Youth Ministry Money Matters
“How much did you spend on the lock-in?”
“I have no idea.”
“Well give me your receipts and we’ll figure it out.”
“I was supposed to keep my receipts?”
These are true conversations from the Intern Island. Nothing seems to befuddle interns more completely than finances. “God owns the cattle on a thousand hills—let’s let Him count the money!”
Here’s the deal, intern. Two things will get you into hot water and facing the firing squad faster than anything else—sexual misconduct and financial mismanagement. We’ll talk about that other one a little later; today we’re focusing on money, because money matters.
Now I agree God does own the cattle on a thousand hills; we never need have a worry about money. God provides in all things for all things. If the whole world could live by those spiritual truths, we could all stand on a mountain, holding hands, singing songs, and drinking Coca-Cola. Unfortunately, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 20 years, it’s that those kinds of people never seem to be on the finance committee.
So what’s an intern to do, then? There’s probably no money of your own to manage yet—possibly the youth budget is the largest amount of money you have ever seen in one place at one time. (Knowing most youth budgets, probably not!) Keep a few things in mind.
* Always—ALWAYS—keep track of your own budgets. Don’t rely on the finance secretary, the church treasurer, or the counting committee to get it right. Remember, they’re responsible for about 100 other budget lines. Keep your own records. (I wish I could tell you that you’ll never have to use those records. But on more than one occasion I have had to use my records to prove my numbers were the right ones.)
* Always—ALWAYS—keep copies of your receipts. Having a ticker tape will preserve your integrity.
* Never—EVER—use church money for personal expenses. Make sure that you don’t have shampoo or cat litter on those receipts unless they are being used for a youth event. Church money is NOT your money—no matter how underpaid you are, no matter how much you give, and no matter how many hours you work.
* Always—ALWAYS—give to the work of the church. WHAT?! Yes, I know this can be a bitter pill to swallow for some. Your giving should be private between you and God. I agree. But the reality is, someone, somewhere, is looking at your giving. And while that should never, ever speak to your job performance or evaluation, it will speak to your integrity and spiritual walk.
* Never—EVER—go over budget (without telling someone first). My personal philosophy is a good youth pastor doesn’t NEED a budget—budgets are a bonus. That being said, budgets do make life more convenient. But if you go over your allotted amount, it can make life…a really hot place where you don’t want to spend eternity. There will be times when expenses are unforeseen or the Holy Spirit brings about 7,000 more kids than you planned for. Talk to the people responsible for the budget. Explain the problem and do your best to get permission for the overage. (Because that whole “forgiveness is easier to get than permission” will absolutely come back to bite you!)
In my experience, intern, good financial management translates to good person, good Christian, responsible team player, and excellent pastor for most financial management teams in most churches. Money matters—it’s important. After all, it’s what your next paycheck is made of.
Simple Youth Ministry
How much of your time and energy is spent on big programs? How much of it is spent on trips and retreats? If you’re like me, then much of your time is spent on those things. And there’s great value in those parts of youth ministry. But I want to encourage you to return to “simple youth ministry.”
Since I’ve been out of full-time youth ministry, serving as a missionary, I’m doing the best youth work of my life. All the trappings of big youth ministry programs have been stripped away and I’ve gone back to the really simple parts of ministry that I always knew I should do, but never had the time or energy for. Things I encouraged our volunteers to do, but I rarely did myself.
Things like taking kids to run errands with you. Now when I go to the grocery store I bring two or three kids along and they love it. They even help with the shopping! These moments, of them getting to watch how I live, are valuable, but it also gives me an opportunity to get them talking about their own lives. In the past I always felt like it was too far out of my way to pick a student up to join me.
Another thing I’ve started is studying the Bible really deliberately with just a few kids. I recently started reading through the Gospel of John with three boys that have been showing interest in growing spiritually. They love it! And now the other kids want to be a part of it. It’s nothing fancy, we literally read the Bible and I help them understand what it means. For me, before, this had to happen in a prearranged small group with curriculum, snacks, and PlayStation time before hand. We’ve taken the distractions away and they’re really growing.
One of the boys that I’m building a relationship with is a 14-year-old named Reagan. He normally attends the “teen club” hosted by the local AIDS outreach ministry, so he already had some interaction with Christian activities, but our study of the Bible and all of our little moments of time together are having an impact on him. He’s really coming alive! He’s been showing off his passion for drawing. The other day he was walking around quoting John 1:14. You can tell that the life God has designed for him is starting to blossom.
I’m not sure that I saw as much life change when I was planning a weekly youth gathering and organizing some trips. Sure, kids were really excited for a moment, but the next entertaining distraction took some of that fervor away. I’m hopeful that doing things more simply will actually lead to greater change in the life of these kids. Could it mean greater change in the life of the students that God has entrusted you with?
Casey Prince served as the Director of High School Ministries at Grace Community Church in Raleigh, NC for 7 years.
This article “Youth Ministry Money Matters” by Darren Sutton was excerpted from: www.simplyyouth.com web site. June 2010.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
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.”