Finance Games

Last Updated Friday, June 5, 2015

Ah, the monthly finance meeting; something you look forward to each time it comes around on your calendar, right? Wrong!

By Rev. Jan Todd

Most leaders in the church know we are in a time of financial fluctuation, both in our local economies and churches. These fluctuations can cause great anxiety, especially when it affects giving practices in the church. Meetings can become a real “downer” if we only focus on the realities of change with an attitude of  doom and gloom. How do we dream in a place of doom of gloom?
My suggestion: play games! Yes, you read it correctly: play games!

I think it is interesting that as children, we were often taught how to face life and tough situations through games. Yet, we have forgotten to learn to carry that practice forward! Games test our ability to work with each other, to compete and to find within the will to understand how to strategize. Personally, I think that playing games allows for the Spirit to creep in and help us see our mission from different perspective!
Here are a few finance games that I have used in churches to free up the attitudes and help the team learn to find playful solutions to real world problems.
Let the games begin!

Note: All games require notecards.
Find the Finance Meeting
May I suggest a change of “place”? Not every financial meeting needs to be held in the same room, let alone in the church building. If you have met in the same room for as long as you can remember, it might be a good thing to hold the finance meeting in a different room. If we’ve had heated discussions or worrisome moments in a particular room, we might not be able to think well with those memories looming overhead. 

Step 1:
At the first meeting of the year, have each member of the committee suggest a place to meet (the youth room/the sanctuary/at someone’s house for dinner/at the local restaurant with a private room) and write them separately on notecards.
Step 2:
Place the notecards in the basket. Decide how many meetings you are going to have. Then send the basket around and have each person pick a card until all meeting dates have a location. If there are duplicates, you can choose to skip or keep.
Step 3:
Put the dates on the back of the cards and put them in the finance box (make sure to give a copy of the dates to either recording secretary or whoever keeps the calendar). Make sure to send out the schedule to all the finance members.
Special Note: If the card for the budgeting meeting is a public place, make sure to switch it out for a more private setting.
Winning Move!
The shift of atmosphere can help people come with a different attitude, and you have figured out your dates in advance!
Magic Wand of Wishes
As people who try to help their congregations’ budget for the year,  sometimes it feels like the finance team can be the “bad-guy” when it comes to dreaming for the budget.  Here is an activity that helps the team hear ideas from the congregation and consider the future mission of the church and how to fund it.
Step 1:
For two Sundays, have a box called “Magic Wand” (with a picture of a magic wand on it) and blank cards to hand out before worship. Either the Finance Chair or Pastor can explain to the congregation that they can write any dream or wish on the cards. The point of doing this is to get ideas to the finance and leadership teams (not to say that everything suggested will be funded; be very clear about that).
Have the congregation put answers on the cards to the following questions. They must answer BOTH questions:
1. “If you had a magic wand that, when waved, could produce anything the church needed, what would you wish for?”
2. “How does this need help us make disciples for Jesus Christ?”
The congregants can put as many cards into the box as they wish. 
Step 2:
At the next Finance meeting (make sure the pastor is present), distribute the cards to team. Have each person read a “wish” and place the card on the table. Each time a card with a “similar” wish is announced, it should be piled with cards similar to it.  When a pile has “two” or more cards, look at these wishes more carefully. 
Step 3:
Break down the cards/card piles into three categories.
Ask this question –“Is this a staffing wish, building wish or program wish?”

Step 4:
Assign each person a “wishes pile” to share with other areas of leadership in the church (e.g., staffing pile shared with Staff Parish). Ask each area to pray and think about the questions:

  1. What if we worked on one or two of these wishes together?
  2. How do we work together to decide on this work and bring the congregation on board?
  3. How do we put funding toward this?

Winning Move!
I know that “all” the wishes will not be granted, but the discussions will bring new energy and allow leaders and parishioners to become more dependent on each other and God in the process of budgeting and dreaming.

Mini-Capital Campaign Card Game
So, you know your church building is in need of repairs and updates, yet where to start? How do we even know how to budget for those needs? It may be time for a mini-capital campaign.
Step 1:
Gather trustee and finance leadership around a table large enough for everyone to fit and give them 2-3 blank cards. Typically, this group of leaders has heard about the complaints concerning the facilities, so they’ll have knowledge of the general needs. Go around one at a time and have each person name a capital need (meaning a building repair or update) and write it down on the card. Then, throw the card to the middle of the table. Go around the table until all the needs are on the cards.
Step 2:
Have the group talk about the needs and rank them in priority. This will take some time, but will glean good conversation. It should look like this on the table:                                  
Step 3:
After priorities are figured out, hand out enough cards from the top down to each person. They do not have to be the originator of the idea. Have each person take their one card and assign a dollar value to the need (for example: elevator -  $100,000, Door repair on Sanctuary - $1000, etc.), placing the amount on the backside of the card.
Step 4:
Put the cards back in priority order. Then, whoever is facilitating, ask the question, “How much money outside of our regular giving do you think we can raise for a mini-capital campaign?”
 Have everyone discuss the number and agree on a common number.
Step 5:
Turn over the top card and see the number. If it is greater than the agreed mini-campaign number, move it to the side for now. If it is equal to the number, then you can stop turning cards and choose to focus on that one need. If it is lower than the agreed upon number, keep turning cards over until you have reached a number that meets the agreed upon dollar figure. Then, stop and discuss. Examples are as such:
Examples:  Agreed upon mini-campaign number - $50,000
Scenario 1                                               Scenario 2                                       Scenario 3
         (put card aside and flip next one)                     (Finish or put card aside)                         (Keep flipping!)
Step 6:
So, there are other cards probably unturned at this point. Go ahead and flip them over, looking at their projected dollar amounts. Discuss if these might be better to go for, especially if you can get at a lot of small victories for improvement.
Step 7:
Choices! You now have options to discuss for a mini-campaign. As a group, decide on a plan of action.
  1. Choose to do the one thing that adds up to the agreed upon dollar figure (and don’t go beyond the agreed upon dollar figure).
  2. Choose to do several things that add up to the agreed upon dollar figure (some mid-size some small victories).
  3. Focus on all the smaller dollar amounts to stimulate movement in addressing facility needs.
Winning Move!
Whatever the group decides to focus on, make sure to test it with other leaders. Ask individual leaders to discuss and leak the possibilities to others in the congregation.  Then report back to the finance/trustee leadership about what you have found. If the reaction is mostly positive, you can proceed to the next step! Have a mini-capital campaign! This will require getting real numbers for real projects, but you will be on your way to a clearer vision to address these needs.
Side note: If you want some help on how you might put together a mini-campaign, feel free to contact me at
There you have it: a few games to try when talking finance and budget. There are others I have up my sleeve, so keep an eye out for those in the future.  Also, let me know if you try these games. I’d like to know what has worked for you! Enjoy your next finance meeting!

The Rev. Jan Todd is the vital congregations coordinator for the Great Plains Conference. Contact her at

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