Youth Ministry Budget

How to Build the Ultimate Youth Ministry Budget

Posted on Posted in Strategy

It’s that time of year again.
It’s time to build your youth ministry budget for next year.

If you’re like most youth pastors that I talk with, you dread budget season…you don’t think Excel spreadsheets are your friends!

Here’s the good news:
You don’t have to have a business degree to prepare a good youth ministry budget.

You just need to use a calendar and the categories I give you in this post. You’ll be on the fast-track to creating the Ultimate Youth Ministry Budget.

You didn’t get into ministry to crunch numbers and track dollars and cents, but preparing a good budget will help you make the most of the resources you have.

Budgeting 101

Let’s be honest. You didn’t get into ministry to crunch a bunch of numbers and track dollars and cents. However, preparing a good budget helps you make the most of the resources you have.

What is a budget?

A budget is a spending plan.

It allows you to predetermine when and how your ministry money will be spent.

It’s often said that you can know what a person values by looking at how he spends his money. The same thing is true for a group. If you say you value something, make sure it’s reflected in your budget.

You want to take a hard look at the current budget to make sure you’re getting as much return on investment as you can.

This is much easier to do when the budget is divided into clear categories, with accurate estimates for how much money will be spent each month.

I’ve seen ministry budgets that only list one lump sum of money to be spent during the year. That’s not helpful for figuring out how much will be spent on what and when.

I’ve also seen ministry budgets that try to itemize every little thing. That’s overkill, and it creates the need to constantly shift funds around to accommodate overspending on one thing and underspending on another.

10 Categories Every Youth Ministry Should Have

Your budget needs to have these 10 categories:

1) Administration
Postage, pens, paper clips, and printing aren’t free.

2) Curriculum & Discipleship Resources
You don’t want to write everything yourself.

3) Production Supplies
This includes everything it takes to make a great program every week.

4) Events
This includes camps, retreats, outings, mission trips, and special days.

5) Environment
You’ll want to change up your space a few times to keep it fresh.

6) Leader Training & Appreciation
People who don’t feel equipped and valued won’t stick around.

7) Marketing
Everyone loves a free t-shirt.

8) Care
Sending birthday cards, eating with students, and showing up at games costs money.

9) Honorariums
You need people to cover for you when you take a vacation.

10) Personal Development
Subscriptions, books, and coaching for yourself.


Assign Dollar Amounts

Now it’s time to pull out your calendar. You need to assign dollar amounts to each category and assign them to particular months throughout the year.

For instance, if you know you’re going out of town for your brother’s wedding in July, then put $100 from the Honorarium category in that month.

If you know that summer camp is in June, then list that money there.

If you know that your curriculum subscription needs to be renewed in November, then add it.

It’s a neat idea to recognize volunteers around Valentine’s Day because you can say, “We LOVE our volunteers.” Maybe give each of them a $10 gift card to Target. If you want to do that, then put some of the Leader Training & Appreciation money in February.

I’ve seen youth pastors who spend all of their money before October and then scrape by in November and December. I’ve also seen guys who limit their capabilities all year long because they don’t want to go over their budget, and then they blow the money at the end of the year on stuff they didn’t really need because they have a use-it-or-lose-it mentality.

Assigning dollar amounts to each category for each month will help you stay on track so you don’t overspend (or underspend) throughout the year.

Follow the Money

Look at the actual expenses that have been charged to the budget for the current year. I’ll bet that you can find some opportunities for savings somewhere in there.

When I started at a new church, I combed through the expense reports and noticed that we were paying $30 every month for a text messaging service. I got on the company’s website and saw that we were subscribed to a plan that provided far more than what we actually needed. With the click of a button, I changed our plan and saved $20 per month.

Do the math:
$20 per month x 12 months = $240 per year.

That’s real money that was being wasted every year!

Another area that the church was overspending was on curriculum. The publisher had 2 purchasing options. We could buy full-color, professionally printed student booklets for each series of lessons. Or we could buy a .pdf of the same material with permission to make and distribute as many copies as we needed.

I inherited the first option.

But when the lessons were over, those booklets went straight in the trash. Even worse, half of the students either left their booklets at home or lost them before the sessions were over.

Because the program was aimed at educating Christian students instead of reaching non-Christian students, I decided that it wasn’t worth the extra money to get those booklets. I didn’t think there was a high enough return on investment to justify the cost, so I made the switch to the .pdf version.

It saved us over $300.

With 2 simple changes, I saved over $500 annually.

That extra money allowed us to get donuts on Sunday mornings. Not just once a month, but every single Sunday. It was fully paid for by the money we’d saved with those 2 simple changes.

No students ever complained about not having those full-color booklets. Instead, they all raved about how awesome it was to get donuts every Sunday!

That’s the benefit of having a good, thorough youth ministry budget.

Your Move

Budget season doesn’t have to be the most stressful time of the year. If you prepare your budget properly, you’ll see gaps where you need money and openings where you have too much money.

CLICK HERE to download an Excel Spreadsheet that is set up with the categories and formulas you need to set up a budget and track your actual expenses. It’s the one that I use in my ministry.

Download it now and get started today!

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Trevor Hamaker helps youth pastors create momentum, reach students, and grow faith in their ministries. He has over a decade of ministry experience, along with degrees in business management, organizational leadership, and religious education.

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