5 Ways to Keep Money from Making a Mess of Your Ministry

By James Racine December 11, 2014

Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

I remember the day well. We met at the Mall of America parking lot about to embark on a weeklong trip down to Knoxville Tennessee for a national youth conference. The bus was packed with students, volunteers, and luggage, ready to go. As the bus began the journey, a sudden downshift and sharp left turn sent a cooler full of ice and drinks sliding toward me from the right, and a student who was getting situated flying toward me from the front. With the bus microphone in one hand, and a stack of waivers, medical forms, and directions in the other, I was able to catch the cooler, stabilize the student, and secure the forms. Did I mention that this happened while I was leading the team in prayer as we started on our way? In that moment, I remember thinking to myself, I was made for this! If you have had a moment like this—and most youth pastors have—you know that amazing feeling of knowing you’re in the right job.

While a career in youth ministry may be a bit more, let’s say, “business casual” than the average stockbroker on Wall Street, it is a high calling. Yet more than one youth worker has been surprised when their “dream job” required a few things that made them want to actually fall asleep. But it’s those very areas that set the tone for the parts of youth ministry you live and breathe for.

When it comes to ministry, money has caused a lot of messes. Yet, dealing with money is an inevitable part of any job. And if we learn to steward our resources well, we will see an eternal return on our investments. Jesus said, “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:11–12). We live with the conviction of honoring God with our finances. And, perhaps more than most other professions, our resources have a direct impact on eternal things.

How should we manage our ministry resources? It begins with vision:

1. Get clear on your vision. Before determining how you will be spending your ministry dollars, you have to become clear on your vision. A spending plan is not a vision. It is a strategy. Vision determines strategy. Once you have a clear vision, your budget can be a powerful way to communicate to others that, when it comes to making disciples, you mean business.

2. Determine what the ministry needs to be successful.
Assess what resources your ministry will need to accomplish the vision that God has given you. If you need more resources and can show others that these additional resources will help accomplish your ministry goals, don’t be afraid to ask. It will help in your presentation to prioritize your needs into categories such as immediate needs, short-term goals, long-term goals, and big dreams. John Maxwell says, “The size of your dream determines the size of the people who will be attracted to it.” When you dream big, and the dream is of God, you might be surprised who will want to give toward it.

3. Evaluate what is working and what is not. Each year, take some time to evaluate the previous year’s spending. Where did your resources go? What has had the biggest payoff? And then, stop spending money on what doesn’t work. As a youth pastor, I remember coming to the painful realization that scholarshipping the same family for our three big events every year was not the best use of our resources. We ended up developing a financial aid application and policy that required each recipient to pay something. It also capped how many times each student could receive the scholarship. That way, we could still help families attend events, but more than one family could benefit from our recourses.

4. Equip yourself. Ask yourself, what do I need to grow as a leader? Perhaps it is coaching, training, books, or new technology. Advocating for your own personal development is a sign of maturity, not weakness. Expressing your desire to grow as a leader of the ministry should cause people to take you seriously. Though my church didn’t have the resources to pay for my schooling, they did allow me to use a portion of my office hours each week for study. Whatever you do, commit to growing your own personal leadership.

5. What you do with your ministry money matters. Your spending speaks volumes about your leadership, about your values, and about the clarity of your vision. The money you have in your budget was given to you in good faith by people who work hard at their jobs. As Christ followers, we do this because we trust God, are obedient to his Word, and believe that the local church is still his plan to make disciples and build the kingdom. Consider the privilege and responsibility you have been given! Whether $500 a year or $50,000, you have been given resources to assist you in your job by people who believe in you to make disciples!

This is your great, glorious, and occasionally glamorous, job.

For further training on the topic of presenting yourself and your ministry well, visit www.RefuelRetreat.com and consider attending one of our upcoming retreats.

CC Image courtesy Tax Credits on Flickr.