Handling Your School’s Business Affairs



During my first two years in high school, my buddy and I established and operated a Sunday School in a one room schoolhouse for the American Sunday School Union. As I recall, it only cost us a few dollars a year for curriculum and operating expenses for a Sunday School of about fifty people. Today we live in a different world, and it is really impossible to operate a school without a large expenditure of money. I know there are some people who question the advisability of that expense, but when you consider the phenomenal impact the Sunday School movement has had through the years, there is no question that it
is an advisable way to invest your finances.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” When people’s lives are stirred and aided by the teaching of the Word of God in the Sunday School hour there should be no problem in raising the adequate funds to operate a dynamic and growing Sunday School.

It is not possible to give a thorough description of a financial system for a Sunday School here, but the following will briefly give some guidelines for you to use as you deal with your school’s finances and for the teaching of stewardship.

Stewardship Training

If you are going to teach the whole counsel of God, you will want to make certain that your curriculum deals with stewardship. One of the important themes of Scripture is stewardship, for it is a quality of life of one who calls himself a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Stewardship education should be ingrained in the whole school’s organization and administration as well as its more formal curriculum. It is properly a component of all the units of the activities which are tied together in the Sunday School such as instruction, worship, fellowship, and service.

It might be advisable for your church administrative staff to give consideration to sponsoring a stewardship month in your church calendar. At such a time the pastor gives a series of sermons on stewardship. If your curriculum does not include various themes on stewardship, you will certainly want to look into the possibility of planning for appropriate lessons or emphases for every age to correspond with those sermons.


There are certain Sunday Schools that still have a separate Sunday School budget but more and more churches are going to a unified budget where Christian education and the Sunday School are simply part
of the total church budget. If you have a separate offering and budget for the Sunday School, you soon may -find yourself in competition with other church programs and consequently may not have sufficient funds to operate the expanding Sunday School program.

Loudell O. Ellis, in the book called Church Treasurer’s Handbook, talks about the necessity of having a unified budget plan as being the only way to go:

The unified or single budget presents the estimated receipts and disbursements of all organizations, committees and projects of the church and combines such estimates into one budget for the year. In
this way a single budget reflects plans and estimated financial transactions for the entire church program. Each organization does not raise its own money or make its own separate disbursements. All receipts and disbursements are handled through one treasury or general fund. Members understand that their contributions are used for the overall operation and programs approved by the church membership.

If your church follows the unified budget plan, you as superintendent will wisely lead your school in full participation. Objectively work with church boards in the planning for a church budget. Following are some simple guidelines.

1. Conduct a planning and goal-setting meeting

The budget will be a reflection of the goals and programs for the Sunday School year. A wise superintendent will see that each year’s calendar includes a planning session, preferably away from the church facility where adequate time can be given to prayerful consideration of the things the staff would like to accomplish during the coming year.

The planning meeting should be held at least six weeks before the vote on the budget is to be considered by the congregation. That would provide adequate time for the plans to be crystallized and the budget to be formulated.

(1) Establish total school goals. You will want to give consideration to new faith projections for the school. Recognizing your capabilities and your limitations, what new steps of faith are going to be taken by your staff this coming year? Will there be a new sense of trust and expectations in the power of God for your ministry? Will there be a new impetus in prayer? These factors should be considered as well in the establishment of your projections.

(2) Break into departmental sessions. Ask the departmental superintendents at the planning meeting to prayer, fully discuss the goals and the programs or strategies in their departments for the coming year. The numerical projections should not be based simply on last year’s performance. Although you will want to consider that performance, it is more important to consider what new works and how much more love is going to be extended during the new year. What impact will that have upon the growth of the school? You will want to give due consideration about the extension of the ministry for the coming year.

For instance, if you are going to have a new visitation program, you can see that should bring in many more students to be added to this next year’s roll. If you plan to start new classes and establish a new department, certainly that is going to have an impact upon the growth of your school as well.

You will also ask each department to specify what extra equipment, facilities and program needs they will have for the work of the new year.

2. Project your financial needs.

As your general staff and departmental staff people report their goals and indicate their needs, together you will need to project the finances necessary to realize those goals. You may be given a general figure that the church administration feels you should stay within. In that case you will do some adjusting from need to need, considering their relative immediate importance. Some “needs” could possibly be deferred to a future time, or ways to fulfill them be found outside the finances of the budget. In projecting your financial needs, you may want to give consideration to the following items.

(1) Teachers’ conferences needs. This would include attendance at various conventions by your staff

(2) Curriculum costs for the year. Your departmental staffs have reported their numerical projections for the coming year, which you will add to your present number of teachers and students in each department. Then establish the curriculum cost per student per quarter during the previous year. That historical perspective can help you establish the cost per student for the coming year. For instance, if you take all of your curriculum costs for the previous year and divide into that the number of students who were served by that curriculum you can come up with the cost per student. If you anticipate a certain percentage growth for the coming year because of the planning of your various departments, you multiply last year’s cost by the percentage of increase to establish what your curriculum cost should be for the following year.

Of course, you will want to give consideration to the probable cost-of-living increase that will likely be tacked onto that final figure. That should be somewhere in the neighborhood of eight to twelve percent per year, according to Present estimates.

For example, if your curriculum cost per student per quarter was $5.25 times 250 students, then you would have a $1,312.50 cost for curriculum for that quarter, your staff anticipated that through their ministry they would be able to reach an additional 10 percent on the monthly attendance chart, then you could Anticipate an additional $5.25 cost for 25 more students, which would be $131.25. Adding a 10 percent
cost increase of $14.43 would bring you to a total curriculum projection for the next year of $1,458.18.

(3) New media equipment and supplies. These might include filmstrips, visualized songs, maps, and transparencies.

(4) New school furniture. New furniture may be needed for growing departments and classrooms as well as to replace old furniture.

(5) Specialized equipment. Some departments, such as preschool and primary departments often need special learning equipment.

(6) Special programs needs. Anticipate the needs for the Sunday School picnics and other outings, Children’s Day and Promotion Day programs, and so forth.

(7) Staff appreciation banquet costs. These should be anticipated according to the amounts spent in previous years, allowing for inflation-induced increases.

(8) Music books and materials for various departments.

(9) Nursery Care supplies.

(10) Additions to the Sunday School library. (The library may be handled by a church library committee, who would be responsible for the projection of their needs.)

(11) Contingency fund No matter how wisely you have planned there will always be unexpected expenditures, therefore a contingency fund ought to be included in your budget. Wise planners usually consider a 5 percent item for contingencies.

3. Anticipate your income.

Any wise planner does not anticipate spending money without giving consideration to the income to cover those expenses. There are factors which you should consider before establishing your expected income.

(1) The effect of your planning Consider first your past history, then what new impetus is going to be given which might bring in additional funds in the new year. For instance Will there be a new sense of faith which will help you as you make faith projections? Will there be a new stewardship thrust during the year? Will there be a calling program on all of the members of the congregation asking them to make a pledge? Those kinds of programs will have an effect in bringing in extra funds which should raise the expected amount of dollars per student brought to the church and to the Sunday School.

(2) Anticipated growth Figure what additional income you expect your anticipated growth will bring.

(3) Cost of living increase. Cost of living increase will need to be taken into account. You could anticipate that a 10 percent–or thereabouts–cost of living increase should raise your income approximately the same percentage.

4. Balance your projected needs with your anticipated income.

Study carefully to see if there will be sufficient funds to cover the necessary raise in the budget. You may find it necessary to pare down the budget some in order to match the expected income. It will be very important that as you do so, however, serious consideration be given to the essentials in your program and that you do not sacrifice your priorities or your objectives in that elimination process.

Guarding the Budget

Since the budget is built around the goals and philosophies of your Sunday School we could logically conclude that guarding the budget in a sense is like guarding your goals and philosophies. Not to carefully guard the budget is not to give adequate consideration to your philosophies and goals.

1. Establish a purchasing regulation.

One of the best ways to guard your budget is to pay bills for items purchased only when a purchase order is obtained from a qualified person, such as the Sunday School superintendent or the chairman of the
Christian Education Board. So often people in churches purchase items which are already in the storehouse in the church, but because they are not aware of all the facilities they sometimes purchase items that are

2. Organize the supplies.

Of course, this brings to mind the necessity of having a central storeroom for all the supplies. You will want to inform your staff that they will be responsible to pay for any item which they purchase which has not received a purchase order number in advance. This will also keep you from purchasing non-budgeted items and will help you to concentrate on that important list of goals, priorities and objectives for your Sunday School.

3. Keep adequate records.

You will want to make certain that as each item is purchased the amount of that purchase be charged against each numbered item on the budget. By giving a monthly report of the budget expenditures to all
those involved you will keep them from overextending the budget.

After your staff has worked through this procedure for a period of time they will soon see the importance of planning, and therefore anticipating their needs, and of careful and wise stewardship of the funds allocated for the Christian education ministries of the church. Remember, God is deeply concerned about stewardship and, therefore, about money. He is deeply concerned about how we give and how the money
is spent in the house of God. As a superintendent, you ought to share that same concern.