It’s still the second biggest taboo in Youth Ministry after salary, but ministry budgets are really important to talk about even though discussing them make people squirm. I wrote a few months back about a better way of talking about budgets with other pastors by comparing budget on a per student basis. But a pattern that I have noticed in my ministry, and I have seen in others as well, is that an increase in budget can result in a decrease in diligence of good stewardship.
To give a little context to this, 2 years ago our youth ministry had a budget of 8% of what it was in 2001. There were similar amounts of students and leaders and 75% less paid staff. In the time between now and then was a period where the group shrunk and the budget did accordingly. I will never complain about the finite budget had because it taught me a few things:
Tight budgets breed creativity: There is a great book called $5 Youth Ministry and for many youth pastors that is the name of the game. Getting creative, shopping on craigslist, building a home made catapult pumpkin launcher; this is the stuff that the memories are made of. Not having a lot of money to spend creates environment where collaboration and brainstorming happen, where students and leaders can use their gifts in ways that buying a solution might now allow.
Tight budgets promote stewardship: I can remember vividly, 3 years in a row, where I was a volunteer in my early 20′s and not paying for a youth trip because I knew that if I dragged my feet long enough that the Church would just pay for it or forget about it. Not the lesson we want to teaching leaders and students. Following up with all students and leaders to make sure they pay is a great teachable moment around stewardship, commitment and integrity. Lets face it, it is also a great teachable moment for ourselves to learn to be thorough in planning and executing events.
Big budgets can breed wastefulness: As we have transitioned from a season of very tight budgeting to one where there has been an increase, I have noticed a decrease in my urgency to return things that I didn’t need, to buy more, or to buy frivolous things. It’s easy when there is a little more to spend, coupled with the attitude that I have to spend all of my budget if I want to get it back, that can cause purchases and events based solely on the reasoning of “why not?”.
I often need to remind myself that I am spending our congregant’s tithes that they have entrusted to me to spend for the furthering of the Kingdom. Having a small youth budget is not a death sentence, in fact it’s really a formative experience to work within one. Learning to use your budget wisely will allow for your effectiveness to grow proportionately with your budget.
Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.