financialpinchThere is a financial pinch being felt among churches.

I shared in a recent article how my own church has felt it, and how we must all be “resigned to serve” in ministry.

It’s why I want to run something by you, given the tension we all likely know between your budget crunch and the vision still trying to be realized. It’s a philosophical question, as it will set a precedent throughout your ministry/church.

aliveI saw a sale today on door hangers for ministry outreach. My first thought was, “Cool idea. I wonder if we could/should get those.”

Then I remembered how we’ve attempted some great ideas in the past only to experience poor buy-in. There’s a box filled with fundraising supplies in our church building that we’re still trying to discern what the next steps on are.

I had a third thought, though: “What if we created a type of grassroots funding and ownership by letting people know about these opportunities and seeing which ones were sticky? We could create a webpage or some flow of communication that made information on these ideas available?”

Practically speaking, I get emails all the time like the one I got on door hangers – likely because church resourcing organizations have my email address. If I prop this out there in some way, perhaps someone willing to spend $4.50 for a package of outreach materials is the very person I’d want to start talking with regarding the vision/logistics of going door-to-door to hang them.

Wouldn’t this be a much better approach than a church buying materials and trying to convince people to buy into the idea? While that latter idea will still need to be in place from time to time, the former taps into the Millennial-esque bent toward random generosity.

  • Isn’t this why we ask the church-at-large to fund kids to go to camp?
  • Isn’t this why we park kids at the door after Sunday services with a box of candy bars and a change purse?
  • Isn’t this why we shop for food in bulk at Sam’s Club to supply the next spaghetti supper that people can buy tickets for “on a donation basis?”

Here’s the hurdle, though.

standardsThe precedent you’d be setting with the newer approach is that people could/should fund their favorite projects as it tickles their fancy. That has implications in a few different directions, including how some people might divert their giving from the church budget to do this instead. Then again, some might argue that people are itching to be generous – and if you can get them giving at all (even to their own pet projects) it will inspire them to give more holistically down the road.

Should funding great ministry ideas feel like an “a la carte” menu… or should we keep trying to get folks to give toward the church budget “household grocery list?”

When does fund-raising contradict faith-raising?

Is your approach to fund your next big idea contradicting the bigger big idea?

What do you think?

If you’re like most youth workers, just reading that headline probably made you shutter a little bit. Youth workers get uncomfortable talking about money and might even be a little uncomfortable managing it. Besides, economic times are tough, and it seems selfish to ask for a bigger piece of the pie, especially if the pie is getting smaller.

But here’s the thing. If your ministry is healthy and growing, an antiquated budget can absolutely be the thing that limits your growth. Don’t let that happen. It’s time to approach the overseers in their financial tower and ask for a bigger budget. Before you march in there, make sure you have your bases covered.

Explain how a bigger budget will help you to do bigger ministry.
If you’re asking for more money because you want to more easily sustain status quo, you’re doomed before you even begin. Explain how many more students you expect to reach or how many more service projects you’ll be able to complete. Be prepared to be measured on these later.

Demonstrate at least THREE ways you’ve worked to cut costs.
This is likely the first question you’ll be asked. So what have you done to save money in other areas? If you can’t answer this question, you need to start here and not with the budget proposal. You can’t win a bigger budget if you can’t illustrate that you’re trying to be an effective steward.

Make it clear that your new goals are good for the entire church.
The first time I asked for a budget increase, it was so we could continue to build our outreach ministry. Several new students had become part of our program, and two of those students brought their parents on Sunday mornings. After I shared this story, I was no longer asking for a budget increase for myself. Suddenly, it was for the benefit of everyone.

Know the names of the people on the Finance Team.
Rookie mistake. I called a guy Jeff for an entire meeting. His name was John.

Treat your proposal like it’s important because it is.
The first time I wrote a budget proposal, I was a 21-year-old in Business School. My proposal was 17-pages and impeccably formatted with color charts and graphs. I even had one of my professors review the thing for me. I found out years later that no one on the team actually read past the third page. But I got the budget approved because according to either Jeff or John, “If it was that important to you, we figured it should be that important to us.

Saturate the entire process in prayer.
Just because it seems like a business transaction doesn’t mean it’s not a spiritual one. You’re talking about the allocation of the gifts that other people have given unto God, and you’re likely having that conversation with several people who have to make several difficult decisions. A little of God’s wisdom is absolutely necessary.

This entire process can be pretty intimidating, and you’ll likely have more questions. I’ll be happy to engage you in the comments and answer any questions you might have.

Aaron Helman is a youth minister in South Bend, Indiana and the creator of Smarter Youth Ministry. He wants to reduce your frustration so that you can do ministry forever. Join his free email list to get a copy of his Budget Questions Worksheet.