Youth Ministry Budgeting: Tips for Saving Money (5a of 5)

(This is part 1 of the final post in a 5 part series on youth ministry budgeting. You can see the earlier posts here: 1 – stewardship. 2 – categories part a and part b. 3 – process. 4 – to buy or not to buy.)

Everybody needs to save some money, including youth ministries. So what does it take? How can you save a few dollars here and a few dollars there? In this post, I want to share a few tips on how your youth ministry can save money. As you will see, a few dollars saved on a regular basis will add up to big savings over time.

I do not think I need to spend a lot of time convincing anyone that they need to save money. Well, I hope I do not need to. Youth ministries across the country are struggling just like any other organization, company or individual. People are making less; therefore, they are giving less to the church. When the overall church offering is down, each ministry has to reduce its expenses in order to help stay in the “black.”

Here are a few areas to look at next time you are thinking about saving some cash.

Ways to save money:

1. Salaries
Allow me to start with the least popular thing I am going to write. The first place to look for ways to save money is in the salaries. Are you really being a good steward of your congregation’s resources with your salary? Can you afford to live on less?

Let me share an example of what I mean. I know a congregation that was running a couple hundred people a few years ago. Now they are averaging maybe 80 each week. Yet, there are 3 staff members: sr. minister, associate minister, and secretary. I think the secretary is full-time, but I am not sure. I do not know what the associate minister is paid, but I know the sr. minister is being paid more than someone in this size of a congregation should be paid. The congregation is struggling to meet salary each week, and they are sending emails each week asking for more money to meet those salaries. Are those ministers being good stewards? In my opinion, no. Think about the impact the minister would have if he offered to take a paycut to help the congregation from having to close its doors.

2. text messaging
It seems as though every teen has a cell phone with text messaging. So, it makes sense that the youth staff would need the ability to text teens. But what option do you use? Here are a few choices:

This option starts at $5/mo.
(thanks Len Evans for the info)

starts at free
has option to send text from computer or cell phone

starts at $10/mo.

I have not used any of these services, but many of my youth ministry friends have and talk very highly of each service.

3. Curriculum/Lesson Material
Many of the major publishing companies offer some great resources in this category. And if you want to just get everything in one bundle, this might be the way to go. You can check out Group, Standard, teamce to name a few (well, three to be exact).

But if you really want to save money (and not spend any, either), here are a few other suggestions.

*Online “Freebies”
There are a bunch of great freebies available on the internet. Check out this top 5 list, for examples. In fact, there are so many great freebies that a youth minister could simply use freebies and not do any work. I THINK THIS IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO – so be careful not to become dependent on using freebie lessons!

*curriculum swap with local churches
Take your old curriculum and find another congregation in the area that will be willing to swap their old stuff for your old stuff. You will each get new curriculum, plus you won’t have to find a place to leave and forget about store your old stuff.

*reuse older stuff
Or you can just reuse the older stuff with a new group within your congregation.

*Rotate material
Take your material and rotate through the years. For example, use a 4 year scope/sequence for the high school and rotate through material every 4 years. If you have a 7/8 grade class; rotate every 2 years. Using this rotation model will help you save money and will help you be intentional about what you are teaching the students.

4. Prizes/Giveaways
Students like getting stuff and we like giving it away. But it can get expensive to have prizes on a regular basis. How do you save money on prizes? By taking one of these steps…

*Buy from thrift stores, garage sales or on clearance.
You cannot afford to have really cool (read, expensive) prizes every week. So do not try. Just get some fun, old or silly stuff to use and have a big box to keep it in. Then let the students grab one prize from the box.

*Ask for donations
For those bigger events, you might want a better prize to offer. In those cases, ask companies and individuals to donate prizes (or money to go toward buying prizes) for you to give away. This gets the community involved with the group, saves you money and promotes your group at the same time.

5. Buy online
All youth ministers have things to buy: books, supplies, classroom material, water guns, whoopee cushions. Why not look into buying those items online. A few onlines places to try – ebay,, amazon, craigslist.

In part 2 of “Tips for saving money” we will look at 5 more ways that your youth ministry can save a few dollars.


4 responses to “Youth Ministry Budgeting: Tips for Saving Money (5a of 5)

  1. Great post, Mike. I agree that using freebie lessons only is a bad thing for a youth worker to do. I also hardly use a lesson that I get from a book exactly as it is. Adapting it to your group is a great thing to do. But there’s so much free stuff out there that we would be wrong to not use them. Anyway, thanks for the info.

  2. @Dennis I think when overused the freebies keep a lot of youth workers from really A) digging into the Bible B) processing what they want to say or C) having a plan/direction for their lessons. Key word is “overused”. You can find some great freebies that go right in line with what you want to talk about, but I just hate to see them abused at the expense of the youth worker. I think we should use them at times, which is why I included it in the list. (I think our view of freebies is the same)

  3. Yep. I agree with you 100%. Great post.

  4. @dennis thanks.

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