How To Talk To Your Teens About Money

By | finances, ministry health, MINISTRY HEALTH, money, spiritual health, SPIRITUAL HEALTH, stewardship
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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?

By | budget, ministry health, money, Systems and Structures
Courtesy of Patrick Hoesly/Creative Commons License

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

By | ministry health, money, stewardship, Systems and Structures
Courtesy of thelesleyshow/Creative Commons License

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:


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

By | fund raising, habits, money, Systems and Structures
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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:


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

By | budget, money, Systems and Structures
Courtesy of sushi♥ina’s/Creative Common

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?

Sex And Other Topics Your Ministry Should Address

By | ministry health, money, science, sex, vocations
Courtesy of

Next month we’ll be starting a series on sex and dating, it’s an annual occurrence because it’s an issue that consume teenagers lives.  It’s a difficult series because it involves a lot of emotions, a lot of perspectives and a boatload of tension.  How we have talked about the series has changed since I started 7 years ago.  For the first couple of years it was a matter of just laying out the truth, referencing it in the Bible.  Now, the series has become more of a conversation because we’ve found that it’s not just about what they know but how to apply it to their every day life.  We’re doing this by bringing in different speakers, creating a Q&A opportunity and just peeling back the layers of this complex topic.
This is one of those series we’ll visit each year and it’s one ever ministry should address on a regular basis.  While there are an endless amount of topics we could talk about in ministry, I think there are a few that stand above the rest.  Here are a few:

  • Money: It’s definitely not the most attractive subject to talk about; however, it’s probably one of the most important.  This country is in an economic mess because money has been viewed as an idol and not as a God honoring tool.  How to spend money wisely, save conservatively and give freely are values that we want them to embrace.  We aim at teaching them that tithing is a part of their relationship with God and that money is a tool that can further His kingdom.
  • Sex: It’s such a broad subject and there is so much to cover from abortion to dating, homosexuality to pornography.  Where to start and what to touch upon can be difficult.  What we’ve found is teens want to know what the “Rules” are and how they can apply to their context.  It’s a difficult subject to address at first; however, the more the conversation roles, the more comfortable people become.
  • Science: I’m not sure about a whole series on science; however, many teens feel like they have to choose science or God.  I had a teen ask me the other day what I thought about Creationism because her biology teacher told her that the Bible is a belief and science “just is”.  Why aren’t we telling our students that science is an explanation of God’s creation?  Science like sex and money is a tool, we just need to encourage the next generation to pursue as a way of giving God glory.
  • Vocations: While I would love for my students to enter into ministry or the religious life, I would be just as happy to see them successful in any other career.  When it comes to their future jobs we need to show them how to be a disciple in the mission field, whether they are an investment banker or bus driver.  We also have to be careful to place pastor as a more important vocation than school teacher.  If we can commission them to go and make disciples on Wall Street, sports fields and the local grocery store then we’re doing what God has commissioned us to do.

While it’s important for us to teach spiritual habits, the virtues, Biblical history and church dogma are essential.  But, students won’t embrace them if we aren’t helping students to put this wisdom into practice,  We also need to encourage them to lean into the tension and face the obstacles that might prevent them from moving along God’s path.  Sometimes we need to look beyond the “traditional” topics and look at what this next generation needs to grow the church.  To do this you need to look at what’s relevant, what’s important and what’s influential.

What subjects do you think are essential for a youth ministry to address?

Why Money Management Matters In Ministry

By | money, tithing

I apologize, I believe I forgot to wish some of you a Happy New Fiscal Year this past Friday.  Maybe your fiscal year ends in December, but at my church it ends in June.  For many of us the end of a fiscal year brings anxiety because it means new budgets and salaries.  A real sensitive subject, something we as youth ministers should talk more about because frankly it’s a real heart issue.
We could talk about how underpaid we feel or how our budgets are just plain old silly, but I believe before we can even have that conversation we should review our personal money habits.  Because if we are bad money managers it will affect our ministry.  How do you know if you are one?  Ask yourself:

  • Do I count every penny? Just like every person has a purpose, so does every penny.  If you don’t budget everything from your fixed expenses (i.e. rent/mortgage) to your spending you won’t really know. 
  • Do I give ten first? Or do you tithe?  Not just give, but give 10%, the first 10% of your gross income?  Tithing isn’t just about supporting the local church it’s about trusting God.  If you can’t trust God with the money that you earn, how can you trust anyone else?
  • Do I save first and spend last?  We have a tendency (and I’m certainly guilty) of putting it on the credit card, or taking out a loan, because we need it now.  There will be times when you absolutely need to buy something (like gasoline), but most times we just need to show patience.  So, are you patient?

How does this affect ministry?  It affects:

  • How we grow disciples:  Financial stewardship is a Biblical principle we should be teaching to teens.  
  • How we support our support:  Our salaries affect our families, if we aren’t taking care of them, how can they take care of us?
  • Our relationship with leadership:  Whenever we come up short or take on a little debt, it’s easy to say, “If I only got paid more things would be better.” Resentment can build up which is unfair when our lack of dollars could be due to poor money management. 
  • Our relationship with God: If you aren’t giving you are not trusting God.  All He wants is 10%, and He says that He’ll spoil you…so do you really trust Him?

I’m not denying the fact that many youth workers are underpaid, but even if our paychecks are smal we need to ask, “Am I managing money wisely?”  For many of us money management is a foreign concept, even a little intimidating.  So I suggest finding someone in your church who will help you with your personal and even your ministry’s budget.  By gaining guidance and accountability you can be sure that your never cheating your ministry, your self and God.

What’s your view of money in ministry?  Is it important or am I overreacting?

$10, Fund Raising Hurts Your Ministry

By | fund raising, ministry health, money

There’s a lot of events and trips our youth ministry will miss out on because of the costs.  Whenever I tell some of my peers this they ask, “Why don’t you fund raise?” The answer is because we are church that doesn’t fund raise.  And, it can actually do more harm in the long run.  This is why:

  • It’s Wastes Resources: To run a fundraiser you need to invest time, energy and money.  I know sometimes you have to spend money to make money, but when it comes to fundraisers it’s nearly impossible to calculate all the costs (i.e. wear and tear of building property).  Plus why not save the money you would have spent on the fundraiser and just put it towards the cause or trip you are planning to take?
  • It’s An Unnecessary Risk:  I admit I’m biased because I’ve been burned, but if you don’t raise enough money you’ll end up owing.  There is nothing worst than coming out of a fundraiser in debt.  And if you fail once, it’s even harder to convince people to jump on board the next time.
  • It’s Consumer Driven:  When you do a fundraiser you are basically selling something (a fun time, car, etc.).  Fundraising is a nice sounding way of turning a profit.  If you consistently fund raise you’ll be under the pressure to provide your participants with cool stuff or an awesome time or else you won’t get their money.

Some of you might be thinking, “Chris, if we can’t fund raise, then what should we do?” My solution, spend the time and energy teaching teens how to tithe.  We’ve used several resources (i.e. Dave Ramsey’s Generation Change), we do a message series every year and we make it a priority when it comes to our one on one mentoring.  If you can raise the giving that’s happening at your church then you should be able to budget the costs of trips and events you want to do.
The problem with teaching tithing is it takes time, but the fruits are worth it.  When you teach tithing you teach your students to not only invest in the local church but how to honor God.  Where fundraising can be about “me” tithing is all about our relationship with God.  And as it says in Malachi:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

Do you agree that fund raising can be damaging to youth ministry?  Please share your thoughts.

What Would You Do With $500?

By | ministry health, money, stewardship, Systems and Structures

I’m going to give you $500 right now…figuratively of course.  And let me clarify it’s not going to you, it’s going to your student ministry.  I’ve heard that you need resources, you can’t go to that conference, you need a bit more for that camp and you just want to celebrate your ministry team because they’ve been so awesome.  Lots of tough decisions, lots of places that need money, so what do you do?

I know sounds like a dumb exercise, but think about this, “What was the first thing that came to your mind when you read the question?”  I know you want to say the right thing so that people respond, “Oh he’s so wise.” or “She’s such a selfless person.” but do you know what that right thing would be?  Would you spend $500 in the right place or blow it?

There’s an age old adage, “If you want to know where someone’s heart is look at their check book.”  If you want to know where a youth minister’s heart is check his budget.  A budget is probably one of the most important; yet, overlooked responsibilities a youth minister has.  Why is it important?

It funds and fuels the ministry

Why is it overlooked?

  • Most of us have poor personal financial practices
  • We were never taught how to budget
  • It intimidates us

I think many of us feel as if we don’t have control over our budget, but in reality we do.  If you can wisely spend $500 then $5000 shouldn’t be a problem. Luke 16:10 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much” that goes for us as youth workers and our budgets.  But back to knowing how to spend money wisely, how is it done?

  1. Write out your priorities.  If you know who and what you value, you’ll put your money there first. You basically want your money to fuel your vision.
  2. Track your prior expenses. At first there might be many holes, it might be a tiny embarrassing but it’ll show your spending habits.  Your budget can’t be a blanketed $10K, you need to know how much you put in small groups, camps and moon bounces.
  3. Plan out the spending.  With a budget you can’t exactly save up, but you will want to assign where, when and how much.  This will require research on the costs and a following of trends (i.e. gas prices)
  4. Seek Financial Wisdom.  There’s someone in your church who knows money, find them, ask them for help and have them hold you accountable.  If you’ve never had experience with money you need this person.

Again, your budget will reveal where your heart is, if you take your ministry seriously you’ll do the same with your budget.  I’m not saying what’s most important except to have a plan.

What would you do if I handed you $500 right now?

How do you maintain a successful budget?

What makes maintaining a budget so difficult?

What We Tell Our Students About Tithing

By | ministry health, money, tithing
We are in the middle of a 6 week series about priorities.  The first couple of weeks have been focused on time and now we are making a transition to finances.  I’m somewhat excited about the topic because I want to see teens change their habits.  I don’t want my students to have debt, I want them to give to God, and honor Him with how they manage their money.

As youth workers we don’t talk about how to teach our students about tithing.  We talk about how to stretch our budgets, how to recruit free labor and how to fundraise, but why not tithing?  We need to because: Read More