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?

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.