Had a chance to getaway with some of our youth ministry leadership team the past couple of days and really process some of the common pitfalls that youth pastors face as they navigate ministry. My mind has hovered around particularones that I have personally witnessed in my recent experience in youth ministry:

  • Overspending or misuse of church funds
  • Inappropriate relationships
  • Compromising staff/church policies

Let’s talk money
Want to avoid the common pitfall of mismanaging money? You need to know how to budget – for your church and yourself. Make sure you know your church’s culture for spending, get informed on spending expectations, what is or isn’t OK to purchase, and your church’s accounting policies and best practices. What is the real story behind the budget line you were given at the annual meeting. Save your receipts. Turn in reports on time. Be generous with scholarships and stingy with things that directly benefit you. Make handling money a top priority and honor the tithe money people sacrificed to give.

Let’s talk boundaries
I’ve seen several youth workers leave ministry recently because they didn’t stay faithful to their spouse, or flirted with danger as an unmarried youth worker. Don’t fall into this common trap! Don’t become another of the alarming youth ministry statistics. Allowing the possibility in your mind is the first step in a downward spiral that ends with compromises, secrets, lies and eventually your job. Make sure you have someone who is allowed full access to your online world and has the freedom to call you out if and when they see warning signs you might be in danger.

Let’s talk staff covenants
Many churches have a signature-required lifestyle covenant you agree to when you come on staff or take on a volunteer leadership role. Your integrity is on the line when you break that agreement. If you agree to it – no matter how absurd the rule may be – stick to it! Signing a covenant like this than publicly derailing it is a sign of immaturity and lacks integrity in your leadership.

Handle church financial stuff well. Keep clear boundaries with the opposite sex. Have integrity when it comes to the staff covenants you sign. What are other common youth ministry pitfalls and how do you avoid them?

JG

It happens to the best of us. It happened to me yesterday. And if I’m honest maybe the past couple months. Any of these ring a bell with you – some have felt pretty familiar to me in my youth ministry experience!

  • getting paid less than equals
  • little to no website exposure
  • higher expectations of you than others
  • total absence in the bulletin
  • budget cuts … again
  • note getting credit
  • feeling invisible in your church
  • they still won’t let me hire an assistant
  • not getting enough resources
  • spouse expectations
  • we’re growing while the church is dying
  • the scape goat for everything
  • unsupported by the leadership

So we become martyrs. We resign ourselves that these feelings are the underpinning price of being faithful. That doing God’s work just isn’t fair and this is our lot in life. Crybaby. Pity party.

  • Take a few minutes and think about where you’re feeling sorry for yourself. Journal a few thoughts about your fair and unfair comparisons and the trap you have fallen into.
  • The blame game has no winners, only losers.
  • Confess where you are playing the martyr.  Martyrdom will always suck passion and create tension.
  • Believe you are not a victim. Victimization will only give you excuses instead of results.
  • You are not constantly suffering. You are actually alienating yourself from the leadership who is trying to do the best job that they can.

What would you add to either list?

JG



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



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.

College presents students with a windfall of free money. You receive money to spend on whatever you need from your parents, sponsors or guardians. But because college is often a carefree environment, overspending is a likely to happen. However, it doesn’t always have to be like this! Students need to determine how to best take advantage of the opportunities and money that comes their way.

As you learned yourself (maybe the hard way), the spending habits you pick in college are more likely to extend into your career. Here are a few simple, straight forward money management tips to share wit your students:

Keep off credit cards
Simply put: credit cards are usually bad for you. Avoid credit cards as much as you can. There is always the temptation to buy what you can’t afford to buy now. When you borrow or buy goods with credit cards, some of them charge hefty penalties for maintenance, interest rates, accruing interests, etc. Instead, focus on living in your means and if possible, use paper cash unless you have to. Use the credit card for emergencies only.

Keep off nonacademic debt
It’s hard enough living debt-free. People often leave college with staggering debt. Let the cost of your education be the only debts you accrue in college.

Save and splurge
Don’t rush into making any large purchases. Take time to save. Continue until you have enough cash to buy the product in cash. You will be amazed, with the technology advances of today, you won’t even need it by the time you can afford it.

Pay your bills on time
Many people have a problem paying bills. They cultivate this behavior in college. Avoid being a statistic. Whenever you can, pay your bill on time. Paying bills on time, especially those which charge penalties for delays can help you learn to have a rich financial base later after school is done.

What advice to you give your students about money?

Emma Cecil writes tips and advices for students at Rate My Professor.



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