(This is part 3 of a 5 part series on youth ministry budgeting. See part #1 – stewardship and part #2 – categories, part 1 & 2 for more information on budgeting.)
What process do you follow when putting together your youth ministry budget? If you do not take your budget seriously, then I bet you do not actually have a process you follow. What follows is a 9 step sample process for putting together a youth ministry budget.
1 – Pray for wisdom.
As you begin the budget process, you need to take time to pray for wisdom. Pray for God to guide you, and the other leaders, as you budget for the coming year. Pray that the youth ministry will be a good steward of its resources. Pray for God to provide the ministry with the right people and supplies to reach students with the Gospel.
2 – Start early!
Give yourself plenty of time to complete the budget. You do not want to rush through this process. I would suggest starting about a month before it is due. This will give you time to go through this process without being negligent. The budget is not usually the part of ministry that youth ministers enjoy, but it is a necessary part of ministry. Starting early allows you to work on the budget little by little. But if you wait until the last minute, you will rush through it and be consumed with it.
3 – Pick your team.
You should not be the only person determining the youth ministry budget for your ministry. You will want to involve other people in this process for a few reasons. First, you do not want the ministry to get in a rut of doing the same things each year just because you did them the year before. Second, the youth ministry needs to be diverse, including things you would not have picked to include. Third, you do not have time to do it all yourself, nor do you want that pressure. Have your team work on the budget on their own and set a date to get together to compare.
If you are part of a small ministry, you might want to include everyone on your youth team. It will give the youth coaches ownership in the ministry. If you are part of a larger ministry, you will want to ask a few of the youth coaches to be part of the process. In a few cases you may only need to involve the paid staff in this process, at least until you have a version for everyone to review before submitting.
4 – Review last year’s budget
You will not want to skip this step. Take your budget from last year and look at what you spent and did not spend. Were there one time only purchases? Look for items that do not need to be included in this year’s budget and categories that can survive (still be effective) with less money. Once you have done this, you can then start adding items that are new for this year and increasing money in categories that need more.
Do not skip this step. To save time, you might be tempted to just add a certain percentage to each category or copy and paste from last year. That will not help your ministry be good stewards of your money/resources. When you start working on your budget early (step #1) you do not feel pressured to skip this review of last year’s budget. And you will notice that you like the new budget more when you review last year’s first.
5 – Determine categories
Once you review the previous year’ budget, your next step is to start putting together this year’s. You need to determine which categories from last year will carry over to this year and which ones can be dropped. After you compare your categories to previous budgets, you will want to look at the calendar for the year to determine what events are upcoming. This will help you know if you need to add a category to cover the cost of your ministry’s events. (Here are 10 possible categories to consider.)
Remember that your youth ministry budget will not look like the youth ministry budget for the congregation down the street or the high profile ministry in your town. You cannot compare the resources God has given your ministry with the resources God has given another ministry.
6 – Calculate 1st draft of budget
Once your categories are set and you know what you need to budget for this year, you are ready to calculate how much you expect to spend. There are two main ways to calculate your budget. One way is to estimate your costs based on the previous year. You would add a percentage to last year’s budget without checking actual costs. Or you can research all of the items needed, looking for discounts where available and carefully calculate the total cost. I recommend the second method.
As you calculate your budget, keep in mind the cost of some items will increase throughout the year. It will cost you more to rent a van this year then it did last year. Other items are set by your ministry. You decide how much to pay a band or a speaker for an event. There will also be budget items that will fluctuate constantly throughout the year, like the price of gasoline.
7 – Evaluate your stewardship
After you calculate a first draft of the budget, I recommend you stop and reevaluate the budget based on stewardship. How can your youth ministry be a better steward of its resources? Did you include items that are not really necessary? Are you wasting money or ignoring potential resources you have access to?
8 – Get together with other youth coaches and leaders
Now that you have your version of the budget complete, it is time to met with the other leaders who were work on their version. You need to compare the budgets and look for category differences first. Allow each person to discuss why they included or left off certain categories and then, as a group, decide what is best for the ministry. After the categories are finalized, you will want to finalize the dollar amounts. This may take longer, but it needs to be agreed upon by the entire team. As you finalize numbers, remind everyone that you want the budget to be the best overall use of your money and resources – it cannot simply reflect an individual preference by any leader.
9 – Finalize proposed budget and turn in
Then, have one person type up a final budget proposal to turn in. This is your final draft; the budget you feel your youth ministry needs to be the most effective it an be in the coming year. After it is finalized and typed up, turn it into the finance committee or whoever is in charge of approving budgets. Make sure you turn it in ahead of time, do not wait until the very last minute.
What would you add to the process? How do you handle your budgeting process?