March 2019
Becoming Disciples

Mission-Based Budgeting: A Loving, Liberating, Life-Giving Process (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, we focused on changing the conversation around budgets and the types of mission-based budgets. In this second article, we focus on the process of creating a budget that is rooted in mission.

The Way of Love; Becoming Beloved Community; the Five Marks of Mission; Evangelism, Racial Reconciliation & Justice; and Environmental Stewardship. All are expressions of how we live into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. That makes them great examples of meaningful frameworks for translating our traditional budgets into mission-based budgets, so we can evaluate how well we put our money where our mission is.

At the end of Mission-Based Budgeting, Part I, we left you with a list of six basic things you’d need to get started:

  1. A clearly articulated sense of mission.
  2. A framework by which you can evaluate how you live into your sense of mission.
  3. A list of broad categories, consistent across your framework, into which it’s helpful to group costs.
  4. A listing of all the ministries in which you engage (worship, outreach, formation, etc.), community programs with which you partner and groups and ministries you support.
  5. Your conventional, cost-center/line-item budget.
  6. A committed group of staff and people in leadership positions willing to engage in the process of transforming that dry, conventional budget into one that reaches people’s hearts through the stories it tells. Ideally, at least one of that group will be fluent with spreadsheets.

Ready? Set? Let’s go!

Going With the Flow

Step 1 – Articulating Our Sense of Mission

We have one purpose: To form people as disciples of Jesus Christ so that they can participate in God’s mission of reconciliation in the world. The Rt. Rev. William H. ”Chip” Stokes, Bishop of the Diocese of New Jersey; Diocesan Leadership Retreat Presentation (June, 2018)

Know Your Story, Live It Boldly – tagline representing our consistent diocesan theme and our commitment to Christian Formation and Discipleship

In the Diocese of New Jersey, these foundational principles of discipleship form the basis for our sense of mission and guide our communications and resourcing priorities.

Step 2 – Choosing Our Framework

We chose the Five Marks of Mission as our missional framework to help us evaluate and tell the quantitative and narrative stories of our response to our call to mission. Some other possible examples include:

  • the Baptismal Covenant
  • Worship, Formation, Pastoral Care, Outreach, Congregational Development (or some variation of these)
  • Worshipping, Learning, Caring, Reaching Out

Step 3 – Choosing Our Categories

To create more clarity and stronger links between the ministries that help us live into our missional framework and the various costs associated with them, we developed consistent cost categories that we use across all five missional areas. You will see them in our Sample Mission-Based Budget resource, linked below.

Step 4 – Allocating Ministries

We started by gathering our diocesan staff together, putting newsprint up on the walls with headings for each one of the five marks of mission and listing which ministries fell under each mark. Many ministries fell under more than one mark. Then we expanded the conversation to other heads of committees, commissions and task forces with budget line items. Just liberating our minds to this new culture of thought released an amazing amount of creative energy in the room, right from the beginning. The results of these conversations became the basis for our graphic “narrative” sections of the Sample Mission-based Budget.

Step 5 – Allocating Costs

Here we took the information gathered in Step 4 and used it to create a strategy for allocating each line item of our conventional budget in a meaningful way, literally connecting the ministries with the resources provided to support them. For example:

  • Our ministry leaders looked at which of their activities fell under which marks of mission and made thoughtful allocations of program costs.
  • Our program staff looked at how they support the ministries listed under each of the marks of mission and made equally thoughtful allocations of their time.
  • We used those allocations to blend and pro-rate our support staff’s time as well as some of our other administrative costs, since those costs follow the mission and ministry implemented by the program staff.
  • We looked at how our facilities at Diocesan House are used by the ministries and used that data to allocate facilities costs.

Here’s where your spreadsheet guru comes in, using this information to break down your conventional line items into component categories and missional areas and then re-assembling them in a format that expresses how you resource the ministries given in your narrative. You can see and download the linked spreadsheets we used to accomplish that here, and we plan to offer a training webinar in early 2019 that will, among other things, explore this part of the process in more detail with hands-on exercises.

Step 6 – Developing Our Narrative

We chose a graphic presentation over a simple narrative as being more engaging and succinct, choosing from thousands available at minimal cost with resolution so good that we could make crystal clear 24” x 36” poster-board displays. Combined with the solid financial presentation, this makes a powerful connection between mission and resourcing.

And Beyond

Each year, we now require each of our groups making a request for budgetary funding to include with their request a narrative about how their ministry area helps us live into one or more of the five marks of mission. This helps us update our ministry allocations among the five marks, and together with input from the leadership, allocate program costs accordingly. We also evaluate whether we need the allocation of program staff costs and, by extension, administrative support costs and facilities costs. But most importantly, this process expands the Kingdom conversations and helps keep them going!

In Summary

The results speak for themselves.

Our conventional budget format is clearly still necessary as a starting point and also to maintain the comfort level needed by our traditionalists who may need to reference specific line item costs. It helps provide assurance that the numbers in the mission-based budget can be traced back to a familiar framework.

Our mission-based budget format, on the other hand, enables the Kingdom conversations that help us evaluate our impact as disciples of Jesus Christ, asking questions like: Where do we see God moving? How are we following Jesus Christ out into the world? Are we allocating our resources in alignment with that sense of mission? Do we need to adjust? And all of a sudden, our repetitive budget reviews morph from exercises in boredom to powerful tools for culture change!

Canon Phyllis Jones was appointed COO of the Diocese of New Jersey in early 2017 after serving as the diocese’s CFO since 2010. In addition to having oversight of the finances of the diocese, she works closely with Bishop Chip Stokes to support and resource the vestries and people of their congregations in their ministries as they seek to join God in his mission throughout the diocese, the Church and the world. She and Bishop Stokes were among the early adopters of the Project Resource holistic financial stewardship curriculum developed by ECF, the College for Bishops and the Development Office of the Episcopal Church. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the Association of Episcopal Deacons and was recently appointed as Treasurer for Province II. Her passion for resourcing mission and developing young Christian leaders in under-resourced communities finds expression in deep, long-standing Board and development relationships with UrbanPromise Ministries and its affiliate, UrbanPromise International. In 2011, she co-founded UrbanPromise Trenton. She has called St. Matthew’s Church in Pennington, NJ, her parish home for 45 years, and lives in Titusville, NJ, with her husband of 35 years, Mick Jones.


This article is part of the March 2019 Vestry Papers issue on Becoming Disciples