The Story of a Narrative Budget

In 2011, shortly after starting at Westport Free Methodist Church, in Westport, ON, pastor Paul Millar discovered that the church had a desire to reach out to their community but they didn’t know exactly how to go about it.  The church also didn’t have a vision statement. Paul and the board started spending a lot of time to formulate a vision statement that was true of them and what they wanted to do.

Two years later, Westport FMC found itself in a difficult financial situation.  Instead of starting a tithing sermon series, Paul asked the congregation to focus on and celebrate the things they were doing that looked like Jesus.  For example, the church connected with their local elementary public school, and at the end of the school year, they celebrated that they bought 3200 cartons of milk and hundreds hot lunches.  As Paul shared, “Even thought it was a tight year financially, we were able to celebrate what we did together.”

This experience helped Westport FMC with their vision.  They wanted to be “A welcoming and inspiring place where Christ-followers are renewed and equipped to make a difference in their communities.”

As giving began to increase, the church invited Sandy Crozier, FMCIC’s Stewardship Development Director to help write a narrative budget.  “We wanted to tell the story of how we spend money, and a narrative budget is the best way to do that. We used our vision statement to help determine how much money went where.”  

Westport FMC’s narrative budget is pictured below, and the story it tells is one of investing in the community.  The church still has a budget spreadsheet with lots of detail, but it is the narrative budget and the story it tells that has inspired the congregation.  

Giving has increased significantly since using the narrative budget, but Paul shares that cautiously.  “It is a tool that helped us get real in a difficult time. It didn’t make sense to keep feeding kids in our community when we were struggling financially but that is Jesus, and telling our financial story this way helped us figure things out.  Now that we are in a stronger place, we are asking ourselves what it means to be faithful. We want to be faithful to our movement of the gospel, and push and stretch ourselves.”

If you would like to learn more about how to create a narrative budget check out the fmcic website or if you would like to schedule a 90-minute Narrative Budget Seminar at your church, please contact: Sandy Crozier, Stewardship Development Director,  The Free Methodist Church in Canada at [email protected].

By Alison McKinnon

FMCiC Writer

*note Westport gives more than 10% of their operating budget to Core, but it totals 8% of the overall budget.