The Parish Finance Council
A Service of the Parish Evaluation Project
January, 2005The Parish Finance Council: According to Canon Law, every Catholic parish must have a Finance Council. The question is how it relates to other leadership bodies such as the Pastoral Council and commissions. The temptation is to operate as an independent unit, setting parish policies and directions by determining what gets funded and what does not. A good way to connect the Finance Council into the overall structure is to link it to the Administration Commission. It is this commission that oversees all the administrative aspects of the parish, including communications, buildings and grounds, maintenance, stewardship of treasure, long-range facilities planning and finances. If there is no Administration Commission, then the Finance Council tends to assume many other duties besides finances, such as purchasing, contracting and planning. These take it far a field from its primary function of making up the budget, keeping track of parish spending and reporting these to the parishioners. Budgeting Process: The first step in the yearly process of creating a budget is to learn from the Pastoral Council –of which the pastor is a member – the priorities or theme for the coming year. What are the values and commitments that need to receive special emphasis and focus? Suppose, for instance, that the Pastoral Council wants to concentrate on a single theme, reaching out to young adults, especially the less active ones. Not only would it call on the commissions to work on making plans for this area, it would also ask the Finance Council to free funds for this initiative. Going to the Commissions: The next step is for the Finance Council to find out from each commission – usually these include Worship, Community Life, Formation, Outreach and Administration – what are the budgeting needs they will have for the coming year. This usually begins in January of each year. By that time the commissions have a good idea for what is happening in each of their areas of ministry and what new initiatives they are hoping to fund for the future. Members of the Finance Council would visit each commission during the Common Leadership Night where all meet in one location, although they are working on their own. Besides salaries and fixed expenses that are negotiated separately, each commission would make requests for funding special projects and programs for the coming year. In Community Life, for instance, the members might request seed money for a young adults group in the parish. The Finance Council would pay close attention to this request knowing that it was a high priority for the Pastoral Council. The same might happen in the Outreach Commission as it asks for money to fund a fresh new approach for connecting with inactive younger adults. The Finance Council would take all this information and construct a tentative budget for the next fiscal year. This draft would be sent to the commissions for revisions and then eventually to the Pastoral Council for final approval, making sure that it reflects the priorities of the parish. The Administration Commission can be of great assistance in keeping communication lines open between the Finance Council and other parish leadership groups because it usually has members from the Finance Council on the commission. The Administration Commission also has representation on the Pastoral Council. This entire process, in other words, is an interactive, collaborative model of dialogue and mutual negotiation.