Youth Ministry on a Budget
(Disclaimer: Before reading, please understand that I am not, in any way, saying that you 100% need money and “things” to have an effective youth ministry. As long as you are preaching the Gospel and pointing your students to Jesus, you’re doing what you are supposed to be doing. However, if possible, it’s nice to be able to utilize things that make your time together enjoyable. This post is to help you obtain those things, even if you do not have the means.)
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had an unlimited budget for your student ministry?
Or just…y’know…a budget?
The more youth workers I come into contact with, the more I realize that the average youth ministry is operating on little to no budget. This isn’t to say that you can’t effectively lead a youth group without any funds—you totally can—but, let’s face it: there’s quite a bit you can’t do without funds. For example:
Going to camp.
Holding and attending special events.
Student and volunteer outings.
Just to name a few.
While I wouldn’t say I am an expert in this area, I can say that there are some tips I’ve picked up along the way. Today, I’d like to share those tips with you, in addition to sharing some affordable resources that might be useful in your student ministry.
1. Determine Your Specific Financial Situation.
Recently, an individual on our student leadership team asked me if we had money in the budget set aside for student activities. If I remember correctly, my response was:
“Uhhh…I have no idea.”
After working in my position as youth director for just under a year, I was surprised that I had never taken the time to determine exactly what the financial state of our youth ministry was. Friend, don’t make the same mistake I did. Find out who is in charge of your church’s finances and make it a point to sit down and discuss the budget with them. There’s a chance that you’ll receive some good news and realize you had funds you never knew existed. There’s also a chance that you’ll learn there’s way less money than you thought. You’ll never know unless you ask. Asking will help you pinpoint exactly where you’re at and you will have a better idea of how to move forward.
2. Seek Out Help
Even though I wasn’t exactly sure what our youth group’s budget was (because I didn’t ask), I did know that there wasn’t much. This past summer, as our students were getting ready for camp, I found out that we weren’t able to acquire the proper supplies for an upcoming fundraiser. I was given the suggestion to reach out to parents and see if they would be willing to donate the things that we needed. The response was amazing. I had parents asking, “What do you need?” and “How can I help?”. They were willing to contribute whatever way they could.
While I know that not every ministry will have supportive parents, it truly cannot hurt to ask. Remind them that what they give is going toward the ministry of their children. And if asking the parents doesn’t work, reach out to other church members. There will always be somebody out there willing to help you as much as they can.
3. Get Creative.
The previous ministry I worked in had all of the typical devices you would find in today’s youth group: computers, projectors, stage lighting, a sound system—and that was just in the student building. From my desk in the main office I had access to multiple copiers, two children’s ministry resource rooms, and so much more. All of these things were so helpful when it came to making our programming run well. Imagine my distress when I transitioned to a church that provided less than what I was used to.
This is where I had to get creative.
I didn’t have a screen, so if I wanted my students to see something, I had to find a way to make them visualize it. Whether that was through a game or an interactive activity, I found ways to make it happen. No sound system? No problem. I just needed to figure out how I could arrange our youth space so that this wouldn’t be an issue.
We may not always have the tools that we want, but so many of us have what we need: The ability to think outside the box in order to be imaginative and creative.
And if you don’t think that you are, I’m sure God has no problem with you calling out to Him and asking for help in the area of creativity.
My prayer is that you would take these lessons that I’ve learned and implement them in your ministry; but more than that my prayer is, at the end of the day, you would remember that the success of your ministry does not lie in your budget or lack thereof. The Lord knows exactly what we need and what we don’t, and He will always provide.
I hope this made sense. Talking about money is awkward.
Here are a few, low cost, resources that come in handy:
Canva is perfect for easily creating graphics to be printed or shared online. Did I mention it was free?
I recently discovered this website. They offer tons of cheap (and sometimes FREE fonts), as well as low cost graphics. Similar to Canva, this is a site that’s helpful when making images for your ministry.
3. Five Below
I mentioned Five Below a few posts back. It is an awesome store that pretty much explains itself—everything is $5 and below. They sell tons of stuff—from games, candy, electronics, and décor. It is seriously every youth worker’s paradise.
Yall know that I have yet to let go of my "teacher roots". However, I'm not ashamed, because it's proved to be very helpful to me as a youth leader. Teachers Pay Teachers is an amazing website where teachers share ideas and affordable resources with each other. I have gotten many things from TPT that we've used in our youth group; such as games, ice breakers, fonts, calendars, and so much more. Seriously. Go check it out.
5. Shop Cheap and Hoard.
Okay, so this one isn't a website or a store--just a tip that I've learned! For our ministry, I try to shop at Dollar Tree and Walmart, as they are low-cost and consistent options. I also like to buy in bulk and "hoard" things until we need them. For example, when your group has an event, you will most likely need plates, napkins, cups, etc. You can get all of these things for less than $1! Buy a ton and keep them stashed away until you need them. Try to do this with items you know you will always need. In addition, try and shop for things when they go on clearance. Such as buying confetti and glow sticks after New Years Eve when stores are trying to get rid of them. Or looking for discounted Halloween candy on November 1st.
Hope these tips have been helpful!