Youth Ministry Budgeting: To Buy or Not to Buy – Spend Wisely (4 of 5)

(This is part 4 of a 5 part series on youth ministry budgeting. See part 1 – stewardship, part 2 – categories, part 1 & part 2, and part 3 – the process for more budgeting information.)

Now that you’ve got your budget together and know what categories have what money, you need to start thinking about spending that money. I’m not talking about going out and spending all of your budget by February or March. I’m talking about putting thought into what you are buying and not buying. You have to use your budget wisely or you’ll just be wasting money.

What does it mean for your youth ministry to spend its budget wisely? In some youth ministries, it means not buying curriculum or not attending more than one youth conference a year. Other ministers might only attend a youth ministry training conference every other year to save money. You might decide that you only need two inflatables at your carnival or that hiring an entire circus to entertain the kids is a little too much. Or you can quit buying donuts and milk each week for the Sunday School class.

Deciding how to spend wisely means you have to think about your purchases. Every time you want to purchase something think twice about buying it. Even youth ministries can make impulsive purchases. I have made those purchases before. I see something and think, “we could really use that for _____.” If its not too much, I will go ahead and buy it and use it a few times. Then it will sit in the corner of my office collecting dust for months. Did I really need to buy it for the ministry? No, we probably would have been just fine without it.

I learned to stop and rethink my desire to purchase. Now if I see something that seems useful for the ministry, I will talk to another youth coach about it first. If I’m out with my wife, I’ll ask her opinion. Taking a little extra time to rethink whether the item is really needed has saved me from purchasing a lot of unneeded items. On the other hand, there have been occasions when I buy an item using my personal money knowing that it will occasionally be used for the ministry. If you make these “donations” to the youth ministry make sure you are not making an impulsive decision.

When it comes to more expensive purchases, I never buy anything without doing a couple things first. First, I get approval from the rest of the youth team. Second, I spend time researching the product, and similar products, to find the best option for our ministry. Additionally, during this time, I am watching for deals or sales that can save the ministry money. Finally, once I have a better idea of what my options are, then I will make the purchase. I feel it is necessary to take the extra time in order to make the best decision (and use the ministry’s money wisely).

Some categories to consider adjusting:

1. Teaching Material
There are advantages to buying curriculum written by someone else. You will save time by not researching and writing the lesson yourself. The lesson material is written by someone who is more knowledgeable about the topic than you are. It usually comes with classroom helps and handouts.

There are disadvantages to buying curriculum, too. The author of the material does not know your class structure, the students or your teaching style. After reading over it (which you need to do a few times before teaching), you might find areas of disagreement or parts you do not want to use within your class. The more curriculum bought by some youth workers equals that much less studying and learning.

One of the biggest continuous expenses that any youth ministry will incur is teaching material. Not only do companies offer the teacher material, but you can also buy student booklets. If you use books for small groups, then you have to buy each student a book so they can read it. Sara Williams told me she has gone back to writing the curriculum for their small groups, because the ministry had to cut costs. I’m sure she is not the only youth minister who has made this transition lately. When its time to reorder your lesson material for next quarter, think twice about just ordering like you always have. Maybe the youth ministry needs to spend its money in a different area for now.

2. Prizes and giveaways
Prizes can be fun. Prizes can get students to show up. Prizes can be expensive. It seems that if you try to “impress” the students by having cool prizes, you are going to have to spend more and more money each year to keep up. The question each youth ministry needs to ask itself is this, “Is it worth the cost?”

3. Electronics
Youth ministers love electronics. The televisions, projectors, digital cameras, video cameras, sound boards, mp3 players and video game systems all seem to be standard for most youth ministries. These “toys” can carry a pretty good price tag; one that does not need to be paid.

4. Events
Putting on an event can be costly. Before you put on your next event, you will want to consider the costs vs. the benefits.

In case you still are not sure how to spend the youth ministry money wisely, watch this clip from Saturday Night Live. It offers one final piece of advice.

(next week, we will look at ways to save money)


4 responses to “Youth Ministry Budgeting: To Buy or Not to Buy – Spend Wisely (4 of 5)

  1. Fortunately, you can pretty much leave software off this list. There are free (and legal!) alternatives to every piece of paid software.No need to buy Photoshop for the church newsletter when you can use GIMP, that sort of thing.

  2. @Doug That is actually some of the stuff I’m going to put into part 5 “ways to save money”. I might just pick your brain to make sure I have a pretty complete list when I’m done with it.

  3. So glad to see you writing this series – it is a topic that needs to be discussed!

  4. @CPF agreed. You might be interested in the next series, which will be on a youth pastor’s personal budget.

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