I just got off the phone with a youth worker who overspent summer camp by $6,000. Now, his entire youth ministry budget is $9,000 – two months into the church’s fiscal year nearly his entire youth ministry budget is toast. So now what? As I thought about his situation (a little shout out to Mike!) I came up with a few practices that have worked for me when we have to pinch every penny:

Don’t be afraid to change the calendar
I wrote 6 Ways to Stretch Your Youth Ministry Budget, and when there’s little or no money left that’s when those principles have to be put into practice. Just because something is already on the calendar doesn’t mean it gets a free pass in the new day. Go low cost. Go free. Don’t subsidize it. Cut it. Change up the youth ministry calendar to reflect your revised financial state.

Make every event break-even
I’ve posted in the past 4 Rules to Make Sure Break-Even Events Break Even, and with no budget left to spend this is more critical then ever. Be extremely conservative in your estimates. Set and promote registration deadlines and stick to them so you’re not stuck with the bill. Charge a couple bucks extra, even if it means taking a few less students.

Wait for super deals on resources
With little or no budget left, you might have to put the brakes on significant purchases for your youth ministry. And while some dreams may have to go on hold – good deals on youth ministry resources pop up from time to time so take action when they do. Look for bundle deals, or products that you can purchase one time that keep giving all year (specifically subscription stuff, like the LIVE small group curriculum, or Simply All Access).

Find ways to get more funding
Asking for more budget due to mismanagement will be a tough ask. But growth in your youth ministry is totally a viable reason to look into getting more funds. If you’ve grown 15% halfway through the year, consider going to your leadership and asking for ways to fund the growth – that’s the best kind of “blowing your budget.” Consider making your need visible to the church body and look at other fundraising options if your church allows.

If you’re on a tight budget 1) be thankful you’re fortunate to have one at all, and 2) you may want to consider picking up $5 Youth Ministry which … ironically … costs $9.99.


So the official website just went live for the 2011 Simply Youth Ministry Conference. It lists amazing speakers and great workshops, along with plenty of other reasons to plunk down your hard-earned money (or youth ministry budget if you’re lucky enough to have one) to register and attend. But I might have a way for you to skip out on the whole “paying for it” part.

I’m giving away 2 registrations to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago March 4-7, 2011. All you have to do is leave a comment with one thing you love (or would love) about attending a conference with 3,000 other youth workers!

Enter now – and I’ll select one at random next Tuesday!


Thought that my man DC had some great thoughts about spiritual growth today – good to pass along to your student leaders or even to challenge yourself with this last day of summer. Here’s a clip, head there for the rest:

  • DISCIPLINE: Are you sick of poor spiritual growth? Then know that you’re the only one who can change it. Develop of plan/method and follow through with it. Budget time for it and get it done!
  • BE FLEXIBLE: Rigid plans/methods are ESSENTIAL, but don’t lock yourself into lofty goals, like reading the entire Bible in a month. Instead, aim for realistic goals like reading AND DIGESTING one book in the Bible in a month. Finishing earlier is just icing on the cake!
  • BE FREE: You have the freedom to develop a “custom” plan for your growth. Be free to do what will work for you…this implies you know yourself. You don’t have to take what someone else did and replicate it. (Although sometimes that’s a good place to start if you’re in the same place spiritually

DC is a youth worker worth following. Add him to your RSS feed reader!


You don’t have to be a youth worker very long before you feel the urge to quit. The challenges of ministry swirl together to create a daunting vortex of difficulty – church politics, ineffective leadership, slashed or non-existent budgets, elders, “the way it has always been”, conflicting visions, personality clashes, relational pain and so much more. I realize I’m not painting a beautiful picture of youth ministry right now, so hang with me.

I would say for most it hits somewhere around the end of your first year – for me it was a couple years in. The honeymoon was over and I got my first taste of church ugliness. You start to think about quitting. You’re just not sure you’re cut out for it. You wonder if the elders on the church board are even Christians.

I’ve quit many times before – only to be brought back to life by 1) realizing the problem could be overcome, 2) the words or encouragement from a close friend, or 3) realizing that ministry isn’t pretty or easy, but I’m called to it. If you’re feeling pretty low, I hope these point you in the right direction today:

Fight through it
Get behind the feelings of failure or frustration – are you ready to quit over a problem you created, a person you loathe or a situation that seems beyond repair? Throwing in the towel is an impulsive decision that has been thought about for a long time. [I realize that sentence doesn’t make sense, but I really like it]. One final person, comment or failure pushes you off the cliff – the only choice you have left is to call it quits. But don’t settle for simply giving into the barrage of emotion. Is it really the end of the world as we know it? Is there really no hope? Is God truly done with you where you’re at? Be careful to test your emotions and motives when the going gets tough – you might be surprised what you find a little deeper under the surface. It probably is about half as bad as you think it is. Still bad, but worth fighting through.

Surround yourself with people you love
The biggest rescuer of my urges to quit are the teammates that I love. Surrounding yourself with great co-laborers is absolutely key. My spouse is number one – when I’m down she knows what to say, when not to say anything and what to ask to get me out of my funk. My team is a close second – people that I serve with every day in the trenches of youth ministry. Some of the people that share my passion, hopes, dreams and frustrations of ministry pick me up. Do you have some key people on your volunteer team that you love being around? Do you have a safe place to vent or talk through a situation? Our family loved having dinner with an amazing couple and their daughters this past week. Absolutely life-giving.

Remember your calling
I have a moment … that whenever I feel like quitting I hold on to. I was sitting in the Dean of Men’s office at the college I was attending, he simply said, “Josh, you would make a great youth pastor. Why are you going into business?” That conversation led me on a journey to what would eventually be a divine calling into youth ministry. That key mentor in my life pointed me to an opportunity, we prayed, God answered. I’ve served in 2 churches since then (one in Michigan, the other here at Saddleback) and have both had incredible highs and lows – and I remember my calling vividly when things get tough. Why did you get into youth ministry in the first place? Hopefully there is a memory or spiritual moment where you recall God calling you to serve His children. Maybe at first you just volunteered, and God did something in your heart. Maybe you’re still volunteering, but you know you’ve been chosen for this work.

Seems like I’ve been getting more and more emails from youth workers ready to throw in the towel. Maybe God is moving you? Certainly could be. Maybe it is a test of your character and He wants you to stay put? Either way – honored to be in the same profession with you, my friend. Hang in there.

Help someone who’s ready to quit youth ministry with a thought/encouragement in the comments, too.


Looking for some summer resources for your youth group? Simply Youth Ministry is running a $5 shipping promotion for any size order. A few suggestions:


The impending shift to 3D television really intrigues me.

I get the draw of 3D in theaters – a unique and somewhat novel experience on a few big budget films specifically made to fully utilize the format – but I’m not sure it is going to work at home. In the last couple of years people already hopped onto the flat panel TV craze – are they going to be so quick to make another $1,500+ purchase to make the jump to 3D? The droves of people dropping cable and satellite subscriptions in favor of Hulu and mobile TV surely can’t be relied upon to make the upgrade either.

I read a feature article in Wired a month ago (1 of 6 magazines I read religiously) that showed how Sony is betting essentially their whole organization that you and I will gleefully board the 3D bandwagon this summer. Right after reading it a buddy told me that the Sony Style store was demoing the new technology and that I had to at least check it out. Being the early adopter wannabe that I am (you have to be somewhat loaded to be one for real), I grabbed the kids and made a special trip just to see the 3D TV demo.

It was really, really impressive.

My Twitter from inside the store was full of respect and awe for the new TV, I’m a believer. I wish they had been playing some different genres of clips – but Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs looked incredible. Made me wish that George Lucas would get moving on Star Wars 3D. 3D at home looked better than 3D in the theater – brighter, richer and ultra clear.

So will we be hi-5ing each other after a 3D touchdown, all wearing our special 3D glasses in the living room? Will we dish out major dollars for a new TV and put the old flat-screen for the Xbox360 in the kids’ room? I’m not totally sure (I’m a pastor, not a prophet) but the future looks really, really good. And it’s in 3D.


While I was at the Sony Style store I learned about the X10 Blogger Contest. As a finalist, Sony provided me with a free Sony Ericsson X10 phone and a PSPgo and FIFA Soccer 10 game in connection with my participation in the Sony Ericsson/Sony Style X10 Blogger Contest, which requires me to blog about Sony and/or Sony Ericsson Products.

“David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God.” 1 Samuel 30.6

I have a few friends and fellow ministers that swear TWITTER is a complete waste of their time and monthly text message budget. I’ve tried to argue otherwise with little to no success. Some have created a twitter account just to shut me up but still not a tweet from them. Some have yet to maximize its full networking power and have limited their occasional tweets to a very select group of friends and colleagues. Still some have focused on the negatives and have resolved to never explore the positive side of twitter.

I don’t know what your opinion of twitter is but if you have yet to find yourself consumed with the tweets of world leaders, global missionaries, engaging authors, revolutionary leaders, and inspiring messengers of the Good News like I have; I hope this will change your mind. I appreciate the technology of twitter because of the opportunities and platform it offers me to receive and share words of wisdom, encouragement, and humor.

Yesterday, as I sat in Wendy’s enjoying my lunch; killing time while my car was getting an oil change at the adjacent mechanic shop, I received one of these encouraging tweets. This is what the tweet said:

@rickwarren: To last in ministry learn what David did: “He ENCOURAGED HIMSELF in the Lord” (1 Sam 30.6) Don’t expect others to do it for you.

Just as soon as I read this tweet from Dr. Rick Warren, founding pastor of Sabbleback Church, leader of the Purpose Driven Network of churches, and best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life, I had to know the context of the verse he was referring to.

In this passage King David and his men of approximately 600 had just returned home from a battle that apparently no one really wanted them around for. Upon arriving at their town of Zilag they found that an opposing army had raided it and burned it to the ground. This raiding party had also carried off their women, children, and everyone else. Already returning home with their spirits deflated and now devastated from this tragic situation the Bible says these men “wept until they could weep no more.”

Their weeping soon turned to rage toward their leader, King David, whom they wanted to hold responsible for their loss. These men began contemplating stoning him. It was David’s response to this life-threatening plot that brought @rickwarren to send his tweet. The Bible says that David, “found strength in the Lord his God.”

When facing adversity or opposition we can learn from David how God would want us to respond. Notice I said ‘when’ not ‘if’ because we can be sure that with leadership comes adversity. In those moments it would be easy to raise the white flag but in leadership we have to realize that we are working to please God and not those we are called to lead. We can’t give up and we can’t give in; we must, like David, ask God to give us strength to keep moving forward. Because David chose to seek God for strength to move forward he was able recover all that was taken from him and his men with interest.

So when you find yourself facing what you feel is the death of God’s plan for your life, your ministry, and your future don’t give up! Seek God and you too will find “strength in the Lord” your God!

What does all this have to do with twitter? Well, nothing really, accept for the fact that without having an active twitter account I would have never received this encouraging word that I feel God had for me and for you.

So, DON’T GIVE UP and sign-up for twitter!

Shon Bradford is a Student Ministry Pastor and blogs right here.

Our fiscal year ends in June, but for many youth workers, the end of the year means a reset to the budget year. I realize not every youth ministry benefits from the blessing of a budget and even if you do, times are really tight for everyone right now. Either way, here are a few of the things I might spend end of year budget on:

Are you kidding me? Money left? I’ve actually a little overspent or barely have enough to go to McDonald’s with! If that’s the case – use the pennies left and hit up the Dollar Menu and taking out your senior pastor to help soften the blow when he/she actually finds out the bottom line. I recommend springing for the McRib combo.

Invest in items that benefit you in the next fiscal year
Use the offerings and tithes that have been entrusted to you by getting some long-term bang for your buck. Looking for small group material that will work in the coming year? Grab the LIVE curriculum now, and set yourself up for the next season of small groups. Think about services like SimplyTxt or stocking up on sale items and discover discounts that will give you a supply of resources you typically reach for close at hand.

You can never go wrong with volunteer training
Search for end of the year resources to help encourage and/or train your team in the various aspects of youth ministry. Picking up Youth Worker Training on the Go or a little book for each of them might be good use of your budget money. Short, quick reads will always win. Be sure to write a note inside, too!

Go for personal development
This is a big one for me – when I head into the end of a budget year, I try to register for an event or training that will help me be a better youth pastor. Registering in advance is expected, and doing it over two budget years may allow you to spread the costs out. This year I’ll be at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago – spots are going fast (I hear it is 75% sold-out) and it’d be fun to meet you and you could use the break.

Pre-pay for Events, Camps or Retreats
If you know the camp or retreat center you’ll be using in the coming year, consider placing a deposit on the location and lock it in. If you’re doing an event at a rollerskating rink and you know the date, plunk down some money in advance while you’ve got it.

A few ideas as we end 2009 – if you are interested in more related articles, check out 6 Ways to Stretch Your Youth Ministry Budget, When to Buy Youth Ministry Resources or the book $5 Youth Ministry.