When I inherited my budget, I remember thinking, “OK, 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 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 needs 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 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?
This humorous video illustrates the difficulties of explaining the Trinity without accidentally veering into heretical territory.