How To Talk To Your Teens About Money

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This past weekend was called Stewardship Weekend for our church.  It’s the one weekend a year when we celebrate our church community and talk to the congregation about why their financial investment is so important.  It sounds like an awkward concept; however, as our pastor puts it, “Even families need to take care of business from time to time, this is the weekend (Stewardship Weekend) we do just that.”  

Since this is a church wide effort, we also discuss financial stewardship, giving and tithing to our kids and students.  To lead up to this weekend we do an entire series on money and God.  It’s no easy task; however, over the years we’ve seen an increase in giving from this next generation.
Not sure what your views are when it comes to money; however, it’s a necessary subject for student ministries.  It not only determines the health of your church; but, the health of your teens as disciples of Christ.  To properly talk about money in your student ministry you need to:

  • Make It Simple: Money is overwhelming and confusing unless you are a natural born accountant.  To many teenagers it might feel like something they don’t have to figure out until they are older.  While there is truth to that, if they don’t learn the basic uses of money (SAVE, GIVE, SPEND), then they’ll struggle with managing it wisely.
  • Connect It To Their Faith: On top of teaching your teens to spend, save and give; you want to make sure you drive home the fact that God wants them to be shrewd, simple and selfless with their money.  Faith and money are tied together and to drive this home point to readings like Malachi 3:10, Matthew 6:24 or Luke 16:1-10.  Show them why God not only cares about what they give, but how they spend and save money as well.
  • Build Them A Budget: Money can be complicated; however, showing them how to build a budget with God in mind is key.  Help them calculate how much money they earn, and what to do with it’s first fruits.  Let them see how they can track their spending, so that they can avoid future pitfalls like debt.  Working with them on a budget is key to preparing them for the next phase of their life journey.
  • Bring Their Parents Into The Mix:  Even if your adult services aren’t speaking about money, you need to include the parents.  Get the conversation rolling at home by equipping your parents with tools, offering a workshop or inviting them to sit in on your student program.  If the conversations are not happening at home, then you’ll find yourself working uphill to build this habit.  The best thing you can do is encourage your pastor to make this a priority church wide.
  • Raise Givers Not Funds: Youth ministries should not be fundraising.  I know that sounds extreme; but, fundraising is a short term solution.  Teens need to be taught the importance and value of giving to the church.  To make this happen give them a plan.  Incorporate it into their budgets and give them examples of how they can give.  By raising givers it’s a step of moving your students from consumers to contributors.  While eliminating fundraisers all together might not be the wisest first step; make sure you develop a plan to ween yourself off of them.
Finances are personal, even for teenagers.  It’s easy to think like an owner because there are so many voices out there saying, “You deserve it.”, “You earned it.” and, “It’s yours.”  It’s important that we teach teens to be God honoring with their finances.  It’s important to teach them how to invest in the local church.  It’s a process that takes time because it’s a paradigm shift.
Before you begin, sit down with your pastor to make it a church wide effort.  Talk about it at least once a year where you are directly encouraging people to fuel the movement of God’s church.  Raise givers not funders and you will see your youth ministry and church grow.
What are your thoughts on fundraisers?  How do you talk with students about money?

Are You Wasting Money In Your Ministry?

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Just bought a television for our student ministry.  Ordered it online, got a great deal and squeezed it in before the fiscal year turns over.  It’s not that I had extra money to spend, this was a planned purchase, it was just a little last minute.  When it comes to making purchases for my youth ministry there are ones that are carefully thought out and other times when it’s fueled by a little impulse.  There might be a great sale on resources or a deal on a new book.  But, if it isn’t in the budget, most times I won’t go for it.
Not sure if you think about the purchases you make for your ministry, but you should.  After all it’s been given to you as one of your many responsibilities and like many resources it needs to be used wisely.  So, are you using it wisely?  Do you even know how to manage money wisely?  You need to or else you’ll only find yourself struggling and frustrated when it comes to requesting a budget.  In order to be wise with your money you need to make sure you:

  • Track Your Spending – It doesn’t sound sexy; but, it is necessary.  When we know where the money we can see if what we budgeted for is accurate.  I keep a filing system where I place receipts and write which account they come out of and what exactly that purchase is for.  Then at the end of each month I can see whether what spending habits need fine tuning.  
  • Research Before Acquiring – Are you getting the best deal?  Just because you might have gotten it from Craigslist or Amazon doesn’t mean you made the wisest purchase.  Before buying something for your ministry (especially a large purchase) make sure you compare prices, research return policies and warranties.  One of the worst guilts to deal with is buyers remorse.
  • Work On Your Personal Finances – Again your personal finances will affect your professional ones.  If you struggle with this area at home chances are you are going to do the same at work.  Before you make a purchase ask yourself, “Would I do the same if this was a personal purchase?”  Make your ministry budget as personal as your home budget and you’ll feel the tension and emotions that will force you to be prudent.
  • Build Accountability – If you aren’t confident with money surround yourself with people who are.  There is someone at your church who is natural at accounting, and/or thrifty when it comes to shopping.  Seek them out and if possible delegate to them those responsibilities.

Money shouldn’t be scary; but, it should be taken seriously.  A healthy ministry is one that uses it’s resources wisely.  Before you can ask for a larger budget you need to know that you are using what you have as wisely as possible.

What other money management tips would you suggest?


How comfortable are you with money?

Make More With Less

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At the end of the month my family tends to be adventurous with meals.  We try hard to stay in budget, as well as not waste food in our pantry and refrigerator.  As the main chef I’ll make up games, like my own version of Iron Chef and see what I can do with chickpeas as the main dish.  Then there are times I’ll become MacGyver and create an incredible meal out of baking soda, ketchup and flat cherry soda (nothing really).  I’m confident enough in my cooking ability where I know I can make something out of the little we might have.
When it comes to youth ministry we need to have the same mentality because, as the economy continues to tighten, so will our budgets.  Many of us are facing difficult decisions to cut this and no longer do that.  It’s painful, it’s humbling and it can even be preoccupying.  Even if you aren’t impacted by the economy, it’s always important to recognize that you can still do more with less.  For example you don’t need a lot of money for:

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING


It really doesn’t take a lot of money to build a teen’s relationship with Christ, what it does take are:

  • Caring Adults – You just need people who are going to pour into teens and give their time.  Teens are looking to connect to something or someone, a caring adult can connect them to God.
  • A Place To Meet – It can be the church, or any regular burger joint, all you need is an environment where teens can feel comfortable.  Whether you host at your home or have it at the church make sure your space is clean, because it’s a component of an irresistible environment.
  • A Little Wisdom – If you work in a church you should have a Bible.  While there are free, high quality resources, all you need is His word.  Even if you spend just one day a week reading the Bible with a teen you can still change their life.

There is nothing wrong with having money; however, we need to make sure we aren’t being wasteful.  Being wise with what you have is being a good steward and when we embrace this in our ministries it speaks volumes.  A ministry that exemplifies wise stewardship will influence how:

  • Teens Manage Their Money – When teens see you using money wisely, they’ll begin to do the same.  When teens see that a relationship with money affects their relationships with God, they’ll take it seriously.  It can be easy to spoil teens with what we have; however, we should spoil them with what we know.
  • Ministers Will Step Up – If your church budget is tight share the burden with your ministers.  It’s not about begging or coercing them to give; however, let them know your limits.  They might have the resources you need or the creativity to think outside the box.  
  • Others Invest In Your Programs – Luke 16:10 says Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” If others see how wise you are with money and resources they’ll see that you can be trusted.  If you want your programs to grow you need people to invest in your ministry.  Give them a reason to invest in you.

On top of being wise with money you are being creative and open to allowing God to work through your ministry.  Next time you feel as if you have nothing, just take a moment to ask God to show you what you do have.  After all if you can be wise with less, imagine what will happen when you are given more.

What money saving tips do you have for other ministers?

The Worst Habit Your Ministry Has

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Do you have any bad habits?  I have a couple (Warning About To Get Graphic!), and the worst is picking scabs.  Yep, I’m 31 years old and I can’t help myself but to scratch at them, pick em until they bleed.  It’s a nasty habit, one that every time I do I can hear my mom saying, “Chris, don’t pick at it.  It will never heal!”  And she is right, but you already knew that.
We all have bad habits, some of them we are cognizant of, while others we have no clue.  So what are your bad habits?  Do you have any as a youth minister?  Again you probably have a few.  Some you might be proud of and others you try to hide.  However, one that I think many of us aren’t willing to admit is a bad habit; yet do is…FUND RAISING
You notice how the word has fun in it?  What a lie, because there is really nothing fun about it.  It sucks the life out of your longevity, it distracts you from living out the purpose of your ministry and if you do too many of them it enslaves you.
Notice how Jesus never fund raised?  Notice there wasn’t one time when He said, “Hey Peter, can you catch some fish for the fish fry fund raiser this weekend?” or “Thomas, trust me on this, people will want to throw rocks to dunk John.”  Of course Jesus didn’t throw fund raisers and mainly because He taught the disciples how to be:

GIVERS

As youth minister we need to stop fund raising and start raising givers.  Not only does your sanity depend on it, but so does the financial future of the church.  Raising givers means teaching your teens:

How To Honor God and Fuel His Church

I’m willing to believe that most of you agree with me on this; however, the push back is the difficulty it takes to go from a fund raising ministry to a giving one.  So, how do we make the change?  How do we break this bad habit?

  • Teach Tithing – And don’t mess around with the percentage. The Bible says 10% of your wealth, not 5% time 5% treasure.  It doesn’t say give the leftovers.  The bench mark is 10%, if they don’t start at that right away, challenge them to set a timetable for when they’ll reach it.  Teach it, preach it and show them what happens when you trust God with your finances.
  • Develop Their Money Management Skills – Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no financial guru.  However, if we are going to teach people to tithe we need to make sure that they are confident in their finances.  And you can never start too early, because if you can teach financial responsibility young, it will stay with them for a long time.  There are great resources out there like Dave Ramsey’s Generation Change.
  • Communicate Need – As someone who’s been in ministry for 8 years, there are people who still don’t know this is my full time job.  There are a lot of teens (and adults) that have no idea what is needed to grow a church.  If we are overseeing the future investors of our church we need to make sure they understand what is necessary to run and grow a church.
  • Practice What You Preach – If you aren’t being a wise steward then don’t expect the students to do the same.  I’ll be honest, I struggle with money, I tithe; however, my personal money management could be better.  You don’t have to be Dave Ramsey; however, you need to work at it.  

If you can change the culture in your ministry from surviving on fund raising to thriving on giving then you’ll see fruit instantly.  God tells us to test Him on this and I don’t think that ends with our personal wealth, but how we pass the habit of stewardship onto the next generation.

Share your thoughts.  Do you fund raise?  Are you for it or against it?

How Your Budget Works

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Last week I was reading an article on Discipleship Family Ministry where someone asked, Dear Youth Pastor “How do I increase my budget?”  It was a great article because when it comes to budgeting in youth ministry you are left to your own accord.  There isn’t a  course showing you what’s a fixed expense and what’s flexible.  Nothing show you how to push for a stronger budget.
When I inherited my budget I remember thinking, “Okay, where do I start?”  I had everything from crab feasts (It’s a Maryland thing) to ski trips.  I had volunteer stipends and non-capitalized equipment (Not sure what that meant).  I just took a stab at what I thought it would be and to my surprise it got approved.  To tell you the truth not much was different from the previous year.  That next year I would go over my budget in some areas and under on others, which is typical.  What caused some anxiety was how the ministry I was running began to change and evolve; therefore, my budget needed to follow suite.
Chances are you don’t like to look at your budget because it either causes:

  • Intimidation
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Or All Of The Above

Our inclination is that our budget needs to increase each year because we’ve earned it through longevity.  Unfortunately the economy, the ministry, the church and the giving change.  The goal is to have it increase; however, before you can request a budget increase you should know how it works.  To get started:

  • Sit Down With Your Financier:  Maybe you don’t have one, then sit down with the person who runs the overall church budget and ask them to explain how it works.  Where is the income for your budget?  Is it purely giving? Is some of it through tuition and camp registrations?  Where is the money coming from?  As soon as you learn that it doesn’t grow on that tree out back and realize the source you can than begin to identify the limits.
  • Consult The Experts:  If someone in your church is an accountant or is just awesome at budgeting, sit down with them and get their insight on how to track a solid budget.  Sometimes the challenge isn’t creating a budget as much as it is tracking.  You might feel comfortable with receipts and a pad, others might need an expansive spreadsheet, or Quickbooks, get some recommendations and sit down with them for tips on how to do this effectively.
  • Categorize: Whether your budget is itemized or just one big lump, it’s important to categorize.  When your budget is in categories it will help you track where money needs to be spent and what need to be eliminated.  Early on I had to eliminate certain things from my budget (i.e. crab feasts) because they were no longer relevant to the program.  This can be hard, but it’s important.  Sit down, look at where you spend your money and categorize it.  
  • Ask The Tough Question: Do you really need it?  Is there a different way of doing this?  Am I being a wise steward?  It’s easy to assume everything on your budget is necessary because you put them there.  But if an outsider were to sit down and look at your budget could you justify to them why you spend, what you spend?  I found that I was over budgeting on a lot of items.  While it’s good to plan margin, I had too much.  This might be an area where you need to consult your volunteers or other staff members and gain the insight you need to build a better budget.

If you can accurately build and maintain your budget you’ll be able to give accurate information to leadership when they decide whether or not to increase it.  It won’t happen every time; however, they’ll value the work and research that goes into it.  Times are tough, everyone is living tight and that’s why we need to be wise with our money.  If you don’t get an increase in budget it shouldn’t deter you from being a wise steward.  When we are wise with our money, we open ourselves to God’s blessings.

What other money wise tips would you add?