The Summer Cash Drought
By Valinda Harlan
It happens every summer, in big and small churches all over the country: Attendance fluctuates and giving drops. But this summer’s financial drought doesn’t have to lead to a spiritual famine for your ministry This summer, refine your needs according to your ministry goals and take a fresh look at what you already have available so you can implement alternative resources and budget-saving ideas during a financially tight time of the year.
Ask yourself and your team, “What did we do last summer and how effective was it?” Look at your ministry’s goals, priorities, and purpose. Did the time and money you spent last summer help you reach your goals? Or is your ministry’s summer programming shaped by the age-old adage, “This is the way we’ve always done it”?
Take something as simple as snacks. How many hundreds of dollars do you spend on animal cookies and juice? Why? Is this purchase necessary to reach ministry goals? Is it based on core values? Ensure summer spending aligns with summer ministry goals.
Turn spring cleaning into a treasure-hunting expedition by taking a good look at what you already have. There may be old curriculum hidden on a top shelf or random craft supplies hiding in the basement. When you’re going through supply cabinets, ask God to give you creative and resourceful eyes.
Spring is also a good time to review your budget and reconsider designated line item descriptions that are too vague or limiting. You can reassign these funds during tight financial times if you retool the line item. Meet with your church board or financial director for guidance and approval on budget changes. It never hurts to ask for budget reconsiderations that can guide better budgeting for the future.
Now that you’ve determined your immediate ministry goals and taken inventory of what you have, use some financial Hamburger Helper to aide you in stretching limited summer resources. Take the example of snacks. After careful consideration you decide it’s a priority to provide snacks every week for children under 5 because one of your goals is to provide for young children’s spiritual, emotional, and physical nourishment. How can you cut summer costs in this area, while not compromising the role snacks play in your ministry’s purpose?
Consider these budget-saving ideas: purchase generic or store brands, ask whether any one in your church has connections with a distributor, seek out grocery stores or distribution warehouses that’ll donate or give you a cost break, or buy in bulk from a wholesale or discount warehouse. You could even ask parents to bring snacks for class on a rotating basis—they do it for soccer, why not church? (You’ll need to provide parents with a list of acceptable snacks such as low sugar, no chocolate, or peanut-free).
Try these ideas to stretch summer dollars that adopt the environmentally friendly philosophy of reduce, reuse, recycle.
• Reduce. Summer attendance typically drops, so reduce curriculum costs (and your needed volunteers) by combining classes or reusing curriculum.
• Condense. Take a break from your traditional curriculum with cost-effective short- term topical lessons. For short-term lesson suggestions, go to wwwchildrensministry.com and click on Web Extras.
• Reschedule. Change dates for summer events. For example, why not do VBS during spring or winter break, change the summer picnic to spring, or reschedule the family retreat or teacher training to late winter and early fall?
• Recruit. If you have paid child-care providers, give them time off during the summer months. Ask church members to fill in with a one-time or short-term volunteer commitment.
• Adopt. Have an adopt-a-classroom drive in May and list summer supply needs in your bulletin or Web site.
Keep one thing in mind: God is never in short supply. He’ll meet all your needs during this summer’s financial drought. And remember, since summer is typically a financially dry season for the church, it’s wise to follow Joseph’s example and store up supplies early before next year’s drought.
Valinda Harlan is a national speaker on parenting issues
Excerpted from www.childrensministry.com/leaders
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”