One of the harsh realities of ministry is that, in most cases, a budget does not mean much. You might have budgeted $10,000 for the student ministry this year, but unless that money comes in, you don’t have it to spend. Oh, and in today’s economy, that money is not coming in. Having come to terms with this realization, I’d like to offer up some of what I have learned about doing ministry with very limited funds.
1. Don’t lament what others have spent. In our suburban town of 50,000 people we have two of the biggest student ministries in the country. Not one, but two. If I am going to be a good, reasonable steward with our funds, I cannot try to do what these other churches can do. I don’t have the facilities, nor do I have the people. I need to be okay with setting our own course that may not look anything like the churches down the street. In fact, if I try to compete with those churches with 20x my budget, my programs will not succeed.
2. Don’t give up, get creative. Rather than worry about what you cannot do, build your program around things that you can do. You can’t bring in a huge concert, but you can have awesome small group times or great retreat experiences. Experiment with programs and events and find what works for you. Get other creative people around you to brainstorm ideas. There is a lot that can be done for little to no cost.
3. Master the break-even event. We have become experts in creating events that pay for themselves. It’s pretty simple, don’t spend more than your event brings in. This means cheaper food and more work, but it also means more events. Remember, though, if your event is going to cost parents more money, be sure that you can communicate the value of the event.
4. Find investors. One of the greatest things we have going for us here in the student ministry is the willingness of people to invest in our program. We have church members who see how important student ministry is and have begun donating money towards our program. We have people who provide scholarships to camp, people who pay for our gas, and people who just donate money for whatever we need. Some of these investors are parents of our students, but many are people who simply buy into what we are doing. The money that they donate enables us to do so many things that would be impossible under the budget constraints.