Category Archives: money

Book Review: Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

This is a review my wife wrote after reading the book, “Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half” by Steve & Annette Economides

If you are in youth ministry, or any form of ministry, you could probably use some of the tips in the book to help your salary stretch a bit more.

“A dollar saved is a dollar gained” is a phrase I have heard before, and in their book the Economides show how to gain a lot of money when it comes to feeding your family.  Although not every strategy will work for each reader, there are so many ways to cut costs on your grocery bills that certainly everyone will come away with changes to be made.  I appreciated how the chapters were organized and well thought out, and at the end of each there were suggested steps to put the ideas into action.  Each of the tips were categorized by how you felt you already were handling the major job of feeding your family.  So, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of frugal or shopping every day for each meal, there is room for improvement.

As a mother of three, I felt I walked away from this book with very practical ways to lower or at least maintain my family’s food budget in light of rising food prices.  I consider myself fairly frugal when it comes to shopping and preparing meals, and I felt encouraged that I am not alone.  Not every idea I read am I planning on incorporating into my plan to feed my family, but I certainly have learned to think beyond coupons to see many ways to feed my family for less!  Thank you, Economides, for writing a book that pays for itself!

(This review was written as part of the Booksneeze book review program.)


to quote someone else: generosity (Gordon Macdonald)

“Never forget what someone has done for you; never remember what you have done for others.”

taken from Secrets of the Generous Life by Gordon Macdonald

I think this is a great principle to live by, the only problem is that it is not always easy. It can be difficult to forget “how many” times you have helped someone when they need it again. But if you want to live generously, you will.

Secrets of the Generous Life is a great devotional, you need to get a copy and go through it.

Every Youth Worker Needs: a receipt scanner

(Youth ministry is not an easy ministry. And in this series, Every Youth Worker Needs:…, I want to highlight a variety of things that might make your ministry a little easier. This ongoing series will include ministry tips, book suggestions, technology helps, and many other nuggets of advice.)

Every Youth Worker Needs: a receipt scanner
Unless you work in a very unique congregation, you have to turn in receipts in order to get reimbursed. This administrative task is always time consuming and boring. Not the reason you became a youth minister at all. But we all know that if we do not do this on a regular basis, monthly at least, then it becomes too overwhelming and then it does not get done. At the end of this train of thought is no reimbursements for items purchased (or what we ministers like to call “donations to the ministry”).

I have recently come across a great little gadget that makes the process of organizing and totaling receipts much simpler. At least that is what the internet and “gift buying” news segment says. As I have watched this product in action and have seen the software to organize the items on the receipts, I have to say I am impressed.

All you have to do is slide the receipt through the scanner, if you have the travel version – which is cheaper and probably all a youth worker needs. Then after all of the receipts are scanned, you go into the program and determine which items go under which categories and which items do not need to be added to the report. Once this is done, you just print off the report and turn it in to the finance committee. (Who will probably be in amazement that a youth worker is so organized and uses spreadsheets.)

Go to this website to see the receipt scanner by neat

(I do not own one of these time saving devices, so consider it on the list of things you can get me if ever you want to get me something.)

Budgeting & Saving Money – 2 YM Today articles

A lot of ministries are either in the process of putting together their budgets for next year or they are in the process of tweaking the budget that got turned down by the finance committee. If you find yourself in one of those two places, I hope you will be able to benefit from some information I wrote earlier this year.

The great folks at YMToday took my youth ministry budgeting series and turned the information into two separate articles. If you would like to read the original series, just click on the link and read each blog post in the series. Or you can read the articles, which are broken down into budgeting and saving money.

Saving the Ministry Money

Creating a Budget

After reading the articles, I would like to hear what you think. What have you done to budget for the upcoming year? Is it dramatically different this year due to the economy? How have you saved money?

Learned from Twitter: week ending September 12, 2009

Here are a few of the things I learned from my twitter friends this week:

1. MinistryAllies (Ministry Allies) offered an invitation to anyone willing to be part of an ebook by adding input and suggestions to the written content. If you would like to take part, let him know. (if you don’t know how to contact him, I can get you connected)

Looking for ppl to add input to an eBook on hanging out w/ teens outside youth group, like what marko did with ym3.0. anyone want to help?

2. gavoweb (Gavin Richardson) shared a story from the AP on Dave Ramsey. I have to say some of the info in the article makes it harder to believe he is truly “saving as much as he can and giving as much as he can away” as 2 of the 3 things mentioned. (the third being “make as much as you can” and that seems to be covered). What do you think? Can it be a ministry when its a for profit business? Maybe part of me would like to see what % of profit gets sent to “missions or other ministries.”

The Associated Press: Christian money guru gets rich mixing faith, funds

3. nywc (National Youth Workers Convention) was nice enough to inform anyone going to the Cincinnati convention about some lower rates at one of the hotels. BTW, I’ll be at the Cincy convention and would love to connect with any of you who might also be there. Leave me a comment or send me an email and we’ll get together.

Coming to Cincy? Check out the new rock bottom rate at the Westin.

4. zondervan (Zondervan) linked to a free download of “The Naked Gospel.” Go check it out and read it. What can you lose, its free. 🙂

The Naked Gospel ranked as Zondervan’s top selling book on Amazon. Download your FREE copy at w code “farley”

What did you learn from Twitter this week?

Youth Ministry Budgeting: Spending Your Extra Money (addendum #2)

(Now that the youth ministry has become a much better steward of its resources, you might have found that you have spent less money than you budgeted. This post, addendum #2 to the youth ministry budgeting series, is about helping you figure out what to do with your extra.)

How to use your saved money:
After you have spent your budget wisely, what do you do with the money you save?

A. Hold onto it for next year.
B. Splurge on unnecessary items to make sure the ending balance is $0.
C. Divide it up among the youth coaches.
D. Use it to support another ministry organization.

I hope you answered D.

One thing to do with any saved money is to support another mission. You could use the money to sponsor a child through Compassion or World Vision. You could give the money to a local food bank, shelter or community center. You might even know of another congregation or ministry in your area who could use the money for their ministry. I think the best thing you can do with your extra money is to help support another ministry. God does not want us to be good stewards of our resources to just be frivolous with the money we saved.

Here is a list of possible missions to support:
World Vision
Compassion International
International Justice Mission
Habitat for Humanity
Team Expansion
Pioneer Bible Translators
Ronald McDonald Houses
– Local ministries (food bank, shelters, Pregnancy Care centers)
– Christian College
– Your congregation’s missions committee

Chris Szulwach is sharing the left over money from his ministry. He says “all of our $ that we have left at the end of a year goes into sponsoring Compassion children & or loans.

What is your ministry doing with its extra?

Learned from Twitter: week ending May 2, 2009

This week in Twitter was full of insight, laughs, free stuff and lots of discussion. Here are a few things I learned from Twitter this past week.

1. BtotheEtotheN (Ben Boles) added something to my “wow, really?” file.
“The Catholic priest officiating the wedding opened the service with, pray for this couple to your god whom ever that may be.

2. kentshaffer (Kent Shaffer) shared this story, which is sure to make you feel a little less smart than you did this morning.
“One student gets perfect scores on the ACT, SAT, & PSAT –

3. justayouthguy (Jon McIver) shared a great interaction he had with a student.
“Just asked Middle School girl ‘why do you have a water balloon in your purse?'”

4. YouthMinBlog (Youth Ministry Blog) provided a code to get a free video download from Bluefish TV.
“Use the code BFP3 to get a free video download from

5. theofficenbc (The Office) provided a link to a new ringtone that Office fans will want to get. Might I suggest not putting this as your sr. minister’s ringtone – that might get you into some trouble. 🙂
“You asked for it, you got it! Get the Dwight “Idiot” ringtone that Jim made in “Broke” @…

6. 6drews (Mike Andrews) brought up a great thought for all youth ministers to consider.
“weighing the risk/reward of changing culturally based thinking in the church vs. behavior modification in order to avoid controversy”

7. AdamLehman (Adam Lehman) mentioned a church that saved money by trying to be good stewards of their resources. [Personally, I think its sad that this type of church is different enough to be considered newsworthy. We are all called to be good stewards.]
“a church saves $268,000 by going green.

8. williamhartz (William Hartz) shared some wisdom/insight he learned at his small group.
“Anyone who holds to the theory that girls don’t poop… Tonight’s conversation at small group has amply disproven it. #awkward”

9. kentshaffer (Kent Shaffer) provided another article link, this one tells us that most people who use Twitter quit way too early.
“60% of Twitter Users Quit Within the First Month –

10. drumdog00 (Justin Van Rheenen) shared a link to a free download from Thousand Foot Krutch.
“RT @chuffybass5: You can download new TFK free at and if you’re a TFK fan like me, you’ll love it!!!”

11. YS_Scoop (Youth Specialties) has a really cool offer going right now.
“Help us purge our offices! You get great YS stuff and help mentor kids.… Spread the word!”

What did you learn from Twitter this week?

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

(This is part 2 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. 5 – tips on saving money part 1)

No youth ministry is immune to the economic hardship facing our country. And in order to be better stewards of our resources (and possibly stay afloat), we all need to learn to save a few bucks. Here is part 2 of my thoughts on how to save money. To see the first 5 tips, go here.

6. Involve more adults
Instead of doing things like ordering pizza or catering all of your meals, think about asking people to help cook and serve the food. It doesn’t have to be food, it can be decorating for a special event, setting up, manning the tables.

This tip was shared by Sara Eden , so I’ll just let her share some thoughts about it.

“The other thing we’ve done is moved away from the church providing dinner at youth group each week. Now what we do is ask people to sign up to provide dinner. The really cool thing is that it’s giving people who don’t feel led toward the traditional ‘youth ministry volunteer’ role an opportunity to serve the ministry and get to know the students (and allow the students to get to know them). The people who cook for us are invited/encouraged to stay and eat dinner with us and then students help with clean up. It’s another step toward healthy inter-generational relations. God took something that was done as an economic measure and turned it into another awesome opportunity for ministry. He’s so good like that!”

7. Donations
We all need items for the youth ministry: chairs, couches, lighting, sound equipment, electronics, transportation. Instead of going out and buying them, ask people to donate them. (Now, when you do this be prepared to get people’s junk. So either you need to be very specific, simply say “no thanks,” or just throw it away later.)

This is something a friend of mine, Bill Nance, said he has been able to do in his ministry, which has helped since he doesn’t have a big budget and really needs to stretch it.

8. Think “in house.”
When you are planning an event, the two biggest costs are always the speaker and the band. Next time you are planning an event, think about using someone from within your ministry to do the speaking or worship (concert). If that will not work, try to find someone local to cut down on travel costs.

9. Use Open Source software
Instead of paying full price for your software – you might want to look into some of the open source alternatives. Most of them are just as good as the expensive versions, and they are free.

More information about open source software will be in another post.

10. Stop spending money
This sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But there are more than a few youth ministries that simply refuse to stop buying stuff. You do not need that new Wii or flat screen TV. You may not really need new carpet right now, it could wait a year or two longer.

The best way to save money in your youth ministry is to simply spend your money wisely. Think twice before making purchases. Hold off on major purchases as long as you can.

Six more ideas on stretching your budget.

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.

Church Signs: money related

Recently, I have seen a couple church signs that are financially oriented. I thought I would share them with you.

“The IRS can’t tax treasures stored in heaven.”

“Tithe if you love Jesus, anyone can honk.”

Do you have any favorite money-related church signs?