Moving the Needle on Finances…and Ministry from Montclair to Tobago

July 12, 2021 | | GNJ News

Protecting the financial health of a church is vital to the longevity and prosperity of every church, but delving into that discussion can sometimes be uncomfortable. As the new Leadership Academy works to empower congregations, courses are being rolled out that continue to encourage collaboration between clergy and laity in mission, small groups, worship and planning. “Preparing a Balanced Budget,” a course led by Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash, executive director of the Stewardship Foundation, was one of those vital courses.

“This new course set up pastors and leaders in the finance area to move the needle, to move forward toward a healthy budget,” said Purkis-Brash, who noted that joining her during the two Zoom sessions in May were more than 30 people, including one from as far away as Tobago!

This new course allowed church leaders to review their church’s income and expenses, gather the church’s budget information and budget requests, identify projected income, create a budget spreadsheet and develop a process for living within the budget.

“Leaders just needed the tools to know what to do to develop a budget and work with other congregational leaders in the process,” said Purkis-Brash.

A well-developed, balanced budget that changes every year allows church leaders to open the door to more vitality, new initiatives for life-changing ministry. With a well-thought-out budget, churches are able to seize opportunities in ministry when they become available.

“It taught me to look at our budget from a mission perspective and to make it more inviting to our congregation,“ said Esther Canty-Barnes of St. Marks UMC in Montclair. “By planning the budget way in advance, I can add things in the budget so that mission can be done.”

Canty-Barnes, who has been a member of St. Mark’s for over 20 years, took what she learned in May and ran with it. In addition to gleaning valuable advice from Purkis-Brash, Canty-Barnes said the course gave her the opportunity to see what other churches are doing and learn from them.

As a result, the St, Mark’s leadership team is now working on developing a virtual thrift store as well as a virtual comic summer program, led by Canty-Barnes’ daughter, which will generate scholarships for those unable to pay for education. The church is also now working on developing a life group that helps parents navigate the world and their children.

“We really want to be more visible in our community, and this has given us the boost we needed to get there,” said Canty-Barnes who added that the church is also working toward bolstering their stewardship efforts to ensure that these missions can come to fruition.

When asked if there was a next step to this course, Purkis-Brash said there will be a follow-up course exploring narrative budgets available in the near future.

The Leadership Academy is just getting started, continuing to build on a foundation of blessing the mission and ministry of congregations as it recognizes that fruitful ministry involves clergy and laity working together.

In June and July, Eric Drew, executive director of Next Generation Ministries, led the course, “IGNITE Youth Discipleship Calendar” because discipleship doesn’t happen one weekend or week per year. By developing a yearly Discipleship Calendar, all congregations can create a journey for young people to connect with God, grow in faith and lead in the church and community. The course was designed to allow clergy and laity to develop a yearly Discipleship Calendar, learn how to facilitate small group conversations with youth and identify ways to raise youth into leadership positions in the congregation.

The vision for the new Leadership Academy is bold. The Academy will be expanding to provide year-round learning for clergy and laity, all of which will involve courses that support and align with A Journey of Hope plan. The goal is to create a pathway for learning where courses build upon one another and have clear outcomes that develop Christian leaders and church vitality.

Stay tuned for details at, where you can also view recordings of previous courses offered.