From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog for YOU to answer. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about violence and accidents that happen during youth group. Was hoping you could share your thoughts in the comments, too. Weigh in!

I was wondering, when it comes to youth trips, how are chaperones funded in your ministry?  Does everyone pay out of pocket?  Are all of their costs subsidized by the ministry budget or fundraisers?  Is there a split between the two? I was just curious as to what your policies are.  How many “trips” would an adult leader have the opportunity – or even be expected – to attend in the course of a year with your youth group?

JG

Thought that Greg Stier wrote a solid post to kickoff the New Year – here’s a clip from his post, 5 Reasons I’m Excited About Youth Ministry in 2013 that I think is worth the read:

1. A lack of budget triggers a more mature approach to youth ministry.
The value of a strained US economy is that smaller church offerings can lead to tighter youth ministry budgets. Before you call me crazy remember that a smaller youth ministry budget can lead to less goofiness and more seriousness when it comes to youth ministry programming. And that’s a good thing.

God has blessed me with the privilege of leading a ministry called Dare 2 Share for the last twenty years. We train teenagers to share their faith all across the country. Because much of our income is donor related when “The Great Recession” hit in 2008 we had to cut staff, slash programs and sharpen our focus. While these were challenging times God has used it in powerful ways to make us more serious and strategic about a much more singular mission. The same can happen for youth ministries that get their budget slashed. Sometimes a “fiscal cliff” becomes a bridge to a more mature approach to youth ministry. Less sizzle, more steak.

4. Youth ministry and family integrated ministry find their groove…together!
There is a battle in many churches over the role of the traditional youth ministry model and the family integrated model (moms and dads discipling their own children.) It seems to me that there is a “best of both worlds” solution that some youth ministries are starting to tap into. The power of parents leaning into the spiritual development of their own children combined with a setting where teenagers can relate to other teenagers spiritually could be the model that catapults youth ministry to the next level. The more spiritually mature adults who are willing to mentor their children/teens and other children/teens the better! This should happen at home and church! The youth leaders who are seeing the power of Titus 2 (older women mentoring young women/older men mentoring young men) should do nothing more than accelerate the mission of the youth leader and godly parents. Sure, there will still be the “our way is the only way“ people, but, most youth leaders should be able to merge the power of both approaches into their youth ministry models.

JG



If you are fortunate enough to even have a youth ministry budget, most of us work to preserve at least a chunk of it until the end of the year. For many, that means some critical purchasing power at the end of the calendar year (or fiscal year, depending on when your church “resets” everything back to the start).

If you find yourself in these merry last few days of the year with some funds left to spend on your own development and your youth ministry, here are a few recommendations for you to consider:

A resource for your students
Think of a spiritual growth tool to put in your students’ hands to help them grow in their faith. Right now the 1-Minute Bible (the most popular resource in our Grow Booth each year) is only $6.99 and a total steal at that price. Next closest is Amazon at $10.14. Lots of other great options to get good stuff in your students’ hands, too!

A training event for you
There are a ton of great training events and conference on the local, denominational and national level. Pick one that has some offerings that will encourage you were you are at and push you where you need to grow. I highly recommend the upcoming Simply Youth Ministry Conference and I’d love to meet you at one of the events I’ll be attending in the future, too! You can get a great book or tool – those are certainly helpful – but there is something special about being in the same room with hundreds of other men and women who share your calling.

A challenge for your volunteers
Find a great resource to develop your team, too! 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders has been fortunate enough to be one of the best-sellers of the year at Simply Youth Ministry. Doug Fields and I wrote it to help youth workers lead their groups better – think of it as leader training in a simple little book. Combine it with a Starbucks card and it is a total winner. On sale right now for $4.99.

What are you thinking about buying here at the end of the year?

JG

When I inherited my budget I remember thinking, “Okay, where do I start?” I had everything from moon bounces to ski trips. I had volunteer stipends and non-capitalized equipment (Not sure what that meant). I just took a stab at what I thought it would be and to my surprise it got approved. To tell you the truth not much was different from the previous year. That next year I would go over my budget in some areas and under on others, which is typical. As the ministry began to change and evolve my anxiety levels increased and so did the need for a larger budget. Instead of analyzing what I was doing with my budget, I just felt like it needed to grow.

No one gets into youth ministry to manage a budget; however, it’s a necessary part of the job. If managed correctly you can maximize your resources and extend your impact even further. It’s not always about needing more, instead it’s figuring out how to be wise with what we have. To maximize your budget you need to understand it, and to do that you should:

Consult The Church Financier: Sit down with the person who runs the overall church budget and ask them to explain how it works. Where is the income for your budget? Is it purely giving? Tuition, and camp registrations? Where is the money coming from? Get the big picture of how money comes in and it will help you see why your budget won’t always grow.

Seek Outside Advice: If someone in your church is an accountant or is just awesome at budgeting, sit down with them and get their insight on how to track a solid budget. Sometimes the challenge isn’t creating a budget as much as it is tracking. Get their advice on bookkeeping so that you can maintain the margin you need.

Label, Categorize And Organize: Whether your budget is itemized or just one big lump, it’s important to categorize. When your budget is in categories it will help you track where money needs to be spent and what need to be eliminated. This can be hard, but it’s important. Sit down, look at where you spend your money and categorize it.

Ask The Difficult Question: Do you really need it? It’s easy to assume everything on your budget is necessary because you put them there. But if an outsider were to sit down and look at your budget could you justify to them why you spend, what you spend? This is where you may need accountability so that you aren’t wasting your money.

If you can accurately build and maintain your budget you’ll be able to give accurate information to leadership when they decide whether or not to increase it. It won’t happen every time; however, they’ll value the work and research that goes into it. Times are tough, everyone is living tight and that’s why we need to be wise with our money. If you don’t get an increase in budget it shouldn’t deter you from being a wise steward. When we are wise with our money, we open ourselves to God’s blessings.

How do you maximize your youth ministry budget?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.



Every few weeks, I hear about youth workers who need new jobs.

  • Sometimes they leave because they want to
  • Sometimes they’re asked to leave. We call this a forced resignation.
  • Other times, they’re outright fired

When I started to learn about how devastating the effects of youth worker turnover are for the local church, I started doing some research. I discovered several themes – the easiest and most common factors that cause good youth workers lose or leave their jobs. Make sure you’re not one of them

If you want to stay in youth ministry for the long haul, don’t do these five things:

1. Mismanage budgeted money. Depending on your theology, it’s either God’s money or other people’s money. Either way, it’s not your money. You’ve been given the responsibility to be a good steward of some of your church’s resources. You might not know what you’re doing yet, but you’ll need to figure it out soon. (This link contains all kinds of good information about managing your church’s money better.)

2. Fight with your Senior Pastor – especially publicly. One problem with working in the Church is that many of your friends will come from the congregation. We all like to vent about our bosses, but if you’re venting to a fellow pew-sitter, you’re in the wrong. If you’re in the business of creating division in the Church, you won’t be a staff member for very long.

3. Show up late for your own events. Parents have their own jobs with their own responsibilities. They know exactly what would happen to them if they slept through their alarm more than once. You can expect the same thing to happen to you.

4. Work way too hard and never, ever take a break. Your own soul care ought to be a top priority. When you’re worn down and hurting, you’ll be less effective as a youth worker. Less effective youth workers frequently become baristas. Besides that, a lack of soul care is the easiest way to make sure you run yourself out of youth ministry. The church doesn’t have to fire you if you get exhausted and quit.

5. Refuse to participate in the larger life of the congregation. You’ll appear much more dispensable if the rest of the congregation never sees you – or your youth group.

Find ways for you and your students to become a crucial part of everything the congregation does. Crucial people are much more difficult to fire.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

You love working with students and despise working with money. That’s why you’re a youth minister and not an investment banker. But you also know the fastest way to lose your job is to mismanage your church’s money. You’re doing the best job you can with the funds you’ve been given, but it’s easy to mess up without even thinking about it. These are the four most common money mistakes I see when I help youth workers manage their budgets:

1. Paying sales tax sometimes or all of the time. Depending on your state, as much as 7% of your budget could go to sales taxes if you’re not careful. It takes just a little bit of work on the front end to figure out tax-exempt systems, but after that, it’s a no-brainer to make sure you don’t pay what you don’t have to pay.

2. Being too optimistic when paying deposits or buying tickets. I know, it would be awesome if 80 students showed up for the Switchfoot concert, but if that’s never happened before, you can’t count on it. Don’t get stuck with forty extra tickets – that’s like setting $1,200 on fire.

3. Failing to negotiate totally negotiable prices. Imagine you ran a retreat center that was running far below capacity during the off-season. Would you rather rent your space at discounted price or not rent it at all? Can you imagine how many fundraisers you could cut if you asked for and received a 20% discount on your next big rental?

4. Focusing on saving pennies instead of making a few big wins. I know a guy who would call his volunteers to ask them to cut pizza coupons from the Sunday paper. It saved him a few dollars, but he would have saved hundreds of dollars and hours of time if he’d just called the pizza place and asked for a church, non-profit, or large group discount.

Now it’s your chance to be the teacher. What is one of the money mistakes you’ve made? How did you fix it?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like managing money. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.



 

We love being able to throw a question out to the MTDB community and this one comes from Chris Hansen from First Presbyterian Church in Lincoln Nebraska.

Chris asks:

I have been discussing with my leadership team about increasing the amount of relational ministry we do with students. Specifically we have been talking about increasing our time spent taking students for meals and coffee. One on one time is powerful and there is something so incredible about breaking bread with them over a meal. The problem is that we don’t necessarily have the funds available to cover these costs. 

So have have you been able to find alternative sources of funding for hospitality besides the Church putting in your budget? 

 

-Geoff

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.