Narrative Budgets – Telling the Story of Your Congregation’s Ministry

When a zoo wants to let you know where your gifts of support are going, they tell the story about the birth of a new baby giraffe. Churches, too, can share the stories of God’s mission which emerge from the gifts that people give.

Creating a narrative budget is a way to transform your congregation’s line-item budget into the story of your congregation’s ministry. It connects your budget to God’s mission and shares it in a way that gives a fresh perspective on the ministry your church is doing at home and in the world. By linking dollars to mission it inspires and informs donors about the importance and impact of their gifts.

Below, you’ll find a link to an example of a short and simple narrative budget in a bulletin-sized format. In this example, budget amounts are categorized into six missional categories. The categories are based on the story the congregation was telling in its annual report. The final page shares the many ways people can give to your church.

Because writing a narrative budget is more art than science, it requires some creative thinking to determine how church expenditures like the minister’s salary should be divided across the pie-chart categories. The percentages are somewhat subjective but should be based on estimates of time and money that the church is allocating to each area (minister and staff time, volunteer time, hours the church building is used). This Excel spreadsheet shows how line item budget categories can convert into five or six key missional categories.

Creating a narrative budget is not an accounting activity, so you don’t have to be exacting when assigning the key areas of ministry to your figures. It’s more important to give a reasonable snapshot of how resources are used in the church. While allocating volunteer time and talent and treasure might be challenging at first, with each subsequent year the process will become easier.


Example bulletin-sized narrative budget for discussion purposes


A narrative budget re-sorts and summarizes a church’s line-item budget into “missional” categories like worship, nurture, service, and evangelism. It supports your congregation’s vision and explains how you plan to accomplish it.

Example Narrative Budget

Convert line items to mission categories

This M/S Excel spreadsheet shows how line item budget categories can convert into five or six key missional programs. Excel will even provide the pie chart.

Narrative Budget

The Rev. Mark Tremblay shares some practical tools that Knox, Calgary has used over the years to construct their narrative budget. He talks about what they have learned, what has worked, what has not worked.

For more information about Stewardship & Planned Giving, send us an email or call 1-800-619-7301.