Stop asking how much my youth budget is.

When I was in Chicago for SYMC Josh and I were chatting about budgets over steaks and a blue cheese wedge (which I had never seen or heard of until then) and we were batting around the complexity of budgeting and the fact that there its really tough to compare one church to another. But it never surprises me how the question of “how much is your youth budget?” is never far away when talking among Youth Pastors. My Church is mid-sized (2,000 people) but many of the Churches around us are smaller and talking about youth budgeting can become an apples and oranges conversation unless you crunch the numbers down to a comparable figure.

I have learned that when we talk about your budget is to never talk about the total, because unless you have the exact same size ministry, the numbers won’t really matter. Its much easier to have these conversations when you calculate dollars per active student. I would suggest that contrary to what Mark Devries (Sustainable Youth Ministry) argues, that a figure that excludes your salary is better because, salaries can be very different; even regionally, and in a single Youth Pastor setting that difference can skew the figures. And lets face it, it also keeps us from doing a head count at each others youth group and trying to crunch the numbers to figure out what each other make.

When I polled the Youth Ministries in my area, my other Youth Pastor friends were shocked when my quick survey revealed that their budgeting had between $110 and $175 per student per year and me at the “big church” was $48. It is really easy to be jealous when you hear what some youth ministries have for budget because you hear the total number, but the reality is that when you do the math its probably not nearly as rosy as you think.

So I guess what I am getting at is, if you want to have a great conversation with other youth pastors about money, maybe ask them how much they budget per student. Asking this way will result in less discouragement and allow for discussion of vision, value and purpose instead of, WHOA!, they give you how much?!?!?!

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

Few words are as exciting and frightful to me as these two: mission trip. On the one hand, I’ll be leading a group to serve Christ in an exciting new place. But on the other, how are we going to get there? And worst of all, how are we possibly going to raise all that money?

After experiencing this feeling for several years, I learned about Razoo. Razoo is a tool that helps churches and non-profits raise money online. I believe Razoo is a complete game-changer for mission trip fundraising. Since I joined the Razoo team, here are five tips that I’ve shared with many that will help you reach your fundraising goals faster and easier:

1. Keep everyone on the same page.
To get to your destination, you’ll need to stay organized. Razoo makes it easy by providing an online headquarters for you and your team. On your page, you can set your financial goal and departure date. And you can keep track of each person’s progress.

2. Kiss stamps goodbye!
You never need to send another letter again. Ask your supporters to visit your mission trip page on Razoo instead. Think of it as your online prayer letter. Your friends and family can find out all about your trip, watch a video, post a comment, and even donate.

3. Never send a tax-deductible receipt.
Sounds crazy, right? Here’s how it works: Razoo ensures that each of your supporters receives a tax-deductible receipt. As the trip leader, you can download a full donation report. Now you can spend less time in the office and more time with people.

4. Turn thank you notes into thank you videos.
Writing thank you notes can be an elusive skill. Razoo enables you to upload a customized thank you video instead. Now, when your supporters give, they can see the smile on your face.

5. Take all of your supporters with you.
Many of your friends and family members wish that they could go with you on your trip. Help them feel included by adding updates to your page or posting videos from your destination — even while you’re there!

Justin Wredberg works on the Razoo team and gets to see how it is already making a difference for youth group mission trip fundraising. Check out Harbor of Hope as an example of a church that is on its way to reaching its mission trip goals through this innovative tool. To learn more, contact Razoo at or call (866) 437-1952. They would love to hear from you!

I’m not in ministry. I no longer work with today’s youth (I used to). In fact, I don’t even have any kids! So what insight could I possible offer to youth workers? A lot actually! I’m a professional money manager. I am managing millions of dollars in various portfolios for clients all over the country. It is stressful, it is rewarding, and it is also my calling. I love what I do.

I hear the same thing from youth workers, too. That is, they love what they do….except for one thing: raising money for support! In fact, I once heard a youth worker say he’d rather try to milk a wild bull than ask people for money! However, if you follow a few easy steps and make it part of your daily routine, it can be not only very rewarding, but very gratifying too! And you probably won’t get kicked by a bull in the process.

Would you rather be a salesman or would you rather just talk to a friend? I’d rather just talk to a friend. That’s really what it all boils down to…talking to your friends.

In today’s technology filled world, you can talk to your friends in hundreds of ways. In my practice, I use e-mail, newsletters, thank you cards, phone calls, text messaging, snail mail, and I’m probably leaving a few out. When I reach out to my clients, do I ever ask for money? Absolutely Not!! Do my clients send money in for me to manage? You bet! How is this done? Talking to people like they’re friends.

Here are 5 simple rules to follow whenever you talk to people who may be able to support you:

  1. Talk to them like a friend by showing them you care. I know you care about them. That’s one of the main reasons you went into ministry. Be sincere. Be genuine. Call them on their birthdays. Take an interest in their lives and their family. Simply put — show them God’s love.
  2. Tell them about what you’re doing in your career. Do not ask them for support. That’s right…do not ask them. People (for the most part) are intelligent. They know you need financial assistance. Tell them about how you’re trying to go to Africa, or whatever it is you want to do. Use the word “trying.” Tell them that you need their prayers. Leave it at that.
  3. Ask them for their address. This is important. Why? So you can send them a newsletter! At least once a month, hand-address an envelope in your own handwriting with a nicely written update (mass produced newsletter is okay) on what you’re doing in your ministry. They will enjoy reading it and you will politely be keeping your name in front of them.
  4. Tell them about how you’re winning in the fight for Jesus. Everyone wants to be on a winning team. Tell people in your newsletter what your accomplishments have been and what your goals are for the rest of the year. They will want to join your team.
  5. Follow-Up!!! Josh knows that these are my 2 favorite words. If someone expresses the slightest interest in assisting you financially, call them! Don’t text them…too impersonal. Call your “friend” and see if the interest is sincere. If so….follow up! Collect phone numbers, addresses, build an e-mail list. Don’t ever say, “if you want to know what I’m doing, just visit my web page or see my facebook.” That is VERY impersonal, and besides, you’re violating rule #1 (above)! Don’t drop the ball here. This step is critical. Put it on your calendar. Write it down. Make sure you follow up, and don’t miss.

There are a few other things you could do, but most of them revolve around the above 5 steps. Show people you care. Send them a “thank you” when they do support you. Make it as personal and sincere as possible. If you simply treat others the way you would want to be treated, the financial support will come. Just be consistent.

Oh, and if you know of someone who needs a great financial professional to assist them with their retirement, please send me their e-mail address. I promise you, I’ll follow up!

Rob Vollmer was a long-time volunteer in the High School Ministry at Saddleback Church. He now works for First Allied Securities and can be contacted at

Yesterday, Josh talked about The 3 Best Gifts a Senior Pastor Can Give Their Youth Pastor. But what about youth pastors? What are the 3 best gifts we could give back? For me, it would NOT be an iPad since my pastor probably would not know what to use it for …

After reading the post from yesterday, I realized that the 3 best gifts I could give my pastor were similar to what Josh blogged about. It’s also important to understand that when we choose to give these gifts, we ultimately benefit:

Just as I desire to be given ownership to lead the student ministry effectively, it’s important to realize that I have been called by God to lead students, not the whole church. The gift of trust can be given when I learn to effectively “lead up” and support the vision and direction of my senior pastor. It’s more likely that I will be given greater ownership and trust when I lead with trust.

Loyalty equals longevity for both of us. Just as I need faithful support to hang in for the long haul, I can’t forget that my pastor needs support as well. When he knows I’ve got his back, he’s more likely to have mine. My loyal support of my pastor can lead to greater longevity for both of us. After all, to a good degree, he is my meal ticket.

Want a good budget? Be a good steward… I have found that a good budget comes with trust that ministry dollars are being used effectively and diligently. With this comes a good communication for needs that exist as well as continuous vision casting for the student ministry.

Over the long haul I have found that when I give these gifts, I often receive so much more back, which ultimately is a win for my ministry and for my family. Even if we are in situations where the gifts are not reciprocated, it’s imperative that we choose to be gift givers…

What’s another great gift you could give your Senior Pastor?

Phil Bell is the Pastor of High School and College Ministries at Community Bible Church. He Twitters and Tumblrs.

I was asked by a friend recently what three gifts any youth pastor would want from their senior pastor. First of all, I thought, “Huh, I just had Christmas and a birthday and I didn’t get ANYTHING from Pastor Rick.” Then I remembered I didn’t get him anything either, or have any idea when his birthday even was in the first place. Yikes.

After that little rabbit trail, I thought about how good of a question it was, and that I should blog about my responses and ask you to weigh in as well. If my senior pastor could give me 3 things (and it wasn’t something like an iPad, because I’d gladly take that, too) I would want these:

More than anything else, I want to be given the leadership of the ministry. I want to be trusted with the vision and decisions of the ministry. I want a senior pastor who believes in me and trusts me to follow God’s Spirit and his/her leadership in accomplishing that vision.

Loyalty equals longevity. If you want me to stay in the trenches for the long run, stick with me. I’ll probably need your defense (hey, I’m a youth worker) and covet your partnership and friendship in the heat of the spiritual battle. A quick way to run a youth pastor out of town is to be disloyal.

I hesitate to put this one out there on the list – but it is a HUGE gift to be well-taken care of as a pastor/family and a HUGE gift to have money for scholarships and programming. I put it last for a reason, but also included it for a reason, too. Take care of your people and they will take care of your people.

My hope is that you as a youth worker read this, nod your head and add another “gift” in the comments. That way, when your senior pastor Googles their way to this post, they’ll have lots of ideas and put one or two of them into practice.

What is another amazing gift a senior pastor can give their youth worker?


POLL DAY: Budget Cuts

 —  December 14, 2010 — Leave a comment

Let’s say you have a budget, which is awesome alone. But it gets cut. Where do you look to make the first cutbacks of these poll options?


Spending your own money as a youth workers is part of the gig. How much do you spend on students/youth ministry a month?


A common challenge we face as youth workers is the decision of whether or not to subsidize an event or trip. The reasons for doing this could include, keeping the cost per student down, allowing more students to come or perhaps paying for a single student that cannot afford to come at all. There are a couple of things we should consider before do so.

What Message are we sending? — Covering the cost of a student or lowering the cost for all students can send two different messages that we should be aware of.

1 — The Church cares about me: Obviously this is the message that we want to get across, that the Church cares so much about you, that its people are willing to give their tithes and resources to funding a student who can not afford it. We want each student to know that the people of our Church love like Christ loves and care for people like He would.

2 — The Church is about me: This is not the message that we want to convey but unfortunately there are many cases where that is what is heard. I know that there are students and families out there that would prefer not to pay because they know that we will cover the costs of their child if they choose not to. What’s worse is that this can become engrained in them at a young age, that the Church is a place you take, regardless of need.

If you are going to cover a student’s cost, make sure ask the questions to find out the true need, explain where the money would be coming from and if necessary, respectfully decline if you feel that they are taking advantage of the situation. Once there is a precedent set, there can be an inherent expectation that the price will be the same year after year.

Does it build the Kingdom?: A fellow Pastor in my area inherited a ministry, which holds an annual ski trip that regularly loses upwards of 40% of their annual budget. He has been wrestling with the reality that this might not be the best use his budget. Nearly everything we do can be argued to be Ministry, but it is important to evaluate if an event is supporting the purpose of your ministry, especially if you are spending large portions of your budget on it.

Can they pay something?: We always see if the student can pay something, not because we are cheap, but because we see value in students being good stewards of their money early in life. If they don’t come on the retreat, odds are they will be doing something with their friends that weekend, we decide with them what that would have cost and ask them to pay that much. Its not punitive, but a good teaching opportunity.

Are there other funding options?: The obvious solution here is to fundraise, which is always the best choice. But besides the obvious, being resourceful within your own church is a good place to start. Depending on the event, most churches will allow Benevolent Fund donations to be used for events to sponsor students. Another great option is to partner with your adult ministries team to find families willing to provide scholarships for students.

Choosing to Subsidize an event or not is a big decision – we want people to come to it, we want students to bring their friend and we want it to be affordable for families but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the Ministry as a whole. But before you subsidize, it is vital that you know what message you are sending to students and parents by doing so.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to You can, too! See how right here.