There’s one thing that I do not enjoy about youth ministry…budgets.
I know they are important…even necessary. But I do not enjoy creating and managing a youth budget.
Since it’s still early in the year, and we all should have the majority of our youth ministry budget still available (hopefully, right?!), I thought I would give some advice on creating and managing a youth budget.
(1) Plan out your yearly calendar.
Start with the non-negotiables. Those events & activities that you do every year that you always do (summer camp, mission trip, student conference, retreat). Add in your regular, monthly activities (devotionals, service projects). Then plan one or two things new for that year. Small events, but something to get your students excited. Print out your yearly calendar, with each month of the year on a sheet. Then lay all of the months out on a large table and begin filling in events. Write beside each event an estimated cost for your students. Do this to make sure you aren’t stacking to many “big” trips together. Big as in a big financial commitment. Also make a list of what purposes each event accomplishes to find out if your yearly calendar is balanced. While you may not publish a yearly calendar, at least you know everything that you will do for that year (at least 90%) and there won’t be any surprises for your budget.
(2) Budget for your expenses.
I’m assuming your leadership allows you to cover any youth ministry related expenses while on trips with the youth budget. Which means for each trip, you need to plan ahead how much it will cost for you. Think about hotel costs, how many meals, registration fees, etc. Build these expenses into your budget.
(3) Plan to help students with some expenses.
Whether it’s a student who needs a scholarship or it’s an event that you want to help offset the costs, you must think about these expenses before the year begins. If you’re going to offset the costs, estimate how many students you think will participate. And don’t forget those students who sometimes can’t afford it because their families are having tough times financially. And it helps to have a few members at your church who are willing to help students with those costs, but it’s a good idea to build in some money in your budget to help as well.
(4) Budget for staff & adults.
It’s tough to ask adults to chaperone and then ask them to pay full price, and in some ways, to even pay at all. They are helping you. So help them out too. Even if it’s offsetting the costs with a 50-75% discount. Sometimes this depends on the event, because you may have some take advantage of a free vacation. But the more you can help your adults with their costs, the more adults you will have interested in helping.
(5) Track every penny.
You’re on a week long mission trip. You’re trying to keep up with students, driving the bus, running activities, and trying to keep up with receipts from every purchase. The struggle is real. So here are a few tips to tracking every penny of your youth budget. Create a spreadsheet with the different categories for your youth budget (like retreat, camp, mission trip, etc.) and enter every expense. Download apps like Expensify that will allow you to scan receipts so you don’t have to keep up with the paper copy, or scan them into Evernote and tag them. Enter every purchase on a note-taking app on your phone like Simplenote so that you can enter it on your spreadsheet at a later time. But be diligent about tracking every penny.
(6) Be responsible.
Remember that the funds that make up your budget are given by God’s people to grow God’s kingdom. Don’t waste them.
It’s been said that you can determine a person’s priorities by looking at their checkbook. The same thing could be said about a youth ministry. What you spend your youth budget on will show what you are all about as a youth ministry.
Be diligent. Be responsible. And you will avoid those awful conversations with leadership about why you were over budget.