 percent from lenders per year under standard terms (not taking into account any special circumstances, such as rapid growth). If you’re considering a loan greater than $250,000, it might make sense for you and your financial advisor to first discuss how much can realistically be borrowed at what interest rate so there won’t be any costly surprises.

Church Personnel Costs

Church staff salaries and related costs can sometimes account for half of their annual budget. When you add in facility costs, very little remains to be put toward outreach or mission work within the community. U.S Protestant churches spend an average of 45% of their budget on staff and pastor salaries per year, which is about double that of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. But it still often falls short when compared with what’s needed to effectively operate a church at its fullest potential.

The expenditure has been so great over time that many churches are struggling financially just trying to maintain their current staff levels, while simultaneously investing in programs designed toward a particular ministry, such as children or youth.

However, if we consider an average person with 20 years’ ministry experience to be making $50,000 per year (approximately $25 per hour), then staff and pastor salaries account for about 30% of any given congregation’s budget (assuming they are paid a full-time salary). For large churches that have volunteers filling positions alongside paid leaders, this percentage may fluctuate wildly based on how many people fill those paid roles and their wage rates.

Key Financial Goals for Churches

Here are a few additional financial goals for healthy growing churches:

  • They have a minimum average weekly attendance of 150 people. The figure will vary based on the context, but a minimum should be set to ensure long-term success and sustainability.
  • They have at least six month’s worth of operating reserves. This ensures that there’s enough money put aside just in case something unexpected were to happen, such as receiving no contributions for a month.
  • The average per capita giving among church members is $1,700 per year. This number will vary widely depending on context, but it should be a personal goal that each individual strives for.

A church can set its benchmarks according to an organization’s economic situation. A minimum contribution from congregants is 10% combined with conference contributions; this gives them greater access in supporting global missions work, which is highly regarded by regional and international church leaders.

A healthy church should also consider establishing an endowment fund to help provide future support.

Why These Numbers Matter

The church budget by worship attendance may seem like just another number at first glance, but it has significant implications on everything from what your pastor’s income is to whether or not you’re able to provide food services every week as part of your mission work in the community. A healthy church will consider all aspects when making decisions about their yearly budgets so pastors and staff members aren’t continuously working under pressure while trying to do God’s work.

Financial stability is important so your church can focus more time and energy on their ministry work instead of worrying about making ends meet, or paying pastor and staff salaries.

Churches without these numbers may need assistance in building an adequate budget plan before they are sustainable. While these numbers are not a perfect guide, they can help churches get on the right track to financial stability.

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