youth ministry, student ministry, youth ministry budget, spending in youth ministry

How to Stretch Your Ministry Budget

By Andy Lawrenson October 19, 2017

Ministry requires money, and while money should never be our only concern, it’s important that we learn how to utilize our budget to create the most impact in our youth ministries. Whether our budgets are large or small, we each face financial challenges and limitations. But with the help of these 5 Best Budgeting Practices, we can stretch the dollars of our ministry budgets for the upcoming or current fiscal year.

5 Best Budgeting Practices

1. Have Budget Input (Share Your Vision) 

As the leader of the ministry, you need to have some input into the ministry budget. Take time to think through what God wants you to accomplish in the coming year. What vision has he given you, and what will it take in dollars and cents to successfully pull off that plan or strategy? Then share these thoughts with your budget committee. People give to vision; be prepared to humbly and respectfully ask them to buy into your vision and give you what you need.

“If you fail to keep close track of your budget you will have no idea where your money is going, and a lack of knowledge won’t set you up for a success church leadership.”

2. Track your budget

Just like with personal finances, it’s easy for your budget to get way from you. A clear best practice in budgeting is to make sure you are tracking the youth ministry budget in some form. I use a church credit card for most of my purchases, so I keep track by reconciling my card statement each month and watching where the spending is going. I also utilize the monthly report from our church treasurer which shows where our budget is at during that month, that quarter, or year to date. Other youth workers I know create an Excel spreadsheet and use it like you would a checkbook register. They start with the beginning balance as their annual total and subsequently code or categorize their spending. If you fail to keep close track of your budget you will have no idea where your money is going, and let’s just say that a lack of knowledge won’t set you up for a successful relationship with your church leadership.

3. Make it work

Every youth ministry spends their budget differently, but there are great tips and tricks for cutting costs and making your budget work for you.

Get creative about your food purchases. The bulk of our youth ministry budget goes to our weekly youth group gathering, and because our students love to eat, a good portion of our budget currently goes towards food costs. I recently began creating an online sign up through a free service called signupgenius.com. I create sign up slots for each week and ask church members and volunteers to purchase the items needed for our weekly programming. I also purchase a gift card at the local grocery store for the total amount of our food budget and give it to our team of volunteers to use. Knowing that they have “X” amount to spend has challenged my team to get creative and wise in their spending. Another idea that we’ve used in the past is to have all the girls bring chips and all the guys bring two liters of soda at the beginning of every month.

Cut down on supplies. Make your budget work by minimizing expenditures on games. There are many games that require no supplies, and some games require minimal supplies. Look for “Minute to win it” style games that utilize materials you already have around your youth room or church.

Look for freebies. Great teaching videos can sometimes be found on YouTube or Vimeo. Look for free lessons or resources. Check out the LeaderTreks Freebie page.

Tips like these free up budget money to be used elsewhere.
4. Network with other youth pastors

Take advantage of your relationships with other churches and youth pastors to save money on your budget and theirs.

Share messages. Consider partnering with other youth workers to create messages for your youth group gatherings and small groups. You can then share the messages and discussion guides and tweak them to fit your youth group context. You may even be able to share graphics, games, or videos. This can be done locally or by connecting with other youth pastors who live far away. Use the World Wide Web to your advantage!

Trade supplies. Other student ministries may have supplies from events and games that they have used and won’t use again. Rather than letting those resources sit in a storage closet for years, offer up a trade.

Swap speakers. Your budget may not allow you to bring in a “big name” guest speaker, but you may know a youth ministry friend who is great at communicating with students. Consider a swap: “You teach my retreat, I teach your retreat.” You could also pull together with other youth ministries in your area and share in the cost of the training your adult volunteers.

5. Spend for impact

Spend money so that you’re free to have impact. Personally, I would rather spend 5 hours investing in students lives than 5 hours researching and writing curriculum. That’s just me; it’s how I am wired. I do write aspects of our curriculum, but I prefer to invest our budget into curriculums, DNows, messages, and small group materials that give me the freedom to do what I do best. Get creative, and decide what spending will free you up to have the most impact in students’ lives.

Your ministry budget doesn’t have to be your biggest challenge or your greatest headache. As you enter into the next fiscal year or work within the current one, determine what you need to fulfill God’s vision for the ministry. Keep close track of your expenses. Look for opportunities to save and share, and spend money where it leads to impact.

About the Author

Andy Lawrenson

Andy Lawrenson has been in student ministry for 26 years both as a volunteer and paid staff member.  Andy and his wife, Misha, have been married for 28 years and have three children: a son in middle school and twin eight-year-olds, a boy and girl. Andy loves getting together with other youth pastors to talk about…  Read More