Most of us were not called to youth ministry because of our amazing organizational skills. However, if we want to have a long and fruitful ministry, organization skills are a necessary part of leadership. They help us to use the resources we have been given to accomplish the vision the Lord has set before us.
While ministry is about relationships, planning our time and money will make our youth ministry program more intentional as we engage in those relationships. Let me give you some basic calendaring and budgeting tips that will help make these necessary, but sometimes burdensome, skills easier to manage in the future.
Set Aside a Day or Two
Spending time with students and studying God’s Word are our primary focus, but calendaring and budgeting are also important parts of what we do. Many youth ministers simply request a slight increase from last year’s budget, hoping to figure it out as they go through the year. Too often, they will calendar based on student input (Lock-in!) or an advertisement that came in the mail.
However, leadership includes both vision and communication of that vision. Not only is our vision communicated verbally, but also in how we spend our time and money. Through our calendar and budget, we have an opportunity to communicate to others what God is doing in our youth ministry. Additionally, thoughtful advance planning will show maturity.
Set aside time to seek the Lord for what God wants from your youth ministry. It could be an evaluation of weaknesses that you have observed in the previous year. It could be a longing in your heart for something more in a key area of your ministry or a focused area of growth in the maturation of students. Jesus gave us a model for going away to pray before making decisions (see Luke 6:12-16).
Once we have a good idea of our goals and vision for the year, base the calendar and budget with that in mind. Because so many great options are available (except Lock-ins), this helps us know when to say “no.”
While we want to intentionally focus on accomplishing our goals for the year, we must consider that there are certain things in ministry, such as annual events or programs, that cannot be done away with. I call these “sacred cows” because they often (not always) seem more important than the health of the ministry (maybe a Lock-in).
Some “sacred cows” may be a certain youth camp that the church has always attended, or a specific curriculum we must buy because of our denominational affiliation. Based upon tradition, certain events may have to be on the calendar every year. These can be added to the calendar first. The good news is these are fairly easy because we know when and what they are.
Tie Calendar to Vision
Now comes the more difficult, but often invigorating task, of determining what resources and events will best suit our vision for the year. Every year, we receive quite a bit of junk mail, most of which needs to be discarded. However, some resources and events might catch our eye as “not yet, but maybe someday.” For me, this was a girls’ ministry event. It featured some very godly ladies and a location that I knew my girls would love. However, the timing, vision, and budget didn’t fit. Nevertheless, I filed it away knowing that if I ever needed it, it would be there. Then, one year, we decided to focus on biblical manhood and womanhood. It was a no brainer that this girls’ ministry event was going on the calendar because it fit perfectly with our direction for the year.
Since this event was chosen, it did mean that other events that did not fit our vision,might need to go away. Yes, we’ve done them in the past, but we don’t need them every year. They aren’t “sacred cows”, meaning a majority of people are not going to come into my office and throw a fit about it. It can always be brought back later.
Create a list of events and programs you have done that were successful. The longer you stay in youth ministry, the more helpful this list will be. The goal is not to do everything on the list, but to use the list as options to help fulfill your vision as it adjusts throughout your ministry.
The other thing to watch for when calendaring is balance. Yes, the summer is going to be a busy season. It does not mean that the other nine to ten months need to be as busy. Calendaring allows you to see a big picture view of the year. You have already scheduled a Super Bowl party and a Valentine’s Banquet fundraiser in February. Do you really need to add one more event that month? November has a church wide Thanksgiving event, but that’s all. Perhaps, you should consider something for that month instead.
Tie Budget to Calendar
After creating the calendar, do a cost analysis of the year. Estimate the cost of everything on the calendar. What would it cost for the students and adults to participate? Decide if you will charge students and how much. Don’t forget to consider the ancillary costs like gasoline and meals for adults.
Remember other things that must go into the budget. There are programming expenses that do not show up on a calendar such as curriculum and youth room supplies, which need to be included in the budget as well.
With a full calendar and program, we need to see if we can pay for it. We have big dreams, but we also need to be good stewards of the resources we have been given. After deciding how much to charge students, ask yourself two questions: 1) Can my students afford (over the entire year) what I am charging them for events? 2) Can I reasonably expect my church to fulfill the request I have made for the youth ministry budget? If you cannot answer “yes” to both of questions, then adjustments must be made. It may mean simplifying the calendar and doing less or being more creative. You might find a great idea requiring a purchase or attendance fee. Perhaps, you could use this as a model and, by yourself or with the help of church members, create something similar but less costly. The goal is to provide a dynamic youth ministry program that the church can support and families can afford.
Budgets will vary from church to church. More money doesn’t mean your church is better or worse than others. With development of a good budget with the money allowed, you can have financially and spiritually healthy youth and families.
Tie Budget to Vision
Having dollars and dates on a calendar that are reasonable for everybody is good. But to move to great, we need to be able to explain it. Most churches have a finance committee that budget requests are submitted to. When submitting the numbers, include a vision and ministry explanation for everything in the budget. This allows the finance committee member who may not be a part of your youth ministry leadership team to see that youth ministry is focused and intentional about what it is doing. Secondly, if the budget committee sees the need to cut budgets, they will have to think twice before cutting yours because they are not just cutting a dollar amount, they are cutting ministry and fulfillment of purpose.
Include Others in the Process
By tying them to vision and purposeful ministry, calendaring and budgeting workshops are a great opportunity to share with others what your youth ministry is doing. Find others with whom you can share and dream about youth ministry. You might find new or creative ideas. True, the process will take a little longer to complete, but the teamwork communicates to others what the youth ministry is doing.
Prepare for Next Year
In order to improve efficiency in this process in coming years, take notes about over and under budget expenses so you can be better prepared. Was an event a great success but not well attended? Make a note to move it to a different spot on the calendar for next year. As ideas for future programming and events come across your desk or inbox, put them in a file or folder for future reference.
Keep previous budgets, calendars, and explanations saved in files. This allows you to copy and paste some of the information for future budgets and calendars.
Budgeting and Calendaring can help you organize your ministry and help provide intentional focus to help you accomplish your goals. As when planning an event, the most successful budgets and calendars are ones that are prepared in advance, not the night before. Take the time to work on being better at budgeting and calendaring.
Check out Brent’s discussion with Longer Haul in Youth Ministry podcast.