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Story by Jess Ward.

Getting a budget process started is a little bit like running a marathon. It requires patience, confidence, and the promise of a nearby bed to collapse into.

Tom Visotsky, the church’s new, full-time Finance Business Manager (whose office plaque would be more honest if it read Marathon Runner, Finance Wiz, World Traveler, ENFP) says that the best way to learn about an organization is to do a budget. This starts with meeting with the church staff and hearing about the needs of their ministries.

Tom Visotsky

Tom Visotsky

This is not Tom’s first time in the ring with a church budget. In 2008, Tom was on the vestry at his church, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, in Midlothian. Remember 2008? That was the beginning of the market crash, when both money and jobs were being lost at an alarming rate. Cue recession. “Everyone wanted to run and hide,” says Tom. “There are no guidebooks as to how to run a stewardship campaign during a recession.” So how do you keep a stewardship committee calm during a recession? “By applying general principles of problem solving and taking logical steps,” he says. It sounds too easy to be true. But Tom saw that the need for the church’s help was going to be greater than ever before. “And the people responded.” The committee asked for a 10% increase and they got a 7% increase.

Those logical steps allow you the confidence to do, as Tom puts it, “the detail work.” Details like considering everything that has to go in next year’s budget, which is a unique process for a church. In the world of budgets, things usually happen like this: the organization or company looks at the data, writes the budget, and everyone just has to live with it. First Baptist starts with the team talking to the ministers about what they need, proposing a budget and then marrying it to the stewardship campaign. You can almost hear the cha-ching, cha-ching noises as your brain begins to do the math. But as Tom emphasizes, “It’s a lot more than just money.”

Me: “Does it ever get overwhelming?”

Tom: “No. There are just many issues to balance.”

Me: “So expenses plus stewardship equals budget?”

Tom: “No, not really. There are a lot of moving parts. You need to analyze historic trends in giving and talk with the staff to get their input about goals and missions.”

Tom is not as easily fazed as some of his fellow co-working “P’s,” as the staff would call them. (The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator “P” stands for “perceiving,” which means the person is more of a visionary and less of a detail-oriented person.) This guy has run ten marathons, four of them in Boston, and yes, he was less than three blocks away from the infamous Boston Marathon bombings. “It was pretty freaky. Surreal is really the word.” (He ran this past year as well and said the experience of running past massive, encouraging crowds was “really, really special.”)

This whole finance thing is Tom’s wheelhouse. He started a business from scratch, ran it for 25 years, and then merged it with a public company. He’s also served as the president (now referred to as the chairman) of the Virginia Society of CPA’s, which has about 10,000 members. Public speaking, authoring published articles and world travel are not a problem with this guy.

As for FBC, Tom is working on the big picture (aka the race course) by working on providing accurate information to the people who make decisions about the budget, and by that he means not just offering them numbers – but the data they need to better manage the church.

Because it’s a lot more than just money.

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